The troubles with Sunday Riley

Let this serve as an important reminder that we cannot always trust the reviews we read for products online. Take everything, and anything, said with a grain of salt and make the decision that’s best for you with respect to spending your money online.

Skincare brand ‘Sunday Riley’ has reached a settlement with the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) of which the amount is not being publicly shared, for two violations made. Employees noted that they were instructed, for more than two years, to write fake positive reviews on Sunday Riley products and to dislike the negative reviews.

Why this is a big issue?

Sephora is a premier skincare and makeup retailer in North America and one of the biggest, if not the biggest seller of Sunday Riley on this continent. The Sephora website allows for people to search for products by ‘Highest Rated’ and ‘Relevancy’, relevancy of which being determined by how many times that product has been searched for.

If Sunday Riley has been driving up the relevancy and the ratings of their products on the Sephora website, to ensure their products stay at the top of lists for people searching, they are, in effect, falsely marketing their products to consumers and also, lying about the effectiveness of their products.

Employees noted being instructed by the CEO to not just leave a review talking about how great the product is, but to leave specific comments such as “This product completely cleared up my acne!” A completely unsubstantiated claim that misleads customers to a product’s effectiveness and also, undermines the entire product review section as a whole.

Product reviews are used for online shopping on a global scale. Why? Because if we’re not going to be able to see, feel and test a product prior to purchasing, the review section can allow us to get some sort of an idea that we’re purchasing quality. Reviews contribute greatly to how people spend their money online. Sunday Riley knew this and that is why they falsely propagated myths about their brand as a means to stay one of the ‘hot commodities’ on Sephora’s online ‘shelf’.

Reviews, are in a sense, marketing. They can either help or hinder the sale of a product or brand online. Sunday Riley’s actions really hurt all beauty/skincare brands in the process, and potentially a lot other industries as well. Their ‘slap on the wrist’ undisclosed fine from the FTC and being ‘told to not write any more reviews’ will cause a lot of people to seriously reconsider how they shop on Sephora’s website and elsewhere, if they’re a frequent Sephora shopper or not.

Note: I have purchased Sunday Riley products in the past. I just never really found them to be that effective. Sunday Riley products can cost anywhere from $30 Canadian (for a travel size) to more than $200 per bottle for one single treatment.

P.P.S. – I’d bet good money that ‘Influencer Marketing’ for this brand goes WAAAAAAAAAAAAY up in the coming months as they try to bounce back from this negative press. Every ‘Influencer’ is going to be talking this brand up the whazoo, and they’ll probably be paid thousands of dollars each to do so…

Sources:

Fast Company >

Global News >

24 thoughts on “The troubles with Sunday Riley

  1. Exactly, who can we really trust and who is being truthful? This is one of my biggest issues with online product reviews. I find that the only way to tell if something works well is to purchase it and try it. If it’s a miss, I won’t buy the product again.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think if someone has the extra $200 to purchase a bottle of Sunday Riley, that’s great. The fact that it is $200 makes it a risky buy to purchase it and find out it didn’t work. Ya know what I mean? I guess Sephora is really going to have to crack down on their review process now. And if they’re smart, other websites will too. And update their return policies…

      I’d love to be able to purchase everything in person, but they just don’t sell enough here. Which is why reading stories like this Sunday Riley story really pisses me off!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I can’t afford to shop at Sephora, hence why I don’t shop there. Everything starts at $30 (low end, like for a cover-up I bought there which was a small-sized tube) and most things start at $50+. Once I was shopping with someone who spent over $500 on 6 makeup items. It was crazy! So I get why it would be really frustrating to spend a lot of money on something that you have high hopes for, only for the product to not live up to the hype/reviews. Now that these companies are in the spotlight, they will have to do something about it. I am sorry that you had a bad experience with this product. ☹

        Is there any way to test out an expensive product before buying? Sometimes Sephora will have sampling stations. Idk if they offer this at the location where you shop at, but if you ask an employee they will usually let you sample/test the product in store before buying.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. If you go into a Sephora store you can get a sample from a customer service rep to take home and try. Usually it’s like a two-three day trial. But that’s not really available online.

        I’ll admit, at the height of my money making a few years back, I spent A LOT of money at Sephora. As I started educating myself on products and ingredients though, I learned that you can get some much better products from the Drug Store without the markup.

        I totally believe you that they spent $500 on 6 products. I’ve probably done that before! That was four years ago me. lol. I’m much more frugal now.

        I discovered a UK Skincare Line that Shoppers Drug Mart sells in Canada FOR $8-20 depending on the product. It’s sold at Sephora on the USA for $30 – 50 depending on the product. Same products, same packaging same everything. That, to me, was a giant red flag that I really ought to stop spending my money at Sephora. lol

        Liked by 2 people

      3. Thanks for replying, V! I love your answer. You touched on these points perfectly. I recently started shopping at Winners as well as Shoppers Drug Mart. Winners even sells Korean skin care products and there’s this one brand in particular that I’m a fan of. I tried it one day out of curiosity and it doesn’t dry out my skin.

        Seeing the price points at Sephora made me curious. Why are they so expensive? I never thought to compare their products to products that other stores carry. Good observation about the UK Skincare Line! 🙌

        Like

      4. P.S. I read the link you posted and the email that was leaked by a Reddit User (former employee at Sunday Riley). All I can say about Sunday Riley is WOW. What makes me angry about the article is that she didn’t really get in big trouble and basically, they told her not to do it again….

        Liked by 1 person

  2. The other problem is some reviewers won’t leave bad reviews no matter how bad the product turns out to be. There are plenty of pay to play review sites there even though it’s against Amazon’s rules to use them. Personally, I wish the FTC had disclosed how much was paid.

    In terms of reviews, the FTC has clear guidelines on how those are to be done. One of which is to report if you work for the company or receive free or heavily discounted products in exchange for a review.

    While the FTC has not gone after too many bloggers and vloggers yet, it’s only a matter of time before they come down hard on both groups. I know several genealogy bloggers who put links to the FTC guidelines, claim they are following them, but it’s obvious they aren’t because they are not doing what the FTC says needs to be done to be in compliance. If that’s not bad enough, I know law professor who doesn’t link to the FTC guidelines, but ignores the guidelines. If anyone should know better, it’s that blogger.

    I include the FTC link on my blog and do my best to follow them even if I am linking to some other blogger’s affiliate link.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I do also wish the FTC had disclosed what their fine was for Sunday Riley. Without disclosing the amount, it just seems like Sunday Riley was let off the hook.

      There are a number of brands I’ve noticed that also, if they have their own sites, just don’t post negative reviews to their sites. Which is why I love the idea of purchasing from Sephora bcause with Sephora, Sephora decides what reviews go on their site, not Sunday Riley. Even still, seems they’ve found a way around that…

      Jesus. I don’t know a TON about FTC guidelines. I’ve trying to follow the blogger/vlogger guidelines because, when they started getting put into place, I wanted to report people who weren’t following them. I don’t think it’s fair for bloggers and vloggers to cheat people out of their money… But hearing that Genealogy bloggers put the FTC Guidelines on their site and then ignore them, that’s pure bullshit right there.

      Clearly I should do some more reading of FTC guidelines!

      Like

      1. The guidelines apply if you have U. S. customers; if none of your customers are in the U. S., not a problem. The only good news is so far they haven’t gone after vloggers or bloggers yet.

        I have links on Disclosures page – https://upsdownsfamilyhistory.wordpress.com/disclosures-and-disclaimers/, but the basic answer are the two links (one is a PDF) are

        Specific FTC links: https://www.ftc.gov/sites/default/files/attachments/press-releases/ftc-staff-revises-online-advertising-disclosure-guidelines/130312dotcomdisclosures.pdf (PDF file) and/or https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/guidance/ftcs-endorsement-guides-what-people-are-asking.

        Like

      2. Thank You!

        I’ve read that you’re not required to disclose sponsorships in Australia. Though, if a particular Youtube Personality that’s HUGE is from Australia and has all kinds of customers in the USA… that would make the FTC regulations applicable to her, by what you’ve said? Looks like I’m going to need to do some more reading tongiht.

        Thakns for the links!

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      3. You are welcome. Yes, if she has customers in the USA, she should be following the FTC guidelines. At some point, I suspect a major blogger or vlogger will attract the FTC’s attention. I doubt they will bother much with smaller bloggers and vloggers unless they get many complaints about them.

        I prefer to not get on the FTC’s radar and that’s why I try to make it clear if I am sharing an affiliate link. In some cases, the only way to get a good discount is by sharing the affiliate link from another blogger.

        The basic solution is to clearly label affiliate links – I tend to add affiliate link in bold next to the link, adding #ad near the top of a post, but keep it separate from other hashtags you may add. I don’t have any sponsors, but if I do get some, I would make it clear the post was sponsored. On the rare chance, I get a full sponsor, I would start each post with the notice who’s sponsoring my blog.

        I haven’t gotten Advanced Reader Copies from authors, but I would add a note at the start of the post if I mentioned the book or author in a post.

        The FTC seems to go with “If in doubt, put a notice up” as in better safe than sorry.

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      4. Also, one blogger indicates she gets a small percentage from the affiliate links, but based on how many people use her links, it’s a significant amount of income for her. That makes her small percentage notice misleading. Once I get spare time, I will sign up for the major DNA companies’ affiliate programs, but I would get a general range of how much monthly income I was getting from the links as there’s a difference in perception if I were making $25/month vs. $100+/month.

        Like

  3. It’s so sad how often influencers advertise products they don’t actually use on a daily basis. I don’t care that they advertise products but it really pisses me off when they lie about them because some of the products actually end up harming people who buy them.

    Like

    1. True dat. You can always tell when a certain product is making it’s round through ‘Influencers’ too. Everyone will be talking about it for a month or two and then it won’t get talked about for a year, and then all of the sudden everyone is talking about it again.

      I truly predict every ‘Influencer’ and their dogs will be talking about Sunday Riley in the coming months… I’ll laugh when it starts happening…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Lol I’ll laugh if I see it all over Youtibe/Instagram.

        Yeah certain products are everywhere for five minutes and then all of a sudden it’s a different product. I always think it’s funny when makeup gurus are like I use this everyday and than the next week they’re like no scratch that I use this everyday.

        Like

  4. It really bothers me that we can’t trust companies to even have the common decency to allow fair and unbiased user reviews of their products.
    Just imagine what kind of garbage a company must be pushing if they feel they need to trick people into buying it. Maybe if they want those good reviews they should try selling good quality products that actually do what they claim they’ll do? I wonder if the thought ever even crossed their minds :/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They clearly don’t need to put out quality products when they can charge $200 for a bottle and drive up the hype about it with false reviews online. lol

      Like

  5. This is what happens when pursuing the almighty dollar is more important to a company than a set of basic values like being honest. I’m a reviewer for Amazon Vine – I get sent free stuff in exchange for honest reviews. I don’t often give one star reviews, but I love that I have the freedom to do so if I think a product is really poor.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Honesty is always important in the review process. I think that’s espcially why this Sunday Riley story sucks so much. Reviews are supposed to be other customers helping you, NOT people in an office trying to make their product more popular.

      Like

    1. Honestly, if Sunday Riley is doing this, it could mean that any company is doing this. If you purchase expensive colognes, after shave or body wash from sephora, or elsewhere, try ot get a sample before you invest your money. Because at places like Sephora it is a REAL investment.

      Liked by 1 person

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