Ever felt envious of someone who has boxes overflowing with free samples of the hottest foundations, mascaras, perfumes and moisturisers (great for trying out a product, perfect for touch-ups and unbeatable for travelling) when you can’t even get a measly mini-bottle of toner with a month’s-salary-worth of beauty purchases? Fact is that while there are usually piles of freebies behind every beauty counter, there are certain tricks involved in getting to them.
1. Firstly, NEVER feel guilty or embarrassed about asking for beauty samples. Your skin, hair and coloring are unique so you have the right to figure out which products work best for your needs. Similarly, brands and salespeople know that beauty samples drive sales and they want to get them in the hands of potential customers.
2. BUT don’t act entitled: it’s up to the saleswoman if she wants to give you any of those precious vials and mini-jars. Be polite and always ask their advice.
3. Salespersons love shoppers who seem to be authentic buyers. So, your best bet is to approach the counter with a specific need and some knowledge of the brand and product line. You can say something like, “I heard from a friend/read in a magazine about this product and am really interested in trying it”.
4. Cultivate a relationship with salespersons by trying to frequent the same stores repeatedly – especially when you are making a purchase. A saleswoman who knows you are a loyal customer is far more likely to let you dip in her stash of beauty samples than someone who sees you once a year.
5. Go when it’s quiet – that’s usually early morning or evening. A relaxed salesperson is more likely to shower you with beauty samples than someone who’s working the lunchtime rush or weekend chaos.
6. Ask for something you actually want: after all, what’s the point in scoring a 1ml vial of Eau de Skank, only to throw it away later?
7. Keep a lookout for new launches. The newer the product, the greater the marketing budget, which means counters will have more beauty samples around this time.
8. The store doesn’t have a pre-packaged sample? Many beauty brands, like Kiehls, Clinique and Sephora, can create one for you on the spot in a generic plastic sampling vial called a dram. This works well for everything from a foundation or lipstick to serums and shampoos. Or carry your own mini-container – then they’ll have no excuse for saying no.
9. Faced with a sulky sales girl who doesn’t want to oblige? Tell her you have sensitive skin and need to try products before buying in case they break you out in a rash.
10. Be sure to get enough product (especially if it’s a cream or serum) to live with for a week. That’s usually the minimum you need to determine whether it works for your skin.
11. Looking for makeup? Most beauty counters offer free makeovers but it’s always better to book an appointment in advance. And never feel pressured into buying something. A simple get-out strategy: “I’m here because my mom/grandmom/friend wants to buy me some makeup for my birthday – could you please write down the products you’ve used so I can pass them on to her?”
12. Avoid being labeled as a “trick or treat-er”. If you’re going from one counter to the next trying to bag beauty samples, it will be noticed and you’re unlikely to succeed. Remember that beauty consultants talk to each other and they will know if you don’t seem authentic. Also, never ever ask for more beauty samples “for a friend.” If you genuinely need more time with the product, explain it nicely and straightforwardly. Otherwise, it starts to feel like you’re a greedy piggy.
What’s your luck like with beauty samples? Do you leave the counter with bulging bags or shattered hopes?