Customers Accuse Sephora Of Banning Shoppers With Asian Surnames

Would Sephora really ban customers who spend thousands of dollars every year with them? Last year, frequent customers say they had their ability to place online orders taken away for buying too much stuff. This year, frequent customers report having their accounts shut down or their ability to place orders restricted. Funny, thing though: all of these customers have e-mail addresses based in China, or Chinese surnames.

There’s a good reason why a makeup retailer would want to cut off its best customers. Yes, it seems counter-intuitive, but there is a potentially lucrative global gray or secondary market for certain makeup items, especially limited-edition products and lines. Think of them as collectibles that you smear on your face that can sell for many times the sticker price on auction sites and/or abroad.

Why would Sephora cut off any customers, let alone Asian customers, right now? This week, there’s a 20% off sale for Sephora customers who spend more than $350 per year, which is a fabulous time to go shopping and boost your profit margin if you’re a reseller. The question for Sephora is this: how can they tell the difference between someone who is reselling and someone who just reapplies eyeshadow a lot?

Angry customers claim that in the last day or so, Sephora has been using geographic and ethnic profiling. Customers who use e-mail providers based in China like qq.com or 163.com say that their orders have been canceled and their accounts deactivated.

On Sephora’s Facebook page, you can see complaints from customers posting from Asia, the United States, and Canada who have one thing in common: Chinese surnames. Styleite took some screen grabs, and there are plenty more still adding themselves.

In a statement, Sephora blamed site issues on international bulk buyers and re-sellers. They did not say that “sounds Asian” was not one of their criteria for deactivating a user’s account, but the company does admit that some accounts were shut down for reselling erroneously.

Our website is incredibly robust and designed to withstand a tremendous amount of volume. What caused the disruption yesterday was a high level of bulk buys and automated accounts for reselling purposes from North America and multiple countries outside the US. The technical difficulties that impacted the site are actively being addressed and our desktop US website is now functioning normally. We are actively working to restore our Canadian, mobile website, and international shipping where applicable. There has been no impact on the security and privacy of our clients’ data.

The reality is that in taking steps to restore website functionality, some of our loyal North American and international clients got temporarily blocked. We understand how frustrating it is and are deeply sorry for the disruption to your shopping experience.

However, in some instances we have, indeed, de-activated accounts due to reselling — a pervasive issue throughout the industry and the world. As part of our ongoing commitment to protecting our clients and our brands, we have identified certain entities who take advantage of promotional opportunities to purchase products in large volume on our website and re-sell them through other channels. After careful consideration, we have deactivated these accounts in order to optimize product availability for the majority of our clients, as well as ensure that consumers are not subject to increased prices or products that are not being handled or stored properly.

If your account was deactivated and you’re a Sephora customer who is VIB level (spending $350 or more per year) you can call the VIB hotline at 877-VIB-ONLY (1-877-842-6659) to sort things out. If you don’t spend that much, or you’re outside the United States, it’s not clear what you’re supposed to do other than contact regular customer service.

PSA: Many Sephora customers with Asian names/registered under Asian domains are locked out of their accounts [Makeup Addiction/Reddit]
Is Sephora Blocking Customers With Asian-Sounding Last Names? [Styleite]