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Shoppers leave the newly renovated Janesville Mall in September 2015.

Anthony Wahl

JANESVILLE

A former employee at Ulta Beauty in Janesville said the store would sometimes repackage returned makeup and put the used products back on the shelves.

The accusations align with a slate of others circulating on Twitter this week, in which current and former Ulta employees across the country say they were routinely told to market old makeup as new.

Cortney said she worked for the Janesville Ulta store from May to September 2017. She provided The Gazette with a screenshot of her bank statement, showing a paycheck direct deposit from Ulta, as evidence of her past employment.

Cortney declined to give her full name, saying she feared retribution from her current employer, a different makeup store.

At Ulta, she worked the cash register and organized products in her role as a beauty adviser. If a customer returned a product that had less than 75 percent of its contents, it would be considered “damaged” and would be thrown away, she said.

But if the product was lightly used and mostly intact, employees were taught to doctor it and make it look new. Cortney was told to clean the nozzles of shampoo or foundation containers, and she used toilet paper to repurpose lipstick, she said.

When the altered products returned to the shelves, they had no stickers to indicate they were once used, Cortney said.

The manager of the Janesville Ulta store declined to comment Friday.

In a corporate statement emailed to The Gazette, an Ulta spokeswoman said the company strives to offer the best guest experience.

“This includes efforts to safeguard the integrity of products we sell. We take seriously our responsibility to provide safe, high quality products,” the statement reads. “The actions described are inconsistent with our practices and while we continue to investigate, we want to emphasize that we do not allow the resale of any opened or used items in our stores.”

Cortney said she decided to share her experience after seeing a viral Twitter thread from user @fatinamxo, who posted the original tweets Tuesday.

The woman identified herself on Twitter as a former Ulta employee who believed “makeup lovers should know what’s going on behind closed doors.”

More than two dozen people who said they were current or former Ulta employees responded to the original tweets, saying they were taught similar repackaging tactics. They said they worked at stores in Texas, California, Florida and Michigan, among other places.

Ulta’s Twitter account responded to some of the tweets with the same statement: “The health and safety of our guests is a top priority for Ulta Beauty. We are looking into these claims as the actions described are inconsistent with our practices and values.”

Cortney said she wasn’t surprised to learn the issue happened elsewhere, but she said not all Ulta stores would have the same problems.

She took umbrage with Ulta passing off used products as new. Customers weren’t getting their money’s worth because they weren’t purchasing full containers, she said.

And it was unsanitary, she said.

“(Some people would say), ‘It’s just foundation, you can just clean it off,’” Cortney said. “But you don’t know, it can be contaminated. You don’t know how it’s been used or anything behind it. If you have sensitive skin, you don’t want someone else’s product and put it on your face.”

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