Bianca Ann Levinson has been an Ulta employee in Wichita Falls, Texas for more than a year. She recently decided to share a video on TikTok about how most product returns are handled:
BuzzFeed spoke to Bianca, who said she posted the video to spread awareness about what really happens to returned products. "I was truly shocked that this is how returns were handled," she explained. In the video, Bianca uses scissors to scrape unused eye shadow off of a palette and into the trash.
Bianca is also seen pouring out a full bottle of Redken hair product. "I wanted people to realize that when they return things, it’s not always put back on the shelf. They should reconsider before returning items they purchased. I understand some people have to return things, but if it’s not necessary, then I don't believe they should return it," she said.
Discarding returned products is called "damaging out" in the industry, and Bianca said that when she first got the job, she had a hard time doing it to so many products — like the brand-new Kylie Lip Kit she had to ruin in the video. "As time went on, I learned why it had to be done and it didn’t bother me as much. The main reason why things are damaged out is because of the possibility of cross contamination. If a seal is broken, even if it is unused, we have to either destroy it, send it back to the vendor, or send to DC where it can properly be discarded," she said.
Bianca also said there are dumpster divers who try to sell products they find in the trash online or return them to the store for credit. "If someone sells product out of the trash, it opens up the chance of someone getting sick or an infection and possibly suing Ulta," she said. "We can’t donate for the same reason. Most brands don't allow it either. Ulta cares a lot about their customers and wants to do their best to keep them safe."
"When I work the register, I can honestly say about 45% of the people who come in that day are returning things. About 30% of the product returns are able to be put back on the shelf and the other 70% have to be damaged out and properly taken care of. We most definitely have over $1,000 worth of returned items per week. One time, I had a customer come in and return more than $300 worth of makeup that had to all be thrown out," Bianca said.
What Bianca said is done to returned products at Ulta is a common practice. "I don’t want people to come for Ulta and stop going at all. I want people to know that stores like Sephora, Bath and Body Works, Target, Walmart and many others all have to do the same, too."
Overall, Bianca loves being an employee at Ulta. The main message she wants people to take away from her video is to think before purchasing something...and think before returning it. You can lower the amount of wasted product returns at places like Ulta by asking for makeup samples to test out before purchasing them.