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It’s All About You

June 12, 2010

Walking through the maze of cosmetic counters at the mall a while back, I was stopped by this woman. Armed in her sterile white coat, she could pass from afar as a physician with her flashing smile.

“Excuse me miss,” she waved.

I didn’t have my iPod with me right then, which has effectively prevented these unnecessary daily interruptions many a time, and I involuntarily looked up and caught her eye. Now it would be too rude to ignore. I sighed inward, and shuffled toward the counter.

Close up, her smile is revealed to be a careful construction of colors and geometry. A bright berry spreads over her lips, which is lined precisely though invisibly with a lip liner of similar hue. A bronzey taupe shimmers across her lids, which are deep set. The lower rim of the eyes is lined expertly with a neutral brown and smudged ever so slightly to give that smokey look. Two coats of mascara, at least. Foundation, likely powdered, the uniform flesh tone is broken by shadows of bronzer, which is correctly applied in the hollow of her cheekbones and lightly over bridge of her nose, forehead, and chin for that sunkissed glow. Then a peachy highlighter swept across the apple of her cheeks and up and outwards towards the temple seals the deal.

The look of the effort-fully effortless.

“Miss, this is all about you.” She smiles. The paleness of her professionally-whitened teeth blinding.

I force my gaze upwards to her eyes, a baby blue. The bronzey taupe makes them pop. It is a good choice.

“Excuse me?”

“What I meant is that you have an unique look, you know, and you seem like someone who is very stylish and would enjoy this special offer we have right now, which includes…”

Amused. I observe the opening and closing of her berry pout, and the moving of her facial muscles at a frantic pace. They seem so limber.

She is working hard. I wonder how many women buy into these free compliments? She delivers them with an expert friendliness and tone that raise no alarms and give no reason to be refused.

“Really?” I offer a small smile, the polite thing to do. “That seems like a good deal.”

“It is! And most importantly, it celebrates the uniqueness of each individual by allowing you to choose from a variety of colors and products that suit you. It is, of course, All About You.” She is beaming.

I smile some more, and pause to give the illusion of consideration.

Sensing my feigned apprehension, she tiptoes further.

“You know, I feel like I’ve seen you before. Have you purchased a product with us before?”

“I can’t say that I have.”

“Really? I could have sworn that I had another customer who looks just like you…I mean, the same hair, same eyes…you know? I remember this because you are both very pretty and exotic. Do you mind me asking what your background is?”

Connecting with the customer.

“Oh really? Maybe I have a twin around…and well, I’m not that exotic really, just Asian. There are so many of us around in Toronto.”

I widen my eyes in expected delight, and she follows.

“Yes, but you look like you could be mixed! You have great lips.”

I almost laugh aloud.

Personal compliments. Focus on their best attribute.

“Hmmm,” I keep smiling, with teeth this time, showing my great lips.

“That is very nice of you to say. No, I’m not mixed, as far as I know.”

Then she went in for the kill.

“Tell you what.” She leans forward, harboring a secret shared only with me. “If you decide to take the offer today, I’ll throw in something special for you. I don’t normally do that, but I like you, and I’ve got some extra samples in the back. You’ll love them.”

Make them feel special. Personalize the offer. Make it time-sensitive.

“Hmmm.” I cock my head to the side and wait a few more seconds, then meet her gaze.

“I’m going to think about it. Thank you so much. That is really nice of you.”

A glint of disappointment flashes across iris of her eyes. The baby blue cools.

“That is fine. I’ll hold the offer for you until end of the day so if you change your mind, just come back and find me and I’ll set it all up for you.”

She recovers with another smile, though with less warmth.

“I will. Have a good day.”

As I turn and walk away from the fluorescent rows of silver lined bottles and tubes, I wonder if there is another girl like me in Toronto, wandering around, stopping at brightly lit cosmetic counters. The funny thing is that this is not the first time I’ve heard about this uncanny resemblance. And if so, did the woman in the white coat really met her? Or was it just an easy, white lie?

The pale glow of her coat, her teeth, the white of her eyes, continue to flash in my mind intermittently as I walk home.

I get in the door and collapse on the couch. Rummaging through my purse, a slippery cardboard materializes. The White Coat must have given it to me.

Holding the glossy pinkness in my hand, I examine the expertly contrasting colors and design: fresh, modern, feminine, like spring.

I give a small laugh, can’t help but feel a smudge of…irony? Satisfaction?

It is, of course, All. About. You.

And just who the hell are you?

24 Comments leave one →
  1. June 12, 2010 9:21 PM

    You just keep getting better and better, sugar. You always will. And it IS All. About. You.

  2. Sanae permalink
    June 12, 2010 9:24 PM

    I loved this post! Found it through Roger Ebert’s Twitter feed. I AM mixed, and I have gotten similarly strange comments from strangers. They seemed on the surface complimentary but, when properly processed, weren’t at all!

    Grace: Most times I think they genuinely mean it as a compliment, and I never know whether it’s worth it to explain why it swallows kinda funny.

  3. June 12, 2010 10:20 PM

    Positively love the way you clinically dissect each and every manipulative ploy by the White Coat, giving the outside impression of warmth, but inside coolly removed and analytical. Like a secret agent, sizing up her target. Expertly handled and delicious.

    Grace: oohh, maybe I’m the one wearing a white coat?…

  4. June 12, 2010 10:28 PM

    Twins are everywhere one is not and, most likely, left moments before with a touch of deja vu.

  5. Ally permalink
    June 12, 2010 10:37 PM

    That was funny! But I probably would have bought a mascara or something because the cosmetics women out here in L.A. wouldn’t have made half the effort this lady did.

    Grace: True dat. A for aaaaaaeffort.

  6. June 13, 2010 2:49 AM

    Found your post on Roger’s twitter page. He is such a great source of good things. I’m retired and so far I’ve been able to ignore the white coats without doing harm (I hope) ‘cuz they’re just doing their job.
    My job is to read Rogert’s stuff and more and write my own blog. You can read the newest post “There’s piles of poop every where You look” at the above website.

  7. June 13, 2010 2:55 AM

    HeHe…I like this post!!

  8. June 13, 2010 8:09 AM

    I love your style here, and your analysis of the cosmetic salesperson. Wonderful detail, and very well written. I very much enjoyed reading this piece, thank you!

    Grace: Thanks!

  9. blackwatertown permalink
    June 13, 2010 8:37 AM

    Great analysis of this encounter. Though like Ally, the woman was going to impressive lengths. You were getting the full sell treatment.
    Personally I recoil from those cosmetic jungles of eye-watering perfume concentrations and thick slap.

    Grace: I don’t dispute the enthusiasm of the sales. It is the premise on which it began, and the irony in the context of the campaign.

  10. June 13, 2010 11:38 AM

    Grace, I love the way you relate to female readers who all try to avoid eye contact with the women at the cosmetic counters. Your dialogue interspersed with play by play customer service training is clever. Thanks for this.

    Grace: Thanks. We must all do that in our heads.

  11. June 13, 2010 1:15 PM

    Haha…I loved the post but then again i love everything on your blog. Personally i think, the whole twin and exotic look speech is a marketing ploy to get you and everyone to buy whatever it is the white coat is selling. I mean how else can you get any body to spend money on complete crappy make-up that they will hardly ever use if not by appealing to their vanity?

    Grace: The girl with the great twitter avatar! I like the quotes sidebar on your blog, the photos are a nice touch.

    • June 16, 2010 2:23 PM

      Dear Grace,

      You made me blush and thanks for the compliment on the quotes/sidebar… I do love those few memorable film lines that make you sum up the film. That is usually how i think of writing a review. Its those unforgettable lines from a film that make you rewind the scenes over and over again in your head. Please stop by anytime and share your thoughts on my ramblings and as outrageous as they seem, i always need to vent out my insanity.

      Vanity aside, i would love to know your thoughts on my musings though i must say am not as good as you ;-)

      Darling you do blow my mind away with your blog. Now if only i didn’t have a family and 9 – 5pm job, i would spend more time on reviews and literally pimping that blog haha…


  12. June 13, 2010 6:37 PM

    Just love your posts and will be back for more:) x

    Grace: your blog is mouthwatering…literally!

  13. June 13, 2010 7:08 PM

    oh wow..! i love it! i just started on this.. like 2 minutes ago.. and i allready love your blog!

  14. June 13, 2010 7:53 PM

    One of my friends in Japan used to avoid conversation on the train by putting in earphones, with the wire running in his pocket. The wire wasn’t attached to anything, but no one else knew that. :-)

    Glad to see you had a new post today. I was starting to go through withdrawal. :-)

    Grace: I never had to do that because I find it easier to just always have music handy.

  15. June 14, 2010 8:35 AM

    Great post as always, Grace.

    While not accosted at beauty stores, I have had the same experiences with salespeople and your post really resonates with me.
    “I can see how dedicated of a father you are, sir!”
    “You seem to be someone with a strong fashion sense.”
    “I can tell you’re a smart guy, so I will just get to the point.”

    I am also glad to see Roger increased traffic to your site again. But it’s your writing that does it.

    Grace: Thanks Andrew. p.s. you’re not a “failed writer.” The fact that you’re still writing means you have not failed. The real failure is giving up under the self-imposed illusion of failure.

  16. June 14, 2010 1:44 PM

    Great post. Could really see the scene playing out in front of me…

  17. June 29, 2010 8:02 AM

    more please! :)

    • Grace permalink*
      June 30, 2010 4:02 PM

      I know, I know. Soon! I’ve been busy holding my umbrella in the sun…

  18. June 30, 2010 3:38 PM

    Hi Grace,

    I first found your blog via your review on the Hurt Locker which I really enjoyed!

    What I like best about this current post is that the reader can, and the reader should (assuming your honest with you internal voice), put themselves into the position of either the “seller” or the “buyer”. After all, aren’t we all buyers and sellers in the various activities we have to undertake in our daily lives?

    I’ll be looking forward to reading your future posts and reviews!

    • Grace permalink*
      June 30, 2010 4:04 PM

      Really appreciated your post on my Hurt Locker piece. Thanks for the support :)

  19. August 12, 2010 6:38 AM

    Grace that’s amazing :D Are you sure you aren’t a psychologist underneath it all?! That was a great dissection of the psychology of social influence – but written in a far better way then any textbooks I have read on the topic ;)

    Those cosmetic counters, I am also wary of walking by them. Not because I hate being hassled for a second or two, but because I know about social influence tactics and hate the fact that it is so easy to be sucked in by it. I will be fully aware of it happening to me and yet…oh it’s so enticing, you just want to believe the “reality” sales staff try to present you with!


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