How to get free makeup at the department store.  Read on for my do’s and don’ts. 

I worked at a makeup counter for… well, a long time.  (A department store that shall remain nameless.)   In this post I will give you a breakdown of what works and what doesn’t at getting (I think the kids call it SWAG these days?) free makeup when you visit the cosmetic department.


  1. Be nice.  I know, I know, it sounds obvious. But you would be shocked by how mean, demeaning, and demanding women can be.  Remember, the person working behind the counter is a human being and is (usually) just trying to make a living.  Also, she knows where the goodies are stocked.  It’s just common sense- when you’re nice to people they usually treat you in kind.
  2. Spend money. I realize this sounds counterintuitive. Just hear me out.  Technically any free gifts stocked away behind the counter are for paying customers only.  I’m not saying you have to drop loads of money.  I’m just saying, is there a product you use and like? Well then buy it.  On. A. Regular. Basis.  Build a rapport with the counter people.  They love to reward their loyal customers.  As they get to know you they will be more inclined to shower you with goodies.
  3. Make friends with one specific worker. So you followed my advice so far.  You’re fabulously friendly and you regularly stock up on your product.  Wait though- Do you bounce around from store to store to do so?  Do you just go up to any random worker and have them ring you up?  Uh, oh- you’re working against yourself here.  When I said to be a regular customer I meant at the same counter with the same people (preferably person). The whole point here is to be recognized and liked and you can’t do that if you’re always meeting new people.  Pick a person and become their “personal client”.
  4. Ask.  I can’t tell you how many times I had loads of goodies behind the counter but I didn’t give them away because the thought didn’t enter my mind.  If one of my clients had politely asked, “do you have anything you’re giving away?” I would have gladly given them a gift.
  5. Know when giveaways and events are happening.  The people working behind the counter have quotas to meet.  Sales quotas.  Booking quotas.  Pre-sale quotas.  (never ending goals) If you ask to be put on a list to call when the next giveaway is they will be HAPPY to do so. Trust me, you will have just made their day.  Of course, the catch here is that there is usually a minimum purchase necessary in order to get the gift.  Which brings me to my next point…
  6. Visit the counter a day or two after the event happens.  After all the hoopla of the visiting makeup artist from their fancy city is over and the dust settles there is usually still loads of free gifts left over.  The money spot for visiting a makeup counter is the Sunday morning after the Friday/Saturday event is over.  The store is quiet.  Not many shoppers.  The person working the counter is EXHAUSTED.  All they want to do is sleep in, but it’s not to be- they work retail.  If you catch them at this perfect time while they are a little bitter toward the company they work for (because it’s a Sunday morning and they had to work till 10pm the night before) and there is literally a box of free gifts just sitting there doing nothing behind the counter,  and you’re so nice (because we talked about how nice you’ll be, remember?) well, there is a 98% chance you’re leaving the store with something extra.
  7. Have a good reason.  One time a lady came in and told me she was putting together gifts for her daughter’s girl scout troop and was wondering if I had anything I could contribute. Perfume samples? Mini mascaras?  Well, I’m a sucker for cute little girls, and of course, thin mints, so I obliged.  Do you have a good reason you want free things?  Tell them and they will most likely be motivated to help you.


  1. Expect something free.  Sometimes there are free goodies, sometimes there aren’t.
  2. Be an energy vampire.  There is a difference between a legitimate question or inquiry and someone who is just bored and has nothing better to do than drain the energy, time and possible sales from the person working behind the counter.  If you have zero intention of buying something then please just mind your own business or leave.  Do not ask to have makeup put on you, do not ask a million-billion questions, do not be contradictory and two hours later walk away with nothing.  It’s just rude.  And remember, when you treat people a certain way they usually reply in kind.
  3. Show up for your appointment at an event and buy nothing.  Did you sit for an hour in a chair while a makeup artist did your makeup and gave you the spiel?   Newsflash:  you have to buy something.  Of course, there are ALWAYS exceptions to this rule.  Was the person doing your makeup rude? Did they just do an awful, awful job?  Did you realize your wallet was stolen?  Did you get an emergency call and have to rush to the hospital?   Did you start to have a visible allergic reaction to the makeup?  Well then, you’re off the hook. Everyone else, listen up: When you schedule that appointment it’s like booking a reservation at a restaurant.  No one shows up to a restaurant, gets seated and then tells the waiter they’ll just be drinking water and eating the free bread.  Obviously that person should never have made a reservation. Likewise, please only schedule an appointment for an event with the intention of purchasing something.
  4. Buy something only to get the gift and then return it.  That my friends, is dishonest. Not only that, but it affects the paycheck of the person who sold it to you.  How would you like someone to come to your work, distract you for an hour,  make you look bad to your employer and ultimately lower the amount of your paycheck?  It doesn’t sound very nice, does it?

Well lovely readers, that wraps up my how-to guide for today.  I hope it helped at least a little.  Now go out there and get your (free) makeup!