Remember life before Sephora? When lipstick was lipstick and foundation didn't need to be "primed"? Well, ever since the the Berlin Wall fell, Pakistan developed nukes and "cosmeceuticals" joined the Oxford English Dictionary (okay, not really, but!) the world of beauty has been much more complicated and perilous to navigate. And that's why we brought in Sephora Spy, our double agent in your personal War On Ugly, to offer up beauty tips (and a few wild war stories.) This week she gives us some tactics for buying eyeshadow, weighs in on how dirty the testers really are, and shares the riskiest thing she ever did to get clear skin — and yes it was illegal! She shares all that and much more with commenter LoMorale after the jump. Questions? Comments? Email SephoraSpy@gmail.com!
How gross are the testers? Which ones are safe to try?
Well, testers in general are always sort of borderline gross. This is why you should get a sample from a Sephora cast member whenever possible. We have drawers and drawers full of them, and every client is supposed to leave the store with three samples. Lately we've all been living in fear of being "shopped," which is when someone working for the company poses as a client and then reports back to corporate about how the cast member did. If someone won't give you samples, that's really fucked up of them first of all, but it's also a big company no-no. This gets tricky with Color World. Makeup samples are harder to give out, but we have a few, so you should always ask. But the testers are always going to be the testers and people are always going to do what they do with them no matter where you are. I've seen people do some really gnarly things with the testers. The best is when they stick their dirty fingers right into the pots of face cream and rub it all over their faces in huge amounts in the middle of the store. Sometimes the jar is getting kind of empty and they're all in there trying to dig it out. People who are sort of possibly homeless-ish play with all the testers. I've seen tons of people pick lipsticks up off the displays and put them directly on their lips. When we see this, we're supposed to discreetly get rid of the sample and put out a fresh one, but you can't be everywhere at once so we miss things. We're also supposed to direct everyone to one of the hygiene stations with all the disposable applicators, but they don't always listen. That's also sort of why the hygiene station is there—so you can personally do something to avoid getting in on other people's nasty shit.
When will Fort Wayne, Indiana get a Sephora store?
How the fuck am I supposed to know? I am extremely busy working a register and stocking shelves and putting Prevage in my mouth. I have no idea. Call 1-877-SEPHORA. It'll get you somewhere, although I don't know where that somewhere would be.
What's the best way to get the cast members to actually help you instead of standing around talking to each other?
Ooh, they call that a "black cloud." Because we all wear black, you know, and if too many of us are standing around together, it's like we're going to rain on people's shopping experience. You shouldn't be having a hard time getting a cast member's attention or getting them to help you, and there aren't supposed to be black clouds out on the stage. Obviously black clouds happen, customer service is not perfect, blah blah blah. If you call a store and ask for Leadership, someone will very patiently listen to you complain, be really nice about it, and then probably hang up the phone and talk shit on you. Also, you're complaining about someone who is probably going to leave the company within six months anyway. This job is for children who like eye shadow. You might be able to kind of get some of them in trouble by doing this, but probably not.
What do you think about the Sephora brand eye shadows?
I like them. I use them. They have really pretty colors, and I like the texture of the creamier ones a lot. I think that sometimes, people expect them to be more highly pigmented than they are. They look like they're going to be these really bold colors, but then they go on a little more sheerly. If you want a more pigmented eye shadow, look for companies that are making those. MAC is sort of the gold standard for highly pigmented eye shadows... but I mean, MAC is no joke. Drag queens and movie sets use it. Highly pigmented is what they do. Definitely try stuff out on your hand before you buy it if you're not sure what it does. Or just return it. Sephora brand everything is kind of "meh." The brushes and stuff are cool, but the products are all really middle-of-the-line and not that exciting, especially compared to the other lines we carry.
Why are you so eager to stay at this job, get the training, and learn more? Are you an esthetician or just between jobs, or what?
Okay, what you don't understand is this: I got home from work a few hours ago and I feel like I just mainlined $3000 worth of the best drug imaginable straight into my brain. You would have to love products as much as I do to be able to stand working here. I give myself a facial every night. Ask me about my Kinerase collection. It's sick. No, I'm not an esthetician, yes, I am perfectly capable of holding down a better job. I just like my kind of crack. It's my shit. I'm working here to fuel my fancy skin care addiction. I just realized everyone who works here is eighteen. I asked them, "how can you afford to work here?" And they said, "I live with my parents." Even this woman who works here who is forty and divorced — she lives with her mom. We are all here for the same reason.
Have you always been addicted to beauty products?
Ever since I came down with adult-onset cystic acne about ten years ago. I am a very vain person, the type of person who will stay inside my house and not go into work and refuse to see my closest friends if I have a bad breakout. It is sick. But there is something so sad and homeless about acne. It just looks like something is wrong. That's why I love helping someone who comes in and looks like shit. There is a feminine joy I get from being able to say, here, I know a lot about this and I can help you. Because I can. I have dabbled in everything. I am hardcore. I will try your homeopathic aspirin-raw honey mask. I will take your supplements; I will spend hundreds of dollars on credit on fancy products and I will let you stick your acupuncture needles in me. I also don't pussyfoot around; I believe it's gonna look worse before it looks better. And I do not let obstacles stand in my way: at my lowest point — I can't believe I did this but at my lowest point I would routinely go to a dermatologist and get cortisone shots in my cystic acne. And I would watch where he stuck the needles and when he left the room I would steal a bunch of syringes and do it on myself at night.
Why does corporate Sephora call insults "gifts?" How do they get away with it?
Most of the people who work here are teenagers and they are happy to not be working at McDonald's. This is how they get away with it. As to the why of this issue, my best guess is that it's called a "gift" in an attempt to put a positive spin on what could be construed—let's face it, by anyone functioning normally as a human being—as negative feedback. They mask it with this new-agey shit like, "this is a gift for you to take to the future." Like we should be very glad that now we know our makeup looks like shit or that our shoes are fug, so that we can correct the situation and do a better job. Oh, also, Sephora is what we call a "values-based" company, which to my understanding means that we are not allowed to even say words like steal, shoplift, took, take, thief, what have you. Instead of loss prevention, we have "excellent client servicing." This means that we follow clients around, talking to them, helping them, basically watching them like hawks under the guise of customer service to ensure that the bad thing we're not supposed to say does not happen. So there isn't a security guard, no tags, nothing like that. Instead it's us, and I mean... our costumes don't have pockets for a reason, too. But yeah, we don't use negative terms at Sephora and "gift" is another example of that.
How quickly does stock move at your store? Do any of the items sit around on the shelves for a long time?
People are not feeling the Decleor skincare line. They don't buy the Bliss home waxing kit ever, either. We sell a lot of Perricone, but people seem to be kind of confused about the other cosmeceuticals unless I am here to enable them. Those are my favorite things to sell, but the names have gotten so technical for some of these products that people literally do not understand that oh, this is face cream. The department store brands don't sell... Clinique, Lancome, Shiseido, all of those. People can get those in other places so they tend not to care so much about them. Sometimes someone will come in and request a certain Lancome product or something, but for the most part, people are interested in the fun, new stuff. These products all have preservatives enough so that we can keep them on the shelf for years if they don't sell. Also, I'm not there all the time so it's hard for me to know exactly how much is moving in terms of a gross net. This isn't the kind of thing staff members are routinely consulted about, we're just told how much the store made and how much we are expected to sell for the day.
What's up with your fearless Leader, Cunty Claus? Did she do anything cunty this week?
She does some kind of cunty something every week, pretty much. This week I was at the store on a Sunday before it opened, and I mean, cast members use the front door just like everyone else so if that's locked, you're shit out of luck until someone opens it for you. So we're waiting outside in the cold, and by the time anyone remembered to open the door for us, we were all a grand total of three minutes late. I was the last one to clock in, and I was only three minutes late. Anyway, Cunty Claus took this opportunity to give all of us this terrible lecture at Touch Base, which is our opening meeting, and it's all about how she doesn't understand why we didn't call the store if we were going to be late, what are our excuses, we're late all the time, just a bunch of bullshit like that. I explained to her that we were only three minutes late according to the time clock and she launches into this whole big thing about how the time clock and the clock on the stage are different or something bullshitty. Basically she was just pissed we didn't hop to it in a big hurry freaking out over our jobs even though it wasn't even our faults in the first place that no one opened the doors sooner. She's on this extremely creepy power trip. Once she found me leaning against a display for what, a second, and she says, "We don't lean here. We stand at Sephora." What the fuck? Who says that? She's really into intimidating the cast members so that she seems more authoritative. I think she lives in a world where she has no power and any time she's not at Sephora, working, people like take their dicks out and wipe them on her face. But I guess Sephora is the place where she can avoid the Dirty Sanchez and so we're all three minutes late on Cunty Claus' beat.
How did you finally get rid of your acne?
Oh, that is a long story I will save for next time. But I literally know everything about anything having to do with your skin, so bring on the skin care queries. I am fired up and ready to fight your glands with you.