What better is there thank shopping for a gift and receiving rewards for yourself? I discovered this a couple weeks back when I went to Kiehl's in Santa Monica (on Montana Ave.) to pick up some Kiehl's Baby sets for friends of mine that were expecting. I chatted with the SA a little bit and went home with bag full of goodies... and I'm talking those travel-sized deluxe goodies- not the wimpy little squeeze packets.
So this inspired me to write a list for all you LA girls of the best places in LA to get samples.
1) Kiehl's: It's always best to go to a Kiehl's store rather than a counter at, say, Neiman Marcus or Barney's to get samples. Turns out there is a rule in department stores: SA's are only allowed to give a maximum of 3 samples to customers that have made a purchase. For this reason, the store stocks up on only a minimal amount of samples. However, if you must, then might I recommend the Barney's counter rather than Neiman Marcus or Sak's Fifth, they tend to bend the rules a bit more. But if you actually make it into a store, then chat it up with an SA and they will start offering you deluxe-sized samples that they have in. If you ask them for samples right off the bat, they will give you packets. Instead, ask them what mask products would they recommend for your sensitive skin, or which body cleanser do they recommend with a [insert favorite fruit here] scent. Whenever I stop by to pick up anything, I always ask them to recommend me something for my dry skin- I go home happy with free with bottles of body lotion, creme de corps, and samples of facial moisturizers.
2) Another place that offers abundant samples is Sephora. However, you have to find a less busy Sephora where idle SA's have time to fill up sample bottles with your favorite make-up. I would suggest the Sephora in Century City ~ the one on 3rd street gets so hectic you'll have a hard time flagging down a SA to help you. Things I've gotten from the CC Sephora: Nars Multiple stick (they cut off a portion of the stick and put it in a sterile twist-top bottle... this will actually last as long as you're into the color... I've had my samples last up to 1-2 weeks of heavy using on my cheeks and eyes), samples of foundations or tinted moisturizers, lotions or creams and lipsticks. Remember~ they can only give you samples of things they can squeeze in or spoon into the little sample vial. This excludes powdery eye shadows, blushes, lip glosses and etc.
3) And last but not least, there are the make-up counters in Fred Segal Santa Monica. I don't know why~ but they always seem to be out of stock on a lot of their foundations and make-up items. I've been three 3 times in a row for a tube of Laura Mercier tinted moisturizer but came home instead with a one-week sample because they were sold out. They are also happy to give out samples of the Diane vonFurstenberg foundation. I've found this to be very helpful because sometimes when you put on foundation in the store, the lighting is really not that ideal and you always end up with the wrong color when you put it on at home. So stop by and get a sample first before you commit to an entire bottle.
4) Non-LA girls can wait for Neiman Marcus' Online Beauty Events. Usually the minimum purchase is $75 worth of beauty goodies and they give you a hoard of free samples from all the top names. I think they have this once or twice a year but it is definitely worth buying whenever they have these events because they give out samples for just about everything as well as a chic bag to carry it all. When they're not having these events, they always have beauty offers online which = gift with purchase.
So now whenever I have to buy a beauty-related gift (or just stock up for myself) I try to make it to one of these stores so I can get a little extra for myself :)
Other than free samples, buying gifts this Holiday season can be rewarding in other ways. Lots of store department cards have point programs where you collect points for a gift certificate or a free gift. Here are my top choices: (Of course, applying for credit is a decision you have to make based on your own credit history and you shouldn't apply for a card just to get benefits)
- Neiman Marcus: Neiman Marcus offers a charge card. Like American Express, the balance needs to be paid in full every month. Every dollar you spend in NM gives you a point. Points can be exchanged for special gifts and rewards, however you are not officially enrolled in the points program unless you have accumulated 5,000 points every year.
- Barneys New York: This card is a regular credit card so you can carry a balance. Points are added up the entire year and traded in for gift certificates called "Free Stuff". There are some offers throughout the year where you can get double points for purchases. The minimum amount of points for this program is 2,000 points for the year and the more you accumulate, the more rewards you get (in terms of percentage) but I believe the rewards start at about 2% or 2.5%.
Other stores that have rewards programs included Bloomingdale's and Saks Fifth Avenue but I do not have any experience with their rewards structure so I don't know if they are really worth it. If anyone out there has other rewards cards with good bonuses, let me know and I will post them on here!