Sunday, November 27, 2011

Conquering Another Hurdle: Sample-Hoarding

Ashley of Makeup Kismet and I had a brief Twitter conversation the other day that touched on a topic I've been thinking about a lot lately: hoarding samples.

First, if you don't follow Ashley on the blog or Twitter, you need to! She's hilarious!  

Second, you might have noticed that I've been showcasing a few samples in my recent empties posts and it is due to a conscious effort to try to reduce the samples collection as well as my regular stash. Isn't it funny how hungry we are for samples and freebies, but once they're lugged home they completely seem to lose all appeal and become a chore to use up?

I think it was the Luxe Box sampling system that sealed the deal for me. I do NOT want any more samples unless I'm actually interested in the product or the brand. No more blind "gimme gimme gimme" when it comes to samples. I donated a ziplock bagful to the women's shelter and now keep my reduced sample stash in the empty Luxe Box.

The plan is to try a sample per week. If I have multiple samples from the same brand or series, I'll try to use them together to derive the maximum benefit possible. If I end up with samples I don't want, they'll promptly be given away so that someone else can try them before expiry.

Ohhhhhh, yes. That pesky thing called an expiry date. Many of the samples are skincare products and the ones packaged in plastic packets don't tend to stamp expiry dates on them. But I was opening up a DDF moisturizer sample box and saw that it expires in less than a year. I meant to try this moisturizer last year when I got it as a part of a swap. Luckily I just finished that Garnier gel-cream and am in need of a moisturizer. Instead of going out to buy a new cream, I'm using up some samples to see what's good and what's not.

So here's my game plan with samples:
  • I will not hoard more than what the empty Luxe Box will carry.
  • I will use one or two samples a week. Older samples closer to expiry will be used first.
  • If I have samples that can substitute for a finished product, I'll use the sample(s) before purchasing new replacements.
  • I will not make purchases because samples are being offered in the promotion. (This goes hand in hand with my rule of not paying for samples. Note to retailers: Samples should be free.)
  • If I have a bad gut feeling about a sample (sense that it's not good for me or is expired), I will not use it.
And lastly:
Samples are not gold and I didn't pay for them. There's no need to treasure and hoard them. And yet I do, either because of my waste-hating conscience or the middle-schooler habits that still cling to my 33 year-old adult self. I've had enough of this.

Also, I now despise the retail trend of using samples to lure customers into making purchases. What the heck is that about? I refuse to play into it. If the products are as good as they claim, they should be tossing free samples to the masses all over the place. I don't understand places that refuse to provide samples. Way to stand behind your products, people.

Wow, I had more to say about samples than I first thought. Over to you: do you collect samples? What's your sampling system?


  1. My samples bag is considerably smaller since I used up a lot of them in Europe, although my skin wasn't too happy about changing it up so much. I never buy cosmetics just because they have a gift with purchase-not into that either. Like you I've been trying to use a sample here and there. It's funny though-I don't think I've EVER liked something from a sample packet so much that I ran out to buy it. Hmmm...

  2. Good for you, Liz!

    I'm not really a sample girl, period. I have no problem buying things and returning them flat out if it didn't work, though I guess that's pretty wasteful, too. But sometimes samples aren't provided, you know? Or you can't sample it because of the nature of the product (liquid eye liner, for example).

    I tend to toss samples more often than not, though I keep the ones that I intended to try anyway. Those are usually the result of happy coincidence rather than actively seeking out the samples, though. The only samples I pursue are indie perfume samples, because of the cost and the fact that perfumes are so subjective.

  3. @Tracy - The last sample I adored were the Kerastase elixir and Caudalie sorbet for dehydrated skin! I've become a bit of a fan of sampling again, but in a much more careful way. I don't have to test EVERYTHING: just the brands that are well-regarded like the two examples. :)

    @Larie - I've done plenty of returns myself, but since the samples tend to accrue whether I want them to or not, I might as well put them to good use! You know, I wasn't even thinking about perfume and didn't include them in the box. They're kind of a separate category, I agree. :)

  4. I think because I've worked in cosmetics for so long, I really hate samples now... Joining Luxe Box and Glymm, for me, was more out of curiosity than anything. And some of those boxes offer some awesome things, and I appreciate the full-size products that have come with them... but honestly, most of the samples, I will just keep in a box, never to be seen again, or I'll throw them out. And I'm one of those people who hate GWP's, 'cause to me, it's just extra stuff that takes up precious space. If I buy a product and the saleslady is like, "Oh, we're offering a gift with that, which one would you like?" -- I always say, "It's okay, I don't want the gift."

    Also, the reason why salespeople use samples as a selling tool is because a lot of them work on commission, and if it'll entice a sale, then it's worth it for them. When I worked for Lancome and at Shoppers, we worked on commission (at counter-level) and I hated using samples as selling tools, but people used to come up to me and say, "I will buy something ONLY if you throw in samples with it." Or they'll ask, "If I buy something, what do you have to offer me?" I have also seen many of THE SAME people come back to a counter to ask for more samples, because they refuse to buy the full-size product. To me, that defeats the whole purpose of sampling. Some people are very, very cheap, and given the very limited amount of samples each counter receives, I understand why beauty advisors only want to give samples to those who they think will really benefit from it.

  5. OMG I need to do the same thing! I have a drawer stuffed to the brim with samples. I need to just get my butt in gear and try the ones I want and give away the ones I don't think I will use. It's a waste of space just sitting there!

  6. I'm actually pretty good at not hoarding samples... Mostly because I don't get that many to begin with :p.

  7. actually im a big fan of gwp xD but i think it's nice cuz they have some full sized products and it's usually more generous than a "sample" i have tons of samples accumulated (especially from sephora >_< but i tend not to use them) actually shampoo & conditioner samples are useful when i travel

  8. Funny... I just pulled out a bunch of samples (I have < 10 in total) to start using up. I also signed up for the January Top Box and the December Glymm Box recently out of curiosity. I kind of did it strategically -- for some reason I think that that Dec Glymm box is going to be really good to keep with the festive holiday spirit, and I'm interested if I will get anything special because it's my birthday month. I'll make my decision to continue with each box based on what arrives, but I anticipate cancelling my subscriptions.

    I hear you when you say that paying for samples is ridiculous.
    Er... I just realised that I'm still on P13P. What was I thinking when I ordered the beauty boxes?! Thankfully I have only 2 more products to finish. (I decided to add my finished makeup item to the P13P list for #9. #10 was a combo of 3 face mask samples and a lip balm.)

  9. Correction:
    I should have written #10 and #11 above. Oops!

  10. I have a box of samples that I am trying to work my way through. It's to happen Liz, seriously, it needs to happen. I've been trying to not buy skin care this year, and that has helped. I'm going to ramp up my whole usage and make a new plan to take this inventory down. I vow this!!!!

  11. Guilty as charged - I've got a big shopping bag of samples too. *Blushes* I tear loads out of magazines, add them to the stash and then forget about them. Time to use them or lose them I think. Thanks for the obvious reminder - they didn't actually cost me anything so I shouldn't feel compelled to keep them!

  12. Hey look, it's me!! *Feels famous*

    You have opened my eyes (once again) - it makes no sense to buy things just because there are samples that come along with the purchase. I mean, how does it make sense to say "Free With Purchase" when in the end, you're still spending money?!

    Also, just so I seem less of a crazy hoarder, I used up 3 samples in the stash after posting that picture! It barely made a dent.... *sulks*

  13. I use to love collecting samples. I think that they would come in handy when I go travel but honestly, I almost always forget about the samples I have and they just end up being tossed. Also, any samples that can't be resealed is such a fuss and I throw it out before using it up anyways because I can't be bothered. I'm saying NO to samples too! Unless of course I actually want to try the product.

  14. You inspired me to go through my personal samples stash and toss, toss, toss! Funny how something so small can actually take up a lot of room... and most of them were serums or moisturizers that I have no intention of ever trying!

  15. One more thing to add: The Body Shop is the best AND worst for samples! They give them out to non-paying customers in case you were interested in trying out the product, which is great, but I've found so many of these darn things laying around my room haha.

  16. I've had this love-hate relationship going on with samples too; I love getting them (freebies always have a tingling effect on my nervous system) but then promptly forget about them when I get home. After I read about Tracy taking along a bunch of samples on her recent trip abroad, I culled my stash and kept only the ones that A) I really wanted to try and B) were of a more than average size, thereby elevating them above mere "sample" status. So now, I have a small Sephora bag filled, but the good news is that I actually have been using them. As a matter of fact, when I travel for a weekend or a few days away, instead of lugging around my (heavier) larger size lineup of products, I simply throw a few sample packets/tubes into my makeup bag and I'm set! All this to say that while samples may at times have been the bane of my existence, but I've learned proper management techniques to keep them firmly in line! Glad to see I'm not the only one with this obsession!

  17. @Denise - Thanks for the input from the other side of the counter! Ugh, I DESPISE those cheapos who make it more difficult for the legit customers to get the samples they need! I didn't realize that samples were so limited, though. I mean, yeah, you don't want to be tossing La Mer samples at every person who approaches, but then again - how the heck would you put down the $$$ without testing something like that first, ya know? What is the solution here? When I was buying the Dior polish trio, the SA was so hilarious. She whispered to me that she had samples for me and acted so covert and stealth about it that I was literally cracking up. I should have been like you and said no, but she went to so much trouble that I just took them. lol

    @Danielle - Yes, you must!! The part that gets me is I really don't know how old some of those little packets are! :O

    @Dani - You are so good! How do you do it?

    @Isabella - Some GWPs are great, especially if you're a devoted fan of Lancome Bi-Facil or Clinique moisturizers. But I usually only want one or two of those gifts and the rest become a big waste.

    @Boo - Glymm and Top boxes seem pretty good if you're into sampling! Much better than Luxe Box, anyway. Happy birthday in advance! And it's amazing that you've come so far in your Project Pans already!!! Major props to you!

    @D - Yes, same here! Not the whole year for me but not until I've made a big dent in the skincare samples. This way I can figure out what breaks me out or not in advance and not have to make returns after the fact. We can do it!

    @Vita - No need to blush, we're all the same here. ;) I used to the magazine tear-outs too but I won't anymore.

    @Ashley - You deserve the fame! ;) Hey, 3 is pretty good. That's a start. Once I got started on the samples, it made me want to test more out. Thanks for helping to inspire my sample-reduction plan!

    @Stacey - I like the idea of taking samples for travel but not so much in execution. And yes, the unsealable kind of samples are barely worth the hassle!

    @Soha - Glad to be of service! And I've actually never taken samples from The Body Shop though my sister has. They have so many BOGOs that I just end up buying the full sizes. I should sample more in this case, though!

    @Eugenia - I mean, yes, there is the thrill of getting more things for the buck but I just can't deal with the hoarding tendencies that go on an uncontrollable bender, lol. I also like the idea of samples for travel but only for a few items, not to make up the majority of my stash. I'm glad to hear you have your sample system well under control!

  18. Agreed on every freakin' account!! And I have come to the same conclusions/approach to samples too - I only accept/search for ones that I truly want, and I have been trying to use up any that are kicking around (finally!). Also, agree that if I have a gut feeling it's not gonna work for me - toss/give away/move on!! We already create enough anxiety about the full size products we have; I refuse to add to that with itty bitty sizes as well!

    And HELL to the NO, I will NOT be paying for samples any time soon, thank you!



  21. @Toya - You also need to keep an extra grip on this sample business or you'd drown in an ocean of Clinique things! *fist bump*

    Hahahaha, Larie & Tracy! <3

  22. I'm glad that I picked the "right boxes" :)
    I took a long time deciding which one might be right for me. I like TopBox's claims that they will supply only high end brands. If they follow through then it will be a good way to try things out. Glymm...I'm on the fence about but that's why I'm giving it a go.

  23. Oh my, I have a lot of samples. That's one of the reasons I cancelled my Birchbox subscription, I just wasn't using them all up - and some were wrong products for me to begin with! I try to use up my samples as I go too, but I'm sometimes worried they might throw my skin off balance if I keep changing them every week.

  24. I had actually started to make an effort to use up some samples recently but then I got all my Silk Naturals stuff and totally lost interest in anything else. Plus chopping and changing skin care daily is not good (for me, anyway). Noodles and I went through all the samples the other day and she picked out what she wanted (hair stuff and body lotions), I picked out what I wanted (foundations, primers and hand creams), we chucked anything that looked old and scuzzy or was of indeterminate age, and then the rest I sent off to a friend of mine when I was posting her something else. Goneski!

  25. @Boo - Yeah, sometimes you can't know until you try!

    @Monika - That's the downside of sampling too much but there are days I just throw up my hands and think my skin can't possibly get any worse than it already is. :/

    @Dee - Fabulous! I need to train my future daughter to take an avid interest in such things alongside me. My sisters and mom aren't trainable and I don't want to spoil friends too much, LOL.

  26. Such an interesting post. I really got into samples this past year b/c I love the idea of trying before buying. Problem is that samples are usually too small to give you a full idea of what the product is actually least for skin care. That being said, I do like anything free in a product line I'm interested in, that I can try. And like you, I've got a special spot for all my samples so I am sure to use them. Great post Liz!

  27. Thanks, Tracy! I can be impulsive sometimes and splurge on full sizes without sampling, so sampling is very good for me. But the problem is when I hoard samples without actually using them. Now that it's at a more manageable size, full of only the things I want to try, I don't feel so overwhelmed anymore. :)

  28. Speaking of samples, have you tried Birch Box? I can't believe I am paying $10/mo for samples, but I am. First box was iffy. If the Christmas box isn't better, I'm cancelling.

  29. Hi Lucy!

    We can't get Birch Box in Canada but I reviewed our version of it called Luxe Box not too long ago. I wasn't all that keen on it but it's probably because I'm struggling with all these samples already. I wouldn't mind if it was $5/month but at $10 it's not really worth it.


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