Everything We Know About Sephora's Alleged Blocking Of Accounts Linked To Chinese Domains

What happens when a beloved beauty sale turns into a seemingly racially motivated scandal?
Publish date:
November 10, 2014
sephora, racial profiling, sales, VIB Rouge

Sephora’s VIB and VIB Rouge sale is no joke. Euphoric beauty addicts flock online and in-store to scoop up their Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair Serums and Urban Decay palettes at 20% off.

But last week, a number of eager VIB/VIB Rouge sale shoppers discovered that their accounts had been blocked.

According to this Reddit thread, and an onslaught of customer comments on Sephora's Facebook page, it appeared that a great deal of the accounts being suspended were from Chinese domains, such as qq.com.

To make things look even shadier, an update to the Reddit thread claimed that Facebook comments in relation to the issue were being hidden by the retailer. However, as Jezebel pointed out, a number of upset comments remain; Sephora's reason for hiding comments was to protect those who'd shared personal information, such as their account number.

Then came the theories. Some suggested an issue of site security. A Reddit user indicated that iCloud may have been hacked by China in late October, so this was, conceivably, a safeguard measure.

The prominent suspicion, however, was that Sephora was concerned with reselling, and because some of the suspected resellers were possibly Chinese, the company allegedly deactivated the accounts of anyone linked to a Chinese domain.

I had a hard time believing this.

Surely, if this was Sephora’s main concern (and even if the resellers were Chinese), the smart thing to do would be to put a limit--applied to the purchases of ALL shoppers--on hot ticket items. Blocking out an entire country due to reselling seemed callous.

Then Sephora issued an apology, which included this statement.

"In some instances we have, indeed, deactivated accounts due to reselling--a pervasive issue throughout the industry and the world."

The company also cited technical issues with its website, caused by “a high level of bulk buys and automated accounts for reselling purposes from North America and multiple countries outside the US.” This, according to Sephora, is what ultimately lead to the deactivation of many accounts.

While Sephora has not stated whether the majority of the deactivated accounts originated from Chinese domains (customers in the U.S., Canada, and Australia also noted account lockouts), the Asian customer complaints on Facebook speak volumes.

I mean, if you spend $1,000 a year at Sephora--a condition of VIB Rouge membership--it’s probably pretty upsetting to suddenly have your account deactivated, reward points and all, because it happens to be linked to the wrong hemisphere.

For this writer, though, the racist remarks from commenters on social media have been the most troubling outcome of the situation.

  • Are you a VIB or VIB Rouge member? If yes, were you able to shop the sale uninterrupted?
  • What questions do you want Sephora to answer?