UPS and Sephora’s Bad Business Practices Borderlining SCAMS. Learn From The Best. Report The Worst!

Two of the many companies that you need to be aware of. © Miguel Á. Padriñán – pexels
06/05/2022
Today we are at the mercy of endless terms and conditions, written in “legalese” and never read; forced to be approved, otherwise relegating users and consumers from all services; banned by social media platforms, leaving no options but to click the “Agree” to continue with our digital lives.

This applies whether visiting a website, or the purchase of goods and services.

While most companies operate within the confines of the law and have great consideration for their clients, others believe to have the right to “stretch” the confines of what is allowed and what they believe to “be entitled to.”

Consumers are all in the same boat, no matter wealth, status, religion, or the strange pronoun you decide to use today.

I’m sure that none of you care, because—let’s face it—there is nothing that we can do. 

I’m also sure that at this point of the article I will have lost many of my readers, and the few that are still reading have a huge question mark on the top of their heads. So let’s straighten things up a bit.

You need to be aware of bad business practices that are put in place by companies violating privacy laws; these unnecessary requests can lead to identity theft, and exposure to hackers, in some cases, they can affect your credit score with serious consequences when trying to get a loan, a mortgage, or renting a new place.

If you believe that I’m talking about small companies from some obscure country, calling to steal your identity or your credit card info, think again.

I will bring to your attention two large companies and real cases to support my statements.

The first is Sephora “a French multinational retailer of personal care and beauty products. Featuring nearly 340 brands, along with its own private label, Sephora Collection, Sephora offers beauty products including cosmetics, skincare, body, fragrance, nail colour, beauty tools, body lotions and hair care.” —Wikipedia.

The second is UPS – United Parcel Service an American multinational shipping & receiving and supply chain management company founded in 1907. Originally known as the American Messenger Company specializing in telegraphs, UPS has grown to become a Fortune 500 company and one of the world’s largest shipping couriers. —Wikipedia.

UPS and Sephora’s Bad Business Practices. Learn From The Best. Report The Worst!
UPS and Sephora’s Bad Business Practices. Learn From The Best. Report The Worst! © Marcial Comeron - pexels

Let us begin with Sephora, shall we?

Imagine Christmas, a birthday, a special occasion, or any festivity for this matter. What do our western rituals involve? As all common mortals, we wander aimlessly into a mall, shop after shop, until we purchase a product—after hours of scouting and endless research—with the hope that the beloved person receiving the gift, will enjoy the fruits of our scavenger hunt.

Unfortunately, the world fell into a weird time called “pandemic”, during which all our usual perils through isles of refined chocolates, clothes, purses, teas, and the useless possibilities that are always “good” and never “good enough”, are now beyond our physical reach, only to be accessed online.

So we find ourselves trolling online, blazing through thousands of products at the speed of a click, allowing us to receive goods from all over the world…almost as if we possessed superpowers. This might seem like all is great, but not all that shines online is real gold.

In the pre-lockdown life, reaching for a physical object, bringing it to the cashier, pulling out our credit card, tapping, and leaving, would be the norm. Now imagine for a moment that at a certain point the cashier would make you pay for the object, and after the credit card transaction is completed, would pull away your desired gift holding it hostage to the scrutiny of information like age, address, sex, phone number, skin tone, you browsing history, reason of purchase, etc.…what would you do?

Well, you cannot just storm out and leave indignant because the transaction has been approved, and for this reason, you want to walk away with what you’ve purchased. But this is not the case with our digital shopping odyssey.

Sephora was my online shopping store of choice, a gift for a loved one and one for myself. After choosing two perfumes online, I proceed to checkout. The payment went through as I look at my phone and the notification from my bank assured me that the amount and store were correct, I also received confirmation of the order from Sephora with the usual receipt. Up till now, all is good…but here is where the situation gets weird.
Two days later, there are no signs of tracking code, notifications, errors, delivery date…nothing.

Now worrisome that my long-thought gift will not arrive in time, I hope that Sephora’s support can finally shed light on this mystery. Dayna (Sephora’s customer support) starts chatting with me; with extreme politeness, she asks for the information regarding my order. She retrieves my order and replies:

“Thank you for your patience. I do apologize for any inconvenience this has been. The reason you haven’t received your order is because it was cancelled shortly after it was placed. You should have gotten an email regarding that. This usually happens when your account is new. I just need to verify some information with you and then can place a new order if you would like.”

Let’s start with NO, no email was ever received as I checked all my junk mail; second, “this happens when your account is new?” Well, this raised a big red flag.

Not sure what was actually happening, I ask if there is a way to fix this? Dayna confirms that she can fix it on her end with some additional information. She asks for my phone number and date of birth. This is a HUGE red flag, and this is information that I never release. The red flag is because your bank will ask for this information, while Amazon (the biggest online store in the world) never asks you for this information…so there is something fishy, and that is why I ask the reason for this information, and Dayna replies:

“We need all this information so we can verify you for all future purchases. Because this was your first purchase on your brand new account, our system has declined your order and stated that we must verify your information to proceed in replacing the order”

After pointing out that this was “too fishy” I declined to release this information and that it was not Sephora’s place to be asking for my date of birth. This sparked in me the need to research why would Sephora need my date of birth to purchase a perfume?

I then called a manager of Sephora to see what would be her reasoning behind asking date of birth.

Rianna (the new customer care from Sephora), gave me the number to contact the privacy department and the email to connect with them directly. She also added:

“Also, upon review, it looks as though the order was cancelled due to a cardholder authorization required. This is simply to identify you are the cardholder. It is much like when you go in a store, and you’re asked to show your ID sometimes when using your credit card. Though I understand and sympathize that it can be frustrating, we must do so to make sure no one is using your information as a protection for you.

Here, another lie comes through “cardholder authorization required”, I take good care of my finances and I use my credit card for all my purchases (like we all do), and you should know that the bank is the only institution in charge of the security of your credit card, and no other company should ever have any information whatsoever regarding your person, least of all Sephora for the purchase of a perfume!

Another lie is the request of ID. I want to be extremely clear on this, nobody can ask you for your ID, nobody! Even the police cannot ask you for your ID, unless there are some serious circumstances involved with the request.

 
Collet | Read LLP Criminal Lawyers in their post mention that:

CAN YOU REFUSE TO SHOW ID TO THE POLICE IN CANADA?

You cannot refuse to present your ID if you are being stopped while driving or operating some kind of vehicle.

You can refuse to show your ID to police if you are a passenger in a vehicle or if they stop you on the street, unless they are investigating a crime that has occurred or they are detaining you.

Police cannot ask for your ID because of your race, because you are in a high crime area, because you refused to answer a question, or because you walked away.

Police must tell you why they want to see your ID, that you can refuse to show them your ID, and that you can refuse to give them your name and date of birth.

If you are unsure what to do, you can ask the officer “Am I being detained?”, or “Am I free to go?” – If they say that you are not being detained, you are free to walk away without identifying yourself.”

https://collettreadllp.com/know-your-rights/can-you-refuse-to-show-id-to-the-police/

 

So if the police cannot ask you for our ID, I firmly do not believe that a Sephora employee has the rights to ask for your ID before the purchase, nor a faceless person behind a phone no matter the company.

If your mind is wondering “what if the card is stolen”, the answer is simple, Sephora cannot protect you from a thief using your credit card, only your bank can. If I was in a school I would ask all of you to repeat after me “only the bank can protect you from fraud.”

Canada’s federal private sector privacy law, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), sets the ground rules for handling of personal information in course of commercial activities. It applies equally to small and big businesses, whether they operate out of an actual building or only online.

PIPEDA requires private-sector organizations to collect, use or disclose your personal information by fair and lawful means, with your consent, and only for purposes that are stated and reasonable.

An organization may only collect personal information that is essential to the business transaction. If further information is requested, you are entitled to ask why, and to decline to provide it if you are dissatisfied with the answer. You should still be able to complete the transaction, even if you refuse to give out more personal information than is warranted.

For more info https://www.priv.gc.ca/en/privacy-topics/information-and-advice-for-individuals/your-privacy-rights/businesses-and-your-personal-information/

If you are in doubt of what data Sephora is collecting, where here is the list:

What Personal Information We Collect

The types of personal information we obtain about you depends on how you interact with us and our products and services. When we use the term “personal information,” we are referring to information that identifies, relates to, describes, or can be associated with you. The following are the categories and specific types of personal information that we collect:

Basic Identifying Information Including your full name, alias, postal address, e-mail address, phone number, date of birth, account name, signature, username or social media handle, or other similar identifiers.

With all this information they can easily and literally access your back account

Government-Issued Identifiers Including your driver’s license number, or other similar government identifier.

This is unconstitutional as only the government can collect personal information. The Privacy Act offers protections for personal information, which it defines as any recorded information “about an identifiable individual.”

It can include your race or color; national or ethnic origin; religion; age; marital status; blood type; fingerprints; medical, criminal or employment history; information on financial transactions; home address; and your Social Insurance Number (SIN), driver’s license or any other identifying number assigned to you.

For more info https://www.priv.gc.ca/en/about-the-opc/publications/guide_ind/

Device Information and Other Unique Identifiers Including device identifier, internet protocol (IP) address, cookies, beacons, pixel tags, mobile ad identifier, or similar unique identifiers.

Internet or Other Network Activity Including browsing or search history, and information regarding your interactions with our websites, mobile applications, emails, or advertisements.

If this is not a violation of your privacy, I don’t know what is. They declare that they are allowed to track your devices, from where you are connected, and your browser and search history; this was enough for me to boycott Sephora and with rage start to write this article.

Geolocation Data Including information that permits us to determine your location, such as if you manually provide location information or enable your mobile device to send us precise location information.

Payment Information Including credit or debit card number.

Commercial Information Including products or services you have purchased, returned, exchanged, or considered, preferences, and rewards activity related to Beauty Insider membership.

Physical Characteristics Including skin tone and type, hair color and type, eye color, and other beauty profile information you provide.

I don’t believe that this requires an explanation, but why not linger a bit longer on skin tone, hair color, and “other beauty information.” Why does a shop need to know how I look? My skin tone? You draw your own conclusions.

Health and Medical Information Including information you choose to provide regarding skin conditions or medications in connection with a beauty service, in-store digital experience, or product recommendation.

Skin conditions or medications? Sure why not. Again I need to be extremely clear here, Sephora’s makeup artists are NOT dermatologists! They have no clue how to identify any skin problems, nor to treat any disease, nor should they be informed of any of the above! Only you and your doctor need to know what is going on about your medical situation, and if in doubt you should bring the product to your doctor and discuss with him, and never disclose anything to a Sephora employee.

Demographic Data Including age, gender, race, ethnicity, estimated income, and household information, some of which may include characteristics of protected classifications under state or federal law.

I had to rewrite this line about sixteen times as I cannot avoid to write curse words. Sephora should know better than just writing it a phrase on their privacy policy page does not allow them to go against federal laws.

User Content Including your communications with us and any other content you provide (such as social media profiles, photographs, images, videos, survey responses, comments, product reviews, testimonials, and other content).

Audio and Visual Information Including photographs, images, videos, and recordings of your voice (such as when we record customer service calls for quality assurance).

Inferences Inferences drawn from or created based on any of the information identified above.

Job Applicant Information Including professional or employment-related information (such as education and employment history) and any other information you provide in connection with applying and interviewing for employment at Sephora. If we retain you as an employee, this may include, among other things, your Social Security number or taxpayer ID.

Sephora is just one example of what is wrong with companies that believe to be above the law. The main problem is that governments are too slow to catch on, and consumers are too stupid to do anything about it.

Governments don’t see any reason to investigate, and the risk to upset thousands of corporations is a headache that no politician would ever endure; adding the fact that none would get any monetary benefit in their pockets, so why bother at all?

Data mining is when companies collect information about you without your knowledge or consent. This information can then be used for advertising purposes or sold to other companies. This data is much more valuable the more details and granular it is, so Sephora has a gold mine of data regarding skin tone, age, location, browsing history, medical conditions, and only God knows what else.

On the other hand, consumers are a herd of brainless sheep, none of which is willing to understand the gravity of this situation, nor is willing to do the research to comprehend that this affects their life, their privacy, their wallet, and the mere fact that a company feels entitled to exploit all of this is reason enough for me to boycott it and cut it out of my life.

To put things in perspective, Mark Zuckerberg was the 3rd richest man in the world and lost 50% of his assets because of the lack of attention to user’s privacy.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was once touted to become the world’s richest man, he has now slipped to the 12th spot. Zuckerberg was the face of the social media revolution, he has now become the face of big tech’s tyranny. Palki Sharma brings you the story of Zuckerberg’s fall.

UPS and Sephora’s Bad Business Practices. Learn From The Best. Report The Worst!
UPS and Sephora’s Bad Business Practices. Learn From The Best. Report The Worst! © Miguel Á. Padriñán - pexels

Now it’s UPS’ Turn

As mentioned in the title there is the possibility that these bad practices are not just a digital threat to your privacy, but also can be harmful to your bank account and credit score, you might not get the job that you want or rent the apartment that you need; these are only a few consequences. At this point there are only two readers: one that is curious, and the second that is starting to believe that there is something fishy going on; all others have left long ago.

To you that made it thus far, I will reveal what our investigation brought up on UPS.

As consumers we purchase products from all over the world. No matter the goods, the highest percentage comes from other countries, whether China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, India, Mexico, or the US. This means that anything that you purchased will come with an additional fee from customs. 

Any item mailed to Canada may be subject to the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and/or duty. Unless specifically exempted, you must pay the 5% GST on items you import into Canada by mail. The CBSA calculates any duties owing based on the value of the goods in Canadian funds. if you are reading this outside of Canada, you might have a different percentage, or maybe you are in those financial paradise countries where there are no taxes at all and where customs are not a thing…if these countries exist at all.

UPS will not send you a digital notification (email) but will send you a letter with the company that shipped the goods and their fee as UPS Brokerage fee to the address where the good was shipped. 

Why is this wrong? Let me explain. In my case—as in many others in major cities—the front desk or security will receive my package and notify me that a package is waiting for me at the front desk with an email (or condominium app), so I can stop and retrieve my package before going to my apartment. All this is the normal condo life that we are all used to. So you might be asking “what is the problem?” Well, there is a huge problem. The UPS customs fee does not arrive with the package, but it can arrive even months later. Once the letter is delivered to your mailbox the clock starts ticking, and it’s a time bomb.

Unless you constantly check your paper mail, sifting every day through the junk and offers that you have no interest in nor that you agreed upon receiving, and annoyingly one by one throw in the overflowing recycle bin, most likely you do it once a month if not every two months. 

If you received the goods to a location where you don’t usually go every day, then it might be between two to four months, particularly when life gets in the way, like a car breakdown, a small vacation, or work piles up deadlines after deadlines, or you lost a job and you are focusing on getting a new one and preparing for interviews…any of these situations or more serious ones might keep you from going and emptying your mailbox of poorly designed flyers with even less convincing offers.

For UPS this seems like a great opportunity to send your customs fee to collections. Now you might not care about having a bad record but let me walk you through what happens:

A debt collection agency is a company that specializes in recovering unpaid debts. If you don’t make your debt payments, a debt collector may contact you to collect money that you owe on a credit card, line of credit, or loan. Your creditor, that is, the company that you owe money to, may try to get their money back by:

  • using its own debt collection department if it has one
  • hiring a debt collection agency to get the money back on its behalf
  • selling your debt to a debt collection agency

A debt collection agency is a company that specializes in recovering unpaid debts. If you don’t make your debt payments, a debt collector may contact you to collect money that you owe on a credit card, line of credit, or loan. Your creditor, that is, the company that you owe money to, may try to get their money back by:

  • using its own debt collection department if it has one
  • hiring a debt collection agency to get the money back on its behalf
  • selling your debt to a debt collection agency

What happens to your credit score

Once your creditor transfers your debt to a collection agency, your credit score will go down.

A low credit score means:

  • lenders may refuse you credit or charge you a higher interest rate
  • insurance companies may charge you more for insurance
  • landlords may refuse to rent to you or charge you more for rent
  • employers may not hire you

For more info https://www.canada.ca/en/financial-consumer-agency/services/debt/collection-agency.html

Back to my story. After sifting through junk mail, I saw a UPS envelope that I opened and read through carefully. 

I checked details on the amount, what goods was it referring to, what company, and what location. It all seem to match, so I continued to read how to pay. The poorly drafted letter and invoice had no link to pay, no number, nothing. So I decided to go on the website, confident that there must be a visible button to pay my UPS Brokerage fee. I was wrong. No button. No link. No indication on how to pay my due amount.

My next step was to call UPS to hopefully get some answers. No answer but a machine. I call again the following day, same luck. This goes on for a week or so, while juggling life, work, routine COVID-19 tests to get to my office, lack of sleep, deadlines, laundry…you get it, those things that fill up our days. Finally, I get to speak with a live agent. Eureka. The pleasant man behind the phone informs me that there is no way to pay the invoice except via phone. This was another red flag. Why? I ask. 

The UPS customer service revealed that he had no clue why, and after I explain my disappointment on the two papers sent to me where no methods of payments are indicated, and that on the website there is nowhere to be found how to pay the brokerage fees, he apologizes and “makes sure” that he will report my disappointing note to his supervisor. We proceeded with the payment via phone, and all ended in a pleasant way. Yeah right.

I would not have included UPS in this article if they behaved as all other companies do, or if the story ended with a pleasant phone payment. Unfortunately, this is where the story goes sour. Another envelope comes into my mailbox sometime later (I cannot determine when it was in my mail…if you are wondering why go back a few paragraphs and read again), and it is from Jay Spinelli of North America Receivable Management Services (RMS), a collection company. 

Yes. UPS is so efficient that delivers not only your packages with lightning speed but also your balance will go straight to collections with the same competent skills that they are known for. Their incompetence lies in not contacting collections after they received the payment, stopping customers to deal with the nightmare of a bad credit score and all its consequences.

At this point, there are no options a call is due to RMS and speak to Mr. Jay Spinelli to explain that this is all wrong and a misunderstanding that should be easy to straighten out. Not. Even. Close. The number of RMS is never answered and I dread to leave this urgent message in a voicemail, as at this point my fears are that this might already be too late. Still no answer after infinite calls and voice messages praying for a callback (that will never arrive.)

I simultaneously create a ticket online and hope for their staff to read that the payment was made and that all is in order with UPS. Days later I receive an email stating that they will desist to continue any actions until they receive communication from UPS. I will not stand still and the second I received this message, I call UPS customer service. The moment the first support assistant answers, I ask for the manager as this matter cannot be solved by a low-level tier operator.

Clark is the UPS manager, that after calmly going through my rant, assures me that he will take this matter into his hands and that the day after (or five days max), this matter will have all been resolved; he also added that he would have called me personally to ensure that all has been taken care of.

Please take an educated guess. If you are naive to the point that you believe that the day after I received a call, you should start training at “The Gullible Institute Against Fraud”; on the other hand, if you believe that Clark called me after the five days, please join the others, as you are in much need as well.

What’s next?

The credit score does change instantly, so I will have to wait. To gain points you will need 2 to 3 years of perfect behaviour, and to be fair I have no clue what can bring down a credit score or bring it up? Should I sign up for that offer for a new credit card from my bank? Can I buy that new computer that I really need with a small loan from the store? Can I afford to take advantage of the monthly payment from the dentist? Who knows?

If you are wondering how much was the amount in question, well we are talking about a lousy $30.01. Yes. UPS—probably one of the biggest shipping companies in the world—ruined my credit score, and the credit score of many other consumers, just for a lousy $30.01, which by the way was already paid!

This behaviour baffles me and should not ever be tolerated. This is not a way to conduct business. No other company could ever behave in this way unless they would like to incur daily lawsuits, bad reviews, and being reported to the BBB (Better Business Bureau) on a daily basis.

Solutions!

This article must have a positive outcome. We are not without power, on the contrary, we have all the power. When any company, big or small, decides that they are above the law and treat their customers with such disrespect and unprofessional attitude, there are actions that can be taken. Reporting to the BBB is the very first action. Second—after the matter has been resolved with the BBB—if your case has the merits, report the case on their review page, on Google Reviews, and for this matter on any website where you can make your voice heard.

Social media is a powerful tool to make yourself louder and gain awareness, as is INSPADES.NEWS, so using these platforms to help others is a duty. Because when you need a loan, to move to a new place, to get a mortgage, these things matter and thinking that UPS’ bad practice might prevent you from all the above and more is intolerable.

Don’t be silent.
Don’t be a brainless sheep. 
Now you know!

What to do when a debt collector calls

Make sure to ask for and write down the following information:

  • the name of the person calling
  • the company the debt collector works for
  • the name of the company the debt collector is collecting money for
  • the debt collector’s telephone number

Ask for details on the debt, such as:

  • the amount you owe
  • who you owe it to
  • when you started owing it

Tell the debt collector that you’ll call back as soon as you verify the information. Look at your bills and bank statements to help you confirm if the debt is yours and if the amount you owe is correct.

You can ask the collection agency to contact you only in writing. Ask your legal advisor to send a written request to your creditor by registered mail, including an address and phone number at which you may be contacted.

Paying your debt once it has been transferred to a collection agency

If the debt is yours and the amount is correct, paying the full amount you owe will resolve the issue.

When repaying your debt:

  • don’t send cash
  • always get a receipt for any payment you make
  • only deal with the debt collector who contacted you to make payments
  • don’t contact the creditor that lent you money, as this might create confusion

If it’s not possible for you to pay the full amount:

  • explain why to the debt collector
  • offer an alternate method of repayment, such as monthly payments
  • follow up in writing
  • include the first payment to show your commitment to paying back the debt, if possible

What you should do if the debt isn’t yours

If you think that the debt isn’t yours, or that an error has been made:

  • tell the debt collector
  • contact the creditor to find out what steps you need to take to correct the error
  • check your credit report to see if the debt appears on your report

 

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