Bitchin': it’s practically a national pastime. The British are the undisputed world champions at moaning, complaining, grousing, griping and bellyaching. Centuries ago, we used to channel all this discontent into
stealing discovering other lands and dicking on spear-wielding natives, but these days we’ve lost our belly fire. Plunderin’, rapin’ and lootin’ have given way to giving strangers the stink-eye and, in extreme cases, tutting. Obviously this isn’t exactly a bad thing, but unfortunately we are utterly crap at acting on our dissatisfaction at all now. . We share a rooted objection to Being A Bother, or – even worse – Causing A Scene. As a nation, we need to change.
Now, I can say this because I have been genetically blessed with a natural self-righteousness and sub-par sense of shame. My mother, perhaps the most unembarrassed person in the country, is the kind of woman who will carefully check every receipt because Tesco once overcharged her by 72p in 1994. I remember as a child being mortified as she marched over to a gangly eighteen year old at the Customer Service desk to demand the reason as to why a BOGOF offer on avocados hadn’t gone through. I have no doubt in my mind that one of my ancestors, a daughter-in-law of Noah, boarded the Ark and immediately said, ‘Excuse me. Excuse me. Why do we have an inside cabin? We were promised a sea-view. And a balcony. How come the anteaters have a sea-view? AND it’s too small.’
Although her behaviour was mortifying at the time, I learned that it was important to complain about something that wasn’t right. If you pay money for something and it doesn’t work how it should, then you’re entitled to a replacement or refund. End of. There is nothing wrong or embarrassing about it, taking something back does not make you tight-arse or a miser. Cosmetics in particular seem to be something that people shy away from returning, and I haven’t the foggiest why. I appreciate not everyone has the natural ability to approach a snotty counter assistant and demand a refund for a foundation that brought them out in hives, so here it is, my handy-dandy guide to complaining about cosmetics and getting your money back.
Are you entitled to a refund?
This comes down to personal ethics and the brand’s refund policy. Generally, I’d say you should go for it if:
Some brands will also allow you to exchange products if they’re just not right for you or it was an unwanted gift (without receipt), but this is at the counter manager’s discretion. Do not try and exchange a product if you’ve bought one off eBay that you suspect to be fake. I had this happen to me three times when I worked at Benefit and I had two of them escorted off by security. Very embarrassing.
Keep your receipt
Always keep the receipt of a product until you’re completely finished with it; it makes getting a refund so much easier. Some department stores, such as House of Fraser, will not even offer you an exchange without one, even in the product is brand new and in its original packaging. You can usally still get something back if you don’t have the receipt, but it won’t be a refund and it isn’t guaranteed. The only exception is Bare Minerals; I once returned something without a receipt that I had reacted really badly to and the BA went straight to the till and gave me the cash, no questions asked.
Don’t be a dickhead about it
At the end of the day, it isn’t the BA’s fault that your new primer gave you pizza face. Going in guns blazing is just going to piss them off and they’re not going to want to help you. Keep calm, explain your situation and go in with an objective. You’re much more likely to get what you want if you’re after an exchange rather than the cash. Grovel a bit too, that usually helps.
Write a letter
If the BA refuses to help you, you can ask to speak to the counter manager. Most beauty counters are concessions, which means that the counter manager has more say over her brand than a store manager. If they do tell you refunds are against company policy, ask for the details of Head Office or get them off the internet at home. Send a polite email explaining the situation and what you’d like in exchange. Tell them you were recommended to get in touch by their counter staff at whatever branch you visited. You probably will have to pay to post your item to them but generally you’ll get good service. When writing your email, don’t be an arsehole about it. Explain how much you like the brand and how disappointed you are with the new product you tried. If you ask for an exchange of something of slightly higher value and offer to supplement it with some extra cash they will usually waive the extra for you. Don’t be cheeky though!
Take to Twitter
Sometimes, when a company has been a little slow replying to my email, I’ve tweeted about how disappointed I am with the customer service and someone has got back to me within the hour. I did this for a friend with the Cambridge Satchel Company after her £120 leather bag started peeling after three weeks and they were ON IT. Three emails had been ignored but after kicking up some fuss on Twitter we had a new satchel on its way within 24 hours.
Premium brands’ returns policies