I know that some of you have been following, with some interest, my stand-off with Kiehl’s, locally and globally, over their Pure Vitality Cream. My review on this now discontinued cream, together with my updates as it happened, is available in its full, extended length glory in my original post on the Kiehl’s Pure Vitality Cream.
But I also know that it is very long, and can be confusing. So, after I received some of the final updates yesterday evening, I decided to summarize the issue, the explanation, and more importantly, what YOU as the consumer can and should do. So, if you found the previous post too long and confusing, this one’s for you – if you know of friends and family who might be affected, please appraise them.
Here’s what happened in a nutshell.
I discovered in early June 2017, when I wrote my review on the 6 month old Kiehl’s Pure Vitality cream, that the product is no longer sold anywhere, globally, and no longer listed as a product SKU on any Kiehl’s websites. I reached out for comment to Kiehl’s Malaysia PR but received no response, so I took to Twitter where I contacted @kiehls, their New York offices.
I was informed via Twitter DM (privately) that there was a quality issue likely due to minor raw material variations, which caused some consumers to experience skin discomforts, where their skin felt irritated immediately upon using the product, but signs disappeared immediately after stopping. For this reason, Kiehl’s decided to suspend the distribution and sale of the product until it is resolved, as they are investigating the problem. In the meantime, I was recommended to stop using the cream. (Update to note: Someone else has been given contradictory information, in that they can continue use if they are happy with it. How odd. See original post (updated 13 June 2017))
All further communication ceased thereafter. After 3 days, and a lot of prompting and prodding by some beauty editors and social media influencers in Indonesia, Kiehl’s Indonesia gave a statement along the same lines as that given by the global office, and offered consumers an exchange or refund of their cream. That was the first positive breakthrough we had.
Yesterday, after about 4 days, the Communications Director of L’Oreal Malaysia, Jean Loh, on behalf of Kiehl’s Malaysia finally spoke to me, to similarly confirm what their global offices had told me, and more importantly, to confirm that consumers who have purchased the Kiehl’s Pure Vitality Cream in Malaysia, may take it back to any Kiehl’s store for a FULL REFUND in line with their customer satisfaction guarantee. I was informed that no receipts was required for this particular cream, due to it already being out in the market since January 2017, as long as you have an account with the store, and in this instance, the usual 30 day satisfaction guarantee is waived. If you have concerns, you may contact the Consumer Advisory Department for clarification at Tel: 1-300-22-2232. For clarification, if you are unable to produce a receipt and have no account with the store e.g. if the product was a gift, you may exchange your cream with another product.
In view of the recommendation by Kiehl’s directly to me, to stop using the product, given as an abundance of caution, I highly recommend that you take up the offer from Kiehl’s Malaysia, and return your Pure Vitality Cream to them, for a refund, whether or not you experienced any negative reactions.
This is the situation, and solution in a nutshell, and if you know of anyone who may be affected by this, or even if they love the product, or if you think they may be using the product, to please share this update with them. I don’t forsee a stampede at the Kiehl’s stores to return the product, but consumers have a right to know that this is an option open to them, in view of the recommendation received.
I have a little commentary and some observations following on from this incident, that I’d like to talk about after the jump, so if your concern is only to find out the gist of the story and the solution, you’ve got it :)
You know what’s ironic in this situation? I still have not, personally, received a written reply to my emails to the local office. I wrote 3. I left comments and DM to the @mykiehls handle on Instagram, similarly without acknowledgement or response. I did raise this during my telephone conversation, for I don’t believe I’d have pursued it as far, had I been given a response, even if a placeholder “Please let us check and get back to you on this matter” one. It was the proper thing to do.
However, I’d like to share here, with permission, the reply given to a reader, who took it upon herself to prod the brand on Facebook for a response, and shared it with me. I noticed that local inquiries received a similar response late yesterday afternoon, once the silence was broken with me, verbally.
This appears to be the official response to any inquiries made locally.
I however, would like to make a few observations.
- There is no recommendation to discontinue use of the product. Unlike what I was told, there is no recommendation to discontinue use of the product, even if it doesn’t bother your skin. A few readers left a comment on my previous post stating that they did experience some reaction, but pegged it as a normal reaction to a cream that doesn’t work for them.
- There is no public statement that the Pure Vitality Cream is discontinued for reasons of quality. The local office takes its cues from the global offices, and I am given to understand, by people who have made inquiries of the New York offices, that there is no response to their queries. Perhaps there wasn’t enough pressure? I’m not sure. But there is no public statement, except what I and others have chosen to make public.
A public statement should be made by Kiehl’s globally
I maintain my view expressed in my earlier post, that if a product is removed from shelves and withdrawn from global sale, and all traces of it are erased from the brand’s website, due to what they say, quality issues, then the company ought to make a public statement.
In many countries of the world, Malaysia included, returns of cosmetics products and consumables are not practised. It may be widely practised in the USA, but less so elsewhere. Not many people are aware of Kiehl’s money back guarantee within a limited time. Therefore, not many people will think of returning a product that does not suit them.
As a responsible company, it is my view that a public statement should have been made by the company, informing consumers of this matter and offering a refund or exchange, should the consumer experience any negative reactions. If not publicly, then the company ought to have contacted the consumer directly through their customer record and purchase history. I maintain that a situation of this nature warrants it, and I am quite frankly disappointed that Kiehl’s (globally) is choosing not to make this public.
My conversation with @kiehls via DM on Twitter. There is no further response.
Update: I received a response on 11 June 2017 on DM telling me Kiehl’s Malaysia will be in touch. I’m not sure if it’s a time difference thing, or if I should be contacted again. Who knows really. Also, someone has told me that Kiehl’s NYC has told them that if they are happy with the product, they can continue using it (See update here as at 13 June 2017). It does not gel at all with the response that you see above.
I received this reply via Twitter DM as well on 13 June 2017.
This is a dead horse and I should not be flogging it. So really, I have nothing more to say bar what you see here. My views remain. I am not trying to sensationalize matters, as some people claim. I maintain that this is a matter of public concern, and at the very least, the consumers who bought the product, have a right to know of potential skin discomfort they may face, and their recourse.
There should be a product recall globally
I realise that a product recall is a serious matter. But so is a product that has known side effects or can cause potential skin discomfort. It is my view that a product that a company deems unfit to bear the brand name, despite a major global launch, is unfit to be sold to the public and for the public to continue using it.
Kanebo Cosmetics issued a public apology and a product recall globally, even though not everyone was affected by the products in question. I was one of those unaffected users. Samsung recalled their Note 7 globally, even though not everyone’s phones blew up in their faces. Ikea recalls products now and again, even though not everyone’s chest of drawers falls down on them. I don’t see it as hurting a brand’s reputation, but as a way to preserve and uphold this reputation, of holding their products to a high standard.
As it stands, only those who have stumbled upon my post, whether on my blog or on Instagram or Facebook, may be aware of this issue. Only these people may know to take their Pure Vitality Cream back to the store and ask for a refund. Those who don’t know, won’t. And may continue using it.
Those who are now afraid of using it or who may have experienced a reaction, but chalked it up to just another skincare reaction, may be out of pocket for a product that is or could be faulty, through no fault of theirs. It isn’t fair to the consumer, and I maintain my views on this.
It may not be a product problem that affects a large proportion of the public, but it was major enough for the brand to remove it as one of their product SKU. For this reason, I view it as serious enough for a product recall to be made public. This is not targeted at Kiehl’s Malaysia alone – it is targeted at Kiehl’s Global office, for they call the shots, and they clearly aren’t calling this one.
Action and Apathy
When I broke the news about Pure Vitality Cream on Tuesday, 6 June 2017, I was quite inundated with a flurry of responses and DMs and messages on Instagram, interestingly, mostly from Indonesia.
Kae Pratiwi (@kaepratiwi) of the skincare blog The Fruit Compote, and I have been in fairly close communication since, and she was instrumental in getting the word out among the skincare community, and the Indonesian beauty community. For that, she earns my gratitude, for if it was not for her talking about this issue on her Instagram Stories (she did not attend the Indonesian Kiehl’s Pure Vitality Cream launch nor was she affected by the product – she just felt a PSA was necessary to the beauty community) and for other 2 beauty influencers – Deszell (@deszell) and Puch (@puchh) who both were invited for the launch and endorsed the product, yet posted up updates on their Instagram, updating and advising their followers to take notice of this issue, it may not have garnered the attention in Indonesia that it eventually did.
The upshot of their actions was that some Indonesian media started asking questions and pushing for answers from Kiehl’s Indonesia. This led to Kiehl’s Indonesia finally issuing a statement to the media, to the effect that consumers could get a refund or exchange of their Pure Vitality Cream in Indonesia. This was reported in a news site Wolipop at Detik.com and I later noticed, also picked by Cosmopolitan Indonesia. I am grateful to these publications for letting their public know about what’s happening and their recourse.
I also have to thank a few readers, who took it upon themselves to write to, and badger the Kiehl’s offices in their countries, as to what was happening. This is by no means exhaustive, for not everyone may have contacted me.
On Twitter, @Samstillreading took it up with Kiehl’s Australia. A reader Momoko2512 on Instagram had taken up the issue with Kiehl’s Australia about a refund for her Pure Vitality Cream. She was unable to get a refund in store at Kiehl’s Sydney as she purchased the cream in Kuala Lumpur. However, she has since been informed by L’Oreal Australia that they will give her store credit if she can show proof of purchase with receipts or credit card statement, and I hope this will, at least, allow her to receive some recompense for her purchase of a product she can no longer use.
In Mexico, reader Efrain took the matter up with Kiehl’s Mexico and Spain and badgered them for 2-3 days, since reading about it on my blog.
He hasn’t updated me with the response, which I’ll update once I receive it, but I agree with him. (Update: Efrain has not been contacted since with a formal response. I guess they’re treating the matter as closed.) Over the past few days, it appears that there has been some communication going on, on a global level, or at least, by the Kiehl’s offices in different countries, trying to figure out a common response to give consumers, who are finally asking questions about this product. US bloggers @omgbart on Instagram and @musingsofamuse on Twitter too contacted the Kiehl’s PR in New York, but were stonewalled with silence.
Locally, fellow blogger Lily, who purchased and loved the Pure Vitality Cream, took to her blog to talk about it, and to follow up with Kiehl’s MY on this. On instagram, Fiona (@fionastreetlove) and Sabrina (@sabbyprue) too posted up pictures yesterday, highlighting this cream and this issue. A local lifestyle site Pamper.my updated their post on Pure Vitality Cream to reflect the current position on the product.
A few readers contacted me privately to tell me that they too had taken to email or Facebook to raise questions with the brand locally. To all of them, I thank you, for doing what you felt was right, and to chase an answer from an otherwise reticent and reluctant brand office.
For the most part however, I do sense a sense of apathy, particularly from those who may have something to gain by not talking about this, even though they may have previously endorsed the product. Perhaps they don’t know about it. As I said, I am but one person, and I’m not that large or visible. I never profess to be an influencer, for I know not the scope of my influence or otherwise. I don’t usually make it a point to be controversial or to bully people. I wanted it to come from you, if you feel that sense of responsibility.
If we can feel so strongly about “krim kilo” and look with disdain at dodgy local brands, should we not apply the same standards to a global brand? Are we shying away from calling out a large, global brand, because we are afraid? Because you may lose your monetary sponsorship or free products or event invitations and free press junkets from the brand and the brands under the mother company?
We call out Qu Puteh and sneer at it, even though we don’t use it. It is by the same token, and perhaps, even more important, that we should call out a large global brand for a product that’s withdrawn for quality issues, even though we don’t use it. We may not be affected by it, but I’m not affected by “krim kilo” either. But I love beauty and I love skincare, and I feel I owe a responsibility to my readers and followers to educate and highlight prickly issues that may affect them.
I do not call for a brand boycott and I maintain that there are existing products from Kiehl’s that I will stand behind – Midnight Recovery Concentrate oil and the Powerful-Strength Line-Reducing Concentrate are 2 – but I will personally proceed with caution with future new releases, maybe giving them at least 6 months to test for product longevity, before talking about them, if I do. I cannot control how anyone thinks or reacts after this, but this is my position.
At this point in time, I think I have achieved the best that I could. I have raised enough questions, I have made enough people that matter think, and I and the small group of you who have supported me through this, globally, have rocked the boat enough, for Kiehl’s Indonesia and Kiehl’s Malaysia to publicly state that they will allow product exchanges and refunds for the Pure Vitality Cream. We have done what we could, to make people aware of what’s going on, and why this product, only recently launched in many countries, is no longer available.
We haven’t done enough to force a public statement from the brand. But as I told Kae, we can be proud of the little success that we have achieved, in raising and pursuing this matter, not for our personal benefit, for Kae and I receive none, but for the benefit of those consumers who purchased the product and who should not be out of pocket, when it is not their fault the cream has a quality issue.
Thus ends my Kiehl’s Pure Vitality Cream saga. It has been quite a ride over the past few days. I have not spent so much time on my phone or Instagram ever! LOL! :D This has also exposed an apathy among the beauty community and media, that I never quite thought I’d see, but as they say, you live and you learn and you open up your eyes a little more about people in the process.
I’d probably be on the L’Oreal group blacklist forever now LOL! But so be it :)