Wednesday, August 12, 2015

A Little Rant/Ramble

So, what do you guys think of the whole Sephora Epic Rewards fiasco?

Beauty is fleeting?  Geez.

Google "Sephora Epic Rewards" and you'll see what I'm talking about.  For example:

Warning: this post is nothing but text.  No pretty pictures here.  Feel free to skip it.  I'm just blathering in this one, so it's pretty long.

I used to work at Sephora (long time ago, and for almost 3 years), and I own stock in LVMH (Moët Hennessy ∙ Louis Vuitton S.E. -- the company that owns Sephora), so all this saddens/maddens me.

Sephora's reward program pretty much stinks at this point.  It was introduced years ago (9, or so).  I was actually working there when it rolled out.  People complained that Sephora never had any "free gifts" or sales, and it was the expertise of the staff, generous return policy, samples of anything in the store, and the exclusive brands that kept them coming back.  Well, I think Sephora listened and added a rewards program.  (I can't remember when they started doing once or twice a year sales.)

Now, the rewards program is outdated and, in my opinion, needs to be revamped.

Ulta was very new when I worked at Sephora, and I think many people thought of it as a "poor man's Sephora" (geez that came out snobby).  Well, Ulta started carrying the some of the same brands as Sephora (in fact Cosmedicine, which was supposedly supposed to be a Sephora exclusive brand for at least 5 years after it debuted was carried there -- before the brand disappeared never to be seen again).  Ulta had a crummy rewards program at the time, too.  Then Ulta started carrying higher-end brands, and revamped and updated their rewards program, and started giving what is essentially cash back ($3 for every 100 points ($100) I think, but they frequently have point mutlipliers) that can be used on any item in the store, including the higher-end brands.  Ulta also seems to have more sales on higher-end stuff, and always has coupons for the drugstore stuff they carry.

Sephora, on the other hand, gives out deluxe samples (that I've heard described as free gift rejects) for every 100 points ($100).  And they rarely have point multiplier sales.  For 500 points, you can get a set of 4-5 deluxe samples.  The 500 point rewards have definitely gotten worse over time.  They often used to include a full size product, or something that wasn't for sale (I remember a YSL set with a pretty bracelet -- which I didn't get because I was hoarding my points in hopes of something better, and I now regret it).  The 500 point perks have recently included a set of 4 deluxe samples of some Clinique skincare.  Really?  I'll go to the Clinique counter and spend $32.50 for a gift that has a full size lipstick and 5 deluxe samples.  And a pretty makeup bag.

Once a year (twice this year), Sephora offers 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, and 10,000 point rewards that are pretty awesome and worth some money.  The 10,000 point rewards have been trips (like to Paris), the 5,000 points often include a designer hand bag, and the 2,000 and 1,000 point rewards include several full size products.

When they advertise this event, there is always a disclaimer in tiny writing that the rewards are very limited and once they sell out, they're gone.

Well, they held the event on Monday, and didn't give any information on when the rewards would be released, so many people stayed up all night refreshing the rewards boutique page every few minutes.  They finally released them at 3pm EST (well, more like 2:57 from when many people are saying), and Sephora's version of The Hunger Games started.  The rewards (even the 10,000 point reward) sold out in less than 3 minutes.  Now, I wasn't even trying to get any of the rewards as none of them interested me (I have accrued just over 1000 points so I didn't have as many to choose from, but the Givenchy lipstick rewards looked nice, but I knew they were colors I wouldn't wear), but I feel pretty bad for the people who were.

There were other problems with this event besides the incredibly limited stock.  (I mean, how many of each did they have?  100?  50?  10?  It seems like very very few, which is understandable for really high point rewards, but what about the 1,000 and 2,000 point rewards?)  One of the problems seemed to be that when people were checking out as quick as possible with a reward in their basket, the reward disappeared and said it was out of stock.  Even as they hit the checkout and pay button.  That's not good.  Some people even said their order went through with the reward still in their basket only to check later that it wasn't actually in the order.  Whoa.  That's really not good.

The biggest problem I have with this whole thing is the point multiplier sale they offered the week before the Epic Rewards event.  It was even stated in an email from Sephora "stock up on points for the Epic Rewards" or something along those lines.  They knew at that point how many of each reward they had, and that the odds of snagging one is incredibly low.  That just seems wrong and kind of shady, somehow.

Now there are tons of disgruntled customers that are threatening to return everything they bought recently and never shop at Sephora again.  I don't know if that will truly happen, but it just might.  I wonder how many people bought a bunch of stuff last week during the point multiplier even just for the points rather than for the products, which is probably not smart on their part, but Sephora advertised that it would be possible to redeem them for something awesome.

Some people are saying that these customers are acting entitled and bratty, but I don't think they are.  They spent their hard earned money with the expectation of being rewarded for shopping at Sephora.  It's supposed to be a rewards and loyalty program.  Not a "make your customers unhappy when they don't win the contest for the fasted internet/computer/clicking finger" program.  Funnily enough, it's the people on the Sephora Beauty Talk forum who can afford to buy every Tom Ford seasonal collection (they show them off in the haul thread, or at least talk about everything they pre-ordered) that are saying people are acting entitled and bratty.  I am a total lurker on the boards and have never posted anything because of they way the "regulars" treat the newcomers.  They're very clique-y.  (I read one comment that said something like "I'll be glad when all these newbs (Beauty Talk board newcomers that were complaining and venting about the Epic Rewards) leave BT so that our community can get back to normal." Really?  "Your" community?  Yeah.)

The whole thing disappoints me, and I wish that Sephora would change their rewards program.  I have no idea if that will happen, because it seems like it's worked for them for so long.  I saw a video of an interview with one of the marketing executives (she may have been in charge of marketing) who stated that the rewards program has been a huge success.  She said the clientele of Sephora doesn't care about sales and what not, because they like the exclusivity of brands that Sephora carries.  In other words, they are all rich snobs.  Unfortunately, there are many places now that carry almost all the brands Sephora offers (except for Kat Von D and the Sephora house brand -- those are truly exclusive to Sephora).  Nordstrom carries almost all of them (along with luxury brands like Tom Ford and Charlotte Tilbury, which Sephora does not carry).

Anyhow, I think Sephora needs to listen to their customers.  It's possible there will be a greater backlash than they expect from this, and it will be an impetus for change.  Who knows.  Holiday collections are starting to be advertised, and Sephora does offer exclusive sets and products, so I don't know how many people will be able to resist those.

Will I stop shopping at Sephora?  Probably not, although I will try to buy from Ulta the products that both stores carry.  I don't have a Nordstrom card, so I don't get any extra benefit from shopping there.  I do, at this point, feel like my points at Sephora will never get used.  Maybe they will offer some good 500 point rewards in the near future, but I'm not counting on it.

Maybe the Epic Rewards should be a lottery instead.  Or they should do it like Allure does their giveaways.  "Log on at XXpm to be entered to win one of 50 1,000 point rewards."

Oh Sephora.  What will we do with you?  Sigh.

So, did you try to nab any of the Epic Rewards?  Were you able to?


  1. I find it very odd that Sephora in North America is so weird with samples and sales. They obviously have a very loyal customer based and perhaps they're banking on that too much. In a stark comparison, I was in the Czech Republic last year and just happened to be in a Sephora to get a pair of eyelash curlers I had forgotten to pack. They had a sale on. A SIGNIFICANT sale (probably 25% off) and it was lasting two weeks. It seemed like it wasn't that irregular for Sephora to have sales there. So what the hell is going on with Sephora in our countries?!

    Your comments re: the event to multiply points to stop up for the epic rewards is totally on point (haha). It's a shady ass business practice, especially when it feels like they only had 10 rewards for each item!

  2. I had no idea that Sephoras elsewhere in the world had different sales. I can't believe how they've been treating Canadian customers lately (a popular discussion on the boards). I know they added a Canadian warehouse, but many of the promos aren't available to Canadians. It's weird.
    I agree that Sephora might be banking on having a loyal customer base regardless of how they treat or reward them. It will be interesting to see if Sephora really will lose customers.
    I do feel fortunate to have Sephora here, though. I don't think there are any in the UK.

  3. P.S. Wow I'm slow. I just got your "on point" play on words. lol

  4. Yeah I was surprised too. Although they couldn't use my Sephora VIB card so I'm unsure if they have any kind of point system there.

  5. I'd rather have a sale than points!

  6. The whole thing upset me as well. I didn't stay up all night - and I haven't participated before, so I didn't have past experiences to draw from, but I did read the boards and got a sense for how bad things were before. I thought I'd give it a try and did refresh all day - at about 3:01 EST pm, I saw a handful of the 1000 point rewards show up for a split second and then they disappeared. Funny this is that I had refreshed at 2:58 and seen nothing. So I'm not sure at what point the reward sold. It was not only about fast fingers but dependent on so many other things that people had no control over - the browser they were using, how fast their internet connection was - how close they lived to the fiber optic definitely left a bad taste in my mouth. :-)

  7. I've almost stopped shopping at Sephora for many of the reasons you stated here. Ulta's rewards program became so much better, and I get plenty of samples and gifts shopping at department store counters. I have nothing against Sephora, but it isn't practical for me anymore -- no incentive. I'm still a beauty insider, and I do plan on getting some exclusive items down the road. This recent fiasco doesn't surprise me at all. As for the Beauty Talk boards, yes, they have a terrible vibe. I tried to become active on the Beauty Talk board before I started blogging, and it was not a nice environment. It was oddly territorial, and that's just silly!

  8. Yeah, there really any incentive to shop at Sephora anymore. So disappointing.

    I'm so glad I'm not the only one who feels like the Beauty Talk boards are full of people who are not so nice. Territorial is a good word for it. I don't think I realized just how "clique-y" they are until this whole mess. I've been lurking and reading the threads even more the past few days, and the "regulars" and their comments are just making me angry. I think it takes me back to high school when I wanted to be in the "in crowd" so bad, and I wasn't at all accepted or welcome. I think I'll only continue to read the "Deals Too Good to Pass Up" thread, although it is way too enabling!

  9. It sounds like some of the rewards never even showed up for some people. I think maybe Sephora didn't announce the time for fear that the site would crash, but their IT team should have been ready for that. The whole thing leaves a bad taste in my mouth too! Sephora could do so much better when it comes to the rewards program, in my opinion.

  10. I agree with much of what you've said here. The biggest reason I find myself drawn to shopping at Sephora these days is their "flash" shipping program... I'm more of an online shopper than an in-store shopper, so being able to order whatever without a minimum is a big plus. Of course I paid for that privilege, so if Ulta were ever to offer something similar I'd be all over that instead. And yeah, the whole "who can refresh the page fastest" game isn't a reward at all. I like buying stuff without stress? Go figure.

  11. The Sephora "Flash" shipping is great. One of the best things, I think. I'm also an online shopper (even though I have a Sephora maybe 5 miles from my house. In fact, I used to work there, but I feel weird going back to places where I used to work. Anxiety issues.), and the Ulta shipping is slow. I actually have an Ulta less that 2 miles from my house, but they don't have the same selection as what's available online. I hope Sephora takes all the suggestions I'm sure they are receiving from this event and really listens to their customers.

    Buying stuff without stress is more fun.

  12. Oh wow, I did not know that they offered 10,000 point rewards! Maybe things are different for Canadian customers as you mentioned below. That really sucks when people save up their points and then they only have a few of the big rewards. I agree, their 500 point perks have been getting worse and worse over the years.

  13. I do think the rewards were different for Canadians. I don't know if any trips were offered, but I did see that one of the 10,000 point rewards was a Too Faced vault with a ton of products. I'm hoping they will have some better 500 point rewards closer to the holidays.

  14. Oh man!! I'm relatively new to Sephora because I grew up in a small town, and when I moved away I only had an adults (which I LOOOOVE and currently have $50 in rewards for). I did recently pick up one of their Bite beauty trio rewards (I think it was a 250 pt reward) and I'm happy with it, but I've always been disappointed that you could ONLY use your rewards points for products that were chosen for you. Bummer.

    I really love how ulta points are done.