Musings of a Muse

A Blog of Musings from a Cosmetic Whore

Jun 18, 2009

Musings of the Day: Return It? Maybe Not!

The return policy with in the USA on cosmetics, makeup items, bath and body products, very lean and gracious. Many stores, particularly Sephora, allow easy, fuss free returns. Even QVC has a lovely return policy on many cosmetic items. Even used items are given a free pass for a drama free exchange! Most times a new item is available for you, money back, a credit of some sort, or full refund to your credit is given. This is a policy that many makeup lovers have enjoyed and embraced for a long time now.

This isn't to say that many companies are as gracious. Quite a few counters do give a fair bit of drama to exchange used cosmetic items but with a receipt and a good attitude you should get your way!

The world as we know it has changed considerably after the collapse of our economy and what was once taken for granted is now not as readily available and at your disposable. As the economy continues on it's high and low track stores have begun changing their policies and even a faint whisper and rumor has arisen about Sephora's exchange policy.

I'm sure you remember the day when opening up a box of software and easily returning it because Winblows was being terribly whiny about installing it wasn't a problem at all. I recall Staples smiling friendly like and giving me a full refund. Within that time frame much has changed. Software is exchanged now but only for the same title (absurd if you think about it as if it's crashing on install it's crashing! How can that be helped?) and electronics are occasionally exchanged but with a 15-20% markdown on the original price.

So I ask...what if....your favorite counter, your favorite store, your favorite brand of cosmetics stopped offering credits and refunds on used cosmetics? How would you deal with it? We are a spoiled nation and we take for granted that bright red lipstick that looked fab under the glaring lights in the store can easily be exchanged for money back since it's looking rather obscene in the daylight on our lips.

What if you were stuck with that red lipstick? Without any option to return?

What would you do?

Check below for my answer!

I have two replies to this Musing. One, would be I can understand where these companies are coming from. They have to be losing millions of dollars a week due to chronic returners. Believe me these people exist. I'm not necessarily a chronic returner but I tend to change my mind alot. But where as I normally sell off or swap an item I hate, someone else isn't as gracious. They are in shop, right away, returning for money back or a new item, etc.....When I'm at Sephora I'll see people with big bags of items they are returning, this is rather obscene and could be seen as taking advantage of the system. Granted, if something doesn't work or you hate it by all means return it but do make a smart choice prior to leaving the store that the item you have in your hand is something you want. Don't go home, proceed to smear it all over your lips, and demand a refund a year later. Be gracious and respectable when it comes to returns otherwise we could be in a similar situation as European and Asian countries where returning makeup new or used is unheard of.

On the other side the idea of taking away my privilege to return an item for another item or for my money back is something I value. Sephora's exchange policy is incredible! It's one of the best reasons to shop at Sephora, a simple, mess free return. They even offer free shipping back from their online shop, unheard of on most online stores. It terrifies me that larger stores, such as Sephora, would consider possibly taking away this valued policy!

I do think that everyone should be entitled to a return on occasion as we do make mistakes here and there! Do remember to not take advantage of the system because we seriously don't want to wake up one day in a world where returning makeup or getting a refund doesn't exist!

What's your take?

Tell it!

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Anonymous Jessie said...

I feel what your saying on this, we've all seen chronic return abusers BUT it would sick terribly for the rest of us if that privilege was taken away.For me, especially with high-end items, I think hard about dropping the $$$.
I also swap my older, unloved items away. Then I get to love someone else's stuff & they get mine =) See, love all around!
But- what if a product broke you out or gave you a reaction? You should be able to return those babies no matter what.

June 19, 2009 at 2:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Honestly, I have ever returned one piece of makeup but I used to work in the retail beauty industry and s many people take advantage of the system. It never bothered me if someone came in with the receipt and told me that the color wasn't working and asked if I could help them pick out another. But you are so right that people return huge bags of stuff and don't think about what they buy before they actually buy it.

So as to not return many products...I force myself to read reviews on MUA/research it in boards and blogs. Then I go to the store and try it once but I don't buy it the first time. I wear the color all day then make my decision and go back in a week.

June 19, 2009 at 7:33 AM  
Blogger Sarah said...

"Be gracious and respectable when it comes to returns otherwise we could be in a similar situation as European and Asian countries where returning makeup new or used is unheard of."

Yes, Don't take advantage of it because your lenient return policies are NON EXISTENT here!!! (New Zealand). You wouldn't even dream of taking something back if the packaging is even opened. If I want to make a considerable investment in a product I'm not sure about I have to do extensive research into product reviews, swatches and lots of testing before I buy because I know that once I hand my money over and open the product, there is no way I'll be able to return it, ever! (Unless there is damage to the item prior to purchase etc etc)

June 19, 2009 at 7:54 AM  
Blogger the Muse said...

lol jessie. me too. cosmetic lovin' is the best kind :-D if it doesn't work the best thing is swappin' it away to someone who will love and appreciate it. Makes me feel pretty good!

absolutely! If it's reacting badly with your skin I think the option should be available to return especially if it's an item you really wanted to love but can't due to picky skin problems!

June 19, 2009 at 9:20 AM  
Blogger the Muse said...

hi anonymous!

I tend to do spontaneous buying but I don't bother returning it all after using it or destroying it. I've seen this a plenty and it's rather disturbing. I think people somehow have the mentality that makeup companies are made of money but in reality they are threatening the very items they love into bankruptcy!

Your willpower is incredible :-D Normally I read the review and swatch and automatically buy right away. If I end up hating it, it normally heads to off to be swapped to a lover. I've always wished I could just stop a sec and ask myself do I really need this? but mostly I'm so obsessed I end up purchasing before fully deciding! sad!

June 19, 2009 at 9:22 AM  
Blogger the Muse said...


that's just terrible. I've even heard some people say that occasionally they have gotten a broken powder or something that wasn't their fault and even THAN they wouldn't be able to return it at the counter :(

June 19, 2009 at 9:23 AM  
Anonymous MandyP said...

I think if many stores in the US had as generous a sample policy as many Asian stores and brands, there might be fewer returns, Stateside. I probably am one of those chronic returners (though to be fair, I probably only return 1 out of 4 beauty purchases), as I have very sensitive skin and never know how a product will react on my skin lips and eyes until I've worn it, and often times I think chronic returners are part-and-parcel of the retail experience; if you want to a sell a greater volume of goods in the US, you have to have either a decent return policy or a VERY generous sample program, otherwise customers will never be willing to take the leap and make a purchase. It's part of the reason I love love LOVE Sephora and am very loyal to it.

As I recall, Neiman's was particularly hassle free the last time I tried to return over there, too.

Nordstrom is another story altogether. I tried to make a return at Nordstrom yesterday, only to be told I needed to produce my license or I would only be given store credit. 'Um, ACTUALLY I paid in cash, don't know if I have my license on me and I wasn't asked for my license when purchasing your product, so why am I being asked for it now?' I inquired. The sales idiot told me that it was company policy, but then I pointed out that the return policy was not disclosed on either the receipt, the entrance to the store or at the point-of-sale counter, contrary to state law. HQ is getting a phone call later today.

June 19, 2009 at 9:39 AM  
Anonymous Steph said...

I was in Sephora yesterday and the sales associate said that there was going to be a new return policy. Sounded like they were no longer going to be so lenient about doing returns without receipts.

June 19, 2009 at 9:40 AM  
Blogger the Muse said...

hi steph

I noticed the scores are getting stricter and stricter with returns. One of my stores won't return and item that's been used so already it's beginning to go downhill! :(

June 19, 2009 at 9:48 AM  
Blogger the Muse said...

hi mandy!

How are you me love? Fact is samples are available just a bit stingy to get one if you aren't buying. I mean if I go to Chanel or Bobbi or anywhere and ask kindly for a sample of skincare etc...they aren't so giving if I am not making a $50-$60 purchase. If I buy something they shower me with samples but if I'm just browsing no way no how.

naa you aren't. Chronic I mean people that are returning ridiculous bags of items at a time.

Sephora, if anything, is incredible about returns. I'll diss them a blue streak about their shabby makeup items but returns, customer service online (not in store), and just the general experience of having so much at my fingertips makes them tops in my books.

Nope, Neiman's, as long as I've been shopping it, has always been a pain in the butt. Like Nordie's it's been a driver's license experience. They obviously do this for a reason because they are tracking your returns.

that's the bad thing about luxury stores....they almost never post what their return policy is. Saks used to have that problem!


June 19, 2009 at 9:53 AM  
Blogger Phyrra said...

I've only ever returned makeup twice, and I believe both times were to MAC. I'd purchased a cream color base in white (I think the color is called moon but I can't remember for sure), and it just didn't work for me. I returned it without a receipt because I'd lost the receipt. I actually called the store to ask about returning it the next day because the color never really 'set' or dried, it stayed wet. They didn't give me a hard time at all, and they could see where I'd only used a very small swipe on the product.

At my local Walgreens, they encourage you to buy a product, try it there, and then immediately return it if it doesn't work out for you. I've done this once, so it wasn't so bad.

June 19, 2009 at 10:51 AM  
Anonymous Anastasia said...

Pretty much the only reason Sephora is usually be my first stop when shopping for make-up is because of their return policy, although I must say that I've only returned one item in the last year. I generally really do my homework before purchasing, but sometimes I get a product home and it just doesn't work for my skin type or irritates my skin and then back it goes.

I do think stores such as Sephora are in a hard spot because chronic returners are a problem, but part of the store's appeal is its easy returns.

June 19, 2009 at 11:38 AM  
Blogger suz said...

hey, I love to buy and return things... why? because the product doesn't work! even if you've tested it in the store, when you get it home it may not look the same in natural light... or your skin has adverse reactions to it. for mascaras, u have to use those disposable wands which don't give you a good indication of how the real wand is going to work on ur lashes (the wand makes the difference!). so the mascara u liked in the store may not look the same using the real wand.

I think they should be more strict on the policies for sure, but not get rid of them completely. It's really annoying to buy things and have them sit unused and eventually throw them away. That is a waste. Also, with all the returns, the store can mark them out and possibly use these as the testers or whatnot. Sephora takes things off the shelf if the tester is out and will open it up to make a tester. I don't see why they can't take a return and make it a tester.

Being that the markup on makeup is like 400%, I feel bad but not that bad. I worked for a makeup campaign that literally GAVE away thousands of full size items as a promotion. In the grand scheme of things, I'd like to see how much impact the chronic returners are making versus the people who buy it, don't like it, and suck it up and keep it anyway even with generous return policies. I have friends who won't return anything-- even when I tell them, just return it if you don't like it! It's a waste.

ALSO, yes samples. why in god's name are they so stingy? Samples prevent buying the wrong product cuz you get to try it out and determine if you WANT to buy it. I make friends with the sephora associates and get lots of samples. It builds loyalty and trust between client and store as well.

June 19, 2009 at 11:51 AM  
Blogger Melia said...

Here in Greece, the return system is usually only for items that still have the tags on and will try to get away with giving you store credit only. I returned a mascara that was still with the plastic on and got store credit (they refused to give my money back, not "store policy"). In the same shop, I went to return a pallet that I got as a gift and they told me that I couldn't because the items did not have a plastic seal on them. In Sephora, it will only accept returns with a receipt, but then I haven't tried to return something that I've used (I got my money back when I returned some brushes). I'm really jealous of the return system in the USA...
The sample system here, is quite bad as I have to ask a few times to get them. I have really sensitive skin that with products that don't agree with my skin, will flare up with eczema, so I really need to try before I buy. Sephora is 50/50, depending on the SA.

June 19, 2009 at 12:46 PM  
Anonymous Sheena said...

I've worked in Spas here in Canada for years now. We usually only do returns now on products that malfunction or people have had an allergic reaction to. The just have to fill out a form that the companies then assess to try and reformulate so reactions are less common.
Returns are harder to do now because of a ridiculous increase in people stealing through them. We've had returns of serums that when we open the box, the bottles are filled with water or just simple hand cream and lotion. Sometimes completely different products have been put in the boxes. It makes for an awkward conversation when they didn't expect you to open it in front of them.
These are grown women, regular customers.
It's like a mature/complicated version of shoplifting. It's so bizarre. And it happens A LOT.
On top of that, most of the distributors that supply these places refuse to take returns as well.
It's so hard with cosmetics when you're a small comapany. Spa markup isn't as high as drugstore...when I worked in a drugstore the markup was upwards of 8x the cost. It's nowhere near that with spa brands.
It's similar to when people buy lingerie, these are personal products that are pretty much unusable if you return them and then count as a loss.
I wish we could do no hassle returns! I also wish more companies made free samples! Some of the companies I've dealt with charge upwards of $2.00 a sample. Fact is they're never free for the store that's giving them away. Less of an issue for huge chains. Clients would be so much happier if they could purchase confidently.
I also love Sephoras policy and will be sad to see it go.
I love products so much and would just love for the whole process to be joyful for everyone.
Muse, your advice was perfect, be respectful of companies return policies. Be an informed consumer!

June 19, 2009 at 1:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, Muse, I've been reading you for like six months, but that's the first time I comment. I'm from Russia and hearing that somewhere there you can just return stuff sounds like something incredible. We here can return only in case if the product has some faults, mainly it's the case when they sell something with an expiration date like tomorrow. In all other cases you can't return anything at all. So as a result practically any forum has pages where girls sell or exchange stuff they don't like. Of course, sellers in this case don't get the full refund, but at least they get something. And at the same time it's really hard to test, for instance, a face cream because very often shop assistants behave as if they give the samples right from their own bags or as if she gives me a couple of samples her children will have nothing to eat. Lena.

June 19, 2009 at 1:08 PM  
Blogger the Muse said...

hey dd!

damn girl. Nice record :D

wish my walgreens did that. many ds don't do returns on used makeup around these parts :P

June 19, 2009 at 1:08 PM  
Blogger the Muse said...

hello Anastasia!

Ditto, truly it's an incredible policy. I think they are a hit with the masses b/c of the return policy for sure and I hope that never goes away. We just need to take the returners out and shoot them :-D LOL just the chronic ones mind you!

June 19, 2009 at 1:09 PM  
Blogger the Muse said...

hello suz!

I agree. Stricter policies do need be enforced but not so much so you are scrambling about the return. I guess they don't want to make something someone already used at home a tester b/c of bacteria and the likes. Quality isn't the best on testers anyway in store but a used item returned could present a legal problem if they used it as a tester as they don't know for sure where the product has been, etc....

also I agree, it's a terrible waste when it's rotting in my draw and not being used! I'm sometimes shy about returns so I avoid doing them and in the end the product sometimes wastes away :(

I think they are generous with samples BUT only when you buy something. And what's the point? Sample is for trying before you buy doh!

I normally try to be friendly and sociable with all my mA's and this gets me a slew of samples so that's one thing that works in my favor too!

Great post suz thanks for sharing!

June 19, 2009 at 1:13 PM  
Blogger the Muse said...

hi melia!

Aww this stinks melia. I think we take for granted out gracious returning is within the US. When I hear stories like yours I feel thankful that we have such a good return policy!

We are ok with samples here but they seem way more generous when you buy something rather than when you go browsing :(

Thanks for adding your post here! Love hearing all the great replies!

June 19, 2009 at 1:16 PM  
Blogger the Muse said...

hello sheena!

omg people do THAT!??! that's obscene!

I'm positive that's very akward. You know the worst part? If I had to do the return and was working at your spa I'd be embarrassed to tell them. I mean they are doing the stupidest thing ever but I'd be embarrassed to mention. How horrible!

That's truly a weird tale sheesh.....!!!!!!!

Your story is great Sheena thank you so much for sharing with us. I totally relate to smaller companies. My dad has always been self employed and I consider him in the blue collar realm of smaller shops and such. People really don't understand the idea or concept behind a smaller shop and really should realize that some stores are not made of money!!!!!

I sure hope that if and when Sephora changes it's policy it wouldn't be too harsh! Aww thanks so much hun!

In this economy (and even in the best economy) we should be taking advantage of the system. Show a little respect :( problems like the ones you described above are what puts a company under and bankrupt :(

We are only hurting ourselves doing this terrible things!

June 19, 2009 at 1:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wished I could return things here in Singapore. We don't have that policy so if I got a wrong foundation or concealer shade and the item has been swatched once, unless the staff is really really nice and the item was purchased in less than 7 days with the receipt attached. There's like no way that I can get a refund or even do an exchange =(
It makes me wary whenever I try to get foundation or concealer XD

June 19, 2009 at 1:24 PM  
Anonymous Claire said...

When I worked at Sephora, we had customers who would buy and return literally hundreds of dollars of product at a time. It was ridiculous. Can't use the returned product as testers because who knows where the product has been or what was done to it. Also, saw the "emptied bottle filled with water/cheap lotion/whatever" at Sephora as well as the store I work at now. It's crazy!

Where I work now, the return policy as stated at cashwrap and on receipts states no returns of used product at all, but in the past we've been very lenient and done money back. Thanks to the economy, we are now only doing store credit/exchange for used product (and I've had people scream at me about it, despite the stricter policy being printed RIGHT ON THE RECEIPT) and I'm afraid that soon we'll be told to start refusing returns on used product at all. It's not a happy situation for sales associates, believe me, so all I ask is everyone be kind - sales "idiot" didn't write the policy, she's only doing what she was told by her boss so she doesn't get fired because they're looking for any reason to let people go. Just remember not to shoot the messenger - we don't like it either. :(

As a customer, I appreciate being able to get money back, but understand if that becomes no longer feasible for companies. I will be VERY sad if I can't do an exchange, though I get that too. At my store, there is at least one regular customer who hasn't actually spent NEW money with our company in years - she just buys and exchanges, buys and exchanges. At this point, I DO want to cut her off! No exchange for you! I'm sure there are plenty like her out there. It's the people who work the system who ruin it for everyone.

June 20, 2009 at 3:51 AM  
Blogger stregalice said...

As you said here in Italy the policy is very strict, you can't return anything already open and you have to hold onto your receipt (and return it as soon as possible), and I've never seen my money back, only store credit.
Chatting with my friends we all agree that the most common mistake is buying the wrong colour mascara or eyeliner, but since we all notice once we open the tube we all have to suck it up. I've recently noticed that the SA in some stores open the mascara at the checkout to show the colour and while it's helpful I hate it in case I wanted to store the mascara while waiting to finish another.

June 20, 2009 at 9:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i stay in the uk and cant return anything even if completly unopened if it was broken you could probably get it returned if you made a scene

but all the high end counters check the product before they give it to you

and i actually agree though you shouldnt buy it if you dont want it and unless its faulty (broken) then its your problem

June 21, 2009 at 10:29 AM  
Blogger the Muse said...

hi linn

sorry for the delayed reply been backed up on comments lately.

sheesh that stinks :( It really is crummy that items are not available for return particularly stuff like concealers/foundations which sometimes look good swatched on a hand but when purchased aren't as great as your face sigh!

July 14, 2009 at 11:29 AM  
Blogger the Muse said...

hi Claire!

god that's insane! I noticed Sephora has become strict about what you can and can't return. That's really sad that consumers are the one who changed that policy!

I agree people tend to get really nasty with a sales rep but honestly you are just doing your job :(

sorry for the delayed reply thanks for your input!

July 14, 2009 at 11:31 AM  
Blogger the Muse said...

hi stregalice!
awww this is terrible. I wish europe and asia would adopt similar return policies as the ones here in the US!

July 14, 2009 at 11:31 AM  
Blogger the Muse said...

hi anonymous!

It's true if you hate it when you get home it's truly no one's fault but your own. I do wish though that the UK was a bit more easier on returned items! It's a harsh makeup world in Europe :(

July 14, 2009 at 11:32 AM  
Blogger the Muse said...

hi lena

sorry for the delayed reply and thanks for sharing your comment with us. It's so harsh that they don't offer returns in Russia this seems the norm for most of Europe. I know when I go abroad I normally avoid purchasing makeup for this recent. I think we are utterly spoiled in the US b/c we can return virtually anything without much of a problem but people take advantage of the system terribly so we maybe like europe sooner or later if it keeps up :(

July 14, 2009 at 11:34 AM  

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