I see a lot of reviews mentioning problems trying to return items to the store that were bought online, so I'll start with that. I'm not a big returner but the one time I went to my local Ulta with a return, the SA pretty much fell all over herself trying to help me. No problems whatsoever. I'm guessing that everyone's experience is going to vary from store to store. Which isn't fair, but I'm glad to say my experience was a positive one.
Overall, I have to say that I LOVE ULTA! I go in there about once a month and it's always a treat for me. The only other store that I can compare it to is Sephora, and I definitely prefer Ulta over them. Ulta's rewards program is the bomb (you earn points for every dollar spent and the points equal $ off purchases) and they are extremely generous with their multi-point events and coupons. Every time I go in there I have some type of Ulta coupon with me, be it $3.50 off or $5.00 off or 20% off. More often than not though the coupons exclude the high-end brands, which can be annoying. But here's where Ulta has got Sephora beat in my opinion- they carry the best mix of high and low all under one roof. Drugstore and department store brands together. What I love about them is that they sell so many things that I actually NEED along with the "splurge" type items as well.
As far as the knowledgeability of the staff, I can't really speak to that because I've never felt the need to ask them anything about anything. Everything in the store is really easy to find. And I do all of my product research online (mostly on MUA) so I pretty much have my mind made up before I buy anything. It honestly wouldn't occur to me to ask a SA what their opinion is of this product or that product. But that's just my shopping style. They're always really nice there though.
If you are a nail polish lover (which I am) they carry OPI, Essie, China Glaze, and Zoya. Sephora doesn't. And if you're a hair product junkie (which I also am) they carry all the salon brands like Redken and Joico too. And twice a year, they have a fantastic sale on their liter-sized bottles of shampoo and conditioner, 50% off. I save so much money shopping there! The points system alone makes it worth it for me to buy all my miscellaneous items from them when I can.
Had the exact same experience as reviewer swimblock. Tried to return an online purchase with the packing slip, was told I needed the original shipping confirmation email. I didn't even have the email anymore. It was a while later until I got back there, by this time it was over 60 days and I could only get store credit. Before I went back, I read the instructions on website for returning online purchases to store. It does say the packing slip can't be used, that you need the email, and it tells you how to bring it up through your Ulta account. So, I give them half a pass. On one hand, it was my error for not reading the return policy beforehand. On the other hand, they should make returns easy like other stores and not make us jump through hoops. Why not print the pricing information on the packing slip? I usually have to ask for my free gift with purchase if there is one, and I'm usually not informed if I have points reward dollars available and asked if I would like to use them toward purchase. The Ulta's near me are all clean and well organized. For the most part, the staff is pleasant and moderately helpful, though not very knowledgeable overall.
I disagree with CordulaM (who is an SA at Ulta and as of now it looks like her review has been deleted) and agree with Shannon804. I recently returned an item I bought online and received such a hassle from the SA and had the same experience as Shannon. I took what I thought was the sales receipt which was in the box when it was delivered and the SA said, it was the packing slip, not the receipt and that I had to find the email, print it out and bring it in. I hit the roof! What I thought was the receipt had the UPC label printed on it so I thought it contained all the sales info. I told the SA that Ulta needed to take it one step further, to include the receipt on the packing slip and that it was really stupid to expect a customer to wade back through their emails to find the original confirmation email, print it out and bring it in. I am an accountant and IMHO, ULTA is doing this to discourage returns. Plus I don't like the fact that ULTA does not give out samples. I am tired of buying products that do not perform like they claim they do and then I have to return them. So I've adopted a policy that I want to sample any new product before I buy it. Nordies and Sephora are both great at giving samples so perhaps Ulta will loose my business to them if they do not make improvements to the store's policies and procedures. As it is now, I am only shopping at Ulta if it is a product that I normally use and/or I can use a coupon. I also agree that the SA's at Ulta do not appear to be as knowledgeable about products as the SA's at Sephora.
I work at a high-grossing Ulta and I have to say my experience is very different. It's not perfect, we could each do with thousands more hours to make the store better, but it doesn't exist in the budget. Everyone who works in my store is so nice and friendly and educated. We do know a lot about products but some requests are ridiculous. 'No, I haven't tried every single type of hair gel for YOUR hair type, I don't even use gel.' It's frustrating when you try to learn about as many products as possible but the customers want a million details that you can't offer. And new products come out constantly.
And we do gladly accept returns, no problems. As far as internet returns, the slip that comes in the box does not say the price paid for the items, that's why we need the email confirmation to show the price paid, or people return for more than they paid. We just need confirmation of purchase, so we know it was purchased from an Ulta. People come all the time without a receipt. As long as it's on their account, we can look it up. But we need some sort of proof of purchase and the price paid. I know it's frustrating. They should update so that the bar code could be scanned and pull up the price paid, but the thing is, please understand that the bar code price is NOT always what you pay, since there are coupons and sales all the time. It wouldn't be fair to return an item at full price if full price wasn't what was paid. It's not about disagreeing, it's just how it works. YES I agree it could be better, and they should show the price paid on the packing slip, but until then, it's only fair to show and receive the same amount of money back.
Also, the customers are pretty bad at times. We try to never assume people are stealing unless it's seen, but we find so many empty boxes and used products - it upsets us too. Nyx started having testers and started shrink wrapping lipsticks, so less people use them. I think that's great. As far as "find in store", I agree. You can actually search some prestige items to see if your local store has it. If it's not an option online, call and ask. If we don't get back to your right away, it's because the calls go up to the register and as you know, the cashiers are usually extremely busy with a line, but they do get someone to look for the product for you. I've had people complain that I can't find a simple product on BLACK FRIDAY on the phone, even though I left to check a few times and it was busy as hell. Give a little credit to the other side, people aren't lazy, they're probably just very busy, or new.
As far as truck, we have NO control over what comes, it's from the warehouse, we just put it out and hope the right products come. And it's a lot. We come in at 5am to unload truck and 6am the days we don't get truck to finish putting it out. Because guess what? If we do it when the store is open, we don't get far because people always ask us for help, which is understandable, but this is why we have to get most of it done during off-hours. Personally, I love it. I love making the store nice and neat.
If you learn what the coupons are eligible for, it's really easy. (Hint: It's only drugstore brands, the large post card coupons that come out a few times a year are for (most) Prestige brands, but the flyer ones never are.) Plus there is a point system for any product which is more than fair. The gifts with purchase change so often, you sometimes have to remind the staff. Sometimes we forget or run out. It happens.
I liked shopping here before I worked at one of the stores. The sales and coupons are awesome. I always get such great deals. It doesn't pay a lot, the hours aren't enough and we could always use more help to get the store clean and organized, but it's one of my favorite stores, and I think over all it's a place I would continue to shop at.
If it is possible to buy something at a physical store other than Ulta, I will go out of my way to get it there rather than have to brave Ulta. First, the staff is CLUELESS and doesn't even try to learn or pretend like they know anything. I mean, anyone can Google "best mascara" and have a random suggestion when customers ask what they should try. When I have asked for specific palettes or products, they look at me like I have three heads. My Ultas have products out that you can test, but no testing tools or alcohol to clean the testers with . . . gross. The one star is for the coupons, but 90% of the time, they aren't valid on the brands I want. They also don't give samples, so you can't try anything, and their return policy is not generous. Their customer service is the worst in the beauty business. I bought the wrong shade of a powder online, and brought it into the store to exchange it, with my receipt, product still sealed in plastic. They made a huge fuss and tried to tell me that I couldn't exchange it, then tried to tell me they didn't carry that brand in the store, despite the fact that they do, then told me the problem was that they needed my e-mail confirmation. Any time I order online, it takes two to four weeks to receive my order (!). I have placed Sephora or Target orders and received my items within 3 days-- meanwhile, I'm still waiting for Ulta to process my order for two weeks ago. Why would I pay the SAME PRICE as other stores for CRAPPY service? Thank goodness Target started carrying NYX. I may never set foot in this place again.
I don't like Ulta's customer service. Not much help offered, plus if you need to return anything, you're made to feel like you're robbing them or something. A few times, the cashier even forgot to give me the free gift with purchase I am entitled to. I never shop at Ulta, unless absolutely necessary!
Ulta stores are NOT created equal. I think with this store it all comes down to the staff. I have three Ulta's within a 10-30 minute rage from me. One of those stores is the next town over and I ONLY go to that one in a pinch or tight on time. The SA's are usually miserable and lack motivation. I know this isn't an exciting job at NASA but some enthusiasm would be greatly appreciated and customers will want to spend money! For spa services or I want to do a haul or take my time, I have to drive to the 30 minute location. Of course, the furthest one is the best one. So, I give this particular furthest store five stars. The sales associates are always eager to help and will go check to see when things will be back in stock. They will, get this, tell you if you have points you can use without you even asking! Also, this location is the largest with the most inventory. The one that is right next to me has dedicated three rows just for Benefit and the whole front store is all Clinique. I'm not a fan of these brands so that is just all wasted space for me. My favorite location is an all in one stop shop! A lot of brands and variety.
As for spa services, I've been extrememly happy with the three facials from this particular location. Icing on the cake, I recently had to use a 50% spa coupon and it was the last day to use it. I had an appoinment for a facial at 2pm. On the way to the appointment, there was an accident on the off ramp and was stuck in traffic making me 30 minutes late to my appointment. I called the store and told them what happned and they said they were booked after me but to come down anyway and they would take care of me. They gave me one of their 20 minute facials which in the end, worked out for me since my day was already shot. The esthetician wasn't moody about my extreme tardiness even though she could tell how frazzled I was. She changed my mood to disgust and embarrassment to calming and content. She really made my day and the service was outstanding. She took the time to go over steps and even warned me of then things might tingle.
I'm a spa junkie. I've been known to get $200 facials. I'm also very critical of them. If I'm paying $200 for a facial, don't lean over me with your garlic breath and use cold fingers! I had one esthetician even sit in the room and chow on her lunch while I laid there with a mask on my face. Granted, there are down times in facials but at least go into a different room!
I have a huge love hate (more hate) relationship with this store. While online is fantastic, in store... not so much. The last time I was there, I felt like I was followed the whole time. I work retail, so I get it -- to an extent. Beauty at our store is a huge theft problem. Other times, I stand up front wondering where the heck their employees are. I really hate that. I have walked out of stores for that reason. Usually, the associates are super friendly at the store I go to. I usually don't have huge problems with customer service.
My major problem is their -severe lack- of in store stock. I hate driving all the way out there for them to not have 90% of what I'm looking for. Their drugstore section is heavily shopped. A "find in store" option on their website would be amazing. ULTA, in store, is usually my last resort for purchasing something I need ASAP. The Wal-Mart across the street from my job is stocked 1000% better, sadly.
I LOVE that most of their products have testers (I seriously appreciate this. Most drugstores do not have these!) but that does not stop most of their customers from opening the products anyways. Most of the time, one of the products I am looking for only have ONE left, and it's always open! This is why I'm a huge online shopper.
My store can be really slow at getting new arrivals too. A new line or product that the community has been talking about for months can take months to land. We are in a pretty prominent city. I just don't get it. They seem to have been getting better about this on my last visit. I also wish they had better drugstore selection, in general.
I love the concept of the store. I hate fighting traffic in other big stores when I just want to look at beauty items. They need to keep their stores stocked better.Their sales are pretty awesome. They ALWAYS have a coupon floating around as well.
Ulta is somewhat of a necessary evil for me, since they're the only store in my area (that I know of) that carries certain products and brands (like NYX). My two biggest pet peeves: 1) many of the employees are frequently apathetic. It depends on who is there on any given day. And they are very serious about watching you, I can attest! And 2) (this is my biggest pet peeve) the testers are often missing -- or several perfectly good items, even several of one kind (like one particular color of lipstick or eyeshadow), have been tested by customers, rendering them useless for purchase. I realize this latter pet peeve is not necessarily the store's fault, but I would expect them to monitor this situation and ensure that testers are always available, even if that means compensating for theft of testers (yuck) by ordering extra stock. And speaking of ordering stock, rarely do I find what I came to purchase. They are ALWAYS out of stock on things and telling me that their "truck is coming on Thursday." When I return on Friday, I always find that what I want STILL hasn't been received, and it goes on and on this way forever. :-(
I love Ulta...and I shop there a lot. My only beef with Ulta is that when I go in there I'm usually harassed by sales associates asking me if I'm "finding everything OK" 4,000 times, which equals "we think you might be stealing". This ticks me off because I don't steal, sometimes it takes me a while to browse and I spend quite a bit of money there every year! Also, I give the cashier my club card every time I check out but I have yet to discover what the rewards of this is...I've had it for a few years now and never gotten anything free or discounted because of it, soooo...