During e.l.f.'s 70% off sale, I placed a rather large order including items for myself, a giveaway and 2 other lady bloggers that I'm friends with. I had quite a hard time accessing the site for the initial 90 minute sale, but then e.l.f. so kindly extended the sale as so many people were having problems. I was able to use the website easily after that point, sans a few shopping cart glitches from items that were added when the server was failing. No big deal. I placed the order on July 7, 2011.
I placed an order for 62 items with an order total of $39.60, plus $6.95 for shipping, which brought the order to $46.55. I received an order confirmation right away with all 62 items on the invoice.
I received a shipping confirmation on July 15, 2011. Now, that is a relatively long order processing time but I knew there was a sale so I didn't worry myself with it.
I received my package on July 19, 2011. I received no other correspondence from e.l.f. other than the order confirmation and the shipping confirmation, nor did I receive any phone calls from the company.
The box arrived in a rather large white box and my order was inside of two large shopping bags... with no bubble wrap. Yes, I ordered 62 items of various shapes, sizes and densities and they couldn't put any bubble wrap inside of my box. LUCKILY, nothing broke, but as I saw from their Facebook page... others weren't so lucky.
Anyway, I opened my box and my mom and I began to sort through the pile to make sure everything was there. I actually received 55 items and not 62. Panicked, I looked at the shipping invoice inside of my box and sure enough, it said 62 items at the bottom of the invoice. No order total, no sign off for who packaged it, nothing else... just a list of the items. I noticed that the items missing had circled SKU numbers. In tiny font (we're talking size 4 at max) at the bottom of the invoice states "If an item is circled, it may indicate that it is out of stock at this time. Please call customer service for more information."
Okay... what about the nail polish that is on the invoice but not circled? What is going on? I looked over the invoice for a customer service number. None.
I got onto my mom's laptop and checked my bank account, here is the entry for e.l.f.:
If you can read that, it says $45.95, which is a $0.60 price difference from my original order. I was totally confused by this point and began ranting to my husband about it. He said to calm down and call them in the morning... but the issue stood that I had items missing, my order total was off, and I possibly was not sent out of stock items that were certainly in stock when I ordered them.
At this point, I felt e.l.f. was in violation of FTC Trade Laws as they never notified me of a change in my order. E.l.f. had a duty to send me my full and desired order, not part of it. What if I didn't want the order once they were unable to produce the "out of stock" items?
I got home, brooded, and got some advice from other people on Twitter. I resolved to call them the following day.
I waited until their customer service opened at 9AM, and around 9:15AM, placed a phone call to their customer service line. I got a fax tone. This continued to happen until around 10AM, where I began getting "your call cannot be completed as dialed" over and over. Now, you're telling me that a company this popular doesn't have a hold line? Come on.
I sent them an email through the website. I received a response within an hour. I am putting that email here (my original email is on the bottom, their response on top)
You can blow that up, or read my transcription here:
"Name: Wendy Order#: 2949933-S
-S I received my order yesterday and have some items that are circled on my invoice and also an item that is not circled but not with my order. The item not in my order is 1570 Metal Madness, and I ordered 2. I would like to be shipped these items immediately.
As for the items circled on your invoice, it is my understanding that this means the item was out of stock when you packaged my order. I never received any notification prior to shipping, or even in my shipping invoice, that there were items that were unavailable from my order. I should have been given the option to cancel my entire order but instead you decided to ship it without items without my consent. I also take issue with the fact that I never received an updated invoice so I have no idea what I was charged for and what was not included in the charge to my account. This is very unprofessional behavior.
The FTC guidelines state that a customer has the right to receive their full and entire intended order, and if the company is unable to fulfill that entire order, the customer is to be given notice and an option to cancel. You violated one of the steps in our business transaction -- notification of option to cancel. I would like to speak with a supervisor about this issue immediately as I am unable to reorder the items at the offered sale price, and also I would have to pay shipping once again. The items that went out of stock were gifts for someone. Simply offering the option to reorder at full price and with shipping is unacceptable."
The response I received:
"Thanks for your interest in e.l.f. cosmetics .We aplogize for any inconveninece,however the missing products from your order are currently out of stock. We have refunded your credit card since our systems are not set up to keep items on backorder."
First off, thanks for the signature or some kind of acknowledgement of speaking to me, such as, "Hello Wendy". Wow. I feel really special.
Second, thanks for completely not acknowledging my concerns. Apparently e.l.f. feels they are above the law and don't need to comply with the FTC, nor respond to direct statements that say they are in violation. They also don't feel the need to satisfy a customer. Cool.
Third, learn to spell.
I called their customer service line a few minutes later and after not being able to get through by hitting the button for customer service, I got through by hitting '0' for reception. (Pro tip: always hit 0 if you can't get through the automated system any other way, almost always works) The woman who picked up claimed she was customer service... funny, I thought I was calling "reception". Sounds to me like they're trying to make it seem like customer service is unavailable through the options menu on the phone.
While on the phone, I got a tweet from Emily (inmywindow) asking if they charged me for the out of stock items. At the same time, the woman was asking me what items were missing from the order. So, you don't know what items you sent? Seriously? You can't look at my invoice and know what you didn't give me? YOU, ma'am, need a new system because your current one is a joke. I stated that I was missing the following: 2 Radiance Enhancers in Sunrise, 1 Radiance Enhancer in Spotlight, 2 Metal Madness nail polishes and 2 Shimmer Eyeliners in Gunmetal. She stated that the nail polishes are discontinued for the moment at I was refunded $0.30 per nail polish... which, if you recall the order total discrepancy, is correct. $45.95 is in fact $0.60 less than $46.55.
She said she was very sorry but those items are currently out of stock and she would be happy to refund me the difference. After a moment of thinking, I realized...
They -charged- me for items they never sent.
I quickly made an excuse that I didn't have the items with me and needed to double check my order, and I would call back. I hung up. The anger was bubbling over at this point.
Not only can a company NOT charge you until they ship an order (think Zoya, if you've ever ordered from them, they are very strict about how they charge), they have to charge you for items that are contained in your package. This is why they aren't supposed to take payment UNTIL they ship it; in the event that something catastrophic occurs with your item (say it's the last vintage vase in stock and a worker drops it and it shatters all over the floor), the customer is not charged until it is safely inside the shipping box and put out for mailing. The FTC Trade Laws govern the mail order and online ordering rules... and they are clear.
According to e.l.f., when you order with them, it's a crapshoot as to whether you'll get your items or not. They may have them in stock, they may not, but you'll get charged. This is illegal, plain, pure and simple. I'll go even further and state that e.l.f. is running a scam... a classic credit card fraud scam. Why? Because they're hoping that people don't notice that $2 or $3 difference in their order total. Let's say they got 5,000 orders and we'll say 500 of them have missing items (I'm sure it was much more, but I'm being nice). At an average of $3 worth of missing items, e.l.f. have made $1,500 just in order discrepancies.
Sure, they'll refund you. If you call and battle their joke of a customer service telephone line and know exactly what they did wrong... oh, and don't forget to tell them what's gone wrong because they sure cannot be held liable for what they sent you.
I am in utter shock that a company thinks this is okay. The woman didn't even pause to apologize to me for the error and I am even more appalled that she had no updated shipping invoice or information on what was sent to me. How do you run a business like this?
These people automatically got credits and I saw posts where people received e-gift cards. Why was I not offered that option? Did I not spend enough money with them? Notice the justification from the person 3rd up from the bottom. Apparently it's okay to take someone's money and not AUTOMATICALLY do your duty of refunding YOUR mistake. I also noticed a trend on their Facebook page: If someone stated they got their order, glowed about their happiness in the items, but then had a short statement about missing something... e.l.f. would respond "Glad you liked your order!" and completely disregard any negativity. I am sensing a Sleek attitude here (If you don't know what happened, much too long of a story to get into!)
Now comes the next part of my argument:
Does that look out of stock to you? No, in fact, all 3 colors are able to be added to the cart on the website. So, I was not only charged wrongly, but I was lied to when told that the items were out of stock. They appear to be in stock to me. If someone adds them to their cart right now, will they be charged and then get their items, only to notice they are missing? Who knows. Again, how can you run an online business where your system "doesn't update" your inventory? It's a lie, that's how.
What actually more than likely happened is that they began filling orders out of order, and people's orders after mine (for example) were being packaged first... so the inventory has been out of wack for however long! It was in stock when I ordered!
Oh, your computer system is bad and doesn't update properly? Not my problem. Put me on a waiting list. I want my items. ESPECIALLY since you have my money.
Now I have the task of deciding what to do. I have gotten no response when I mention FTC or BBB, and no expression of apology or remorse for what's been done. In fact, the woman sounded totally casual when she asked IF I wanted a refund for the missing items. Uh... what are my other options? I've contacted my bank and they've authorized a credit card dispute through Visa. I would have a fair amount of documentation to provide, however, as I would need to show current price + sale price and what I actually paid. That will be difficult as I never received an invoice with each item's total after the sale discount; just an invoice with a bulk discount at the bottom.
Some of the items were for a giveaway and I would feel awful to give items to someone from such an awful company with absolutely dismal customer service. In fact... service? WHAT service? I could return them but then I feel like I'm returning items I intended on giving to someone! I'm really in a moral bind here.
I could just ask for the missing items, but I am worried that they will just issue a refund instead and I have no leg to stand on. I feel that this is an issue of principal... how can you charge someone for items you didn't provide?
Let's add up some facts:
- E.l.f. sends you a regular invoice with everything you ordered on it
- Said invoice has no individual prices, just a bulk total at the bottom
- You receive the same invoice when you get your package and nothing indicating that anything is different
- You are charged for items that they never had any intention on sending to you
- You have to call them to figure out exactly what they've done to your order
- You are not offered to receive those items at the promised sale price, even if they are in stock
- Customer service number is nowhere to be found on the invoice
A bit of math... and what do we have?