” Can I help you?” the perky young woman asks. I obviously look perplexed. I’m standing in Ulta — a large cosmetics chain store — holding my favorite color of nearly-used-up lipstick.
“I’m looking for this color,” I say, extending the tube. She takes my old lipstick and quickly scans the display. “It’s right here,” she said, plucking up the tube I had put back a moment before. Triumphantly she hands me the tester.
“That’s not it,” I told her.
She looks at the bottom of both lipsticks. “Yes, it is. It says it right here.”
“No, it isn’t,” I tell her.
She looks at the labels on the bottom and then shows them to me. “Shimmering Brandy,” she says holding my original lipstick, and “Shimmering Brandy” she says, extending the tester from the display. “This is it.” She doesn’t actually roll her eyes, but I can tell it’s an effort.
“No,” I tell her. “It isn’t. It says it is, but it isn’t.” I show her the back of my hand where I have swiped a sample of each. They are not the same.
She stares at my hand, obviously at a loss. Our conversation has attracted the attention of another woman — probably a supervisor — who strides up, a smile plastered to her face. “Is there a problem?” She probably thinks I’m shoplifting the samples. The perky young woman has stepped back in deference.
“I’m looking for this color,” I tell her.
Now just to bring you into the loop, for the past year I have been happy alternating between Shimmering Brandy (a sort of copperish shade with a hint of shine) and Burnt Candy Apple, a rich, subtle red. In the past, I have waited until the day when I have dug out (with a lipstick brush) every last scintilla of color and the tube is well and truly empty. I would then go to Walgreens or call my Mary Kay lady for a replacement only to discover that color has been discontinued. Or else they still have it but the color is changed ever-so-slightly so it now has a purple cast that makes my skin look green. Yes, green.
But, I’m on to their little game now, so I know to replace my lipstick before the end so I have something to compare. And this is where Ulta comes in. They have open lipsticks– testers — so you can actually check the color before you get it home and realize it’s all wrong and you can’t use it and you just flushed $13.99 down the drain. Ulta is expensive, but at least you know what you’re getting. Or, as in this case, not getting.
I’ve shown the swipes of both color to the supervisor who refuses to acknowledge the obvious. “Oh, this is the same color, but sometimes they change the formula a teeny bit.”
“Then it’s not the same color, is it?” I ask, trying hard not to be snarky in my frustration. After all, I paid their outrageous price in the first place so that I would know I could continue getting the same thing.
“Well,” she admits, “it could be a little different. Would you like to try another color?”
“No,” I tell her. “I want this color.”
We stare at each other. Finally she blinks. “I don’t know what to tell you,” she says. “This IS the same color.” Okay, we could stand here all day saying “Is too,” “Is, not,” “Is, too.” It’s not going to change the dratted color.
After another moment, I dredge up my regal Grandmother Eloise from 50 or more years ago and (pinning her with a look) quietly say, “I am very disappointed.” I wait a beat for this to sink in, then turn around and stalk out of the store.
Halfway across the parking lot I spot a Dollar Tree. Hey — someone told me they sell lipstick. For the price at Ulta I can get a whole bagful and even if I have to throw most of them away, I’m still ahead, right? And they probably sell eye shadow, too, and maybe blush as well.
Eat your heart at Ulta, I’m switching to Dollar Tree. You’ll be sorry!