Loyal Sephora Customers Unhappy With Company’s Non-Apology For Unrewarding Rewards Promo

Image courtesy of (Eric Wüstenhagen)

Yesterday was a special event for loyal customers of makeup retailer Sephora who have accumulated points in the retailer’s loyalty program, where unusually fabulous rewards came out. The company hyped the event for days in e-mails and on its social media pages, then was apparently surprised when a large number of customers were ready to pounce on the rewards, and most of them left disappointed. Update: Sephora has promised to do something for these customers, but can’t say what and will get back to them in two weeks. Or in September.

In Sephora’s rewards program, generally one dollar spent equals one rewards program point. Sometimes customer service awards extra points for taking surveys or to placate unhappy customers. For the past week, they offered point multipliers ranging from double to quadruple depending on which reward “tier” a customer had reached.

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The company did call the supply of rewards “severely limited,” but didn’t quantify what that meant.

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“Epic Rewards” means unusually fabulous rewards for customers with 1,000 to 10,000 points. Some were worth more than the normal cash value of a reward customers might receive for that many points, like a trip to Paris to visit the Lancôme factory available to people with 10,000 points. (You can view a full list of the rewards available here.)

Simply having 10,000 points wasn’t enough to get someone that reward. It was more like a raffle or a sweepstakes, yet customers understood the items to be something that they could “earn” by racking up points.

E-mails pushed this as an opportunity to boost your points balance before Epic Rewards came out. Some customers did, some didn’t, but plenty were excited about the event. What Sephora never said was how many of each item was available. Were beauty collectors earning points for an exciting promotion, or effectively buying raffle tickets?

Customers were told only that the rewards would be available at some point during the business day, Pacific time, on Monday, August 10th. Customers report having the page ready on their computers or phones and their refreshing fingers primed. Finally, it happened around noon Pacific time.

Then things began to go wrong: even customers who were able to scoop up the items they wanted and put them in their carts weren’t able to make it to checkout, no matter how quickly they did so. Allyson’s experience trying to nab a special palette of Yves Saint-Laurent eyeshadows was typical:

I refreshed and refreshed the screen randomly throughout the day and around 2:50PM ET i was magically able to add the item to my cart (I already had hair ties added as not to be an issue when checking out). I made it past the first checkout page, the billing address confirmation, and hit the last checkout button when the screen refreshed and said, “items in your cart are no longer available).

I went back to the [2,000 point] reward page and selected another item, but all items at this time were crossed out for selection. My guess on total time was under 1 minute (to be fair I did not try for any of the 1K rewards).

Going after lesser rewards may not have helped, as other customers learned.

Now, some cynics may complain that the problem here is that customers are angry because they didn’t get items that were effectively offered in a raffle. That’s true, but the event was heavily marketed, and not presented as a raffle. The customers had the wacky idea that spending thousands of dollars at a luxury retailer should make them valuable customers or something.

Sephora still hasn’t made any public statements about the issue, and they haven’t responded to a query from Consumerist.

“Telling customers the event will occur during business hours is not good enough,” wrote Allyson, the customer who sought eyeshadows and failed. “[Sephora] should have clearly communicated the time the event was going to start. Some people had been awake since midnight because the last time the rewards were offered it was around 4AM.”

Sephora whipped dedicated customers up into a frenzy, and is responding to their frustration with offers of reward points. Why would they want more points?

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Customers, for their part, have responded by setting up a Facebook war room, signing online petitions, and returning their purchases made in order to rack up more points shortly before the rewards event.

UPDATE: Sephora has issued a statement about the Epic Rewards event, asking customers who didn’t get their desired rewards to write in, but not specifying yet what they’ll receive.

Sephora is committed to offering our valued Beauty Insiders exceptional rewards to thank them for their loyalty and for being part of our community. Yesterday we held an Epic Rewards promotion, and while we have held similar promotions in the past, yesterday’s promotion was the largest number of Epic Rewards we have made available to date.

Despite our best efforts to predict the response, demand was overwhelming, resulting in our being out of stock very quickly. We deeply regret this and apologize to our Beauty Insider clients who did not get a chance to participate.

At Sephora our first and foremost priority is to give our clients an exciting and fulfilling shopping experience. Those Beauty Insiders who were unable to get one of our limited quantity Epic Rewards, please email us by Tuesday, August 25, 2015, to epicrewards@sephora.com and include your Beauty Insider account number or email address associated with your account.

Beyond that, please know that we are committed to learning from this experience. Thank you for your ongoing support. We greatly appreciate you.

Sephora’s Epic Fail [Facebook Group]
EPIC REWARDS – VALUES & DISCUSSION (AVAILABLE AUGUST 10TH 2015) [Beauty Talk]