Friday, August 5, 2011

The Rise & Fall of Indies: What should you do as a customer?

I wanted to write this post as it seems as if every week there's a new indie being outed for things like lying, bad business practices, horrible customer service, etc. To me it's sad on all accounts. I don't understand not worrying about your customers above everything. Rather than focus on which companies aren't doing it right, I thought I'd post an entry regarding some things you might want to consider before purchasing from indies to hopefully protect yourselves from some of these negative experiences. If you're interested in learning about what indies to avoid, check out Toxid-Lotus's forum: http://mb.toxid-lotus.net/.

Manda, the owner of Toxid-Lotus blog and forum, is a big supporter of indies and stays on top of the latest news with many of the major and minor indies out there.

Anyway, here are a few things to consider before buying from an indie cosmetics company that is new to you:
  • Have you checked out other beauty blogs for reviews on this indie company? While it may take time for bad business practices to come to light, somehow they always seem to bubble to the surface eventually. Save yourself the frustration and possible health risks by seeing what other beauty bloggers' experiences have been. Obviously not everyone's experience will be the same, but if you start to see posts questioning different aspects of an indie company, take these things into consideration before clicking "buy".
  • Look at the ingredients for each item you purchase! It's really important (and it's required by the FDA) that every cosmetics company declares what ingredients are in each product. If you don't know what an ingredient is, google it. You want to make sure that your products are eye-safe, lip-safe, or cosmetic-grade. If a company does not have a list of ingredients on their website and products, don't buy them until they do! Perhaps a new company has simply forgotten or not realized this must be done and they will jump to remedy the issues, but I've seen a few indies that are no longer around (and later discovered to be using ingredients they shouldn't have) refuse to put labels on their products and ingredients lists on their sites. Not everything is okay to use on your eyes, not everything is okay to use on your lips, etc.
  • Double-check the practices of the indies you are interested in, in regards to cleanliness! Any indies making cosmetic products should have designated, sanitized work spaces, use gloves, masks, goggles (in some instances), etc. They should sanitize packaging before placing products into them and they should sanitize all equipment appropriately before use. I am a germaphobe (as you may well know) so I'm extremely picky about this aspect.
  • Use a payment method such as PayPal (when you can), which makes transactions secure and protects you from circumstances where products are not delivered in the condition they should be or are not delivered at all. I'm not suggesting that you shouldn't purchase from an indie simply because they use shopping cart software other than Paypal, however, you definitely want to make sure your transaction is secure regardless. Also, using a method such as PayPal makes handling a dispute later on much simpler should anything come up. You definitely don't want to be emailing your credit card info to companies! It's just not safe no matter how much you trust the owner.
  • If something seems wrong, err on the side of caution and don't shrug it off! How many times have you learned that an indie company was doing poor business (not using ingredients they claimed, never sending out shipments, etc.) and afterwards you said, "You know, I saw a few red flags, but..." Trust yourself! If something seems off either question the company until your mind is set at ease or move on to another. Anyone that owns an indie should understand that the customers that purchase from them are putting their trust in the owner of that company. If you have a question ask it and it should be answered without an attitude or deflecting. If you need more information, ask for more! You should never be made to feel as though you're a bother if you're simply asking important questions about the company or products. Obviously indies aren't going to give away their exact formulas for products (that's different than a list of ingredients, which they must provide), but they should be able to answer any and all questions about what ingredients are used, what those ingredients are, etc.
  • Ask yourself how the owner of the indie company conducts their behavior online. Do you follow the owner on twitter or does the company have a facebook page? Do you like the way he/she responds to customers or does it seem as though he/she is nice until an issue or question comes up? I'm not suggesting that every indie cosmetics owner should be best friends with every customer, but having a fun, courteous, and professional manner in all aspects of their business is a part of the business to me. 
  • Do the products you received in the mail look similar to the descriptions and pictures online? If you've ever attempted to take a picture of an eyeshadow, lipstick, etc. you may know how difficult it is to capture the exact shade. I'm not suggesting that every indie owner needs to own and know how to operate a professional DSLR, but if you say dark, shimmery green and a dull muddy brown comes in its place, I'd be concerned. If a lip product is described as creamy and it arrives as hard as a brick, contact the company. It is possible that a bad batch went out or that products were mislabeled and perhaps the owner will simply remedy the issue through a refund or new product. There's a big difference between Oh I just don't like this shade of blue after all and My eyeshadow is beige when it should be pink. Indies should be handling quality control. We're only human, but if you're selling a product you should be testing each batch in my opinion.
Those are just a few of my tips on things you may want to consider prior to purchasing. I'm not suggesting that these steps will prevent you from ever having a bad experience or that they will keep you from purchasing from a dishonest indie company. However, I hate to see so many lovely makeup lovers ending up brokenhearted or worried over the products they've purchased from indies that have ended up being exposed as things they did not represent themselves to be. It truly makes me sad.

I just hope that the old adage isn't true in this case: A few rotten apples ruin the bunch.

I think indies are fabulous when the owners uphold themselves to certain standards! I love women in business, I love independent companies, and I think the owners of indies are so amazingly creative and inventive even compared to corporate cosmetics companies. It would be so sad to me if makeup lovers become disillusioned simply because a few owners choose to use deceit and unsanitary practices to push out products and drum up more business.

I hope you find this helpful and if you have any additional tips please fee free to comment with them below!

As this has very recently come to light: If you have purchased from High Voltage Cosmetics in the past or were considering it, you may want to refer to this closed Facebook group first. You will need to request permission to join, but the group is full of many indie owners and customers. You may find you have similar grievances to other customers. Very sad :( 

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