Who doesn’t want to shop for things at lower prices when the opportunity arises? When there’s a sale, I can’t help but think of shopping online from the US for stuff we don’t yet have here and shipping products straight to my doorstep via mail forwarding service. It’s also a chance for me to gain access to brands that are yet to be available locally. The experience has been a breeze the past few times, so I’ve never had any reason to have my doubts. That is, until I stumbled upon Ulta.com.
If you’re from the Philippines and are looking to buy from the US, you might want to read the rest of this…
For those who aren’t familiar, Ulta is a big beauty retailer with branches across the USA. A friend described it as kind of like Sephora, but with a bigger mix of drugstore brands. Doesn’t that sound exciting? When I got feedback from a family friend that she never experienced any problems shopping at Sephora with a credit card from outside the US (and subsequently having the purchases shipped to a US address), I was convinced that Ulta would be the same. It all sounded like a dream-come-true for this beauty junkie, so I was excited to pick out products from a huge pre-Black Friday weekend sale they announced.
I got as far as the online checkout before the site informed me that my credit card could not be accepted. I tried Plan B, Paypal, but also kept getting errors on account of my Ulta-entered billing address (the same California address as my package forwarder) did not match the Philippine billing address attached to my Paypal account. FYI: It is not possible to change the Ulta billing address to any country outside the US, and it isn’t possible to change the country of a billing address on a Paypal account without going through a lengthy process of closing and re-opening accounts. Okay, Plan C, how about I just get a e-Gift Card that’s as good as cash and use it to complete my order?
Apparently, it is possible to purchase an Ulta gift card using a non-US Paypal account, though it is not possible to make a direct purchase to Ulta.com with that same Paypal account. The gift card comes from a third-party company, Cash Star, who also supplies gift cards for other big-name establishments such as Starbucks, Macy’s, Sephora, etc. Got the gift card without any incident. The loaded amount was there in full. We are back in business!
I proceeded to enter the gift card’s number and PIN code as the new payment method. The site acknowledged that the gift card had been applied to the purchase. Onto the final step, clicking ‘Place My Order’. That’s when I received an error message that read, “We are experiencing difficulty processing your order. Please try again later or use another payment method.”
Okay. Tried again… Nada. One more time… No dice.
By then, I was becoming increasingly worried. Why on earth wouldn’t the site accept a gift card that contains straight-up cash, especially since it no longer requires a billing address??? I had to Skype and send e-mails to Ulta customer service, and the only good news is that their hotline is toll-free. I was able to place the call from the comfort of my own archipelago for free. From those interactions, here’s what I learned: Apparently, you cannot place orders to Ulta.com from outside the US, even with all the other valid requirements such as a US shipping address and a full-functioning gift card with USD inside.
I googled it and asked around. From several accounts, those who shop at Sephora (circa 2012-2013) from the Philippines did not have trouble using their Philippine-issued credit cards at checkout, providing that their entered billing address is the same as their US-based shipping address. In a nutshell, the Ulta site is much more picky in the billing department.
Hope is not lost. There’s still Plan C.1. Contact a friend who is based in the US, and get her to use the gift card from her end of the pond. She can place the order for me!