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