October 19, 2018
Sunday Riley, a popular skincare brand at Sephora, has admitted to faking positive customer reviews for its products on the beauty giant's website.
The company came under fire on Tuesday after a former employee posted a corporate email to Reddit’s /r/SkincareAddiction subreddit. The email offered extensive, step-by-step tips to Sunday Riley staffers on how to write effective fake reviews on Sephora.com, which features a variety of beauty products from more than 100 brands.
“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 us at Sephora, because a lot of the really great reviews you read are fake,” the former employee wrote.
The email shared by the Redditor instructed staffers on how to use a virtual private network, or VPN, to hide their IP address.
The steps included creating a fake email account and then creating a Sephora account with the email, with different locations and ages for the Sephora profile. Sunday Riley team members were then instructed to leave 3-4 reviews on other products before writing a “glowing” review on its own products.
Employees were directed to say things like: “You know how hard acne is and you’ve tried everything, and this one actually works.” And how to justify the price of SR products: “Or mention things like, yes, it’s a little more expensive, but works incredible well compared to the cheaper masks out there.”
The company stated, "The simple and official answer to this Reddit post is that yes, this email was sent by a former employee to several members of our company."
A Sephora representative provided the following statement:
"At Sephora, we believe in the power of the beauty community and that knowledge should be shared to benefit all. Sephora has very strict brand rules regarding our Ratings and Reviews, which we know are an important decision tool for our clients. Additionally, 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. We've been in touch with Sunday Riley on this matter, and they have committed to adhering to our review policy."
People were naturally outraged. 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.
In its comment about the fake reviews on the EsteeLaundry Instagram post, Sunday Riley said: "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. We have hundreds of thousands of reviews across platforms around the globe and it would be physically impossible for us to have posted even a fraction of these reviews."
EsteeLaundry questioned the brand further, however, by asking, "Why would you feel the need to fabricate reviews if you’re already getting such amazing client reviews?"