In a world where smartphones can shoot video, snap photos, record audio, scan barcodes, and let you make price comparisons via text message, it’s almost funny to run into a paranoid manager like the one at an Ulta makeup store in Seattle. Well, funny except for that petty tyrant part where she tells you that you’ll have to take your old-school pen and papers out to the car and come back empty handed before she’ll sell you any makeup.
Daynah is the database coordinator and researcher for Beautypedia, a consumer advocacy website for makeup products. She is also, one might imagine, a real life wearer of makeup products. Over the weekend, she printed out some information sheets from Ulta’s website and headed to a nearby physical location to compare the shades in person and make notes before buying them.
Today, in a blog entry on the Beautypedia website, she writes, “Given that the store’s motto is ‘Play, touch, test, learn and explore,’ and given that my print-outs all came from Ulta.com, there was no conceivable reason for me to think that the following was about to unfold.”
After being in the store for less than an hour, discretely taking notes, a floor manager approached me.
“Can I help you with anything?” she asked.
“I’m good,” I replied and smiled.
She then came at me, quite close, and said, “You are not allowed to write anything down in our store. I have to ask you to leave.”
I let out a small laugh; I was surprised, thinking that surely she misunderstood what I was doing. She pointed her finger at me and said, “Don’t act surprised. You’ve been told this before.”
Daynah had never been told that before, in fact, but the rest of the conversation slowly spiraled into a pit of stupidity as the manager, sensing that this customer was going to put up a fight, refused to see logic or reason.
Finally, Daynah just asked her point blank if she was being banned from the store.
When I asked if I was banned permanently, she said-and get this-as long as I put my print-outs and pen in my car, I was allowed back inside to make my purchase. So, like a scolded child, she watched me walk my papers to my car, and then come back in to be rung up. Had I not absolutely needed to make the purchases, I would have surely walked away and never returned. As a paying customer, I have never been so belittled, harassed and infuriated. Ever.
Other things that are now official Ulta policy, at least when this manager is on duty at the store in Seattle: you can’t write down anything a salesperson tells you about a product, you can’t use the testers unless you’re a paying customer, and if you want to select a specific shade of makeup you have to ask a salesperson for help. Because at Ulta, beauty is not just hard, but top secret.