Ulta Has Secret Limits On Clearance Items, Won’t Sell Me 27 Hair Straighteners

No hair iron for you!

No hair iron for you!

Courtney was on a mission. It’s her job to find things for people at low prices, and then buy them in large quantities. For example, one day she learned that beauty chain Ulta had Big Chi Digital Hair Irons, which usually cost $169.99, on clearance for $49.99. Score! One of her clients wanted these, and there were twenty-seven of them in stock. Now, “Clearance” should mean that the store is trying to clear out stock, and should be happy if someone comes along and scoops up everything on the shelf. Right? Not at Ulta. They’d rather not sell items at all than sell them to Courtney by the cartful.

We pick up the story at one of the many Ulta stores in her area, as she’s checking out whether the clearance sale is on at this particular store.

I purchased one to check the price since this store didn’t have them marked as clearance (Ulta apparently prices uniformly across all stores). It was the right price so I took it out to the car to check my purchasing account balance and then headed back into the store and took all but two off the shelf heading confidently up to the counter to make my purchase. The manager was checking out another customer and blithely stated that there was a limit of four. I was taken aback since I had not encountered this at any other store. I just said ok, I’ll take four.

I explained what had happened in the store to my husband when I took my four irons out to the car. He then went into the store ready to do battle. When he walked in, the manager was openly talking about me where other customers could hear and was checking to see if I had mentioned purchasing the item from any other stores. My husband at this point asked the manager to show him where a limit on item quantity was stated. He was told that they reserved the right to limit quantity on any item. After some further exchange, they finally sold him four additional irons, gave him the customer service number and the manager gave him her name. As an added bonus, they told him that the store that had five irons on hold for us would no longer sell them to us since we had reached our limit.

I called customer service when my husband returned to the car and was essentially told that they could not override the store but that they would forward a complaint to the district manager. I asked about the other five irons that I had reserved at the other store and was told that I should be able to get them at the store since each one makes their own decisions. We drove 45 minutes with a cranky toddler in traffic to get over to the next store only to be told “you were told at the last store that you had reached your limit and that we won’t sell them to you.” I fought back this time and told her that they were clearance items, that there shouldn’t be a limit on items that they are trying to get rid of. She responded something about limiting all of their items, including their liters etc. I then turned to the other customers waiting in line and asked if they had ever heard of a company not wanting to sell their clearance items to a customer. At this point the manager told me to leave the store, that they did not have to put up with me. As I walked out I told her that I was going to leave a very negative review for the store and she simply responded that that was fine.

I understand a company wanting to limit items that they sell every day in the normal course of business and or on sale so that they have enough for the bulk of their customers, but when you put a product on clearance, that usually means you aren’t selling it. Hence you are trying to clear it out for whatever reason. I now know from my own research that Ulta has policies about product being purchased for normal personal use, however none of that was explained to me when they were dealing with me at the store. I am irate at the way I was treated by both store managers and that one has the power to tell another not to sell a product to me at the price they have it marked at. I was not using coupons or any other discount, nor did I ask for any additional discount. I have never been ordered out of a store. Apparently Ulta can afford to turn down large sales because I was prepared to drop over $1300 at the first store and over $250 at the second.

Another call to customer service was less than satisfying and I have yet to hear from the [redacted] district manager. I have a feeling that I won’t either as the manager at the [redacted] store said she called him and confirmed that they would only sell me four per day.

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