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Why Ulta.com is doomed for failure: They could learn from Zappos
Posted by on
ROMEOVILLE, ILLINOIS -- The following is the letter I sent directly to the senior management at Ulta.com, Chuck Rubin (crubin@ulta.com)

I was an Ulta customer until today. Briefly, on Friday I ordered a 100 dollar gift card for my daughter's 20th birthday tomorrow. I paid for expedited shipping because I had to be sure it arrived on time. My daughter is a college student on her own and too far away and Ulta is, or was, a favorite of hers. The gift card was meant to mark a special birthday at a special time in her life. She never received it.

I am not sure if you realize that your products aren't just functional, they sometimes carry weightier significance and that was certainly the case for this particular purchase. Nor am I sure you how important it is that some orders arrive on time, in the case of birthdays and other special events. (What is the point of offering expedited shipping?)

I called Ulta last night, expressed my situation and received a wooden response. I asked to speak with a supervisor and was told that would be impossible. I called again this morning since there is still time to make this right--the birthday is tomorrow and we're only talking about a simple gift card that can easily be slipped into an envelope and shipped overnight. The hold wait was so long that I actually had the time to Google "Ulta complaints" and read through hundreds of comments from unhappy customers and many of these complaints were strikingly similar to my own. Expedited shipping fees. Still nothing. No tracking available for gift cards. Orders that remained in the purgatory of "still processing." Terrible customer service.

And as I waited on hold, I reflected on the remarkable customer service difference between Ulta and Zappos, a company so successful that its founder teaches customer service to other companies and organizations. (It should go without saying that Ulta might consider inviting him to corporate offices for a seminar. Or two.) I also reflected on what impact it might have if Ulta investors, or prospective investors, could read through printed out pages and pages of the complaints I found online.

Eventually, someone picked up my call, but not until the muzak was interrupted by a recorded voice suggesting I download that same unbearable muzak. That's right: after waiting on hold interminably, you folks then had the chutzpah to hawk your own muzak. Seriously?

Finally, a CSR got on the line and tried, given extremely limited resources, to help me. I could hear her shuffling through scripts while I attempted to explain the urgency and uniqueness of my situation...sick daughter... birthday tomorrow...expedited shipping... And then, unfortunately, I began to cry. If you're a father you may know the stress of a sick child. I couldn't help myself. I apologized. To her credit, she tried to console me. But she, too, had limited resources available to her. She said she would send my request to "corporate" marked urgent/critical. And she told me that things really do get better with time, and wished me luck with my daughter.

So what's left for me to do? Pray that by some miracle my request makes it through the layers of bureaucracy and a girl who turns 20 tomorrow gets the birthday gift I promised her. I can also search for the email of the head of Ulta and hope this letter actually reaches him. My advice to other Ulta customers. Don't order anything online.
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User Replies:
Skye on 08/03/2011:
Since you expedited your shipping, did you by any chance get a tracking number from them so that you could track this order?

arghhhh2011 on 08/03/2011:
Nope. Apparently they do not provide tracking numbers for gift cards! Corporate policy.
Kurizumaru on 08/04/2011:
I hope you'll let us know if her gift card gets to her on time.

I'm sorry she's sick and Happy 20th Birthday to her!
Red Crayon on 12/31/2011:
Thank you for your story. I just had a similarly disappointing Ulta story and I was glad to find Mr. Rubin's email address in your story. I found your story while searching for his email address. We'll see what happens. I hope you had a good outcome.
Rebecca on 12/09/2012:
I had no idea until I ordered that Ulta online was so bad. I love my store and usually find what I want there, but they were sold out and I wanted to use points online. Big mistake. I might or might not get my items before 2013.
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Products Returned to Ulta for Refund but None Given
Posted by on
Rating: 1/51
I ordered several items via Ulta.com, but due to the lack of quality I returned quite a few back. Upon realizing that they had never issued a refund to my credit card account I contacted Ulta via email. I even included a copy of the UPS delivery receipt which shows that the items were received and signed for by an Ulta representative Their reply back to me was that they are sorry but it has been too long. How is that possible that a company can have my money and get their products back but then tell me that there is nothing they can do to rectify the fact that they did not issue a refund to me.
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DebtorBasher on 01/01/2013:
How long was it from the time you received the items to the time you returned them? Do they require a RMA before returning?
At Your Service on 01/01/2013:
I had the exact same questions as DB. Before you sent back these items, did you contact them and receive permission to return the items with an RMA (Return Merchandise Authorization) number? When was the RMA number issued and when was the shipment sent back?
Susan on 01/01/2013:
According to their website returns must be made within 60 days and that customers are to allow 30 days after said return to receive their refund. If the return is made after 60 days of purchase the refund will be made in the form of a gift card and the gift card will be issued within 60 days of receipt of the return.
madconsumer on 01/01/2013:
very helpful review, and voted as such!!
trmn8r on 01/02/2013:
I agree with the questions above - there is more information needed.
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Poor Customer Service - Bad Experience on 10/19/2008
Posted by on
FREDERICKSBURG, VIRGINIA -- Me and my daughter visited Ulta Store #164 in Fredericksburg, VA on 10/19/08. I purchased two hair ties for my hair. They rang up 1-penny. The cashier went to another cashier and told asked her, Is this right? She responded "She, I guess so". I was happy about the price, so when I purchased those and went to get others to purchase them. When the cashier rang me up, she began to get upset, because everything was ringing up a 1 penny. She said, "I can't believe this, I just bought one of these for my hair at Walmart last week and it was 7 dollars". She acted upset that I was getting a deal. So she said, I need to call the manager because this can't be right. She called the manager and the manager used hand held price checking devise, it also said 1 cent on the items. At this time, I was beginning to see that she didn't want me to get a deal. So she called another manager over and she said I need to call my manager, who wasn't there. She got on the phone and hung up by saying, No, you cannot have the merchandise for what they were ringing up for. She was rude and not friendly about the situation at all. I explained to her that I already had previously purchased similar types of items get a few seconds ago. She didn't want to here it and was very rude. So I left, not very happy. I get to the car and my daughter was upset because she had returned a flat Iron that cost $104.00 dollars. Her receipt said returned $94.00 dollars, they had left out the taxes of $5.00 dollars. So I returned into the store and requested them to correct the return. The cashier did the correction and as I was leaving I saw/heard the previous manager so to the cashier and say what was that all about. She had a nasty look on her face and it wasn't very professional. I turned to her and said, that's not very customer orientated and she told me, I wasn't talking about you, in a rude response. The people in that store need serious customer service training.
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Anonymous on 10/20/2008:

Wait...is this a serious post?
DebtorBasher on 10/20/2008:
What's wrong with them doing a price check?
What about these gas stations have had errors on their pricing and sold gas for .34 per gallon instead of $3.40 per gallon? Were they to continue selling it at that price or check it and correct it? This store was not wrong for checking the price before selling more to you...you're just upset because you couldn't take them for more. You wanted to buy TWO and you did...when you found out there was an obvious error, you tried to take advantage of it and buy more. Nothing wrong with that if it was the correct sale price, but they told you it was an error, and they were right in not selling more at that price with they were told by another manager on the phone that it was wrong.
Anonymous on 10/20/2008:
And you need some serious honesty training. Why does everyone think that an obvious error in the store computer entitles them to steal merchandise from a store?
old fart on 10/20/2008:
If I understand it rightly, if the article is priced wrong, they must sell ONE item at that price and then are entitled to charge the correct price after..
moneybags on 10/20/2008:
Old F, you're right. In many of these stores, Dollar General, Steinmart,etc., Prior season merchandise that doesn't sell on sale or clearance is to be marked "out of stock" and shipped off somewhere. If something is missed, it usually rings up a penny.
spiderman2 on 10/20/2008:
Did they even have to give her anything for a penny. I don't think the price on the item was one cent, but that was just how the computer was ringing things up. I wish this Op was just joking, but I guess there are all kinds of people in this world.
Amydawn0788 on 04/29/2009:
I agree with some of your posts but if you imagined yourself in the same situation with your daughter then I'm sure you'd be very embarrassed for something you had no control over and you'd feel the same way she does.
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