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Stacey Chia
Urban, The Straits Times
Thursday, Jun 26, 2014

Excuse me, may i have a sample?

Urban, The Straits Times | Stacey Chia | Thursday, Jun 26, 2014

The Belif store in Wisma Atria lets customers help themselves to samples from a basket on the counter.

Ever wanted a skincare sample, but felt too embarrassed to ask for a freebie at a beauty counter?

Well, don't be. And you don't have to buy anything first either.

Over four days last week, Urban collected about four months' worth of samples - 136 pieces - from 21 mass and premium skincare brands, just by asking for them.

Most were in sachets which would yield about two uses, but some brands, such as Chanel and South Korean brand Dr.Jart+, gave out small tubes of moisturisers which would last about five days - handy for a short getaway.

Estee Lauder gave out a week's supply of its best-selling Advanced Night Repair serum, while Lancome supplied a week's worth of samples of its best-selling Advanced Genifique serum. And while many brands carry samples just for their bestsellers and new products, some, like Clarins, could give us a sampling of almost all their products.

However, it is true that some brands were fussier than others about giving out freebies.

The more upmarket companies, such as Clarins, Lancome, La Mer and Lab Series, required us to leave our particulars so they could record the samples which had been given out.

A short consultation and explanation about the product being sampled would then follow.

Some brands admitted they take particulars to prevent "over-sampling".

"We are able to refer to our records to prevent multiple redemptions," says a spokesman for men's skincare brand Lab Series.

At Lab Series, customers are given samples only after they have had a skin analysis, using a device to evaluate their skin type so that the appropriate samples can be given.

According to the spokesman, a sales staff will call customers a week later to get feedback on the products.

Likewise, at La Mer, calls will be made within three days to ensure that customers are "using the sample properly and that they are satisfied", says a La Mer spokesman.

But the majority of brands, including Philosophy, Shu Uemura and Shiseido, readily handed us samples without asking for anything in return. In particular, the more affordable South Korean brands seemed to give them out like flyers.

At the South Korean brand Belif store in Wisma Atria, customers could help themselves to samples from a small basket on a counter filled with the brand's The True Cream gel moisturiser and First Aid 360 eye mask. A sales assistant also gave out sachets of the products at the door. About 80 sachets are given out daily, a Belif spokesman tells Urban.

A few doors away at Thefaceshop, staff were handing out sachets of its Chia Seed moisturiser and CC cream to shoppers as they streamed by on a busy Saturday afternoon.

South Korean brands are well known for their generosity and they say this has nothing to do with competition. It makes good business sense - not to mention effective advertising - to let customers try the products for free first and, if they like them, they would return to buy them.

At most shopping outlets in Seoul, it is not uncommon to see brands handing out travel-sized tubes and individually packed sheets of masks without anything being bought first.

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