August 11, 2018

STORIES | sephora, 2009

the following is a true story | identifying details have been changed

Jackie shrugged. "Seriously, we really don't care." She knelt down in her all-black uniform and opened a drawer. She took out a handful of tiny, empty clear tubs and handed them to me. Standing back up, she gestured towards the mostly empty store. 

"Take whatever you want. I mean you can even get the sample jars yourself," she pointed to the drawer, "I mean, we've had women smash lipsticks in them, or crumble up powder eye shadows into them." She chuckled. 

"I think that's taking a bit too far," I responded. 

"Well, yes and no." Jackie shrugged again. "We're supposed to make a sample of anything in the store if asked."

"At least they're not stealing the tester."

"That's true. Be right back." Jackie stepped away to go greet an older woman whose immediate demeanor screamed high maintenance. She was cross of Bea Arthur and Anna Wintour; there was no resting about her bitch face. The outfit was the latest Ralph Lauren from the Macy's across the food court. Jackie clearly knew this woman because I could see the brave face that she put on upon approach.

Godspeed Jackie, I thought. My attention turned to the colorful bottles in front of me. What did I want? A cleanser? A moisturizer? I wandered down a few aisles to the Philosophy display and picked up a bottle of their moisturizer Miracle in a Bottle. Squirt, squirt, squirt. I filled about five of the tiny tubs which would last me about a week. My next stop was the Fresh display for a few more squirts of their soy face wash. A few more squirts of this & that and the tubs went into my purse. With a wave and a smile I said goodbye to Jackie and caught the bus to my job at Lowe's.

Despite working at Lowe's and basically living on slightly higher than minimum wage pay, I often had designer skincare and cosmetics thanks in part to friends like Jackie. Well, her and the other slightly higher than minimum wage cosmetic counter employees at the Capital City Mall. In nice weather, I would read in the park or by the river. In bad weather, I would head to the library or the mall. As a result, I learned quite a bit of Russian and when stuff would go on sale at the mall.

I really had nothing to offer the folks at the mall except the occasional discount at Lowe's but I like to think they valued me for the friendship. I also helped them out as best I could. I'd give fake names and addresses to the girl at Orgins in exchange for free mini facials. I did that a lot, actually, to various cosmetic counters. I'd fill out credit card offers with more fake was somehow approved at I think Old Navy and it scared both me and the cashier (a drinking buddy). Yes, we canceled the card.

The one thing we all had in common was that we were stuck in the recession with college degrees and zero job prospects. We were pissed and Jackie's small, meager way of trying to spite the forces that be was to overlook my shoving most of the Fresh balm tester into a sample tub. I would routinely mark down plants for Jackie and the others at Lowe's. Roses that would be marked at $19.99 would magically get slashed to 9.99 with a few keystrokes. Markdowns in the Lowe's nursery are constant so it was hardly unusual. I remember we'd get mums in a Monday and they'd be marked half down by Wednesday because another order of mums was coming in and we didn't have the space.

Were we abusing our (lowly) positions? Of course. Did any of us get caught? Not that I'm aware of. Does it matter?


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