Elizabeth Arden Sends Out Cheaper Item, Hopes No One Notices

Lauren doesn’t normally spend a lot of money on makeup, and was excited to spot a seemingly-great promotion in our Morning Deals last month. Spend $65 on Elizabeth Arden cosmetics, and get a fabulous case stuffed full of eyeshadows, lipsticks, and brushes, with a stated total value of $350. (Makeup deal connoisseurs know that this isn’t quite true since the items in the kit were never for retail sale in the first place, but it’s still some fine face paint.) She placed the order, but when it arrived learned that the deal had been so popular that Elizabeth Arden had run out of the original gift cases. Did they contact her, cancel the order, or substitute something else of equal value? Nope. They subbed in a lower-value gift case, apparently hoping that customers wouldn’t notice.

Hi there! I’m a big fan of the site and regularly take advantage of some of your morning deals. I thought that you might want to reconsider posting deals from Elizabeth Arden, as I have learned that they will substitute items of lesser value if they run out of what they are offering.

Last week, I saw a coupon code you posted for Elizabeth Arden, which was for a free 33-piece gift ($350 value) with a purchase of $65 or more. Not being someone who can regularly splurge on make-up, it was a tempting deal to replace my current collection of odds and ends!

I received my order today, and was disappointed to see that they had replaced the free set that was advertised with one of considerably lesser value. It is a 29-piece set with different/smaller items than were advertised. The original set was supposed to include a case and a variety of higher quality items (skincare items as well as makeup, larger compacts and brushes). The sticker on the upper right hand corner of the box I received reads, “38.50 with any 24.50 Elizabeth Arden purchase. Over 250.00 value.” That’s a full $100 difference off of the value they advertised!

I spoke with a customer service representative who said that I could return it if I am not satisfied, and that they substituted this gift because they ran out of the other one.

I told her I thought it was a bait-and-switch, and it seems to me that they are hoping that the consumer doesn’t notice the differences in quality between what was advertised and what was shipped. They could have at least notified me of the substitution and given me the chance to cancel the order. Now instead I have to go through the hassle of returning an item that I didn’t order. This is my first experience with the company, and I suppose it will be my last!

Thanks for listening!

Based on the Federal Trade Commission’s definition of “Bait and Switch,” this isn’t quite a bait and switch situation. It certainly is a switch, though. Perhaps even a “switcheroo.”

The original coupon, before it was aggregated to deal sites, may have had a disclaimer that another item would be substituted if the company ran out of the original 33-piece set. But we’re not seeing that on the ads: here’s one version of it.


Canceling Orders Over A Pricing Error Is Not The Same As Bait-And-Switch
What Is The “Bait and Switch” And When Is It Illegal?


Edit Your Comment

  1. lvixen says:

    Though it’s not a bait and switch, it’s still not right. They should have notified her or given her something worth MORE. Less is never a good idea.

    • Don't Bother says:

      It’s amazing when companies, given wonderful chances of endearing a costumer to a brand, blow it because they assume the consumer won’t notice/is too stupid to care.

      They had three choices, from what I can tell. One, alert the OP of the order and ask how the OP what she would want (another product of similar value? a cheaper one? wait until they get more sets?). Two, give the OP something of lesser value hoping no one notices. Three, the one you suggest, give her something of greater value.

      Whoever was handling the orders had to go the low road, when they could have had a costumer for life… Why do companies continue to shoot themselves in the foot like this?

    • What happened to all the bad Kung Fu Movies? says:

      I agree. Usually those disclaimers read that supplies are limited and that they have the right to substitute other items of an “equal or greater” value. I am not sure that I would go through the hassle of returning the free gift to get the one promised, but I would just choose not to shop at that website anymore.

  2. winstonthorne says:

    Legal? Probably, because it was a “free gift” rather than an item she purchased. Totally not Kosher though – it’s like saying:

    “Congratulations, you won a brand new Corvette! Oh shit, my bad, we’re all out of Corvettes. Here’s a Hyundai Accent.”

  3. Major Tom Coming Home says:

    I wonder if there was a weasel escape clause: “Gift Subject to Change.” “Program may be modified or cancelled at any time.” Not much you could do in that circumstance other than buying from a different company in the future.

  4. mauispiderweb says:

    The few times I went for things like this, it was mainly because of the bag. They should have contacted the customer to let her know they ran out of the bag, included a photo of the substitute bag, and let her make the decision.

  5. Thyme for an edit button says:

    They should have sent her something better, not something worse. Bad form.

  6. mysterydate98 says:

    Is she returning the ‘free’ gift? Why?

    I don’t agree with the actions of the company but not sure why she feels compelled to go through the hassle of returning something she didn’t pay for (technically).

    • Don't Bother says:

      I was thinking the same as well. Even if she did feel the need, the costumer service rep should have told her to keep as an apology.

    • slightlyjaded says:

      She’s returning the entire order. The whole reason she spent $65 (or more) with this company was to take advantage of the free gift. If they had advertised the lower-tier kit, she wouldn’t have bought the makeup from them in the first place.

  7. scurvycapn says:

    Kind of reminds me of a townhouse I rented long ago. The complex’s deal at the time was a free month ($725 value) and a free gift worth at least $299!

    I was in the leasing office one day and heard them an employee talking about how she wishes she could get one of the PS2’s that they were giving out. That sounded like a great gift to me. However, weeks later when we finally get our gift, it was a DVD player purchased from the local Target. I checked the price and it was $140. That’s not quite “at least $299.”

    I called to complain and got a call back from the manager. She thought we were being whiny and said that it was a free gift “up to $299.” I pointed out that it said “at least” and saying “up to” would be silly as you could make up any ceiling amount and just give a cheapo gift. Eventually she asked what I thought they needed to do to make up for it and I mentioned hearing the PS2 comments which actually was priced at $299.

    We ended up getting a PS2. I hate complaining about stuff like that, but they were trying to pull a fast one on us and seeing as we signed a lease with them, they better honor it.

  8. Kryndis says:

    I don’t suppose it was sent by USPS? If so I’d return the makeup she paid for and keep the free gift as an unordered, unrequested item that arrived in the mail.

  9. katarzyna says:

    When Estee Lauder does this, there’s usually a “while supplies last” disclaimer.

  10. conquestofbread says:

    She complains that the kit contains smaller items than advertised — what was she expecting, a case full of full-size cosmetics? I can never remember receiving full-size items, always decent size samples.

    I think all she’s really “owed” is a few more items, so she gets the same amount of stuff as the gift package in the ad. I don’t think it’s worth complaining about the case itself, or the fact that there are different items inside.

    Also, you can’t get hung up on the advertised value of the gift, because it’s fictional and inflated. They don’t sell the bonus gift on it’s own, and they inflate the dollar value as a sales tactic.

  11. conquestofbread says:

    ALSO — I disagree with the OP and anybody who thinks the company should have called her first to let her know the free gift wouldn’t be the same.

    She didn’t order a case of cosmetics filled with specific items. She ordered X, Y, and Z in order to qualify for a free gift.

    I think all they were really required to do was send a comparable gift — one with at least the same number of items as advertised.

    • Such an Interesting Monster says:

      Yeah, I’m with you, but it seems the entitlement brigade is out in force today.

  12. tralfaz says:

    It’s not a “gift” if you have to buy something. It’s an “incentive”.

    gift /gift/ “A thing given willingly to someone without payment; a present.”

    in‚Ä¢cent‚Ä¢tive /in’sentiv/ “A thing that motivates or encourages one to do something.”

  13. RueLaLaLa says:

    So what exactly did she receive? Because she claims she should have received skin care items, but I don’t see any skin care items in the original advertisement either (unless you count make up remover, which I don’t). She still got 29 items free, and was offered to option to return it. It’s not such a big hassle to stick some tape on the box to reseal it, put the return label and put it on the porch for your mail carrier to pick up.

  14. scoosdad says:

    I see that they count the compact with 12 different eye shadow shades inside it as 12 of their 33 piece count. I would count that as one.

    Slimy all around.

    • caradrake says:

      I was thinking that it looked like the picture was lacking on stuff. That is a little slimy.

      It reminds me of tupperware type advertising of “30 pieces!” where they are counting the lids. I consider the lids a given when buying new containers, I don’t like packaging that tries to say they’ve got more than the competitor.

  15. Wachusett says:

    If they mailed her something that she didn’t order — isn’t it now hers for free? While they still owe her the original gift?

    It doesn’t seem reasonable for them to expect her to do extra work. (Unless there was some substitution allowed in the ad, like the article says there might have been.)