How L'Oreal lost a customer

This story isn’t to do with technology, but I still find it interesting.

I have been talking to people who run a business, figuring that the rules of business are the same, even if you are running an old fashioned business.

One of my friends, Joel, is a hairstylist. He is on the top in his field, and runs his own salon now. He is often booked for months ahead.

He was a strong L’Oreal guy- his website was full of LOreal pictures, his salon had certificates from them. So when I recently talked to him, he said he had thrown away everything from them. I asked him why.

He said LOreal had a million different products, and they kept bringing out new ones, often with minor differences. Joel had to buy 4-5 shelves just to stock all these million options.

The salesman would bring a new sample, and say it was the hottest thing, and that everyone would be buying it soon. Six months later, the product turned out to be crap and of poor quality, and the customers hated it (and this happened quite often for a big and respectable company like LOreal - a perverted case of building a product based on customer feedback).

The next time the salesman would come, he would have a cool new thing, but Joel couldn’t order them, as he still had the old stock. To which the salesman would say, “But that product is out of date.” And Joel would say, “But 6 months ago you were saying this is the biggest product ever. Now what do I do with all the crap?”

He was starting to get really irritated with them, when a new saleswoman came to him. She was working for a new company- one I’ve never heard of, though they have been in business 4-5 years. It was a French-German partnership, with French fashion sense and German engineering discipline (and before you ask, yes I did make the joke- I hope they don’t have German fashion sense and French discipline!)

This company had a lot fewer products- they still had everything Joel needed. Just not million options created to screw as much money from customers. Which is funny, as when I think of L’Oreal, I don’t think of a Dilbert like company, but it seems they are that way.

Joel says he is so happy with the new company, he took down and scrapped 4 shelves (as he longer needs to stock all those options). Joel talked to other salon owners in the area, and they are ditching L’Oreal as well.

I find this story interesting, because an unknown company beat L’Oreal, a company that looks unbeatable. But like most big corporations, their only skill seems to be sell, sell, sell, no matter how much it pisses the customer off.

L’Oreal, you are not worth it.