Saturday, June 11, 2011

Shop Assistants at perfume counters: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

In the retail world, we all interact with shop assistants (the SAs), to buy the products, to try something new or ask questions. Some SAs are good, some are bad and some are just rude! As with any other beauty product, you have to try a perfume before deciding to buy, especially at the prices of Australian department stores.

Good communication is a two way street. I am always courteous. I show genuine interest in the products. I never ask for free samples. I know how to say 'No' firmly but politely. In spite of all that, I have had some great, good, not-so-good and really bad experiences: The Ugly, The Bad and The Good!
The bad experiences are the times I wish English was my first language, so that I could react with something witty.

Keihls counter at David Jones, Sydney
After hearing all the hooha about the price drop, I thought I'd check out some Keihl's products. I was hoping that the perfume oils were reduced as well (it turned out, they are not!) The SA, a young man, saw me coming into the counter and did not bother to attend to me. He was sitting in front of a mirror, picking at his pimples! It was really gross, not the pimples but picking at them in public and the possibility of him touching the testers of skin care products... EWWWW.... For some reason, I was dreading that he would grab me for a handshake to welcome me which never happened, not even the welcome!

Guerlain counter at Myer, Sydney:
I had just tested La Petite Robe Noir 1 and 2, one on each wrist. I went back for a second whiff after about an hour or so, as I wanted to make sure which was which.
SA: Oh look, it is you, AGAIN!

Jo Molone counter at David Jones, Sydney
The SA always hovers around me like he is supervising what I am smelling! He stands there and says nothing. I ask something about some perfume just to break the awkwardness. He mutters something and waits for me to go away! Happens every time!

Mecca Cosmetica on George Street, Sydney
I was asking the SA about Escentric Molecules. Only thing she said was "It costs 300 odd dollars"
Like I had to pay that amount to test it!

Estee Lauder counter at Myer, Sydney:
An example of being manipulative and pushy.

SA: Can I help you?
me: I am just trying Sensuous Noir
SA: Just so you know, we have some perfume sets for Mother's Day in Sensuous
me: Sensous is not my thing, but I really like Sensuous Noir
SA: (pointing to the gift set) Oh no no, try layering Sensuous with Body Lotion, it is wonderful!
me (politely): No I like Sensuous Noir much better
SA immediately got a new bottle of Sensuous Noir, ready to bill!
me: I don't intend to buy, I was just trying...
SA (in a disappointed tone) oh, ok then!
....and I apologised to her like a fool for all the trouble she took!

Chanel counter at David Jones, Adelaide (when Chanel Nº5 Eau Premiere was just out)
I wanted to see how different the Eau Premiere was from the original and asked the SA show me.
SA: Nº5 is dense. Eau Premiere is lighter.....followed by a stern look, meaning end of discussion!
She did not spray either of them, not even on a paper strip!

Dior counter at Myer, Sydney
I went in to ask for a particular perfume. The SA instead of telling me if they had it or not, complimented my pretty eyes and tried to sell some makeup. Ok, I was flattered but I did not get what I came for!

La Priairie counters, everywhere
They look and talk like they have caught me in the act when I am stealing their perfumes!!!

Donna Karen display at David Jones, Sydney:
I had the pleasure of meeting this wonderful SA, who came up to me and talked me through the entire line of Donna Karen Essences. The lady spoke with such passion about the Donna Karen perfumes. She was friendly, gave me all the attention and answered my questions. I loved chatting with her!

Mecca Cosmetica, Myer, Sydney
The girls are always friendly, they know I go there to try perfumes. They take all the interest to find me the perfume that suits me, with the same interest every time!

Tom Ford counters, everywhere
The SAs are always helpful, tell me what I ask for and even offer samples without even asking for them.

David Jones, Brisbane
I went there looking for Encre Noir. The man at the perfume counter said that they don't carry the brand anymore. He looked up the perfume, took me through every perfume that he thought was similar, made me smell the testers, explained every note and was friendly, nice and not pushy throughout! He even gave me the address of a store that carried it so that I could test it!

David Jones, Adelaide
I used to love going there when I lived in Adelaide. One lady had become friends with my Baby Elephant and was always nice to me. She gave me heads up on up coming promotions. She used to give me samples when I bought a perfume, sometimes even when I did not! Once she had saved a last bottle of perfume for me because she thought I'd like it! I have bought at least 4 perfumes from her.
The guy at the Guerlain counter was this enthusiastic guy who took his time to attend to me and give information about whatever I asked for. He taught me the right way to say "L'Heure Bleue"!

Overall, from my experience, I have learnt that the behaviour of SAs doesn't depend on the brand or the store. It solely depends on the kind of person that the SA is. The attitude may be influenced by many things, the manager, sales, age, experience, personal crisis, weather, current affairs, alien invasion.....
It all comes down to being courteous and building a relationship. How and why will anybody buy anything when the SAs are either rude or pushy or unenthusiastic or just want you to go away or think the customer is a waste of time? 


  1. 'Alien invasion' hehe!
    There are so many SA's that need to be schooled on customer service. I've never had a good experience at the Adelaide David Jones Chanel counter, but have luckily never met with any pimple-popping SA's!

  2. I haaaaaate the perfume counter at DJ. They follow you around everywhere and there seem to be about 20 of them milling around at any one time, so you tell one you're just looking and then turn a corner and there's another one in your face. I have never had a really good, comfortable browse in there - I end up just getting pissed off and leave.

  3. Michelle, I think I was the lucky one to spot a pimple popping SA! It is like I won the lotto :D

    Dee, isn't it frustrating? DJs in Rundle Mall was good to me, much better than Myer in Rundle Mall!

  4. SAs are my pet peeve. Yuck, pimple picking SAs! How disgusting!

    They expect you to guess the smell by looking at the bottle. They expect you to buy whatever you touch! ridiculous.

    But I am happy that you shared some positive experiences too :)

  5. Yay I love a bit of naming and shaming, people should do it more often!
    But, on a more serious note, i do find service at most counters leaves a lot to be desired. Though sometimes it swings the other way and I feel uncomfortable because I feel like they've done too much!

  6. Absolutely Angie :) who on earth will buy every item they try?! There are testers for a reason!

    Tea, LOL naming and shaming is always entertaining :)
    Totally get what you are saying! It especially happens at makeup counters when they experiment on your face!!

  7. Haha, that public-pimple-popper just grossed me out so much! be honest, I don't think I've had any particularly good perfume experiences, even when I ended up buying one, it still wasn't memorably good!

  8. "He was sitting in front of a mirror, picking at his pimples! It was really gross, not the pimples but picking at them in public and the possibility of him touching the testers of skin care products" ewwwwww

    Poor thing, it's sad you had to witness that, it sounds DISGUSTING!

    Also I get the whole "Oh look, it is you, AGAIN!" Thing a lot.. I blame it on my shopaholism.

    It's too bad you've had so many crap experiences like that, but at least there are a few nice SAs!

  9. Joan, that is such a shame! We should be treated better when we give them business (or not!)

    Vintage, absolutely! I am glad that I have a few good stories to tell :)

  10. Nice post Su and I'm with you - a person's behaviour is more a reflection of them than the brand. (LMAO @ alien invasion).

    And... in the spirit of sharing can I just add the best customer service I experienced was at a Perfume Connection store in Melbourne. I sent feedback through the company website - the SA was awesome. He let me sniff practically everything in the store lol.

  11. Jac, that is some really good service! So nice of you that you let the company know :) I would love to go to a store like that and sniff all day :D

  12. If you go to DJs/Myer after 6 on long shopping days, the counters will be either unattended or there will be one SA. Best time to sniff your heart out :)

  13. Thanks for tip :) It would be so nice to try things without interruptions!

  14. Your post is excellent, I relate to a lot of these (haven't encountered the pimple popper yet!).

    You'd think the Jo Malone perfumes in DJ's were made of solid gold the way the SA stands there watching you intently.

  15. Hey Kellstar, Thanks :) I know! It is so annoying, I would not buy from there even if I really needed something!