When Val Stephen tries to return her makeup to Ulta Beauty during the pandemic, she's in for a shock. The store won't give her money back, even though she has a promise in writing. What can she do?

Q: I have a problem with Ulta Beauty. The company has a generous refund policy and I needed to return some makeup because the color was wrong, but the stores were closed because of COVID-19. They were accepting purchases but not returns. 

I chatted with an Ulta Beauty representative on their website and saved screenshots of that chat where they said I have 180 days after the store reopens to return the merchandise. So, I didn't worry about it. 

But when I went to a recently opened Ulta Beauty store six months after my purchase, they couldn't get the register to give me a refund because it had been more than 180 days. I showed them a printout of my chat and she said the chat person gave me the wrong information. She agreed I was in the right to expect the company's own chat to be accurate, but they couldn't do it at the store. 

I called Ulta Beauty's customer service department and they said the same thing: the chat was incorrect. I told them to go ahead and issue me a store credit and I'd reach out to you to help me get the promised refund. Is there anything you can do? -- Val Stephen, San Jose

A: Ulta Beauty should have given you a refund as promised. A lot of businesses have flexible refund policies during the pandemic, which was the right thing for consumers. I don't think it's asking too much for them to actually do what they promised.

You did everything correctly, including saving chat screenshots. Good job! In hindsight, maybe you could have asked for a refund a little earlier. But you were following Ulta Beauty's own guidelines. 

What I find incredible is that you had a promise in writing and the company still refused to give you a refund. A company should stand behind its employees. It's not only good customer service, at least in your case, but also good for employee morale.

Ulta Beauty's site says that during the COVID-19 crisis, it was extending its refund policy to 180 days. But it looks as if it's 180 days from the day of your purchase, not from when the store reopens.

I understand your dilemma. You had to wait until the stores reopened to get your refund. So, it's not as if you could have returned the merchandise when you wanted.

Ulta lists the names and titles of its executives on its site. Email addresses at Ulta are formatted This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

A brief, polite email to one of the executives might have enabled a fast refund. I contacted the company on your behalf and it refunded the $55 you'd spent.

Christopher Elliott's latest book is “How to Be the World’s Smartest Traveler” (National Geographic). Get help by contacting him at www.elliott.org/help.

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