Review: Concrete Minerals
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- Company name: Concrete Minerals
- Presence: webstore only
- Products: eyeshadows, lip colors, one primer (to date)
- High points: wide selection of eyeshadow colors
- Low points: the selection of colors doesn't grow too quickly, it seems...and there are some bumps in the shipping process
- Would I buy from them again: yes
The Store / The Site
They started out on Etsy, and moved to their own domain and store in 2010. The photos were excellent, if a little more "treated" than I'd like. Whatever adjustments they use to help achieve a uniform appearance takes an occasional minor toll on how the colors themselves appear. The layout and navigation was Etsy-standard when they were on Etsy, and very clean and easy to navigate when they moved to their own domain. I personally am not a huge fan of the large-size top image that CM (and some other stores, and now Facebook's Pages layout) uses as their header for visual branding, because it takes up a great bi, but that's a personal quirk. And it does effectively brand their store, with clean photos modeling looks created (presumably) with CM's products. I kind of wish that they would list what products were used where. I can guesstimate at some of them, but it's always nice to know - not only because we know that they're using their own products and how said products might look, but because it can give us other ideas.
The Shopping Experience
Navigating the site is fairly straightforward - the products are divided into clear categories, the photos are polished (though perhaps a bit too color-corrected for my tastes,) the text is clear, products are marked whether or not they are vegan, ingredients and quantities are front-and-center, and the page layout is easy to read. I do wish that it didn't scroll horizontally, though - some of the text at the far right is cut off in my browser unless I scroll over. And I have no idea how the site appears on mobile devices. I do wish that there was a little bit more uniformity in how the eyeshadows are presented, and I wish that the shadows would be clearly marked lip-safe or not. I do like how each product lists its inventory status. I don't know if that's dynamically updated, and I don't really care to actually purchase 100 pots of an eyeshadow to see if that status will change when their standing inventory is exhausted.
Shipping and Packaging
Eyeshadows are packed in 10-gram jars, with a sticker on the top, another sticker on the bottom that lists the color name, and a sifter-seal with a clear seal over the holes. There is no outer shrinkwrap. Jars are packed inside a ziploc baggie, which both catches any spillage and further restricts movement in transit. I've never had a problem with spillage, which is nice. The lippies, a relatively new addition to CM's lineup, are in black balm tubes embossed with the logo, product name, shade name, and ingredients. I had some problems with tubes that wouldn't raise the balm, but when I reported the problematic tubes I was sent replacements. Packaging for both orders and individual products is clean and professional-looking. Every order comes with a sample-size eyeshadow - you don't get to choose which color you sample, but I've received a different sample color with every one of my orders, I think. There may have been one or two duplications over all the time I've been ordering from CM. Still, it's not just a case of them only sending samples of a handful of colors.
Shipping...varies. I've gotten email notification when orders have shipped, and been able to check my Paypal account to track the packages. My original purchase with CM had a longer TAT, but since that was bought with a Heartsy voucher and those always wreak havoc on businesses, I didn't count that as typical. Other orders have generally been turned around in about two weeks, and shipping takes a few days since the package only has to travel a few states north. I have had repeated problems with orders, though: one order was packaged for shipment, the tracking number was added...and then it just sat there. I contacted Concrete Minerals and they found that the package had, for some reason, been put back into their P O Box with some international orders that didn't have correct postage. Another time an order was assembled, but then it "paused" for nearly a month while some out-of-stock items were gotten back in stock. Another order was packaged and the tracking number added to my PP account, but for reasons not entirely clear it (and some other packages) were temporarily misplaced at CM HQ and so didn't get sent out. One time I had a delayed package I emailed three times over the course of two weeks, received no response, and finally had to reply to one of their posts on Facebook. (I don't like using social media for customer service, because problems with orders should dang well be handled by email inquiry. But when one gets no response to emails...drastic measures must be taken.) I heard from someone else who also had repeated problems with delayed CM orders, so sadly mine doesn't appear to be an isolated case. When things go smoothly, Concrete Minerals' turnaround time seems to be averaging seven to ten business days. I've had delays with about 25% of my orders from Concrete Minerals, and they weren't all clustered right after the migration to the new webstore, or around holidays. Once I've gotten an acknowledgement, whatever problem I've been having has been resolved fairly fast. But the fact that I don't always get a timely response, and the fact that I (and others, apparently) have had to repeatedly contact them about shipping issues, suggests that they need to pay a little bit more attention to those areas (or outsource them, if they can afford it. There's nothing wrong with outsourcing some business operations - even for indies, who seem to try to do everything themselves - if that lets the business focus on product creation and gives the customers a better overall experience.)
The eyeshadows all have good to excellent color payoff and adhesion. I've had a few questions about how the CM people perceive colors, when comparing the photos on their site and their color descriptions to what ends up arriving at my doorstep. The lip balms had a few problematic tubes that wouldn't dispense the product, but those were quickly replaced and the problems reported upstream from whomever CM purchased the empty tubes. I haven't quite figured out how to use their primer, but that's because it's a slightly different format than the eyeshadow primers that I'm familiar with. Concrete Minerals sends a sample with every order, and rarely - very rarely - they have samples available for sale. The kits that they offer aren't always a much better value than one would have if purchasing all the items separately - which seems to slightly defeat the appeal of buying kits. While some of their eyecolors can be used as blushes, they don't specifically sell "blushes" I have no idea if they plan to branch into other areas, but I think that even if they steer clear of foundation to begin with, they could add a few blushes or a concealer or correcter. They've added more eyecolors slowly, and I hope that they continue to expand the line - slowly, adding more colors that have the same level of color payoff that their existing shades do. (There are very few super-soft shades, and that's by design. But they do exist.)
Their products are really good, but the repeated shipping issues and the longer turnaround times mean that right now I can only give them a 'qualified' recommendation. Not every order has had problems. Not every order has taken a long time to process. And when I've had genuine complaints (ie, the balm tubes that didn't dispense the product) those were resolved quickly. But they don't sell samples, and if you can't get samples of a color, it's not always easy to justify paying $7 per pot - even if $7 for 1.5 grams is a fairly good value when compared to many other indie companies. If you want to try some Concrete Minerals colors at a discount, check GlossVine. I've ordered some colors from there, both their discontinued shades from the Zombie Girl collection and the few regular shades that GlossVine had stocked; and GV's order turnaround is so much faster than CM. If GV sold CM's entire line, I probably wouldn't ever buy anything directly from Concrete Minerals again - I'd just buy it all from GlossVine. I love Concrete Minerals' eyeshadows, but don't love their order fulfillment times. I also do wish that they'd make larger, fixed "sample sets" available - for example, if they sold sample versions of their Color Stacks, they'd probably get a lot of people who would buy one or two of those to test the product, then feel more comfortable about ordering other colors fullsize without a sample first.