Rant & Rave: Ulta

Tell us what you love and hate about...

Ulta

I dig the mix of affordable and mid/high-end offerings. I think it’s nice to have more of a one-stop shop experience. They have fantastic sales/offers and a good reward program (that actually rewards one’s loyalty!). However, their website could be vastly improved, and their shipping is the worst in the industry in my experience. They often put one giant air packet on the top of products, so everything still ends up rattling around the box for 7-10 days in transit. I’ve started to put 2-day shipping on all orders (which isn’t cheap) but still find that the majority of the time I’ve ordered powder products, at least one thing arrives shattered. Their customer service has gotten better at replacing broken items, though, and doesn’t require returning a $1.00 items in order to get a replacement any more.

— Christine

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I buy mostlt from Ulta because there’s one in my town and if possible I do like to see things up close and personal. Sephora means a 40 minute trip to the mall and then having to deal with the mall. I try to buy things that are offered at both Ulta and Sephora at Ulta because of the rewards but it annoys me that the products on the website only have one single view of the item instead of several which makes learning more about a product pretty difficult. I find myself trying to learn more about products from other websites instead.

I agree, their shipping is pretty horrendous. I appreciate their reward program much more than Sephora’s, though. The stores should adopt similar practices; Sephora’s 2-day Flash Shipping for higher tier loyalty members should be picked up by Ulta and Ulta’s rewards system should be picked up by Sephora.

I agree exactly ! I’m not an Ulta high level so $50 is the min threshold for free shipping . That limits my impulse purchases to Sephora, where anything ships free for me. Sephora has a lousy rewards system though !

Ha. I’m VIB Rouge and while I do get the 2-day Flash Shipping for free, it takes Sephora way longer than 2 days to even send the items out. I find Ulta gets the goods to me much quicker than Sephora. Both have been good if I’d had a problem with an item though about sending me a replacement without making me return the bad one.

I don’t know how they get away with having such a useless website and terrible app in 2018. Half the time the color is way off on the product photos, and it’s so unhelpful to have only one photo of each product – especially when it comes to makeup.

I really love Ulta’s reward program. I am able to accumulate points for regular purchases with enough frequency that I have redeemed $250 this year alone. I currently have enough points available to redeem another $125. I love that the cash rewards are for everyone and I don’t have to jump through any hoops to use them. Couple that with the frequent 20% coupons available for prestige brands, and I do almost all my beauty shopping at Ulta. I do wish that their website was easier to manage especially on my tablet.

Love: Having HE makeup, HE hair products, DS makeup, and perfume all in one convenient place! It’s a pretty easy store to browse in. They have good sales and a great rewards system that keep me coming back. They’re supposed to be getting Juvia’s Place, which I’m looking forward to seeing in person. I’ve had more good sales associate experiences here than at Sephora. The Ulta stores near me are usually well stocked, clean, and organized.

Hate: Very slow cashier lines. Sometimes sales associates are standing around talking with each other when there’s a long line of people waiting to check out and only one person at the cash registers. Occasional snobby or uninformed sales associates, but this is much less common than at Sephora. I don’t like when sales associates, who appear to be roaming the aisles, are actually there to sell one particular brand. They don’t carry makeup by Pat McGrath, Dior, Chanel, Armani, or Bite Beauty (I know some are Sephora exclusives…this is just wishful thinking!). Those big displays of cute little products that taunt me mercilessly while I’m waiting to pay for my stuff.

As someone who works at Ulta, I agree completely with frustration about the shipping. My store just switched which distribution center we receive shipments from, and there are still so many damaged items, despite all the friggin air packs. And my big pet peeve: every single week, there are several underpacked boxes, some containing only a single item! Why?!? Such a waste!
I also find the online security to be lackluster. IIRC I was once sent an email with my password in plain text.

Rave: I too, like the mix of high-end and drugstore brands. I especially like that they have a good selection of NYX products. I like how regularly they send out coupons. I appreciate the effort they’re making to bring in some interesting indie brands.

Rant: Stores are often picked-over, with many items out of stock and testers either absent or worn down to nothing. Coupons aren’t good on prestige cosmetics and invariably any drug store items I want are already on sale — or again, out of stock. Not sure if they are carrying MAC or indie brands in some shops, but they aren’t at the one near me. Stores are often poorly laid out, poorly lit, or otherwise feel super unwelcoming. Often difficult to get help finding items.

All that said, Ulta was where I bought my first makeup and I really enjoyed browsing them to kill time and find new products, before the one near me at the time really went downhill. So I have great memories of shopping there 🙂

Ulta isn’t a store I think about but recently visited with the recent closure of a department store. I enjoyed seeing the range of products and price points. I like that products weren’t pawed to death like at Sephora and I liked the dedicated space that was given to MAC. Finally, I liked that there were MUAs for each brand. What I didn’t like was the layout of the store and how little space was dedicated to trying on products with the help of a MUA. I suspect if brands were configured more like MAC’s space (versus elongated product displays with a chair and supplies at the end), I would feel more inclined to visit. When I step into a store, it’s because I want to see and/or try on a product. I’ve heard good things about the rewards program and have ordered online oncr or twice with no problem except slow delivery. I’m not sure my visit changed my mind but I recognize it as a local option.

I hate that they’re not in Canada. And when I’ve been to their stores in the US, they seemed quite messy and out of a lot of the things (regular stuff, not LE) that I wanted to buy.

RAVES: I like to shop in-store. The one closest to me has really nice staff. I like the mix of high end and DS brands. Their rewards program beats the heck out of Sephora’s. They have coupons.

RANTS: There are none really close to me, even though I live in the suburbs. The website blows. I have not been able to pay through it for a few years now, and they don’t seem to care. The website’s CS blows. The last time I had something shipped, when I could still buy through their website, was extremely slow with awful packing, though at that time it seemed to be improving a little bit.

Love/hate(ship) I dig the coupons & rewards but Ive never been able to obtain samples in store & online ordering $50 for free ship not able to choose samples & every powder from Note Cosmetics have arrived shattered/half arrived orders. I much prefer to do my shopping @ Sephora.

I love the mix of brands and that it’s a one-stop shop for all things beauty.

That said, I WISH with ever fiber of my being that Ulta would ship internationally (Canada doesn’t count), or at least accept international credit cards so that I could ship to my US forwarding address. I signed up for the rewards program years ago when I was still living in the US, and now I only get to shop at Ulta when I go back for a visit once a year, so I never get anything from the program now. And I always miss out on the 21 Days of Beauty because I’m not back in the country during those periods.

I shop Ulta and Sephora equally. I like the mix of brands but find that the DS offerings are frequently out of stock and the shelves are not well maintained. If I go for a specific DS product, more than likely it is not there. The HE section is well stocked but poorly laid out in some stores. There are not a lot of try on stations and they don’t keep the make up remover bottles filled. I agree that their website sucks but I avoid shopping on line on account of the shipping charges. I wish they would adopt Sephora’s flash shipping model. I love the rewards program, the frequent sales, and the coupons. I have always had decent service there and not too long a wait to pay. I wish they would open more stores where I live.

Their website is terrible! The colors are completely off. I wish you were able to choose samples. Even at Sephora, I don’t always get the ones I select, but I really don’t need any more samples of benefit porefessional. The store near me is always super messy, and they’re always out of things. I like ulta, but end up shopping at Sephora a lot more. If ulta started carrying more High end brads, i’d Definitely start shopping there more.

Completely agree with your take on Ulta. Unless Sephora is miraculously having a better deal on a product or it is a product that only Sephora carries, I almost exclusively shop at Ulta. Usually, I shop online but there are quite a few near me that I can run in to if I’m in dire need of restocking something. Also, the rewards program and credit card are a huge draw for me.

The lack of quality in how they pack their boxes for shipping has always surprised me as well. I enjoy having an “experience” when it comes to shopping. From the box it’s shipped in, any inserts (i.e., Colourpops cute postcards), product packaging, to the product itself, I like enjoying every moment. Ulta definitely can step up their game in the shipping department.

Well, I’m an Ulta girl. Yes, I agree that the website (especially the photo lighting) could be better. Yes, they could do better with shipping (I’ve had a few, thankfully not many, shattered powder products – but they replaced them). Yes, I will use sephora’s website to browse the product, then buy it from Ulta. But you just can’t beat Ulta’s rewards program and the variety of products and price ranges that they offer. I’m a member of both Sephora and Ulta, but I buy waaaay more products from Ulta and I do not see that changing any time soon.

Visiting Ulta online is always an adventure. Will I be able to tap my e mail & password I use to their site to sign in? Will I be able to scroll to see every single color eyeshadow? Their website should work better for those with IPads. But it doesn’t. Their paper coupons used to be better — $5 off when you spend $15 on half of the store.
I do like their 20% off sales & their occasional sales on prestige products. But most of all I do like that rewards points aren’t limited to certain items.

I was pretty much a Sephora girl for the longest time because the nearest Ulta was 30 minutes or more away on a toll road, so whatever savings they offered was outweighed by the cost to get there. Then about a year and a half ago they built one within a couple miles from my house. What a wonderful, terrible thing! Thanks to their sales, point multipliers and 21 Days of Beauty sales, I have miraculously become a Diamond level rewards member! I love that they offer both drugstore and prestige brands, that their house brand is cruelty free, they always have sales and offer prestige coupons more than twice a year (unlike Sephora). Where Sephora wins is definitely with their app / website — I read reviews, and like to break it down by number of stars, know what shade they’re reviewing, etc. Also Sephora’s 2-Day Flash Shipping; even if you’re not Rouge, you just pay $10/year, but of course shipping is free at VIB and above, where as at Ulta, even though I’m Diamond, I still have a $25 minimum order! The shipping time is okay, very few boxes come mishandled and luckily I haven’t had a damaged product as a result. The girls at my store are good to me and at this point it would take a lot for me to stop shopping there.

I enjoy my local Ulta store but use them less and less. Sad because I always reached the highest purchase catagory.
Despite emails and calls to customer service and complaints to the local GM, I do not receive emails with sales and special events. I do not receive notices of 20% off sales nor birthday gifts. I rarely receive the pitiful samples when mail ordering. My email has been confirmed dozens of time. I do receive email responses from CSR. I have asked to speak w IT and management with no results. Emails are not in my spam or junk folders.
I am beyond disgusted.
Advice welcomed. Ulta is 1/2 mile from my home!

I must be the only person in the US who always has better shipping from Ulta than S., despite the big air pillows. Only one mishap/leak ever, despite powder palettes, etc. . S has been a disaster in my ‘hood since they went laser ship and subcontracted. A S pkg arrived today with an improved duration: only 2 1/2 weeks from the hub that is under an our away! A new U opened near me. The layout and lighting are fabulous. They were careful to have very little overlap in stock between the two in the South Shore Boston area, even put Mac into the new one: first in Mass, to my knowledge. They were brilliant in differentiating the two stores. Both Us are drive-to, freestanding stores, which leads to less crazy pick over seagull type mall customers, and a cleaner store. Just love Ulta bath and have begun source hair there, too. Rant: the website is pretty sucky as far as representation of color. The ‘new improvements’ did not improve much, though it is more navigable than when it started. There have been times when the consumer reviews were flat out false. You did not have to be a forensic linguist to know they were written by the same person! That seems to happen when there had been zero to three reviews, and they need to beef it up. Those fake reviews can also include fake town names! Really? It cheapens the whole process and makes it totally incredible. With real Ultabucks, I have scored some amazing products: Mod Ren, Aurora, Lorac Pro 4… (and Sephora deducted the points and sent me no gift card….If it is just ‘on my account, why is it not listed on the packing slip?) Samples are highly repetitive. Same scents, same Benefit… At least at Nordie’s, you can get men’s samples!

I wonder if Ulta ships from different warehouses depending on where you live in the states? I live in Pennsylvania and haven’t experienced any issues with items arriving broken from a rough transit or a bad packing job. Their customer service could vastly improve for sure. But the times that I’ve had to make a store return or exchange has always gone smoothly. When a shipment arrives, I cannot tell you how many times my samples are no where to be found…grrrrr! The one thing that I keep wishing they’d do is offer in store product samples to try out like Sephora offers in store. Ulta employees seem to be way more approachable and down to earth vs Sephora. I have had so many awkward and uncomfortable experiences in Sephora. In multiple stores at that! That has never been an issue at Ulta. That fact alone has earned my repeat business and loyalty. Although those are pretty much my two choices for an in store shopping experience around where I live.

I live in CT and think the PA hub is where mine comes from too. I have no shipping issues with time or condition of product, but like you, I almost never get my samples.

I don’t think the shipping is horrible, but I live in the same city where there is a fulfillment center, lol.

The website leaves something to be desired. It seems like the color of the products is way off most of the time and they rarely provide swatches.

I do wish they didn’t have so many exclusions when it comes to their coupons.

That said, the selection of products has expanded in a great way in the last year or so and I always enjoy going in store. It never seems as crowded as my local Sephora.

I have a serious love/hate relationship with Ulta. I’ve only ever made one order online and it was an awful experience. The processing time was over 7 days and it took another week to get to me. All of the powder items were broken. I only got a refund of half of the dollar amount of broken product. The website has terrible photos and the colors are never accurate.

I much prefer to shop in the store. I get better service and my items aren’t broken. I love the mix of high-end and drugstore plus haircare, skincare and tools. The point system is also far superior to Sephora. I love that they are getting more brands at all price points.

I’m one of the lucky few who doesn’t have bad shipping from ULTA. I have three stores reasonably close, with one just minutes from home. I almost always order online however, due to the exclusive Platinum Perks and GWP you can get that way. I’ve been Platinum at ULTA since the program’s inception, and for the first time in a decade, just a BI at Sephora. I got the ULTAMATE MasterCard and use it for everything, from groceries to gasoline, which racks up points in quite a speedy fashion. This morning I placed a big order, redeemed 2000 points, and paid $1.64. No way Sephora can beat that!

I prefer ordering from Ulta online because my nearest location is always low/out of stock of items I’m searching or simply doesn’t sell certain brands like Catrice. Ulta has the superior rewards system and provide more discounts than Sephora, as well as being more accessible while I feel out of place at the latter. I’ve never had products be damaged in shipping, but they definitely can improve how they pack items and their website and app. I’ve never requested anything more than standard shipping from Ulta because their ILvdistribution center is at the most less than a couple of hours away from me, which usually means I receive my orders within a few business days depending on the time and day when I place the order.

Ulta is lacking also in customer service as well. They have a long recorded history of randomly locking accounts and no easy way to rectify the situation. I placed an Ulta order to my new home address and the transaction was declined. I tried paypal, a different credit card, even my mother tried placing an order with my account info…nothing. I speak with a their customer service rep, and my account was flagged in a processing error we think due to my address not being on maps yet (it was a new subdividion). Anyway two years later with multiple emails and phone calls and follow ups I still cannot shop online. Instore only. I miss out on GWP, online exclusives and samples. This is not a rare occurance either, quickly google “Ulta error processing transaction” and you will see multiple facebook post and reddit threads with the same story. Leaves me bewildered at how imcompetant some retailers still are. I shop sephora or brand direct when I can but I miss out on a lot of perks and discounts. Very frustrating.

I love Ulta. I never have a problem ordering online and don’t find fault with their website, except for the fact that it signs you out fairly quickly.

In store, however, I have had a few issues with managers not wanting to honor sales as they are posted. I work in a national drugstore chain and I know that newer/LE upc’s sometimes don’t get programmed into a brand’s sales. The manager at one Ulta wouldn’t hear of it and insisted that I was reading the sign wrong. But…mostly, I love Ulta and happily order online from them and enjoy their points.

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