Some might be familiar with skin care brand, Sunday Riley, named after the brand’s founder and brand formulator. Every product reflects her belief that in order for results to count, they have to be visible and fast. Each product is designed to be a powerful, targeted treatment designed to visibly improve the quality of your skin, including signs of aging, dryness, oiliness, acne, dehydration and the appearance of pores and spots (dark spots, age spots, old discolorations). Created with high-tech “now and later benefits”, each carefully crafted formula has instant results with long-term payoff, for truly game-changing skin care. So for such a reputable brand, why are they forcing employees to write fake reviews?
The company came under fire on October 16th when a former employee posted a corporate email to Redddit. The email contained extensive, step-by-step tips on how to write convincing, effective fake reviews on Sephora’s website. “I’m sharing this because I’m no longer an employee there and they are one of the most awful places to work, but especially for the people who shop at Sephora, because a lot of the really great reviews you read are fake. We were forced to write fake reviews for our products on an ongoing basis, which came direct from Sunday Riley herself and her Head of Sales. I saved one of those emails to share here,” the employee wrote. Employees were also encouraged to refute negative reviews. “As reviews come in, read them too. If you notice someone saying things like I didn’t like ‘x’ about it, write a review that says the opposite.”
The news went viral after beauty industry Instagram page @esteelaundry posted a copy of the email on their page. Sunday Riley soon addressed the controversy in a comment on the post and admitted that the claims were true. “At one point, we did encourage people to post positive reviews at the launch of this product, consistent with their experiences. There are a lot of reasons for doing that, including the fact that competitors will often post negative reviews of products to swing opinion. It doesn’t really matter what the reasoning was. In the end, our products and their results stand for themselves.”
A representative for Sephora soon spoke out. “At Sephora, we believe in the power of the beauty community and that knowledge should be shared to benefit all. We have teams dedicated to protecting the integrity of our Ratings and Reviews, ensuring through detailed moderation that it’s a constant trusted, unbiased, authentic source for all. We do not believe this incident is representative of the Sephora Ratings and Reviews culture, or the countless hours our clients have spent sharing their product experiences with us and others.”
Opinions were pretty split with some saying they won’t even buy from the brand anymore and others being OK with the news. One YouTube makeup guru, Samantha Ravndahl, tweeted she would privatize her Sunday Riley videos until the company cleared up the situation. “This is beyond deceitful. Acne can impact mental health, confidence, your ability to get a job, etc. I cannot continue to recommend products from a brand who is willing to prey on that, if true,” she wrote.
However, @kenotic.meI wrote, “I support @sundayriley 110%. While not the most ethical or transparent way to deliver actual reviews, I understand why. I think @Sephora site should screen them [reviews] for whether or not the beauty insider account bought a product before allowing a review.”
So, why is this such a big deal? The beauty industry is very competitive and brands are trying to put out new and better things at an accelerated rate in order to beat their competition. There is also over-saturation of products;I spent an hour in Sephora yesterday trying to decide between two cleansers and reading the reviews actually helped me make the decision. Skin care products are also expensive. And being on a college student budget makes online reviews paramount in deciding whether or not to buy a product. There’s an inherent level of trust involved, and it’s nice to know that other customers are offering up genuine opinions. It does matter what the reasoning was, and referring to other competitor’s actions is not an excuse. Just because there are thousands of fake reviews, that doesn’t justify the ones you are personally responsible for making. And the question is: are other brands doing the same?