Some Sephora Customers Banned from Online Shopping

This is the worst time of year for beauty retailer Sephora to make it difficult for its shoppers to buy their products, but that is exactly what is happening. Some shoppers in Sephora’s VIB Rouge customer loyalty program – dedicated to customers who spend at least $1,000 per year – have been banned from online purchases. On beauty blogs, the VIB Rouge customers report that banned them from making purchases after they placed too many orders. I am not sure what caused Sephora’s web site to cut off some VIB Rouge shoppers, but I suspect that it’s an automatic system designed to prevent card fraud, flagging customers who make multiple purchases, place orders that are too high, or have orders shipped to various billing addresses. However, Sephora must act immediately to avoid the potential public relations nightmare that this situation creates – especially during the lucrative holiday shopping season. The retailer must have policies in place allowing shoppers who are wrongly flagged to then purchase their products. That is not what happened with one VIB Rouge customer, who wrote on a forum at “I just found out last week that I can NOT place any orders online at I kept getting the message that my payment could not be confirmed and my order has been cancelled.” What’s worse, the shopper has not made purchases since, and has not had the original problem resolved. “I called and talked with three customer service reps in two days and they were NO HELP at all. They kept telling me to read the terms of use,” she wrote. Sephora’s VIB Rouge terms of use states: “Sephora may, in its sole discretion alter, limit, or modify the VIB Rouge program rules, regulations, benefits, eligibility for membership, or any other feature of the VIB Rouge program or may terminate the VIB Rouge program at any time…” A Sephora customer explained to Consumerist, which was concerned about VIB Rouge shoppers being banned, how shoppers could innocently place multiple orders or large orders in one day. The shopper placed an order for herself, a gift order for her sister, and a third order when a sale item was re-stocked. “Finally, after lying in bed for a few minutes, I suddenly thought of my friend’s daughter who’s a nail polish fanatic and would certainly love some polish for Christmas,” she told Consumerist. Macy’s made similar news this summer, when the retailer told a shopper she could only buy a certain number of cosmetic products or fragrances. She tried to order six Estee Lauder lipsticks because they were unavailable on Estee Lauder’s web site in the color she wanted. “Quantities of certain items may be restricted for orders placed online at Your activity on our site indicates that you are trying to circumvent our restrictions by submitting multiple orders. This makes it difficult for us to maintain a mutually satisfactory relationship, and we recommend you pursue other resources should you wish to make these types of purchases,” Macy’s Customer Service department wrote in a letter to the shopper. Really? I realize that these policies are in place to prevent diversion, but there has got to be a better way for internet retailers to deal with legitimate, loyal customers. I realize this may be asking too much for mega-retailers such as Macy’s and Sephora, but communication should be much more individualized in cases like these. As an online shopper, if I received a personalized email or – better yet – a phone call from a customer service representative explaining why my order had been cancelled, I would be much more receptive. In this case, the customer service agent could explain what I need to do to ensure my transaction goes through, and help me make the purchase right then and there.