My Free Gift From Estee Lauder

Jul 27

What do women want? Love? Sure. Money? Of course. Cosmetics? Now you’re talking! Rita Rudner nails it in her very funny routine about those “free gifts” — you know the ones, where you buy something you don’t need to get a bunch of things you don’t want.

freegiftsamples.jpgIt’s twue, so twue. 

I can rationalize falling for this a few summers ago because I was recovering from surgery, and hey, a girl needs a “free gift” at a time like that.  As we know, I can rationalize anything, but honestly, that ad was too enticing. The cutest little cosmetic case in pink and white checks filled with goodies like summer blush (I needed that: It was summer! I was pale!) plus various and sundry beauty aids with intriguing names promising miraculous results. We do so live in hope.

My grandmother believed that all the dishwashing liquids, shampoos, and just about any product in a bottle, were all exactly the same thing in different colors with different names. I do wonder myself about New Dawn Dishwashing Liquid versus Herbal Essence Shampoo (they’re even the same color), and I am totally baffled by all those skin creams.

Do I really need a different moisturizer for my eyes, my throat, my t-zone, the rest of my face?  For summer, winter, spring, or summer, night or day? Light, extra light, rich, super rich, fabulously firming, with aloe, lanolin, collagen, gentian, pearl drops of moisture, invigorating enzymes, hydrating hormones and unspecified ingredients that revitalize, rejuvenate, relax, and restore?

And yet.

I love those little kits with the goodies . . .

So I cut out the ad from Macy’s in The New York Times and called the toll-free number. But after three or four attempts to place my order, involving several of those delightful telephone trees, I was told that no one there knew anything about the ad, and was advised to call Macy’s in New York. I should have scrapped the project at that point, but I had a little time on my hands, and recuperating can be kind of grim, and damn it, I wanted that little pink cosmetic case.

So I called Macy’s. And called Macy’s. And left messages. And dealt with trees. And spoke to half a dozen women, some with names I couldn’t pronounce, and one whose name, left on my answering machine, I couldn’t begin to decipher. She was calling to tell me that my credit card wasn’t going through. I knew the card was okay (It had better be!), but I called Master Card, then Macy’s again, and left messages, and was finally told by What’s-Her Name that I should really come in to the store to get the gift.

You know, I never liked that store- it’s too big and confusing- and I was not going to make the trip there after all this effort to get it done by phone. Besides, I wasn’t fully recovered. So I gave her another charge card number. Three weeks later, when the goodies still hadn’t arrived (She Who Cannot Be Pronounced had said it would take 5 to 7 business days), I finally gave up and threw away the ad. I was feeling better; I could get blush and lipstick somewhere else.

Then I got the bill from American Express and saw the $40.21 charge for the stuff I had never received. The noive! I called. Macys. Again. I was referred to many more fascinating people, including Carol, Susan, Edilma and Muffy, who was the manager. I asked for the name of the Chief Operating Officer and after many calls, I got the name. It was James Gray. I think.

Anyway, maybe it was a coincidence, but after that I got a call from someone higher up on the foundation chain named Corinne, the latest in a long line of personnel who only wanted to help and serve me. I begged her to just cancel the charge. The hell with the promise of youth and beauty, just give my money back. But Corinne insisted that, for my convenience, the best course of action would be to have the gift delivered. She even promised to send it the next day, a Thursday, which came and went, with no sign of the package. When I called Corinne, my new BFF, she promised I’d get it first thing Monday, and so on Tuesday I called again.

Corinne was upset. She said that she tried to deliver the package herself (Hey! What are friends for?) but couldn’t find my building. A simple enough mistake considering that the building takes up nearly a city block. Anybody could walk right past it. RIGHT???? She promised to deliver it the next day, and it did finally arrive, three days later on Friday.

Of course, it was the wrong free gift. There was no blush, and the free lipsticks were the wrong color. And there was some dumb eye shadows I don’t need and don’t want.

Sigh. No cute little pink and white check bag, which Corinne had told me was not pink anyway but was actually red but I hadn’t believed her and was secretly hoping for pink. Instead there was one big beachy kind of blue bag (not bad, but not pink) containing two smaller bags (kind of mauve) with all the stuff I could definitely live without.

Well, I kept everything, of course, and hopefully I am wiser for the experience.

Here’s what I learned.

•”Free gift” is not only unrealistic (think “Free Lunch”), it’s also redundant, and therefore, suspicious. If it’s free, it has to be a gift. If it’s a gift, it has to be free. It can’t be a free purchase, or a gift that you pay for.

•Judge Antonin Scalia made the same point to William Safire in his weekly column On Language in The Sunday Times. Scalia and me (I mean “I”) agreeing on something at last, and I read it in The Times.

•Nevertheless, the fact that something is advertised in a full-page ad in The New York Times means absolutely nothing.

•Always abandon a project immediately when you have to deal with more than one telephone tree at more than one number and/or are referred to a manager named Muffy.

•In short, although I have always identified with The Little Engine That Could, sometimes You Just Can’t. You cannot fight the system. I have a feeling that this new attitude will serve me well when dealing with contractors, plumbers, cable repair people, reservation clerks, the Long Island Expressway, and certain sections of Southern New Jersey.

The last and most poignant lesson:
Thinking Pink doesn’t always work.

But a girl can’t let these things get her down. It’s a sunny day, and I am taking my big blue bag and going to the beach. And if my lipstick melts, I see they’re having this great offer at Bloomingdales . . .



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