My one-time experience at the Bloomingdale’s makeup floor


Post Christmas shopping. New York City. January of the New Year – in this case, 2009.

I had a couple of appointments today in “the city,” as I refer to Manhattan since I live in Queens. Going in on a weekend day is always a gamble with how long it will take. Catching a train within two minutes of getting to the subway platform on a Saturday or Sunday can really set the tone for the day. However, if the train line is under construction and/or rerouted, God only knows how long it will take to get to a destination, be it one or five miles away. I got lucky today and wasn’t rerouted upon boarding.

I met my friend Cornelia on the UES and after a little bit of shopping, we drifted down Lexington to Bloomingdale’s, since I received a $50 gift card for Christmas. I was actually pretty excited, since in three years I’ve never had a reason to actually go in the store. I take that back: I met another friend there once on the makeup floor, but since I wasn’t there to actually buy anything and we left within minutes of meeting up, I didn’t count it as an actual trip to Bloomingdale’s, ie Bloomies. Since I’m not a regular shopper, I don’t think I can get away with calling it that.

What can a person buy for $50 at Bloomingdale’s? I’ll be honest – not a whole helluva lot. Let me put it this way: I’m reading a fabulous book Helen sent to me, entitled The Best of Everything, which is a novel delving into the lives of young secretaries working in a publishing firm in the 1950s in New York City. The starting salary is $50 a week, which apparently was really good money back then for being in a typing pool. Flash forward fifty-three years later, and my $50 gift card can buy me either a discount on something more expensive, a singular expensive item that shouldn’t be expensive (like a tie, a pair of panties or a travel size bottle of perfume), or two small expensive items. So one week’s salary from the 1950s is buying me something small and hopefully classy.

That having been said, most women know that the best bet is to go to the makeup counter (unless that woman is not a girly girl). There are lots of things $50 and under. Seeing as I was still using the same, tired tube of L’Extreme Mascara I wrote about back in November, I knew exactly where I was headed: my beloved Lancome counter.

I really tried to find an excuse to buy a gift set of perfume or something unexpected, but everything was more expensive than I wanted it to be, and damn it, my eyelashes have been crying out for fresh mascara. They simply won’t lengthen anymore with the practically-dried-up tube I have at home.

So here’s the downfall about being on the makeup floor at Bloomingdale’s, one of the most famous stores in the world: it’s a fucking snake pit! Nordstrom, something we don’t have here (pity), is known for its customer service. I would really love to do some compare and contrast shopping because God’s honest truth (and I had a certified New Yorker, Miss Cornelia, with me), the place is loaded with a higher ratio of sales people to customers, practially, all scrambling for a commission on whatever you end up purchasing. They don’t care if you have the money or not, nor how much of your precious time they’re taking up; and they certainly don’t care if they come off as bottom-feeding jerks. It’s all about the sale.

First things first: it’s a good thing I knew exactly what I wanted to buy at Lancome, because while they have the samples of mascara sitting out, everything is hidden and not organized well. I’m sure there’s some marketing scheme on why nothing flows together, like a candy aisle at the grocery store, but it just added to the confusion, if you ask this consumer. The woman who “helped” me didn’t describe anything about any of the other mascaras or eye makeup, didn’t mention any specials, sales or what goes really well with L’Extreme; she simply got out the box I asked for and handed it to me.

My lady was probably in her 50s or 60s, short, and sported a poof of coiffed, blonde (dyed) hair and lots and lots of green eye makeup. I own a subtle shade of green eyeliner of which I don’t like to dab on too much, but this woman had the super bright set all over her: upper and lower lids, corner of the eyes, with green eye shadow to match. I think she even had something glittery. I don’t know about 60 year-olds with glittery eyeliner. I’m just saying.

Maybe when you’re a salesperson you have to make yourself stand out as much as possible, because then I could always find her, saying, “It’s the one with tons of green eye makeup at the Lancome counter.”

“Ah! That’s Zsa Zsa. Right this way,” the helpful Information person might say.

“Zsa Zsa’s” lame attempt at upselling was encouraging me to buy a gift set of Juicy Tubes, which are “only” in stock now and then they’ll be gone forever. Yeah yeah, lady. I held onto my mascara box and continued looking. When I strayed too far at the Lancome border, almost into MAC country, she told me she could just hold onto it for me until I decided. Clearly she was worried I would pocket the mascara in my purse. Fine, I leave it with her. So I turn the corner to go find Cornelia, unsure yet of what else I would be purchasing (because nothing’s worse than having $20 on a gift card at an expensive store – I just wanted to use it up!), and suddenly, an overly groomed, waaaay too much gel in his hair sales guy, accosts me and proceeds to give me the hardest sell I’ve ever had in my life to sign up to have a makeover done by a professional makeup artist at the end of the month.

Thankfully, Cornelia found me in the middle of his spiel (even though I was clearly giving off the not interested vibe), and she managed to keep him at bay. The catch was we had to purchase a $50 gift card to Bloomingdale’s that day and if we missed the appointment, we could just use it towards Bloomingdale’s some other time. They don’t give a rat’s ass whether you come and get the glamorous “makeover,” they just want you to purchase a $50 gift card that day. They’d love it if it never got spent, or better yet, put it towards an even more expensive purchase if you come back for the makeover and Francois or whoever is doing the makeover, recommends $250 worth of products. Uh huh. I’ve got your number, Slick.

When I said I couldn’t afford the $50 today, he literally said, “But it’s like money in the bank!” Who says that? It’s not money in the bank; it’s out of my bank account and going towards something I haven’t even bought yet. Furthermore, I’m signing myself up to come back to this place…on purpose….again in three weeks? No thanks. Somehow I managed to get out of his clutches. I returned to the Lancome counter and bought a new Le Stylo waterproof eyeliner in black (add it to the Bottom Line, These Are Awesome list!). Again, thankfully I knew the name but did Zsa Zsa even try to care about the sale? No. When I picked up the bottle of Oui perfume, which smelled delicious, I asked her how much the small bottle was.

Here is the perfect opportunity to try to upsell me on something I already have an interest in! Instead, Zsa Zsa says to me in her thick Slavic accent, “Ummm…I don’t know, I’ll have to look it up.” I checked out, my items coming to $51.50 (so close!), and she did not bother looking up the price of Oui. No matter. I can probably buy it on or somewhere else for at least 10% less. But seriously? That’s the best they can do? Could she have given less of a shit?

And don’t even try to walk through the areas where a lighted sign says Information. It’s more Bloomingdale’s sales people who hold onto random colognes, perfumes and/or clipboards, waiting for lost and befuddled prey. I couldn’t believe how popular it was to be in there! You would think they were giving the stuff away – and I assure you – they were not.

Lastly, Cornelia and I stopped by a sunglass counter, where she tried on some pairs of aviator sunglasses. The woman raved about a particular pair, that while looked very nice on Cornelia, she and I both agreed that the fake rhinestones around the edges (just a few, strategically placed), took away from some of the refinement of them. The woman said she was going to try to find something else for her, after telling her that they were “nothing,” that there weren’t really any sparkles on the glasses. She turned to me and promised me an associate would help me find something for myself. I said, “Oh okay,” but I hadn’t taken any interest except to ask Cornelia if she thought tortoiseshell frames would look okay on me. Thanks for making that leap, but I’m aight.

Cornelia’s saleswoman turned away from her to help another demanding customer in the middle of assisting her, so we left in disgust. I was happy to have my two pieces of new makeup tucked away in my first “little brown bag” I’d ever had from actually purchasing something, but all in all, the experience rates a C-. Sorry, Bloomies. Insert “wah wah wah” sound effect.


I have yet to attempt to go clothes shopping there (and let’s face it, I’d need at least a $1,000 gift card to try that) but if I’m going to go the designer route, I’ll have to try somewhere else – Saks, perhaps?

I have no idea what Bloomingdale’s was like fifty years ago, but I would hedge a guess it didn’t feel like you walked in with a bullseye on your forehead with a sign on your back that read, “Total sucker.”

Nice try but no dice. In the meantime, I will be walking around with my fabulous matching black eyeliner and eyelashes, thanks to my own personal research, and no thanks to Zsa Zsa’s piss poor sales skills.