Why would you not? Shopping Wisely and Free Stuff

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To me shopping wisely is not just about price. It’s also about the quality of the merchandise, and getting great service. Everyone knows that. 
But it’s also about taking advantage of free services and other “stuff” offered by retailers. And not everyone seems to know that, or take advantage of that.  And seriously…. if it’s free….why would you not? Take shopping for cosmetics as an example. There are so many freebies out there, it’s crazy to not take advantage of them. 
There are the twice yearly gift with purchase offers, of course. It’s easy to get your name on the mailing list at the cosmetic counter of your choice, and then time your purchases to coincide with their specials. The small size products you get are not always what your heart desires. But companies are getting much better at allowing some choice. It’s not like the old days when the free lipstick was always a jarring orange. And the products you do like are a handy size for travel or purse. Last spring during the Bobbi Brown promotion I received a tiny compact of eye shadows that I am currently using. I love the colours and the size of the compact makes it great for travel. 
And…..the other great thing about gift with purchase promotions is that the gift products usually come in great bags. Clinique and Estee Lauder often put their gifts with purchase in lovely and very useful bags. I haven’t bought a cosmetic bag in years. I have several of varying sizes. And when I get a new one, I often pass the old ones on to my husband. No joke! He uses them for small tools, and as travel shaving kits, one of which he keeps permanently in our travel trailer. The trick to making these specials work for you, though, is to buy only what you need or what you planned to buy anyway.
Above are two bags from a recent promotion at the Bobbi Brown counter at Holt Renfrew. They are fabulous. Roomy and lined with a waterproof fabric, spills wipe off easily. I have been using the black one for my travel cosmetic bag. I used it for our three week trip to Florida and Georgia last month. It holds pretty much everything I need: shampoo, conditioner, creams, etc etc. etc. I haven’t used the tan bag yet. The faux leather is so soft and lovely….I’m almost tempted to use it as a clutch.
You’ve probably already figured out that Bobbi Brown is my cosmetic counter of choice and has been for quite a few years. I do shop occasionally at other cosmetic counters, but I always come back to Bobbi. I love their products and the whole B B idea that makeup should be subtle and not the first thing people see on one’s face. I’ve become even more convinced of that ethic as I “mature.” (I use quotes here… because, I mean, I know I’m aging, I’m just not sure about the maturing thing)
Just as important as the products on offer at Bobbi Brown are the women who work on the counter. I worked in cosmetics for a couple of years in my younger days… in between stints at university. I know when I’m being conned by a sales person who really doesn’t know their stuff. And the women at Bobbi Brown know their stuff, trust me. 
This is Mona. She works the Bobbi Brown counter at Holt Renfrew in Ottawa. Mona is awesome. I went to see her a month or so ago looking for ideas for spring. (I do this twice a year… spring and fall.)
This time I took with me some of the eye shadow products and two blushes that I already owned and asked Mona to help me use them in a way that would freshen up my look for spring. Mona used my own eye shadow colours, showed me how to combine them in a way that was softer and better for spring, and advised me on blush and lipstick that would work best with them. I purchased one new eye shadow and a new lipstick that day. But I went home with an entirely new look.
You see, that’s the thing about the Bobbi Brown counter…they will always apply the product, and show you how to use it before you buy. That’s worth a lot to me. No buyer remorse…ever. Because you know exactly how the product looks on you and how to use it!
And that doesn’t just apply to make-up. 
In February Mona called me (I’m on their client list, natch!) and told me about their skin care promotion. Buy two skin care products and get a free facial! A facial at a department store? Yep. They have a small back room for just that purpose and a trained esthetician on staff. Wow, a free facial…that’s a $75.00 -$100.00 value, at least around here. And I had intended to book one at the spa where I try to go twice a year. And I did need a couple of things …or I would soon. 
My facial was divine. I thought when I booked that it might be some sort of mini-facial. Nope. A full hour of pampering and my skin looked wonderful after. And I purchased creams I would buy anyway, and got the free bag besides. Bonus!
When I shop and spend my hard earned dollars….I expect quality merchandise and great service in return. With a red head’s colouring, aging skin, and super sensitivity to many ingredients in creams and make-up, finding products that suit me is not easy. I never buy anything that I haven’t tried; I always ask for a substantial sample of a product, and use it for a few days before buying. (It’s amazing to me the stores that miss out on my business because they don’t provide samples.) And the products cost the same… whether it’s Clinique, or Estee Lauder, or Bobbi Brown… whether you buy them in a drug store or at  high end department store like Holts.
I’m not saying there aren’t cheaper products…there are. I’m just saying that when you find a product that you like, learn to take advantage of the freebies on offer. Like free sample, free promotional  products, great bags or extra services.
Why would you not?
And when you have a spare minute and you’re out shopping in Ottawa, stop in to see Mona and the girls on the Bobbi Brown counter at Holts. They are unfailingly pleasant and very talented. I may not know everything (don’t tell Hubby I said that), but this I do know. They definitely know their stuff!
P.S. I know, I know… I shouldn’t call them “girls”….very politically incorrect of me. But seriously people…. as I “mature” they all seem like girls to me these days! 
What free services do you use to help stretch your fashion dollar?

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