‘LIK­ING’ IT ON­LINE CAN COME AT A COST

If the price is too good to be true, carry out re­search be­fore pur­chas­ing that ‘cheap’ item – it may not fit your ex­pec­ta­tions and that will be your hard-earned cash down the credit card drain

The Star Early Edition - - FRONT PAGE -

WITH the ad­vent of e-com­merce, brick and mor­tar re­tail­ers are start­ing to feel the pinch. It’s sim­pler, more con­ve­nient, less stress­ful and of­ten cheaper to buy on­line. But the path to shop­ping bliss is of­ten blighted by fake re­views, knock-offs and fraud.

There’s a hu­mor­ous side, too, which has found de­light­ful ex­pres­sion on so­cial net­works such as Face­book.

One such page is “Knock­Off Night­mares” – ded­i­cated to show­ing con­sumers the re­al­ity of or­der­ing for­mal wear on­line. It’s achieved al­most 110 000 likes so far, high­light­ing some truly aw­ful hor­ror sto­ries. From for­mal dresses that look noth­ing like the op­u­lent on­line cou­ture im­ages, to “Spe­cial Man” – a rip on Su­per­man – and the mis­shapen, cheap knock-off wed­ding dresses that were sim­ply too good to be true.

One fol­lower, Kirsten Moss, posted: “Les­son learned! Or­dered off Wish and this is what I or­dered com­pared to what I got.

“It’s sup­posed to be (an) over­sized swim cover, and we got (an) over­sized half shirt.” In­stead of the sexy over­sized beach­wear, it re­sem­bled a drab cot­ton kid­dies’ beach towel – with­out the hoodie.

An­other, Shelby Hawkins Clark, said: “We or­dered this from PromEver. When we asked to re­turn it, they told me there was noth­ing wrong with it, that the orig­i­nal pic­ture’s light­ing is dif­fer­ent and to just get it hemmed. Never ever again!! Lol.

“The bead­work is not even re­motely sim­i­lar, you can see the out­line of the bust cups, the skirt wasn’t cut on the bias so it just hangs there in­stead of be­ing flat­ter­ing, and the hal­ter top’s edge along the stom­ach is rip­pled.”

Never mind the dress’s poor flow, the cheap fab­ric and tacky bead­work were a dis­as­ter.

Linda Her­man wrote: “Been there, I paid over $200 for mine; it was a beach wed­ding dress. Never shopped on­line be­fore, so the thought never crossed my mind to ac­tu­ally Google the com­pany re­views.

“Not even close to the pic­tures, and luck­ily paid through PayPal, I opened a dis­pute and got my money back. I googled the im­age, found the store and de­signer was listed for over $700; I e-mailed them with pic­tures and the web­site, they emailed back thank­ing me.

“The dress is no longer on Modlily, and they are all the same place. They just make up a bunch of names; as some­one else stated, it’s a huge sweat­shop, luck­ily I found a dress in a week.”

And Me­lanie (no sur­name) wrote: “I bought the fa­mous ‘black sweater’ from Rotita. It is made from the ma­te­rial used to make cheap Dol­lar Store Hal­loween cos­tumes.

“They for­got to cut a hole in the hoodie for my head to go through. I can cut eye holes in it, maybe? Isn’t there some con­sumer pro­tec­tion agency that can help us?”

Knock-Off Night­mares notes: “The APBIA (Amer­i­can Bridal and Prom In­dus­try As­so­ci­a­tion) does its best to shut down these sites, but as soon as one gets shut down, 20 more pop up. Hon­estly, the only way to pro­tect our­selves is to buy from rep­utable com­pa­nies.”

How do we find most of these on­line re­tail­ers? So­cial me­dia. But what cur­rency, though, should be at­tached to Face­book “likes”? And how much do they in­flu­ence trust in sites that are po­ten­tially prob­lem­atic?

Na­dia Es­sack saw a few of her Face­book friends had “liked” Kap­sule.co.za on the site, so she vis­ited the web­site, found a pair of shoes she wanted and or­dered them in Jan­uary for a spe­cial oc­ca­sion, but these never ar­rived.

So she mailed the site’s sup­port, pay­ment and or­ders depart­ment, then called the com­pany in Port El­iz­a­beth. Each time, the au­to­mated re­sponse was: “We have re­ceived your mail.

“Please be aware that KAP­SULE is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing high email vol­umes, but a qual­i­fied KAP­SULE Cus­tomer Sup­port Agent will re­spond to your email as quickly as pos­si­ble.”

That was in Jan­uary. By June, she’d had enough: she had, at var­i­ous points, been promised a re­fund had been pro­cessed but, months down the line, she was given the prover­bial run-around. Then they ap­peared to block her – via the TrueCaller app and e-mail. She could see staff ac­tively check­ing TrueCaller, yet her calls were avoided.

“I hope I can pre­vent oth­ers from this scam and hope­fully get my money back. My hus­band has had weird ex­pe­ri­ences with his card, so I thought it best to do an EFT. I paid R1 399,” she wrote on my Ask Ge­orgie Face­book page. “It’s so dis­ap­point­ing when peo­ple do this.”

I bat­tled to get hold of them, too, send­ing a few mails and call­ing. Even­tu­ally, a staff mem­ber an­swered and told me the per­son I wanted to speak to was out on lunch.

The next day that per­son was on ma­ter­nity leave. She couldn’t/wouldn’t give me a man­ager, nor find the con­tact de­tails for the owner. Days later, she gave the owner’s num­ber, which was unan­swered.

Then proof of pay­ment was sub­mit­ted, with an apol­ogy for the de­lay, blam­ing a sys­tem glitch: “Please find at­tached PoP as promised. We humbly apol­o­gise to Mrs Na­dia Es­sack, ev­ery­thing the (sic) could have pos­si­bly went wrong with this or­der did, from the ini­tial de­lay in the or­der all the way to the re­fund not be­ing pro­cessed duly.

“We would like to ship her the or­dered shoes for free as soon as this af­ter­noon, to show our hum­ble apolo­gies to her. This is the first time that this has hap­pened and re­gret that it has taken this long to re­solve. Thank you.”

Es­sack’s fi­nally re­ceived her re­fund, and only be­cause of me­dia in­ter­ven­tion.

Be­fore you do any busi­ness on these sites, check that they pro­vide es­sen­tial in­for­ma­tion – in­clud­ing full names, phys­i­cal ad­dresses, proper de­scrip­tions of the goods or ser­vices be­ing sold, costs and the terms of sale.

Kap­sule’s site looks like a bud­get pro­duc­tion: the im­ages are pix-elated and of poor qual­ity; they use a Zotabox link, which an IT con­tact tells me is a free plug-in plat­form, which no busi­ness “worth their salt would use on a pro­fes­sional web­site, mean­ing they’ve put it to­gether at the low­est pos­si­ble cost… which is very bad for your im­age”.

Wor­ry­ingly, they don’t state their pri­vacy pol­icy, nor terms and con­di­tions where you can view the busi­ness’s name and reg­is­tra­tion num­ber. They claim to have been op­er­at­ing since 2014, are ac­tive on Face­book and In­sta­gram, but “likes” and fol­low­ers don’t mean much.

For fun, I googled a few of their im­ages: Kap­sule is ad­ver­tis­ing cloth­ing im­ports that are ridicu­lously cheap com­pared to other in­ter­na­tional sites.

Their Tripoli Jump­suit – as worn by ac­tress Na­turi Naughton – costs R1 499, but an Aus­tralian on­line re­tailer charges in ex­cess of R11 560.

Then there’s the “Stella Dress”, go­ing for R1 899, but on www.luisaviaroma, the Flo­ral Vine Lace num­ber goes for 485 (R7 021); while an­other dress is sold for R1 999 on site but R5 857 else­where.

If you want to or­der on­line – es­pe­cially clothes and shoes, which are of­ten tricky size­wise, rather spend on rep­utable sites – Spree, Zando, Wool­worths, Su­per­bal­ist, etc.

Cheap wed­ding dresses were sim­ply too good to be true

NOT AL­WAYS SMART: There’s a risk when or­der­ing clothes or shoes on­line – they might not fit, or the com­pany could be selling you cheap rip-offs.

PIC­TURE: KIYOSHI OTA/BLOOMBERG

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