black|Up Cosmetics - Nil Point!

I popped into Debenhams on Oxford Street last Saturday to check out the black|Up make up counter, the French cosmetics brand aimed at darker skin tones.

Nothing could have prepared me for the unprofessional, hideous behaviour of the two members of staff on the black|Up cosmetics counter. I had already obtained permission from Debenhams PR to take photos of the counter and politely explained this, giving the name of the manager who they should confirm this with.

This wasn't good enough and I was quizzed suspiciously, had to repeat on numerous occasions why I was there and who I had spoken to (because clearly I was speaking a different language wasn't I?!) and forcibly told, "No!! You contact head office in Paris and they will send you pretty pictures. We don't allow photographs. You need to have the information which tells you the origins and history of the company." Ok.

My attempt at explaining that my readers didn't want to read corporate spiel, that they just want to see the products fell on deaf ears and she continued to roar that I needed to email head office.

**eye roll** x 100 at this point.

I really don't take kindly to unwarranted rudeness, even more so when it's combined with nonsensical behaviour which the black|Up counter staff appeared intent on displaying that afternoon. I was fuming but didn't show it, and waited patiently as one of the consultants swanned off, presumably to get the manager. She didn't say where she was going, her colleague told me a couple of minutes later that she had "gone to check my story and get the manager." Ok.

As I waited, I witnessed the consultant who was still present, bark at two customers who had dared lift up samples to look at, from the counter she had just been polishing "Do not leave your fingerprints on the counter!!", she shrieked in a thick French accent.  My friend and I exchanged incredulous glances. 

What. The. Hell. WHO DOES THAT?!!

A senior member of Debenhams staff arrived five minutes later with the original consultant in tow, he was friendly, professional and polite - all the traits you come to expect from somebody working in a customer focused environment. I quickly explained why I was there and he said he was just going to quickly check with the staff member I had originally given as a named contact.

He returned a couple of minutes later saying "That's fine, no problem. We were expecting you." Upon realising that I wasn't a competitor trying to steal their product ideas or some random chick who had arrived to take pictures of make up for the sheer hell of it, I noticed the two black|Up consultants quietly confer with the Debenhams staff member. However at no point did either of them offer an apology for the way they'd initially spoken to me or make any attempt to make amends by asking what it was I'd like more information on, etc

I would have found it really helpful to be talked through the numerous products they had on display, but did either of them offer to show me the products or sell the brand to me in a positive light? Like hell they did! As I tried to take photographs of the lipsticks, I was abruptly asked to move as a customer makeover was about to commence. No problem, but it was the manner in which I was asked to move that I didn't appreciate.

**sharp intake of breath**

I must have been at the counter in total for approximately 20 minutes and it was the longest 20 minutes of my life - so far this year. I didn't swatch a single item and was generally made to feel uncomfortable and as if I was in the way. It's taken me a full week to write this post as the expletives that were rolling off my tongue last Saturday afternoon would probably have found their way on here, has I tried to tackle this blog post last Sunday! I needed to calm down before speaking about my experience, but even as I type about it now, I can feel the anger rising up in me again.

The whole point of the visit was that I wanted to showcase the brand on my blog, and I came away with no more information than I had prior to my arrival. I still want to go back and play with the products, but I want nothing to do with the staff members on that counter. They were a disgrace and need to undertake an intensive course focusing on how to deal with members of the public aswell as how to perform basic customer service! I've never left a make up counter feeling as disappointed as I did last weekend.

These are the photos I managed to take. The bright lighting that was bouncing off the counter didn't agree with my camera at all, but you get the general gist of the products available.

 I'm not usually interested in body oils but the intensity of colour in black|Up's version made me take notice.

The rudest SA can be spotted in one of the pictures, giving the makeover I was 'shooed' out of the way for.

Nightmare experience aside, black|Up is still a brand that I'd like to take time to explore further. I was quite impressed by the wide choice of lipgloss and lipstick shades and I'm keen to go back and see how they swatch. I'd also like to to check out their foundation and concealer too when I have time. I just DON'T want to deal with the two witches that I had the misfortune of coming into contact with last weekend!

For product and price info, check out black|Up online. The line is also stocked at Debenhams.

ETA: 30.08.10 - Today, I received a phone call from the managing director of black|Up, who apologised for my experience and will be discussing the incident with the staff members involved.

39 beauty lovers have sumthin to say:

LaaLaa Phoenix Monroe said...

I cannot stand people like that. Do they not realise that they are representing the brand and the company should be lucky that you are still interested in looking into the products.

They obviously need re-training or straight fired.
I can imagine that took every inch of you to stay calm and not tell her about herself.

Like I've said the name is just -__- wow, can't agree with that for some reason it's never settled right with me.

On another note, they seem to have a vast majority of colours in their collections that I'd be interested in looking at. Just I hope I do not encounter that type of service as I'm sure Debenhams will ban me.

Lydia said...

wow, that would have made me write a formal complaint, not to mention tell them about the bad publicity they would have had from me.
I really hate brands that have a shitty customer service and no education whatsoever in SA's! No matter how good they are, I just don't buy from them anymore (hello, Eyeko!)

VexintheCity said...

@LaaLaa - I don't know how I managed not to kick off. Lots of deep breaths I guess! As soon as they started acting up, I thought "Here we go..". Having EVERYBODY read about their behaviour and having it up on the internet forever will have more of an impact than me ranting at them for 15 seconds!

When I go in again, if I catch wind of a hint of attitude from either of them, I'm gonna go nuts next time!

VexintheCity said...

@Lydia - I complained to head office on Thursday, no reply as yet!

Lollipop said...

What an awful experience you had! I got angry on your behalf when I read through that! They should never have been rude to you but to continue to do so even after they confirmed who you were is disgusting. It looks bad on Debenhams, but even more so on the brand. I'm sure I'm not the only girl who had never heard of the brand prior to your post, and I'm sure I'm not the only girl put off by your experience. Just truly awful x

MD - Tré said...

I like the colours of the powders but what an unfortunate name.

une tasse said...

Wow how unbelievably rude! Just by reading through this, I feel angry for you. Bad customer service puts me right off the brand

VexintheCity said...

@Lollipop - Yeah, the fact they still continued to ignore me after the Debenhams staff member (who was lovely by the way) had confirmed my story was disappointing. I'll eventually go back, but I'm in no hurry!!

Maysam said...

thats soo sad thats how you were treated. I have to say the Debenhams at oxford street seems to have very bad sales associates at the make up counters. I was once at the Guerlain counter and the lady was very rude to myself and another lady who asked a question. she was talking to the customers like we were dirt off her shoes. I was soo annoyed with the service i wrote to head office and i had a very silly response email saying its a concession and they cant do anything about it. I think debenhams should really look at the kind of staff they have and perhaps tell them if they are not interested in customer focused industry they shouldnt be there. im glad you have highlighted this and i hope all make up counters take note and realise we are the consumers and its their job to help us not ridicule us!

Sharon said...

oh my goodness how disgusting is that,You defo need a letter of apology hun,I visited one of their counters about 2mnths ago in Croydon&just wanted to swatch testers of the blushers&glosses but the way the staff member kept interrupting me about if I wanted help 7eyeing@me as if I was gon steal lol,It just put me off really,I walked off with nothing event though a bright pink blush had caught my eye

Sirvinya said...

Wow. We hear some horror stories about SAs, but this is just something else. Perhaps you should contact the company HQ afterall, I'm sure they'd be very interested in the write up of your counter experience.

Patricia said...

i'm glad you complained, i hate hate hate bad customer service and rude SAs.

Laura - Emerald Green 88 said...

They sound awful! You should forward this post to their head office!!

Sarah said...

They're lucky it didn't put you off the whole brand altogether. To be honest if that were me I don't know if I would't have just said F the lot of them and not bothered again!

Abimars said...

OMG! What a horrible experience, the funny thing is I had a totally different experience with the same MUA in the pic about 6 months ago. I was just passing by when she invited me to try their new foundation she was really chatty and ended up doing a full face which I absolutely loved and I left there with the foundation, powder, mascara, lip gloss and body oil! She said they would have free make up bags the following week and took my number down to call me to come in and get one, and she actually did call. The only regret I have is the mascara, it was perfect at first but dried up really quick.

Grace London said...

I saw the counter a couple of weeks ago and couldn't believe the name.

The behaviour of the counter staff is very unfortunate, because your blog is an absolutely perfect fit with their demographic - professional women of colour who aren't otherwise very well catered for in department stores. If it was my brand, I'd have been bending over backwards to give you information.

Bob and Cecilia said...

Wow that's really quite something. I usually like to give SA the benefit of the doubt, especially since I have worked retail before and I understand what it can be like after so many hours, but that's really inexcusable for both of them to behave in such a way. I am glad you made the complaint, and I am curious to hear what the head office has to say about this.

SoFrolushes said...

oh my gosh!! That is quite shocking. Glad you have complained to head office to let them know of your experience. Their staff has truly failed the brand. Such a wasted opportunity to big up a brand that is not really that well known. A product that those who have tried say is good ... but bad staff loses you customers and wont gain any new ones. quite shocking

Sarah said...

My magpie eye was caught by some of the bright colours when I walked past this concession in Oxford St, but I didn't ever stop and look. Glad now that I didn't! What a total own-goal on the SA's part, especially if head office take your complaint seriously (which they should!)

mizzworthy said...

God this is shocking! I'm not really sure which is the worst bit - how you were treated or the way the other customers were treated! This is disgusting!

Bella Queen said...

I am not surprised about the SA's behaviour. I was treated the same awful way when I visited the counter a few months ago with a friend and I'm going to tell you the whole forsaken story. As a make up artist, I'm interested in all brands and after seeing them mentioned in Pride magazine, I decided to have a look next time I was in Debenhams. Upon approaching the counter, we were not asked if we needed help, which is fine by me as I know what I'm looking for. She carried on dusting around us (a bit uncomfortable but ok). I was pointing out various things to my friend and I went to lift the cover of the foundations and the SA shrieked 'Don't touch that!' and I'm like but I want to test it on my hand, have you got cotton buds? No she's doesn't, then she comes over puts down takes the cover from me, gives it a wipe and covers the foundation again, without me even having the chance to feel and experience the foundation. Whats that about? Have I soiled her precious counter? Am I dirty? Then she say's she can test it for me, on me. I said, I'm a make up artist, I want to test it myself, she said no. she has to do it. I was so p'd off and my friend whispered maybe she's having a bad day, lets go. My friend saved her! Lucky her.

So seems to me, things are still the same at the Black Up counter (what an unfortunate name too, wonder how many shoppers have looked at it and thought 'that brand is not for me' and walked on). SA's still rude and lacking basic customer services skills like 'wait here madam, whilst I just check on your permission to photograph'.

Fact is they can keep the counter all polished and sparkling all they, but without letting potential customers play with the products, they will be losing sales. Concession units are very expensive and retailers want to let them out to brands who will be successful and continue to influence footfall in the store in general. If Black Up don't Fix Up, I won't be surprised the day I walk into Debenhams and they have been replaced by a much more customer friendly brand with helpful and friendly staff!

VexintheCity said...

@MD Tre - I know ..

@une tasse - It wasn't the most delightful of experiences, I can tell you that!

@Maysam - It reflects badly on Debenhams as many customers will think all staff been hired BY them, when in fact many of the SA's on the beauty counters are working for the brand in question. I've shopped in Debenhams for years, my Mum used to work in that very store many moons ago and I know they take customer service seriously but all it takes is the random few bad SA's who'll tar a store's reputation for good.

@Sharon - Sounds like the SA who dealt with you at the Croydon counter went to the same finishing school as the ones on Oxford Street!

@Sirvinya - I've emailed head office. Waiting on a reply now.

@Patricia - Me too. If you can't deal with people, you shouldn't be working in a customer service role!

@Laura - I will be!

@Sarah - I'm slowly leaning that way. I don't want to deal with those SA's again.

@Abimars - I'm glad you had a positive experience. I wouldn't wish what I went through on any decent person. I can't believe the same SA was so accommodating to you - it must have been her twin sister! It's encouraging to hear you like the products you bought too, bar the mascara.

@Grace London - LOL The less said about the ridiculous name the better ..

Yeah, I totally agree with you. The idiots had no idea that I would have bought products there on the spot had they been sold to me, or I'd been given the chance to explore and swatch to my hearts content. Their loss.

@Bob and Cecilia - I'm sympathetic towards retail workers too as I stood in their place (many of us have worked in retail at some point in our lives) once upon a time, but it was 2pm, nobody was the counter and I was as friendly and pleasant as could be, yet still I was treated that way. Baffling.

@Sofrolushes - Yeah, they totally failed the brand. Next time maybe they'll think twice about the way they speak to customers.

@Sarah - They have some really nice shades, which makes my experience all the more disappointing. I really want to bloody try them!

@Mizzworthy - Both are equally as bad. I was spitting blood!

@Bella Queen - I'm speechless. That says it all and I'm glad you've posted your experience. When the Black|Up staff realise I'm not exaggerating and that other customers have suffered at the hands of these sales assistants then maybe they'll do something about it! I felt the rage just reading your post!!


Donna said...

Wow, that's inexcusable behavior. I hope you contacted both Debenhams and Black|Up head offices about this and if it's in email, I hope you left a link to this post. All I know is that I want nothing to do with that brand.

That name is horrible. It makes me think the brand is for white women who want to wear blackface, "let's see if we can't black them up", you know? I'm assuming something is being lost in translation so that the French brand doesn't understand how that name sounds in English.

SilhouetteScreams said...

What the actual fuck?! That's utterly disgusting behaviour :| though I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, because a couple of French friends have told me that many sales assistants over there are incredibly rude :(

I hope you get a reply from their head office, and have you emailed Debenhams? Even if they work for the actual brand and not Debenhams they should know the kind of disgusting behaviour going on in their stores D: said...

What a way to behave. If you were lying why would you tell them to check with the person in charge...hmmm.

I had this experience on a counter in Selfridges where I had permission from the counter but the dragon of a floor manager tried to intimidate me by standing over and ranting. Excuse me! Swatching a counter in your shop will only bring you more business, not less.

Anyway, I gave up in the end I'm not a member of staff there I don't feel like I should be bullied by someone who isn't my boss especially when I was told it would be ok. Thing is I spend a fortune on there (haven't bought much from their store for a while I only buy when I absolutely need to). Go to boots instead now for Chanel, Dior, YSL, Clarins etc. - at least I get points, Nars from an online store, Trish McEvoy from Harvey Nichols...

There are ALWAYS alternatives! No point being rude and obnoxious because we will find an alternative.

Rant over.

britishbeautyblogger said...

Not sure how I feel about the name of the range for starters - on the one hand it sounds almost derogatory and yet on the other sounds like a positive shout out to women of colour..still thinking about that one. Maybe in France it has a more clear meaning and there are no 'blacking up or black and white minstrel' connotations, and it's the nuance of the English language that makes it sit a little uncomfortably. The SAs on the other hand - no confusion there - hideously rude and clearly looking for a sharp exit from Debenhams. And Bella Queen's 'don't touch that' story - omg! I just want to go and touch it all to see what happens. In fact, I'm going to.

Donna said...

OMG britishbeautyblogger, it would be hilarious if we could get a bunch of us together and all go at once. What could they do about dozens of women all swatching and getting fingerprints on their precious displays? Unfortunately I'm in the US or I would want to plot and scheme on this!

liloo said...

this totally totally put me off. who do they think they are. i mean seriously. i've had the chance to check out this range in person while shopping in paris a year and a half ago. love love love the shadows and the glitter pigments thingy but i think it's over priced. and with an attitude like that, they're not helping and i am so not buying anything from the range. xx
will i survive without them? yes i will, no matter how pretty the shadows are


V said...

First of all I hate the name of the product. And I wouldn't buy it if they were giving it away. I don't do rude sales people!

MAC as of late has been shady in customer service and as much as I love my MAC I don't like their make up artist. They are rude and lack customer service skills... smh I think you should report this to their manager and corporate both of those ninnies should not have a job!!!

The Amateur Kit said...

I believe 'Black Up' may just be a very unfortunate translation. I'm sure I saw one of their counters in Holland and the name was 'Black Op' and I suppose its different again in French. As others have mentioned - the phrase itself probably doesn't have the connotations it has here in the UK.


ModestyBrown said...

Disgusting behaviour, I hope they got a rocket up their derrieres! As for the name, I cringe every time I read that. They got that bit soooooo wrong! What a shame as the products look very interesting from your (hard won) photos. x

Melanie Clare said...

That really is disgusting. I would complain to debhenahms and black up. What is the point of testers if you cannot test?!! that sa needs sacking!

Ondo Lady said...

Oh no!!! I don't know whether to laugh or cry. This is appalling behaviour but for some reason I am not surprised. I have tried to deal with Black Up on a business level but not had much luck. You should make a complaint, those ladies should not be allowed to deal with the general public. Who talks to customer like that? Shocking!! No wonder their brand presence is so weak.

Scandalous Beauty said...

This is insane. I saved this post to refer to because I really wanted more info on Black Up. Their PR team never contacts me back, maybe because it's not readily available here in the States. Your story is disturbing on too many levels. Thanks for telling the truth, and trying to inform your readers about a brand that might have been perfect for them.

amber_j said...

Wow! Just... wow! That's so awful. I can't believe you were treated like that. Try the counter at Morley's in Brixton - the MUAs there are really friendly.

Oh, and it's also called Black Up here in France. I guess cultural and historical references just don't translate so well when coming up with a brand name. I don't get the impression they mean anything negative by it.

Mary said...

OMG!! This is shocking!! Its funny you should mention the counter in Brixton because i was intoduced to this brand a couple of months back in that store at an event they were doing to promote there new foundation and vibrating mascara!

Me and all my friends had a blast, filled our faces with the refreshments and left with the best makeovers I have ever experienced. Considering I dont really wear make up I was shocked that i spent just over £70! But the girls were so nice, poliite and drop dead gorgeous. They all wore Bright Blue to match the mascara!! So Cute!

We were served by the manageress, a Northern girl from Manchester I think, she had great legs lol and was so funny. It was so relaxing and didnt feel any pressure to buy like you sometimes do with these "free" sessions! The service I received from those girls i couldnt of dared walk out without buy something.

If it wasnt for those girls I dont think I would of ever had any interest of trying the product! And now i have am addicted and cant live without it! So Yes I definately agree that the S.A's can make ALL the difference to a brand! People buy from Nice people and whenever i pop in if I the same S.A that served me isnt there I dont buy anything...its just not the same. She truly is an asset to Black Up!!

Mz. Fortune said...

Wow ... I live in NYC and they used to carry BLACK UP here but they no longer do .. I was doing a web search and came across ur blog. I absolutely detest rude sales people. I have this very same experience almost EVERY time I visit the MAC counter in MACYS! ... I feel ur pain.

Nefertiti said...

What a horrible experience! The first time I used a Black Up product (Liquid foundation)was at a Franchise in Lagos & I absolutely loved it! It's water-based and didnt make me break out like the other foundation I was using and you're all right-the SA makes all the difference cause if she wasn't so nice & friendly I wouldn't have bought it. She listened attentively to what I wanted & didn't pressurise me to buy anything. I only found your blog when I googled Black up to find out more about the brand,& places in London I could get it for cheaper(lol). Reading your experience I'm completely horrified! I'll just keep buying it from here, even with the mark-up on it, what a shame!

sanjana hossain said...

Hello There

I am the counter manager for blackup cosmetics in ilford debenhams. I just read about your encounter with member of staffs at blackup oxford circus and i feel you deserve an apology. I dont know what exactly happened but in no circumstances any of our customers should feel neglected or treated badly. I do apologise for the experience you had and would request you to come visit any other counters or perhaps my counter in Ilford, where i could give you more information about our products.

I am very happy to know you are still positive about our brand and I promise you to have a wonderful experience next time you visit any of our counters.

We look forward to seeing you.

Best wishes

Sanjana H


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