COUNTER INTELLIGENCE

Byline: Bree Altman / Faye Brookman / Nicole Ross / Nicole Halsey

NEW YORK — You can offer the most revolutionary hair products and write the world’s most insightful educational materials, but it doesn’t mean anything if the people selling your products aren’t familiar enough with either to sell them to the intended end user.
Four WWD reporters, posing as customers, went out to search of a new hair care regime — and here’s what they came back with.

Jeniette, New York New York City
After a recent color correction and a month with extensions, my hair was in desperate need of help. So it didn’t take much convincing to get me to seek an expert opinion on how to spin my straw into gold.
I arrived at Manhattan’s Jeniette, New York salon on a Monday evening. Because Monday is generally a slow day for hair salons — if they are open at all — I assumed I would get the receptionist’s undivided attention and expertise when it came to choosing a shampoo for my tired tresses.
I may have had her undivided attention, but the expertise was questionable.
“Can I help you?” the receptionist asked as I studied the limited selection of shampoos, conditioners and styling products on the shelves.
“I’m looking for some shampoo,” I said.
“Oh,” she said and went back to what she was doing.
Eventually, she made her way over to me and asked what type of hair I had.
“Colored,” I quipped, as if my roots are naturally two shades darker than the rest of my hair.
“Who doesn’t?” she retorted.
To which I added that my locks were also extremely dry.
This seemed to give her enough to work with, as she pointed to the Goldwell Definition Color and Highlights Shampoo perched on the second shelf, noting that it was good for “colored” hair, but that she was out of the conditioner and had no idea when she would be receiving a new shipment.
“Do you know what kind of color you have in your hair?” she asked.
I didn’t — and asked her why she needed to know.
“Well, usually they like you to use their products,” she offered, moving on to the next product. To help with the dryness, she thought I might want to try the $15 Alterna conditioner packaged in the bright orange bottle. “It’s made with hemp,” she said, as she proceeded to read the bottle for any additional ingredients that might impress me.
Not willing to leave well enough alone, I inquired as to the benefits of hemp in a hair care product.
“I don’t know, but it’s really good,” she answered, adding that the product in the small green bottle — also known as Hemp Seed Shine and Texturizing Catalyst — was great for shine.
“We also have this stuff in a green tube,” she said, “But we’re out of it.”
Half a second later, she remembered where some was and waltzed me over to an empty stylist station to test the Hemp Seed Polishing Gloss. “Try this,” she said, placing some in the ends of my hair. “It really adds shine.”
I didn’t see any difference, and I was not about to add another tube or bottle to my drawer of once-used styling products.
With nothing left to show me, she reiterated that the products she had shown me would be best for dry, colored hair.
“So when will you be getting the Goldwell Conditioner?” I asked.
“I have no idea. We always seem to sell out of the conditioner so fast,” she said.
With that, I left without a bag, a bottle or even a salon menu.

Wal-Mart Orlando, Fla.
In need of a new shampoo to give my hair a lift — and since I was traveling and had forgotten my favorite brand — I ventured into a six-month-old Wal-Mart in Orlando, Fla.
Despite the fact that Wal-Mart offers a self-serve environment, there were two saleswomen visible in the cosmetics department, where I headed first for hair advice. I stopped one associate and asked her for a suggestion on how to add more body to my limp, color-treated hair.
Although she said she didn’t work in that department, she escorted me to hair care, where we talked with a woman stocking the shelves. Both agreed that Suave Professional was the best way to go.
Unfortunately, the products were not in the right spot on the shelves. Wal-Mart has rows and rows of shampoos — almost every mass brand manufactured. A bit of searching — with both women assisting — revealed the shampoo was in a cart ready to be set up. According to the saleswoman who worked in health and beauty care, Helene Curtis had shipped in new bottles containing 25 percent more product for the same price. At the checkout, I was stunned at the price tag — a paltry $1.33.
The experience was pleasant as far as service, but it was like asking advice of a friend versus a trained professional. Neither woman suggested Procter & Gamble’s new Physique, despite signs across the store touting its launch. And the associates did not encourage buying ancillary products such as conditioners or styling gels.
I asked the first woman if I needed a special formula for my color-treated hair. She said no, although that would have given her an opportunity to recommend some of the special color-treated items such as Sheer Blonde by John Frieda.
I was happy with my product, but I wonder how much more profitable Wal-Mart could be if people were trained to trade hair care customers up to higher-ticket brands or to suggest companion products.

Joseph Anthony Salon Syracuse, N.Y.
In the midst of a brutal lake-effect snowstorm in Syracuse, N.Y., I did what all upstate natives do — I went to the mall.
Walking through Shopping Town Mall, I came across the Joseph Anthony Salon. Never one to resist checking out products, I headed straight for the retail area. After surveying the plethora of beauty bootie — from Sebastian and Redken to John Paul Mitchell Systems and Matrix Essentials — I felt like I was drowning in beauty products.
I asked the receptionist at the front desk if a stylist could assist me in choosing the correct hair care items. She assured me she knew the lines and could help me herself. “What are you looking for?” she asked.
Stating the obvious, I said, “Well, I have curly hair that is colored and a little dry.”
“Let’s see what we can find for you,” she said as she walked over to the wall of products. After eyeing me up and down — taking in my sneakers, casual clothes, and the fact that I am in my mid-20s — she walked directly over to the TIGI Bed Head hair care shelves. After deliberating over the specific products in the line for a minute, she handed me TIGI’s Self Absorbed Shampoo and Conditioner, retailing for $7.95 and $11.95, respectively.
“Is this for color-treated hair?” I asked the receptionist.
“Um, well, I don’t know. Yes, I think it’s fine for color-treated hair,” she said.
I looked at her quizzically, noticing that TIGI’s packaging doesn’t say anything about its suitability for color-treated hair — as I surveyed an entire wall of hair care lines created specifically for porous, color-treated hair.
No further product recommendations were forthcoming, so I thanked her and left. —

Dop Dop Salon New York City
My unrelaxed ethnic hair is difficult to style — it’s dry and brittle, with lots of split ends. And since few products ever seem to work well for me, I wasn’t exactly dying to find a new hair care regime. Nonetheless, I headed to Dop Dop, a Manhattan salon.
I approached the reception desk looking totally lost and asked for a shampoo and conditioner.”
“Are you looking for anything in particular?” the trendily dressed receptionist asked. “Something that will help with the dryness in my hair and something that will condition it daily,” I said.
“Give me a second,” she said, “I’ll be right with you.”
I decided to look at the retail area. There was a stand totally devoted to L’Oreal’s Kerastase Line and a small row full of ARTec products, but not much in the way of styling products. I also noticed some D:fi pomade wax and some TIGI Bed Head gel, and a very small collection of Paul Brown products.
“I use this conditioner and the shampoo, and it’s pretty good,” the receptionist said, picking up a bottle from the Paul Brown shelf.
“Will it keep my hair moisturized? That’s my problem,” I said, asking for an alternate selection. I wasn’t really buying that she used it — I felt like she just picked up what she was closest to.
After a brief pause and a desperate look at the shelf, the receptionist grabbed a stylist who was walking past and asked for her help.
“Can I touch your hair?” the stylist asked. She quickly squeezed a few strands of my hair together and walked over to the ARTec shelf, picking up the line’s Kiwi shampoo and conditioner.
“This stuff is great. It’s also something that won’t hurt your hair if you use it every day. How often do you wash your hair?” she asked.
“About every three days,” I replied.
“Maybe you should wait a little longer, maybe every four or five days,” she suggested. “Washing your hair every day will dry it out quickly.”
At this point, I knew this stylist knew her products. “What about this Paul Brown stuff?” I asked.
“It isn’t really all that good,” she said. “Not if you’re looking for a daily conditioner. It will dry in your hair and leave white residue.”
“What about styling products?” I asked.
“Stay away from gel,” she suggested. “It will break the ends. Try a pomade. Actually, most of the stuff I use in my hair is from Aveda. They have a really good pomade that I can’t live without.” She even gave me directions to the nearest Aveda store.
Not only did I leave with a new hair care regime, I found a salon I plan to visit again.

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