I own lipstick in hues of grape Kool-Aid and tomato red, shimmering eye shadow in parrot green and flowery perfume that muddies the air like the ozone layer. Wait, let me explain:
They were free. Sort of.
Through full-page ads and TV spots, famous cosmetics companies hoodwink weak-willed customers like me into buying up a storm to get a "free gift with purchase." Buy the purchase minimum--about $16.50--and you get six or so doll-sized samples of lipstick and other products--a $45 value for free! the ads irresistibly trumpet.
The whole shebang is usually stuffed into a makeup clutch that looks in the ads to be the size of carry-on luggage but is actually no bigger than a pencil case. Or sometimes, the freebies are stuffed into a black canvas tote bag. Four of these totes lie in my closet, eagerly awaiting an opportunity to tote.
I don't always make purchases willy-nilly just to sock away freebies. The gifts typically include at least one prime primping apparatus: a fold-up hairbrush, a mini-compact, a travel-sized foundation. In fact, I haven't paid for moisturizer in years because I keep getting it free.
Right now, I'm pining for: Estee Lauder's nine-piece gift with $16.50 purchase, including refirming creme for your refirming needs; Lancome's eight-piece sampler with $17.50 purchase, including a round mirror that looks like a Pog, and Lancaster's eight-piece bonus with $16 purchase, including an anti-stress eye mask, which, frankly, I could use this very minute.
I've accumulated so many freebies that I forget I have them. I usually find an unused mascara sample months later in my purse, molded sloppily shut by half-wrapped chewing gum. And I tuck some of my unopened bounty away, like the 1.5-ounce tube of body exfoliating creme, in case I should ever foliate.
Mostly, the thrill is in the chase--once the flush wears off, I end up fobbing off most of the freebies on friends or saving them for charity. I actually get grumpy when I buy astringent or moisturizer and there's no gift. I revert to a Cracker Jack mentality: Where's my toy surprise?
"Everybody loves a gift," Estee Lauder spokeswoman Muriel Gonzalez said. "It's fun."
I've even gotten to know who offers what in the seasonal promotion cycles. July? Why, that's Lancome's Bastille Day gift, which includes a shoulder bag with four cosmetic samples--and a French baguette.
I love that baguette, in a way I can't explain. I wait for it, with a dreamy same-time-next-year anticipation.
And I'm not the only one.
"It's so fun--a French baguette," Lancome spokeswoman Leila Meresman said.
She did not have figures on how sales zoom during a free gift promotion. But even she can't wait to be alone when new product samples are passed out at corporate meetings. "I race back to my hotel room and rip (them) open," she admitted.
I always wait for the gift offers before stocking up on essentials. A tip for first-time freebie fanciers: Note the purchase minimums, which typically vary from $13.50 to $40.
In a recent promotion, for instance, the gift came with a $17.50 purchase. But the cosmetics maker's most popular items are in the $14.50 to $16 range--not enough to get the freebie. So you get duped into buying two astringents or two eye-makeup removers--and spending more like $32 plus tax.
You also have to know the lingo of the freebie ads--that eye shadow in "pure warmth" is brown, that "Fruition Triple Reactivating Complex" is a face cream, that "Brillant A Levres Blackberry Muire Mulberry" is wine-colored lip gloss.
Lately, cosmetic companies have ponied up freebies other than makeup. Gifts have included silver-plated fruit bowls, designer T-shirts and oversize canvas purses with matching knit gloves. This opens up a whole new world for me.
I don't stop at cosmetics anymore. I recently joined the World Wildlife Fund because, sure, I want to save the rain forests. But I also have my pure-warmth shadowed eyes on the gift with membership--a little red tote bag, to keep my other ones company.