Thursday, July 21, 2011

You know what? Just e.l.f. off (negative e.l.f. experience)

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? 



  1. Wow! I haven't ordered from ELF in 3 years, but have been meaning to place an order. This leaves a bad taste in my mouth! Hmm. Sorry you had such a crappy experience. Please keep us posted should anything develop.

  2. Sheesh that really really sucks. I hate that companies think this is okay. It's not moral!

  3. Hey there,
    I just got home,and i'm very tired,but i red the first half of your story/experience,and it's just awful!
    I saw on your FB that you are from the USA,so i assume that you are talking about elf .com.
    I was lucky,this never happened to me,but i always order from my country's site (
    One day,they had some special offer on brushes,and i said,let it be!
    I placed the order,which came in a few days (and there was a bubble wrap,there always is) i started using my brushes but they were awful.
    It was losing hair (-i don't if this is correct,sorry-) not only when i was washing the brush(es) but even when i used them.
    I barely tuched the brushes,and the hair fall..
    Since then,i did not put any order from that site.
    And since you talk about elf .com, and i talk about elf it's possible,that i got the wrong brushes from the same place as you get the wrong pack.
    So now,i'm not surprised about how my order came.
    They shoud not make special offers,if they can't treat they clients with respect!
    (sorry for the bad english,doooh-.-)

    Kisses,and better luck next time!

  4. I believe ELF has being playing this game for a long time, too.

    I made a large order last year. I shared it with a friend and my sister. I had ordered a ton of cream eyeliners (I think they had just come out), and all the black ones plus a couple others were missing (WHO RUNS OUT OF BLACK? I MEAN, JESUS, REALLY?)

    So, I checked my statement, and sure enough, I had been charged for everything, but was missing around $8 worth of product, maybe a bit more.

    I emailed. NO ANSWER. Emailed again. NO ANSWER. They just straight up took my money.

    Finally got contact, and they told me that they refunded the money through Paypal (that's how I paid) but it could take a few days. I was OK with this, irritated, but at least they'll give me the $$ back, right?

    Never saw the refund!

    I've had things go out of stock before with Amazon, Zoya (like you mentioned), Zappos, Sephora...those are just the ones I can think of right now. They've ALWAYS notified me beforehand or when they shipped the package, I wasn't charged for that particular product and when it comes back in stock, they shipped it to me at their expense. If most other businesses do that, why should ELF be any different?

    They told me too that I could purchase it again when it came back in stock AT FULL PRICE. And, I remember the black liner coming back in stock very, very quickly after my order showed up.

    So, I don't purchase from ELF anymore. I guess it's a blessing since I never found much that worked for me anyway. I guess they think because they have dirt cheap products that people won't notice ELF stealing money.

    P.S. The eyeliners sucked anyway!

  5. @Robyn: Isn't it?! LOOK AT THE SMILE ON MAH FACE.

    @Jackee: Will do, thanks for reading!

    @Hebridean Sprite: I think so many people shush up and say "oh, but the products are so cheap"... whether it's $1 or 100, customer service is expected and laws should be followed!

    @morphine: I understood you just fine :) I am from the US so I ordered from (US site). I have some of their brushes but some of them have begun shedding quite badly, I've heard this from other people so your problem is a widespread one!

    @cait: OHMYGOD your story makes me even more angry. What a shite company. I need to decide what I'm doing with everything I ordered =/. After what you said, I'm scared to even try to get a refund.

  6. well no wonder they can't handle international orders either. With shit service and crappy workers in the company how the hell are they even going to make it big.
    Sorry to hear you had such a bad experience with them!

    I live in australia and we have no e.l.f what so ever and then they decided to launch an "Aussie" version of the e.l.f. website for us to shop online and we get shit all of a choice and get ripped off with their expensive price... it's a joke the e.l.f. australian online store

  7. Wow, I'm so sorry that you've had so much trouble with your order :/ I placed an order when they had 60% off from around the same dates and I was scared that I would experience the same thing..luckily my order came through fine but this certainly puts me off from ever ordering from them again!

  8. Man, this is just infuriating from start to finish and validates why I'm so sketchy about ordering things online - there's just so many avenues where the order can go wrong and so little accountability due to the incredible anonymity that online ordering affords a company. I don't own any E.L.F. cosmetics and likely won't be purchasing them any time soon. Hope this works out for you in the end, and if not I'm sure with your level of readership this will have an impact on some future sales. There's always that as a consolation!

  9. Wow how crap are they? I was tempted by a uk elf 50% off sale recently (I have a few of their studio brushes which I think are decently priced and wanted backups) but they were out of stock! Luckily listed that way so I wasn't wrongly charged.
    Now I think I'll leave them alone, especially during sales. That's just rubbish! x

  10. Unbelievable! I had the exact same experience with Ulta's web site, and it took a couple of weeks to resolve. I will never order from them again.

  11. I almost bought online from them on their big sales, but couldn't. However now that they have my email, they email me EVERYDAY with some special sale code just for me or codes for 50% off. I felt a little concerned because what company has to be so willing to get customers that they'll bug you every day with sales and making you feel like you are so special with sale codes that they email just to you. I am so glad I saw this because I am sure they do this all the time. Customer service is a big thing for me!

  12. Omg, I'm sorry to hear about your experience hun. I've only ordered from ELF once but it was just a few items. I hope you get your money back or get the items you didn't receive asap! Damn ELF!

  13. I had the same problem!!!I ordered 19 items and one of them was missing which was worth $3 so I didn't do anything about it! I so regret it now!! Thanks for this post, it was really helpful.

  14. I'm so glad you're following up on this. Thanks for letting us all know, too!

  15. Wow, I'd be flaming pissed! I'm glad I'm not an ELF fan. I've pondered placing an order because some of their products have been getting good reviews, but I think I'm gonna pass now. I'll stick to my favorite indie companies who have awesome products AND customer service!

  16. I am pretty much speechless right now. I'm so sorry you had to deal with this nightmare. I've ordered from ELF several times over the last few years, and I'm fortunate enough to have never had a problem. This really sucks :( I can understand how you must feel, though. I would be feeling the exact same way had that crap happened to me! How frustrating!!

  17. Okay, that made sense..I've never thought of it like that.. I mean, how they can actually gain profit by $2,$3 order discrepancies. I like elf products but I've never actually ordered straight from them. It's usually through a third party. I'm sure they'll have the same problem as yours cz everytime they do an elf spree, it's always pretty stressful. I hope you resolve this in the best possible way.

  18. OMG!! that is disgusting!! i cant believe that they did that! thatkyou for sharing your experience, i know that i wont be purchasing from e.l.f!
    Grace xx

  19. OMG I can't believe that.. excellent post..

  20. I know the Sleek drama, I had tons of issues that never really got properly solved.
    And I'm also familiar with issues. I ordered three times, and each time, one of the items would be 1. faulty 2. missing 3. smelling so awful (as in BAD BAD BAD way). First time the customer service treated me right. Second time, when I had issues with one of their product, they told me such issues had never happened before and implied I was lying. Well, I sent pictures, and they never responded. Third time I did a half order with my sister, and the tinted moisturizer I got literally smelled so bad I couldn't imagine it being anywhere near me. Again, I emailed CS and never got a response. I should also point out that UK prices are way higher and they never run any sales apart from -20%. As in, I used to envy Elf.Us customers and their sales, but after this post? No more. Anyway, after the third order and two fuck ups from their end (not solving the issues), I haven't ordered from Elf.Uk and never will. Sad to hear Elf.Us has issues too.

    Also, I appreciate you for having the guts to go on and I hope on you take this to the end, whatever it is (refund/items re-sent AND an APOLOGY), for the wrong they have done.

  21. HOLY CRAP! WTF is with the bulk invoice with a total at the bottom but no prices for individual items? What the hell is the point of the invoice then? If I ordered 62 pieces from a company, I had better be able to check on an invoice that I received them all and add up the prices to make sure I got everything! I can't believe they charge you for stuff that they never sent and there is no way to actually check how much you were charged for each item! WTF??!!! Great post, it was very informative.

  22. Also, I'd be pissed beyond belief if I opened up a box that got mailed to me from an established makeup company and their version of "packaging" was to throw 62 things into a shopping bag, put it in a box,and then send it. MAKEUP BREAKS, it needs some love in the packaging department!!! ARGH!

  23. Hello Friends...Thanks for sharing the Interesting blog. It is very Interesting and mind blowing arts. Bubblewrap is a pliable transparent plastic material commonly used for packing fragile items.

  24. E.L.F.
    I've been shopping online for years now and I've had my worst online shopping experience with E.L.F.
    I suggest you to not buy from them, If you are not in the UK or the US .
    Let me give you the whole story.
    First of all, the minute I get to their webpage, I choose "ship to Greece" and I get a note that yes , they do ship to Greece, right?
    I placed a bunch of orders a few weeks ago.
    For some of them , the payment did not work, so they weren't completed, and for some others, 2 actually, I did pay.
    I have the receipts and everything .
    After that, they notified me that some orders were rejected, cause they don't ship internationaly or cause I didn't make my order international.
    First of all, what's the point in telling me from the very first moment that you do ship to Greece, only to cancel my order after that, telling me that you don't ?
    Second, I contacted my bank and they told me that E.L.F. needs to release my payments , which they STILL haven't.
    And there's more...
    I got notifications from Borderfree for some orders, telling me that they were shipped and that they are coming in a few days.
    DHL contacted me, telling me that they do have my order and that they need a bunch of documentations to go through with the delivery.
    After I gave them what they asked, they told me that I can't receive my order, if it's more than 5 items.
    So I ask you again:
    Why wasn't there a warning in the site that for shippings to Greece, there should be maximum 5 items?
    Why did I get into all this trouble, just to realize that I can't receive my order anyway?
    And most importantly, why am I 150 euros short, and still haven't received neither my orders not a refund?
    I went into all that trouble, just because they don't have the warnings that they should, on the website.
    They are obligated to give me all the information I need to make a purchase, otherwise they're a fraud.
    I don't know if the products are good and I am not judging that, but the online buying thing, has some serious issues.
    I am willing to let this go if they reinmburce me for all that trouble and for the fact that their website does not have adequate information, but they won't even answer my messages .

  25. Just got my cheque for $500.

    Sometimes people don't believe me when I tell them about how much you can get by taking paid surveys online...

    So I show them a video of myself actually getting paid over $500 for filling paid surveys.