During a 20 percent off sale on Sephora.com in early November that was so popular it crashed the site, the company deactivated some users’ accounts who were suspected of buying bulk products for resale. Which, in and of itself, should be fine. The company readily admits that it “identified certain entities.” But here’s the issue: the claimants say the accounts that were deactivated were those:
“[O]f perceived Chinese/Asian descent based on the ill-founded and discriminatory belief that all Chinese/Asian customers abuse discount sales to engage in bulk purchase for re-sale.”
Sephora.com completely crashed on November 6, meaning no users could access their accounts. Once it was running again, the retailer posted on Facebook blaming the malfunction on “a high level of bulk buys and automated accounts for reselling purposes from North America and multiple countries outside the US.” The company said the newly deactivated users were those:
“[W]ho take advantage of promotional opportunities to purchase products in large volume on our website…after careful consideration, we have deactivated these accounts in order to optimize product availability for the majority of our clients.”
Those blocked email accounts, though, ended up being names that appeared to signify Chinese/Asian ethnicity/national origin/descent or web domains originating in China or Asia. Certainly not everyone from a Chinese/Asian ethnicity was engaging in the bulk buying/resale practices, though. In fact, the complaint alleges that more than 95% of the blocked emails had nothing to do with illegal bulk reselling, but simply seemed Chinese. The four women, whose names are Xiao Xiao, Man Xu, Jiali Chen, and Tiantian Zou, filed suit in the Southern District of New York U.S. District Court this Tuesday.
In a statement to the style blog Fashionista, Sephora said that “a number of countries around the world” were affected by the “temporary block,” not just Asian ones. We’ll be keeping a close eye on this story to see what happens.