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“Made to Look New” Cosmetics Shouldn’t be a ‘Thing,’ Ulta

— March 8, 2019

A Chicago judge has given the go-ahead to a class-action filed on behalf of Ulta customers claiming the company sold used cosmetics.

Ulta Beauty is taking some serious heat for selling “made to look new” cosmetics after allegations were made by a former employee.  In fact, a judge recently ruled that a class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of consumers in eighteen states can proceed.  The suit is seeking an unspecified amount of damages.

The jaw-dropping rumor began to spread after a January 2018 tweet posted by the ex-employee claimed whenever products were returned, they were encouraged by higher-ups to reseal or repackage them to look new and place them on the shelves for sale.  The allegations were specific to one store location at the time and a lawsuit was initially filed by a California woman, Kimberley Laura Smith-Brown.  Since then, 21 more Ulta customers have joined the class-action nationwide.

A former manager in Ohio who wishes to remain anonymous confirmed he often felt pressured to sell returned products. “The company always had a percentage they wanted you to stay below weekly in what we damaged,” he said. “We would literally get lectured by our boss on our conference calls if our stores were over.”

"Made to Look New" Cosmetics Shouldn't be a 'Thing,' Ulta
Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash

Another former employee claimed it was common practice to place used hair and skin care products back on the shelf. “If there was 80% or more left in the bottle, we’d put it back on the shelf,” the employee said.

And yet another ex-employee said no used cosmetics were ever resold at her store, but unused cosmetics that were returned were placed back on the floor to resell.  “As long as it wasn’t used and looked ‘sellable,’ they would put product back on the shelf,” she said.

Chicago-based Judge Jorge Alonso, appointed by former U.S. president Barack Obama, dismissed Ulta’s argument that the claims were “too vague and based on allegations from a just a handful of employees and social media posts.”  He wrote that “consumers can’t be expected to know the details of the company’s practices,” adding, “The deception in this case stems from Ulta’s behind-the-scenes inventory management, rather than from what happened at the cash register.”

Alonso agreed with Ulta that consumers can’t claim harm if “they purchased products that were new and unused,” since “there was no defect or risk of harm in the products they purchased, and therefore no overpayment or injury.”

In response, Ulta said it was pleased with the ruling.  A company spokesperson, Karen Twigg May, said, “We remain confident in the company’s position on the remaining claims, which we continue to believe are without merit.”

Prior to the judgment, Ulta CEO Mary Dillon had outwardly denied the allegations during a call discussing the company’s financial results.  However, she said the company was reinforcing employee training for the appropriate handling of any returns.  The company issued a statement that reads:

“Ulta Beauty’s policies and practices do not allow the resale of used, damaged or expired products.  As the nation’s largest beauty retailer, we take protecting the integrity of the products we sell very seriously.  Based on our review of these allegations, we are confident that our stores uphold our policies and practices.  Assertions to the contrary are inconsistent with what we stand for.  Our growth and success continues to be built on delivering the highest quality products and the best guest experience in-store and online.  We remain unwavering in our commitment to providing the exceptional experience our guests have come to expect from us.”


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