In May 2016, photographs and messages reproduced above began circulating on Facebook along with claims that lurking underneath labels of pricey salon-brand hair products purchased through discount retailers were cheaper, lower quality brands.
Photographs show the CHI line of hair care products with T.J. Maxx price tag and the label half peeled away to show a bottle bearing a less expensive (and presumably lower-quality) hair care product. Most versions of the claim included an assertion that salon-brand hair products should only be bought at hair salons, not discount retailers.
The rumors served as a tacit criticism of salon clientele who purchase product from third parties rather than from salons or stylists (who would earn commission and meet salon sales goals otherwise). A similar social media rumor maintained that eyelash extensions can cause “lash lice,” a story spread primarily by multi-level marketing salespeople hawking mascara.
In another instance, salons and stylists spread a rumor that Pantene (one of the top-selling drugstore hair care brands) can be flammable in combination with popular hair-lightening treatments. Both rumors began with or were passed along by people invested in the sale of competing products at full price.
T.J. Maxx said that the CHI products depicted were genuine:
At T.J. Maxx, conducting our business with integrity means everything to us and we take pride in offering our customers great values on high quality brand-name products. We have looked into your concerns and can assure you that the contents of the bottle are authentic and are as described on the outer label. We have also confirmed with our supplier that its relabeling of the bottle was appropriate. We thank you for your ongoing patronage of our stores.
CHI also responded our questions about the photographs. The company explained that the labeling was due in part to manufacturing fluctuations, as well as cutting back on unnecessary waste:
Recently, several of our customers have noticed cans of CHI® products with labels covering up other products. We sincerely wish to clear up any confusion. The Egyptian Oil and French Oil and other cans you may have seen were originally another CHI® product brand we manufactured. Due to a legal challenge that arose concerning the new brand names and designs, we were forced to cease production. As a result of this, we were left with many empty cylinders. To avoid them taking up vital space in our warehouse but most importantly, adding unnecessary waste to landfills, we decided to uphold our environmentally conscious efforts that we have maintained since 1986. We felt we made the right decision by placing original CHI® labels over these cylinders and filling them with our CHI® formulas. Therefore, the product is authentically made by Farouk Systems with the correct CHI® label on them and product inside. We sincerely apologize for any confusion this may have caused our customers.
One of the two viral photographs didn’t display a T.J. Maxx or Marshall’s price tag, strongly suggesting that the relabeled bottles were indeed not restricted to non-salon retail environments. CHI’s statement affirmed the relabeled bottles were in no way different than any other from the brand, whether purchased in a salon or a discount department store. In this instance, both the retailer and the manufacturer said that the product packaging was simply repurposed, but the contents remain authentic and identical to products sold in salons and other non-discount retail environments. (In instances where counterfeiting occurs, the company being impersonated is typically the first to object to dilution of their brand.)
However, it is likely the rumor will persist among stylists and salons seeking to warn clients off low-priced alternatives.