Top 5 Life Lessons from the Makeup Chair

31 Aug

With classes at UC Davis starting in just a matter of days, I’ll be seeing the beauty shop a whole lot less in the coming months. As a tribute to all the practical knowledge I’ve gained from my years in retail, I’ve put together the Top 5 things I’ve learned working in the beauty shop.

Valuable little tid-bits gleaned from my moments of embarrassment, humiliation, and learning the hard way.

1.     Be nice to EVERYONE.

We all have those days. Days that we really shouldn’t be interacting with others. Days we probably should’ve stayed home. Where I work, those are days where I’d rather not do a complimentary makeover for a twelve-year-old, I’d rather not give someone free samples, and I’d rather not have anyone in the store. That sounds really awful, but it’s the truth. It doesn’t happen too often but once in a while, I have a really bad day.

Well, it was one of those days, and I was ringing someone’s purchase, when all of a sudden the customer says, “Did I do something to offend you?”

I was in shock. I didn’t think I was being rude, but I wasn’t sure because I hadn’t been paying attention, I was just trying to get her out as quickly as I could. At best I’m sure I had a disinterested look on my face and maybe the customer didn’t enjoy the silence she was being served up that evening.

After she left, I felt awful. It sent me into a real spin. I began thinking about how she had come in perfectly fine, and how my bad mood had ruined her night. She left pretty put off and maybe she wouldn’t even shop in our store anymore because of it. I began to think about how many people I come into contact with on bad days, not just at work, but at the coffee house, at home, over the phone, or at the grocery store. How many bad days had I inflicted on others because of my own bad mood? I am never intentionally rude, but others’ perception of us can be very different than our intention. It was then that I decided that it is very important to be nice to everyone. If not for others, for your own peace of mind.

2.       Don’t jump to conclusions.

I work at a beauty store in a relatively affluent community. With that comes a little higher prevalence of entitlement in our clientele. It can come in the form of the cell phone talker, who refrains from acknowledging my existence, any of a number of snide comments, or dirty looks, or just a general attitude of false superiority. Well, I had become pretty used to spotting this kind of behavior and it didn’t thrill me.

One day, I greeted a woman as she walked in. She made eye contact with me and kept walking without a word.

“Hello” I said, again a little louder. Nothing. Well, I wasn’t going to take this lying down. I was not going to let her blatantly ignore me. I am a person, and she was going to treat me as such!

I stormed up to her, “Hi. Is there anything I can help you with?” I asked with a little attitude.

In response she began signing to me. Signing. She was deaf. She hadn’t heard any of my greetings. She wasn’t ignoring me and I was officially the worst person alive. Don’t jump to conclusions. You’ll thank me when you avoid being rude to the hearing impaired.

3.       Go easy on people, maybe they’ll go easy on you.

As a quintessential over-achiever, I hold myself and others to impossibly high standards. I am competitive. This is great for many areas of my life including work. Though I only work in the beauty shop part-time and my education is my main priority, that doesn’t stop me from striving for excellence at work. I am usually the highest performer in sales and since I managed the shop before I went back to school, I am also very familiar with the operational responsibilities in the store. One of my opportunities is cutting people breaks, when the job doesn’t come as easily to them. I expect a lot because I expect a lot from myself.

Well, we have secret shoppers in our company. They shop you to see if you are doing all that you’re required to, and in ours there’s a lot to remember and to perform. If you don’t do the list of things you are supposed to, you get a bad shop and it is reported to your supervisors and company. Well I got two bad shops in a row. ME! I’m the most experienced, highest performer in the store! I was so upset. I was sure I was going to get in big trouble. I felt terrible that I had let everyone down. I asked my Assistant Manager if she had seen it. She said, “Yes. Well, no one can be perfect all the time. Give yourself a break. We all make mistakes.” I can’t even describe to you the relief I felt after she completely let me off the hook. If I had been the manager and this had happened, I would not have been so understanding. But, it was just what I needed to relax and focus on the future and let go of what I had done. So, go easy on others, and hopefully, someday, when you need it, they’ll go easy on you.

 4.       You get what you give off.

We’ve all heard that old adage: you catch more flies with honey. Well, it sounds obvious and simple, but it’s a piece of advice I rarely see in practice. Smile, ask nicely, say something nice to someone, and go out of your way to do something kind. Trust me. Not only will you see more positive responses from others, but it’s a great mood booster. Give off positivity, and you will get it back in spades.

5.       Mean people are almost always sad people.

This one took me a while to learn. I couldn’t understand why some people went out of their way to be rude or mean to me. Well, we have a customer, we’ll call her Grace, and she had been coming in every month or so for her hair products. She was almost always unpleasant, short, and well…mean. I decided, this time, I wasn’t going to passively endure her negativity. I was going to kill her with kindness. I offered her a makeover and to my surprise she said yes. I lured her into conversation and complimented her beautiful skin. A little while into the conversation, she told me she was going through a difficult divorce and this was the first time she had worn makeup in a year. She later apologized to me and she has been one of my regulars ever since. You never know what someone is going through. I learned that being mean is not something happy people do. Try not to take it personally next time you’re on the receiving end. That person has a life and a history that you don’t know, maybe their meanness is sadness in disguise.

What are some lessons you’ve learned over the years? What are your stories?

© Copyright 2012 hairsprayandhemingway

6 Responses to “Top 5 Life Lessons from the Makeup Chair”

  1. Shayla August 31, 2012 at 3:13 pm #

    Bravo!

  2. unladylikemusings August 31, 2012 at 6:35 pm #

    Along with #2 and #5, I’ve learned to not make assumptions about people. You never know what someone’s story is. I work with homeless women and survivors of DV and sexual assault for a living. I’ve blundered pretty badly when I think I know who someone is and what they’ve been through before even saying hello.

    • hairsprayandhemingway September 2, 2012 at 8:35 pm #

      Thank you for sharing that! I believe it’s human nature to categorize people on sight and to attempt to form opinions about them. However, that doesn’t mean it’s right or that it won’t get you in a lot of trouble.

  3. michael September 4, 2012 at 9:42 pm #

    Very true, very good advice. I’ve spent the past three years or so trying to work on #2, and I just hope I’m making headway.

  4. litlove September 24, 2012 at 2:20 am #

    I was brought up by a very strict mother to be EXTREMELY polite, and I can’t live with the guilt if I ever try to take a mood out on someone (except on my husband – there have to be exceptions, right? 😉 ). But even so, it’s easy to mishear what someone is asking for because the assumptions in my head are screaming louder. Working with troubled students, you never know quite where they are coming from, and it’s best to suspend judgement for quite a while. But the great thing about this post is that it shows just how much you have learnt and grown, when the vast majority of people keep on making the same old mistakes without a second thought. You Mensch, you. 🙂

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