Does Urban Outfitters Have A Secret In-Store Website?

Reader Chaely C tried to return a gift to Urban Outfitters, only to find that the website in the store showed that her item was on sale for $19. Chaely knew her friends paid $58 for the item via Urban Outfitter’s website, and told the cashier this.

The cashier pulled up the Urban Outfitter’s website on her computer and showed Chaely the bag with the sale price of $19. After calling her roommate to confirm that the “real” website still showed the bag at $58, Chaely complained to the manager, but was refused additional store credit. She took her bag and went home.

Sure enough, when she got home, the website said the bag was $58. She was never able to return the item for its full price and now it’s just sitting in her closet. She’s wondering if there’s anyone out there that can explain why Urban Outfitter’s website said one price in the store and another price when viewed at home from her computer.


Here’s Chaely’s letter:

I was just reading the latest Consumerist update about the Best Buy secret in-store only website (dated 12/27/07) and realized that it sounded strikingly similar to an experience I had with the mega hipster-magnet store Urban Outfitters. I wonder if anyone has any experience or insight into this particular company and their undoubtedly twisted pricing scams.

Back in August I had a birthday and my roommates decided to pool their money to buy me a single gift. They ended up purchasing a handbag from at the cost of $58. It was gift boxed and sent to our house with a gift receipt (no bar code, no price, just a packing slip basically). I opened it and unfortunately didn’t quite fall in love with the handbag like my roommates had hoped I would. No worries, I work only a few blocks from our only local Urban Outfitters retail store. I’ll just return it. I checked online to make sure it was, indeed, still worth $58 since some time had passed between the order and my actual birthday (maybe 3 weeks). It was definitely $58 on the website when I checked from my office at about 4pm.

My first attempt to return the bag at about 5:15pm that same day was a feeble one. The girl at the register (with the help of her manager – maybe she was new) couldn’t scan any tags or slips to make the return because there weren’t any included in the package. Manager found the bag in a different color and attempted to scan THAT tag but the tag had fallen off. He then told her to look it up online to get the SKU number and just type that in to make the return. She looked it up on their website, copied down the number, then proceeded with the transaction. I was handed a gift card and a receipt and I wandered off into the store to shop. For some reason I was struck with an urge to check the receipt and realized that the card she had given me only had about $21 on it. She had refunded me $19 plus tax for the $58 bag.

I went back to the girl at the counter and informed her that she had only given me $21 when the website had, in fact, listed the price at $58 only an hour earlier. She apologized and pulled up the website on her computer. She flipped the screen around and presented what appeared to be their regular website, only this time it said that the bag was $19 – about $20 cheaper than any comparable sized handbags were on that site, to my knowledge. Exasperated, I told her that I couldn’t even buy the OTHER bag that I wanted with the gift card (which was also $58 but ONLY available through the website) so I might as well take the original bag back. She pulled the gift box out of the trash, re-packed the original bag, and cut up the gift card.

I immediately left the store and called my roommate to ask her to check the website. “According to the website it’s still $58,” she said, “it’s not on sale as far as I can tell.” I walked back into the store and asked the girl to get her manager. I explained to him that my roommate was on the phone with me and looking at the website and only seeing the original $58 price on the website. He apologized saying that he couldn’t change what price came up when the SKU was typed in. “It’s in the system that way,” he said. He suggested that maybe it’s GOING on sale this week but wouldn’t do anything to help but to offer to issue another $21 gift card.

For various reasons I still have the stupid bag sitting in its gift box in my living room. My roommate probably could have used the e-mail confirmation to return the back online for its original price but that’s another story completely. My concern, however, is how their website, which I accessed from several different computers to check its authenticity and my sanity, showed the price as being $58 for about three solid months. I can’t understand how the website in-store, which I witnessed with my own two eyes, twice showed that the bag was on sale months before it ever changed on their public website.

Are any readers Urban Outfitters employees or just loyalists who can explain this? Has anyone else had this problem with the already overpriced, soul-sucking retailer? I would love to know if this was an isolated incident or another case of the mysterious Secret In-Store Website.

Chaely C



Edit Your Comment

  1. unklegwar says:

    Moral: Bring your receipt.

  2. keainansen says:

    buy a smart phone, use the internet and call them out on the spot!

  3. Buran says:

    I’d say it’s time to charge back — the merchant refused to refund an unsatisfactory item.

  4. qwickone says:

    @unklegwar: she DID bring the receipt, but it wouldn’t scan. And since it was a gift receipt, there were no numbers on it.

  5. mabus says:

    ditto on unklegwar and keainansen’s sentiments.

    also, it’s probably not a “secret in-store website” but rather just the company’s intranet site. working for a distributor myself in IT i know that it is tough to keep pricing data consistent across all interfaces. however, that still doesn’t excuse the store’s in-action of trying to at least verify with their corporate offices on what the correct pricing *should* be.

    And unless other customers are seeing similar problems that would indicate either fraud or deception on the retailer’s part, i still stand by the thought that this is likely an anomaly and not necessarily a conspiracy.

  6. PinkBox says:

    They happen to have one bag on their site on sale for $19, original price is $58. It would be funny if that is the bag in question.

  7. californiadude99 says:

    Does Best Buy own Urban Outfitters?

  8. IphtashuFitz says:

    Can’t she just wait until the bag isn’t on sale any more then go back and try to return it again for the full price?

  9. 3ZKL says:

    urban very very often has a different sale in stores vs online. in fact, different urban stores will have different prices on the same items. some will have entirely different items to boot. i have purchased something at one store on sale & found it at another for full price.

    in this case, the customer was trying to return a purchase to a brick & mortar store. . .9 times out of 10 the store price is LESS than what you pay online. 9 times out of 10 this is awesome! call the 800# & setup a mail in return, get your refund. then simply goto the store, buy the bag for 19$ & use the left over to buy whatever else you want. win win.

    no sense in getting bent out of shape. the pricing they use is based on stock, sales #s, & store itself. the online store sells at the highest price for the longest time, since it has the furthest reach!

  10. amelie317 says:

    @causticitty: If that’s the one, I don’t blame her for wanting to return it! :)

  11. 3ZKL says:

    FURTHERMORE. . .this isn’t even a bait & switch! the higher price is listed ONLINE where the item was purchased in the 1st place!

    sounds like the hipster princess didn’t get her birthday pony.

  12. kimsama says:

    Is it just me, or should the friend have gotten some sort of confirmation page/receipt when they purchased the bag? Am I old-fashioned because I always print this out in case I need a record of the price/date/purchase? Shouldn’t that be common sense? It seems like it would have solved this problem — since they are roommates, they’d be right there.

    (Also, couldn’t she have tried returning it to their online department? It’s possible that they don’t accept web returns via mail, but sometimes that’s a possibility, and they’ll have your order # and everything).

    I probably would have pursued this like an industrious badger, but hey, I like money.

  13. kimsama says:

    P.S. Not blaming the victim, but on closer reading, she admits that the roommate could have returned online. Jeez, wouldn’t that have been just as easy as writing in to the Consumerist? Seems a little lazy.

  14. CurbRunner says:

    She should of had her roommate do a print screen/save of the regular web page that showed $58 price. She could have then printed the page to either show the store manager or a small claims court judge for a fair resolution.

  15. warchild says:

    Most of the time companies who do have brick and mortar stores along with web sites that sell similar products, the web site is a separate entity. There are often times where the web site will be a different price than in-store. In this case, I can understand her frustration, but she should call the customer care for the web site and end up doing a refund/exchange that way since she has the receipt. They should give her the full price back with no issues.

  16. PinkBox says:

    Yeah, should have let the friend return it online. They’re easy to deal with, and even include shipping labels for returns on every order shipped out.

  17. pepelicious says:

    @Buran: I agree. If the store refuses to honor the price contact the bank that issued the credit card and have them handle it. Chargebacks are pretty serious for businesses – chargebacks can lead to penalties and even termination of services for the store by credit card issuer banks. I worked for an online service that nearly had it’s MasterCard and Visa accepting abilities terminated because chargebacks went over 2%.

  18. pep2233 says:

    I used to work in a big retail-chain store, and on our gift receipts there was a 4-letter code, which was the original price paid. I’m not sure if Urban Outfitters does that, but it might be worth a try to see if that is an option.

  19. Jon Mason says:

    @pepelicious: You can’t do a charge back just because you don’t like a gift and want to return it. Charge backs are for if the product is faulty/not delivered/not as described. Why should the store have to take something back just becuase you don’t like it? Most stores will offer you this option, but there’s nothing in the law that says they have to.

  20. Ivy13 says:

    This has been a practice by retailers for a generation. The clerk at the store may have been a moron, but generally speaking without a receipt you’ll get the lowest price the item has ever sold for at that store/chain. So, even if the item is currently $58, if it was EVER $19 that’s all you’ll get without a receipt. If it were me I would have made more of an issue over the receipt “not scanning”. That’s where the problem is.

  21. lorimacblogger says:

    Often times brick and morter stores have the go-ahead to mark things down because they have to make room for new merchandise; internet sales are usually independent and the product can be housed in a separate, larger warehouse. I don’t know if this is true for Urban Outfitters, and given their history with copyright infringement, I wouldn’t trust them completely, but I would either try and return the product online or accept the $19.

  22. FlipSwitch says:

    Imagine if the opposite happened. She purchased something from the website, returned it to the store, and received more money because the item was no longer on sale (or just less expensive online). What I’ve just described has just happened to me. So, I say kudos to Urban Outfitters. Of course, what happened to this lady is horrible.

  23. Hooplehead says:

    I agree that going through the website is probably the way to go. If that fails, however, I would recommend filing a complaint at That usually speeds up the resolution.

  24. Brie says:

    To those who say the OP should have had her friend return it, well… getting someone else to do something FOR you can be far, far more problematic than at least trying to do it yourself. It’s not the logistics, it’s the social dynamics.

    How do I know this? I’m married.

  25. niteflytes says:

    Just speculation here, but maybe roomie & friends only paid $20 for the bag, which would explain why getting her friend to return it or give her the email receipt is “another story”. Her roomie & friends may have wanted her to believe they paid full price for it. If roomie gives her the receipt she’d know the truth. Roomie would be reluctant to return it and give her the cash since she’d either have to tell the truth about what they spent or cough up the extra cash to save face.

  26. tundrababe says:

    Urban Outfitters has this return policy on their website:

    “To return merchandise purchased from our website to one of our stores, please bring the packing slip included with your order, as well as the credit card used to make the purchase and your photo id. Please be aware refunds must be made to the same credit card used to make the original purchase. In the absence of the original credit card, a store credit will be issued.”

    So it sounds like she did everything right; she should have gotten store credit. She should have gone back again with a printout from the website order with a price listed, that would have done it. Urban Outfitters I’m guessing screwed up somewhere with the website somehow. They’ve screwed up my orders before big time.

  27. bostonmike says:

    Some store computers are set up to display the lowest recent selling price of an item for returns that aren’t accompanied by a receipt. So for fluctuating prices, they only offer whatever the lowest price was in the past 90 days, for example. That’s so you can’t buy something on sale and then return it without the receipt at full price. (They don’t want to pay you to borrow their inventory.)

  28. cashmerewhore says: attempted to charge me $800 for a $130 order (and successfully charged $500). It took three weeks to get it straightened out and they never said why there was a problem, but that it was obviously my credit card company’s doing.

    This, in addition to their history of ripping off up & coming designers is why I will never, ever shop there again.

    I didn’t even get as much of an “I’m sorry” over the issue with my order. And for more punishment, when I returned two shirts for being insanely small for their tagged size, the store could not use the online receipt barcodes for the return (but since my receipt showed prices I did get the full amount back, it just took them 20 minutes to do the return).

    Ask your roommate for the confirmation email, it may suck admitting you don’t like the gift (and I’m sure they’ve probably noticed you haven’t used it once) and return it with a print off of that.

  29. cashmerewhore says:

    urbn/anthro, trendy stores appealing to young hipsters, donating their profits to this crazy.

  30. bigsss says:

    Some store’s policy is that without a receipt, they can only give the lowest price for the past 6 months. It seems as if this shopper did not have a receipt. The tag itself will show the price $58 paid, but at some time the item may have been on sale. A gift receipt will show the price paid and will be refunded to a gift card for the full price.

  31. @cashmerewhore: I was waiting for someone to bring this up. Why would intelligent people be shopping at a store with as shitty a track record as Urban Outfitters*? Take a look at their Wikipedia entry, for pete’s sake.

    * No, it’s a rhetorical question. I know they have some nice things. But still!

  32. Buran says:

    @masonreloaded: Except I’d guess that fraud, which is what this is (they are refusing the return in violation of their policies, if I read the story right) is a pretty darn good reason for a chargeback. If you knew all sales were final that’s one thing but wrongly refusing a return is another.

  33. m4nea says:

    yeah…just get the receipt

  34. roycifer says:

    @keainansen: buying a $300+ smartphone to save $39 is clearly a sound financial decision

  35. RvLeshrac says:


    They’re not refusing the return in violation of their policies – online purchases should be returned to the online store, or to a B&M store *with the proper, valid paperwork*.

    If you’re advocating that they take the return at the online price using a gift receipt that fails to scan, what’s to stop someone from printing up bogus gift receipts?

  36. Buran says:

    @RvLeshrac: The fact that that’s not what happened? She has the paperwork and they won’t take it even though all requirements were fulfilled. Time to stop arguing with them and let the bank do it for you.

  37. RvLeshrac says:


    That’s funny, I read the part where she said that there wasn’t any paperwork as “There wasn’t any paperwork.”

    Should I instead have read “there wasn’t any paperwork” as “there was loads of paperwork just shooting out of the box like those spring snakes in a fake can of peanuts”?

    And how about the part where she can’t get the original receipt from her roommate? Or have the roommate return it online? Or even have the wherewithal to call the online store and try to return it as a gift there?

  38. Tragically Hipster was That Girl Hates You says:

    I know this is going to be a bit different but I’ve just have to say something.

    Now I work in scan file in a grocery store and we usually know when things are going on sale, however you can NOT PUT UP THE SALE PRICE UP early. Since you have to go by what the tag went and if it rings up “wrong” whatever the price thats what you put in. Thats why cashier has to check the price, 70% of the time either customers picked up an item in the wrong spot, read it wrong, or are trying to rip you off.

    So basically what I’m trying to say that what that manager said was rather stupid. Maybe it’s my imagination but being a manager of a store thats rather small you would know that to not be true.

    Ok I’ve ended that rant. On ward…
    The cashier most likely thought that she was trying to rip her off I don’t blame them since well she didn’t have any paper work. I think what I would have done was gotten my hands on a labtop and brought it over there maybe then she would have gotten her full refund. I would love to hear what would happen if she didn’t and did that.

  39. cashmerewhore says:

    @Jonathan Harford:

    i give you [urban counterfeiters]

    can’t take credit for it, but it’s a gallery of original artist work and the Urbn ripoff. Nothing like selling a fake for MORE than it’s original.

  40. aapril6 says:

    I work at urban outfitters, and the website we use is probably different then the one you see at home. however, if the friend did buy it online, they would have gotten a receipt with the package, also the cashier would call the online store and find out how much they paid for the item and what form of payment they used. The gift givers, instead of ripping off the receipt and giving the gift should either color out the price with a black marker, or use white out. this makes it easier on the cashier to return the item especially if you lose the receipt or the gift receipt. if you didn’t have a receipt then you will only get what the item is worth in stores. if you want though you can print out the page from online and bring that in with you.
    otherwise, place a complaint with corporate or suck it up.

  41. aapril6 says:

    ALSO….the manager CAN change the price! It’s called a “price override”. I’m sorry but the store you were dealing with is full of lazy a-holes. Jusrt bring a receipt or print-out next time. Sometimes our systems don’t catch up with online etc…
    For instance: we get these large packets of “markdowns” every couple months, and so we have to go through the store and markdown the new sale items. However, after doing so, when someone goes to buy the item we just marked down sometimes it still comes up full price when we scan. But if it’s marked down they would still have to sell it to you because thats what it says. It’s called customer service.

  42. Buran says:

    @RvLeshrac: So why are other people saying she had a receipt that they refused to take?

  43. laddibugg says:

    FYI: barnes and nobles is another store that has different online and in-store prices. the stores say it’s becuase the online department has less overhead.

  44. says:

    urban outfitters…making ugly scene kids even uglier since whenever the hell they started

  45. maevro says:

    Funny, I have never had any issues at Urban Outfitters. I even bought my dad a Fred Perry shirt last year and brought it back 3 months later, the tag was ripped off (but I still had it) and they took it back with no issues what so ever.

  46. sandeelou says:

    Urban Outfitter’s online store and brick and mortar store are completely different. There are different buyers for both. Sometimes they have the same items because they tag on to the brick and mortar store orders, but pricing, sales and how the online store is run is not the same. That is why the prices may not be consistent in-store and online.

  47. Prices change from store to store, even. They probably had the bag marked down for their particular store. If she tried another one, she could probably get the $58 back. They change the prices to get rid of excess inventory, so if they still had lot of them, yeah, the price will probably be lower, unless they’ve only had the product out a few days, of course.

  48. Elvisisdead says:

    @mabus: Bullshit. Use one pricing database and replicate it to as many instances as are necessary. It’s not tough, and any DBA who can’t do it isn’t worth what they’re being paid.

  49. parabola101 says:

    Did her friend pay with VIRTUAL money when she purchased the gift? And then have the gull to try & return the merchandise to a brick & mortar?? Maybe this could be the problem?!

  50. loueloui says:

    This annoys me to no end with retailers. Every year it’s the same story- hype up a bunch of crap gifts, squeal about how nobody’s buying anything, and then try every trick in the book to stick the unfortunate recipients with said crappy gifts.

    If they do grudgingly accept this crap merchandise, good luck getting anything for it. The real reason for those after Christmas clearance sales are to say, ‘Well they may have paid $60 for that executive hot cocoa sampler pack but it’s now on sale for $2.99 so that’s what we’ll give you.’

  51. mammalpants says:

    urban outfitters and anthropologie are the same group. my GF found her $35 anthropologie sunglasses at UO for $18. Always check both places for accessories and crappy chinese-made turds before purchasing! also, we recently found UO $35 t-shirts at Nordstrom for 1/2 the price. yowza!

    by the way, UO and Anthro donate a lot of $$$ to the republican party, so if your leftist style is that important, try to remember that the ironic tshirts and skull-screenprinted plates are helping to kill innocent people on the other side of the planet in the name of religion and oil. sorry for being a debbie downer! waaa wahhhhhhhhhh!!!

  52. ianmac47 says:

    iPhone + Safari = Identifying scams

  53. luketheobscure says:

    Not sure if somebody already said it, but there’s always a chance that the room mate was pulling up an old (locally cached) version of the site, which would explain the discrepancy.

  54. RvLeshrac says:


    Dunno, I’m just going by what *she* said.

  55. cestquoi says:

    I actually work for Anthropologie and we have the same inventory/register system as Urban Outfitters and Free People. We even occasionally get our internet and catalogue return invoices on UO paper. Part of the protocol when making an online/catalogue return is to call “Catalogue” to let them know the customer is making a return using the “order number” that is found on the invoice. The Catalogue has all the information necessary to make the proper return (sku number, amount paid, method of payment). Even if you don’t have the invoice, they’re able to look it up using the name and address of the person who made the order.
    Addressing the “secret website” issue… yes, there are sometimes discrepancies between instore systems and online prices but our main priority is customer satisfaction and we always give the customer whichever price is more beneficial to them. There is no “secret website”. Just lazy assholes who work at your store.

  56. Anonymous says:

    i work at urban and i’m a cashier that has been there for almost 2 years and i can tell u that we do not have a secret in store online store. i use it all the time and we use the same exact one that you see at home.
    the only explanation that i can give for this is that when your friend purchased the bag she received a discount that she might have not noticed and when we pulled up her order on our register it showed that your friend actually paid $19 and not $58.