The Lip Shade Controversy, The Shipping Delay, ULTA, and What It Means For Me
This is going to be a very lengthy post, because I want to give all the details I have, to be as fair as possible. I also think that it’s important to acknowledge and discuss these things when they happen, and I apologize if the post comes off as really complain-y. I was originally going to put my Lip Shade review at the bottom, but this post has become too long, so I’ll post it separately. And if you stick with me all the way to the end, props to you, reader.
The Controversy (or whatever you want to call it)
As part of the July 2016 Into the Deep Collection, Julep released a new product, Lip Shade Sheer Lip Butter, in nine colors. The product is described by Julep as “a luxuriously silky lip butter that glides on weightlessly to deliver a sheer wash of color plus the ultimate SPF 30 Broad Spectrum protection from harmful UVA/UVB rays. Crafted with a nourishing blend of moisturizing butters and natural oils, Lip Shade gives you the color you want and the protection you need.” The lip butters are formulated with shea butter, broccoli seed oil, rosehip seed oil, and black currant seed oil, to protect, nourish, and heal lips. In the July Collection post, Julep wrote: “rest assured we’ll be reaching for these lip butters all summer long (and beyond)!”
Julep had been talking about SPF products for some time, often commenting that the long testing time is what has prevented them from releasing SPF products sooner. While there was some backlash because Julep wasn’t able to ship them to Canada (where the product is not yet approved), people were generally quite happy and excited for this product, and many people added one or multiple to their Maven boxes. Because of the long 4th of July weekend, shipping was delayed more than usual, so people didn’t start receiving their boxes until the 5th of the month…and that was when things got crazy.
As Mavens started posting about their boxes, they noticed that the Lip Shades were marked with an August 2016 expiration date. Upon contacting Julep, they were informed that one of the SPF ingredients had only been tested for two months of efficacy, so while the SPF had to be marked for expiration, the Lip Shades were still good to use- Julep just couldn’t guarantee the SPF. Needless to say, people were pretty furious that a product Julep hyped for SPF would only be good for about a month after their boxes arrived. And yes, odds are the SPF would still be good, if you read about labeling requirements, the FDA mandated date is not usually the same as the true effective date, but none of this changes the fact that the products were marked with an expiration date, and Julep knew they had been tested for very little time, but chose to move ahead with a mass release anyway.
The response from Julep was initially pretty inconsistent, which I was okay with since it does take time to address an issue and provide a strategy. Within a few days, it was pretty clear that if you contacted Julep and were unhappy about the SPF expiration date, they would work out a solution for you, whether it was a partial or full box refund, replacement products, or Jules credited to your account. I do feel it was a very positive step to allow each Maven to have the solution that worked best for them, and customer service generally had a pretty fast turnaround. I credit them for both of these things.
However, there were other aspects of the response which were very disappointing. Julep never issued any kind of public statement about the expiration issue and only offered solutions to those who contacted them (and those with mass shipping delays, which I’ll address below). Julep never apologized, and instead made a point of including in every email that the Lip Shades are still a great moisturizing product and that only the SPF was expiring (despite having especially hyped the SPF aspect of the product). In the August Collection Reveal (Live with Jane), Jane said that they released the product when they only had five months of data, and that they were thinking of the product as a “lab sample” when they sent them out. She made a point to talk about the great benefits of the SPF, which I found odd given the ongoing issue. The explanation really doesn’t fly for me, as they made no disclosure, and sold them to mavens with the same pricing as a fully tested lip product. It’s not like they were a free add-on for the month. On the upside, Jane shared that they are still being continuously tested, and are now considered good through September. Overall, however, I found the response lackluster. I feel like Julep never really took responsibility for a definitive decision they made, presented excuses, and never once said they were sorry (whether they agreed with the reaction or not). To me (and I’ve worked in customer service), an apology is just customer service 101.
And the Shipping Delay
In addition to all of the above, there were massive shipping delays, beyond just the normal holiday weekend delay. When I purchase The Whole Shebang, it is among what seems to be the last batch of boxes that ship, usually shipping anywhere from the 2nd to the 5th of the month, depending on where the weekend falls. Julep has confirmed that The Whole Shebang boxes ship last, which is a system I find very frustrating. Orders should not be prioritized from smallest to largest, with largest being least important. I’m not saying value of box should necessarily determine shipping order, but it doesn’t seem right that the most costly boxes ship last every month. Perhaps they should ship in order of how long you’ve been a Maven? I’m not sure what the most fair way to do it is, but the current system doesn’t seem fair, either.
ANYWAY, this month, most Mavens who ordered The Whole Shebang received an email on the 11th stating that boxes would ship by midweek, and that “it has come to our attention that the SPF in our Lip Shades may not be active as long as we thought. Because you will only get a short use out of the SPF in the lip shades we want to make this right for you by refunding 50% off your beauty box. You can expect to see your refund back in your account within the next 2-10 business days.” Nowhere in the email did Julep apologize for the delay or the Lip Shade issue, they just thanked Mavens for their patience. I found the phrase “it has come to our attention” particularly amusing, given that Julep knew the expiration date when they released and then shipped the product. Many of us didn’t receive shipping until late on the 13th, with the boxes actually moving until the 14th. This meant that most TWS purchasers didn’t receive their boxes until the 18th or later, just a day or two before the next window. It’s really hard to be excited about the July collection when you’re already making your August choices.
To top it all off, yesterday, Ulta released a number of Julep products on their site, including 4 new It’s Whipped Shades, 2 new Eye Glider Shades, and all the Eyeshadow 101s, many of which have been out of stock on the Julep site since October of last year. None of theses items are in the Maven window this month and are not available on the Julep site. They are excluded from coupons at Ulta and are listed at full retail price. So in one fell swoop, Julep has ended Maven first access as well as the Maven 20% discount for these products. Not to mention the fact that there’s always at least 2 coupons active on the regular Julep site. It’s been confirmed that they are Ulta exclusive and Julep doesn’t know if/when they will be available directly from Julep.
I’ve made it clear how I feel about other retailer exclusives before, and while it probably doesn’t bother some people, many of us feel that these launches go against the spirit of and promoted benefits of the Maven program. While we’re happy that Julep is expanding to a physical presence in ULTA stores, many of us don’t understand why that expansion has to mean taking away first access and the Maven discount. Despite continued negative feedback about it all year, which started with the expansion of QVC exclusives in early 2016, Julep has continued to use and expand this practice. It’s pretty clear to me that it’s not something they’ll be stopping any time soon. I’m starting to think as they continue to grow, it’s likely that the Maven program will continue to be less and less important and lose even more perks.
What This Means for Me and Julep- Breaking Up is Hard to Do
So what does this mean for me? Beyond the numerous packaging issues and new emphasis on exclusives, Julep seems to be less innovative with their polishes lately. While they have introduced new finishes, they only make a handful of shades rather than making full use of unique possibilities (make the whole rainbow!), while rehashing the same crèmes and shimmers they’ve already done. The curation of collections has also suffered, with many not really having a clear theme. This has already driven me into the arms of indie polishes, which are a lot more innovative and able to be responsive to their customer feedback.
That being said, I do feel very invested in Julep because I enjoy using many of their beauty products as well as polish colors. Obviously I’ve put a lot of time, energy, and money into my collection, which makes it extra upsetting to be so frustrated with them. It’s extremely hard to consider stopping when I know that means giving up having a complete collection. However, while I may feel very invested in Julep, the reality is that it’s not my company, and they’re probably not going to listen to my feedback.
So, after 2016, I will no longer be collecting Juleps. I think it’ll be easier to quit if I finish out the year. Unless something drastic changes, I’m certain about this decision. I’ll continue to blog Julep, as it is my goal to eventually either review or use every single one I own in a mani. I will stay a maven, although I will probably skip frequently and only take boxes when the polishes are truly unique or there’s a beauty product I know I’ll use. But it’s time to step back from Julep.