This site may get paid a small amount of commission for purchases made after clicking a link in this post. There’s no extra cost to you & it keeps us going so please support us if you can.
I had a £5-per-month Beauty Pie membership which was working out just fine for me until very recently. It spread the cost without shelling out for an annual lump sum membership, and allowed me to buy up to £50 of beauty products from them per month, with any surplus rolling over indefinitely.
[What is Beauty Pie? If you aren’t familiar with this business, it was originally set up as a buyers’ club for skincare, cosmetics and gifts etc. You paid for a particular subscription, and each price level allowed you to spend a certain amount in the shop. The products are sourced from the same labs and mega-factories that make high end and designer beauty items, but without the mark-ups of paying for counters and salespeople in department stores, spokesmodels or major marketing campaigns.]
My low cost membership meant that I could dip into their online shop here and there for a couple of reasonably-priced skincare staples, try new releases, and get myself the occasional treat such as a lipstick or eyeshadow as required. That fitted fine with my budget, and with my preference for nice things that are also good value for money.
Then it all changed with one email. The tone of it was, for me, incredibly badly judged.
The subject line: “Some Good News About Your Membership“
It went on to say “Great news about your membership – we’ve REMOVED SPENDING LIMITS.” Well, that was potentially nice for some people but not essential or good news to me, so I decided read on to check the small print.
Next it said: “Hundreds of members – as we’ve expanded into vitamins, and bodycare, and PJs, and haircare- have reached out to say they’d prefer to buy pretty much everything from us, and even with our PLUS membership allowance, it’s too limiting. This makes us think that thousands of others probably feel the same way.”
No thanks Beauty Pie, I can tell you loud and clear that I absolutely DO NOT think this way. I get the best results from shopping around freely within my budget, and your shop does not meet all my needs (no shop does). I absolutely will not get the value-for-money I require by tying my spending to one retailer – it simply isn’t a smart way to shop, especially during a cost of living crisis.
Then it said: “Budgets are stretched, and you’ve asked us if there might be a way to free things up so you can really milk the savings out of your membership. We get it. So we’ve loaded the UK warehouse -and we’re going to open the floodgates.”
Er, I DEFINITELY haven’t asked you for this. And I definitely will not be ‘opening the floodgates’ on my spending with your company. Yes I’m on a frickin’ budget, as I’m sure most of us are right now, and I have *LESS* to spend on this non-essential type of product, not more. Mortgage/rent payments and energy bills – already horrific and pushing many households into abject poverty – are about to go up even higher, broadband and mobile bills are about to increase well above the already-high rate of inflation, and food inflation – which affects lower income brackets disproportionately – was just announced to be 17.1% which is frankly scary with everything else in the current economic shit sandwich the majority of us are being served.
And finally the kicker, right at the end of the text “As part of this adjustment, we’re also transferring all our £5 monthly members onto our £10 monthly membership.” So they are DOUBLING my monthly membership fee during the cost of living crisis, in return for something I didn’t ask for and actively don’t want. Yes, that’s a 100% increase at a time of year when UK households often struggle the most.
A lot of people wouldn’t necessarily have scrolled to the end of that email if they weren’t interested in the offer – but my personal finance spidey senses made me actively go looking for the small print because I strongly suspected that there was a sting in the tail. For me, there certainly was one.
What’s become problematic about Beauty Pie
Beauty Pie used to be a relative bargain, and they offered many products that were extremely similar to designer items but for a much lower price. It made a touch of luxury more affordable. However, in my opinion, they are becoming much less of a good deal.
- Recent price jumps on favourite products often far, far higher than the rate of inflation.
- Staple items being out of stock much more than I’d like.
- Several favourites have been discontinued.
- New products being introduced at super-premium prices.
- Faddy ingredients being hyped, when there’s little or no relevant clinical evidence.
- Really over-the top marketing language that doesn’t match up with real life performance or the pricing on similar products from other brands.
- Most negative comments from customers get deleted from their Instagram – I originally thought this was a rumour then I saw it for myself and was genuinely shocked – it creates a completely false impression to the public.
They’re generally good with their products, but they’re not that good.
For example, their latest launch is an anti-ageing type serum with retinol and granactive retinoid, and it’s £44 for 50ml although they claim it would likely retail elsewhere for £175. The packaging is pretty, and I’m sure it would be pleasant to apply if that sort of thing matters to you, but I don’t think I’d be prepared to spend £44 plus-membership-fee on it and I would certainly never pay £175 for anything similar.
There are various alternative products out there that are cheaper, and potentially offer more benefits. For example, the ‘gold standard’ of the retinoid family is tretinoin, the clinical research on this chemical is extensive and reliable, and it’s stronger than the other ingredients in this category (always follow the safety guidelines, and don’t use during pregancy). You can get a recurring four-weekly prescription of tretinoin for £19.99 + P&P from a company such as Dermatica or £24.99 all in at Skin + Me, for example, and there’s no membership fee to shell out for.
Not everyone wants to use tretinoin, of course. It’s strong, and anything strong can have side effects. But what I’m trying to illustrate here is that you could get something clinical strength plus an online consultation with a dermatologist at other places and it could work out cheaper per month than the lower strength Beauty Pie membership serum.
There’s nothing that Beauty Pie currently offers that I consider to be a ‘must have’. Other brands have largely similar offerings, often at reasonable prices, plus you can factor in things like seasonal sales, store promotions and discounts, and cashback to get an even better deal.
At the end of the day, Beauty Pie is a business and as long as they’re operating within the law then they can restructure their business however they choose to. I don’t have access to their stats, but at a rough guess they’re hoping to increase profits by encouraging their wealthiest customers to buy their newer, more expensive products and more items in total.
Meanwhile, about 80% of the UK’s population are feeling the financial squeeze, and women – who make up the majority of Beauty Pie’s customers – are disproportionately badly affected. They’re forcing more of us out with this move, and they haven’t shown any acknowledgement or empathy while doing so. It should have been handled better.
I assume Beauty Pie has calculated that removing the upper spending limit is going to make them more money than they’re going to lose when customers start leaving due to the extra membership fee.
I find it offensive that Beauty Pie sent me an email proclaiming ‘good news’ when for me, and I suspect many others, it really contained bad news. The extra £5 per month combined with their rising product costs prices me out when combined with other essential household bills increasing, and they haven’t even had the grace to be polite about it or make it easy to leave (you have to email customer services and wait). At best their email was insensitive to the needs of a certain swathe of their customers, particularly those of us on middle, moderate and low incomes.
By the way, many of Beauty Pie’s customers who make small purchases here and there are actually their biggest cheerleaders. I’ve lost count of how many people I’ve recommended them to in the past. Yes, those ‘small’ and ‘unimportant’ customers can also be very effective influencers, and I’m not sure it’s wise to treat us like this.
If I’d been in charge of writing that email, I’d definitely have apologised for the cheapest monthly membership doubling, which comes at a terrible time for most consumers, especially women. I’d also have mentioned that a switch to annual membership was possible, but been polite and understanding about the fact that not everyone would be willing or able to scrounge up that lump sum. Perhaps I would have explained more transparently why the business felt the need to make these changes. Perhaps I would have raised the monthly fee and spending limit in line with inflation instead, or something similar. They didn’t do anything helpful or thoughtful like that though, did they? Nope.
What they actually chose to do was tell me they were doubling my monthly membership fee while offering me ‘good news’ about so-called benefits that I didn’t ask for and definitely won’t be using. The correct response to that kind of bullshittery is this: don’t piss on my leg and tell me that it’s raining. You are not doing me a favour, so don’t make out that you are.
I purchased a couple of bits and bobs that I used regularly, and that was my last order. Then I cancelled my Beauty Pie membership and will be looking elsewhere for replacement products. I’ll let you know what I find as I go along.
A money saving club like this shouldn’t be the sole preserve of the most well off, especially now. Sad to be leaving, but I don’t feel like a valued customer any more. Bye bye Beauty Pie.
Alternatives to Beauty Pie
Cancelling my Beauty Pie membership felt kinda cathartic once it was done and confirmed, but there was a lot of faffing about with their cancellation emails and stock responses. I’m very glad to be moving on to better things, so it’s onwards and upwards.
If, like me, you’ve decided not to buy into or stay with this brand, there are plenty of alternatives out there that give you excellent products and great value for money.
Here are some of my top picks for skincare and makeup brands and shops:
- Sephora UK – rejoice, the beauty megastore is finally back in Britain
- Yes Style – amazing collection of cult Korean & Japanese skincare & more
- Cult Beauty – impressively curated ranges of cosmetics and skincare
- Geek & Gorgeous – affordable science-based skincare now in the UK
- Boots – huge range of beauty and toiletries, great No7 own brand range
- Superdrug – the place to go for an affordable makeup bag restock
- Beauty Bay – multi-buy offers and frequent sales & discount codes
If you liked this post, you may also like:
Have you been given any terrible customer service recently, or sent any thoughtless / bullshitty marketing emails? Let me know.