Beware of scam fashion websites

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Keep it at home and keep your smile.

Inexpensive mother of the bride outfits. A tale of attrition and a word of warningEvery season we get some mothers of the bride or groom wandering into the shop in a blind panic.
They did an on-line search for inexpensive ladies fashions of one sort or another, but especially for mother of the bride or mother of the groom outfits.
It's inevitable that they will come across websites offering styles from famous and well respected designers at ridiculous prices. Something that a UK retailer would have to sell out at over £300 - 400 can be found costing as little as £80. They look terrific; the website is really professional, well designed and tempting. I mean, a saving of that amount is enough to lure any cost conscious buyer over to them.

The result? Like I said, we had another lady in the shop today who bought one of these. She was in tears. The outfit arrived with only a week to go to the wedding and it was absolutely ....... well, I don't want to swear on the post but horrible is way short of the mark.

The material was cheap chiffon/satin and the colour was way off what she wanted too. We have found outfits on-line ourselves from some of these Chinese websites that are shown from the brochures of some of our own suppliers. The same pictures, the same descriptions but prices to make us sweat.

To satisfy my curiosity I went to one of them 3 years ago (on-line of course) and bought one of our all time favourite evening gown-2nd time bride outfits. There was a rumour that the manufacturer was ending production for it anyway so finding an alternative could have been useful. It was an outfit that normally costs us over £250 to buy (not sell mind you) but was being sold at £85.

Now, there are costs associated with importation that aren't given or explained on the website. First the import tax is added on then VAT at 20%. These amounts have to be paid to the delivery company as they take responsibility to HMRC for payment. In fact they pay it on your behalf then claim it back from you. If you aren't in when the package is delivered, they won't leave it next door as they need payment.

The price has taken a hike upwards already. So what else?

To deliver a parcel from China to the UK can be quite costly. In fact it's priced on the weight to package dimension ratios. The smaller the package the less expensive it'll be.

The package we got (3 of them in total) was laughable. An outfit that we normally send out in a good sized box of 50cm x 40cm x 12cm came in a tightly wrapped package bound by yards of brown parcel tape to squeeze it even tighter. It was so small that it could almost be pushed through a letterbox. The outfit had been tightly folded then rolled into a very small bundle. It hung like crinkled Xmas wrapping paper on the hanger when it was put on one. We have a professional steamer as do most shops. Could we get the creases out? No chance.

One further problem with this was that due to the package being bound so tightly with endless yards of sticky tape, the only way I could get it open was with a pair of scissors by trying to take a sixteenth of an inch from the end of the plastic packet. You got it in one. I put a hole in the material doing it.

Before we even got around to inspecting the quality properly we noticed several things that wouldn't pass the quality test of any respectable factory production line. Seams weren't in line, the pattern common to both sides of a seam weren't centralised. The lining was longer by a good 4 inches than the outer dress material. The sequinned part of the dress was covered in really cheap ------ well hundreds and thousands may be a good description.

The material was a cheap easily clicked taffeta-chiffon. The stitching was wavy and off centre. Even the pattern on both shoulders didn't match from side to side. It was also overlaid with a stupid badly sewn on lace that wasn't even on the original style and which looked like mosquito net.

It went into the bin.

I had the manufacturer call me ( we did Skype). He asked about other orders and I told him exactly what I thought of his product. He begged forgiveness. They're very good at that, especially at midnight China time. He told me to choose another style I liked and he'd have one made. In fact he told me he'd fired his designer and hired a new one.

So I chose one from a really well known Belgian designer and an outfit from a previous season. The one in question was absolutely gorgeous, with lots of embroidery detailing on the jacket.

It came around 4 weeks later. It went straight into the bin. It was dreadful. Instead of embroidery detailing on the jacket they replaced it with thin sewn on ribbon material, raggy edges sewn under but still popping out the sides in a few paces. The material was again the same $hitty chiffon which even feels uggy to the touch.
It cost me £120 rather than the normal £275 I would have paid, but of course I also had to pay import duty and VAT on delivery as well.
I gave him no indication that he had any chance of doing business with me from there-on but you know, he emails me at least every couple of weeks trying to lure me into his web. Email copy shown below even though I don't do wedding dresses.
Date: Fri, 30th Jun 2014 12:33:47 +0800 (CST)
Subject: New style promotion
Dear my friend:
  New style promotion, if you are fall in love with anyone~just tell me with non hesitate.
Thanks
Reg Joseph

He attached pictures of 8 wedding dresses of well known designers which I won’t add for copyright reasons.
I then had another go with a completely different company. I mean ... they can't all be that bad can they? 
I won't bore you with the details but the quality was well short of acceptable from this one too. It was a copy of another well respected US designer outfit. It too went into the bin.

My purpose of doing this was primarily to find a factory who could design and produce at low levels of orders to mutually agreed designs. Our own label really.  I'd already made a name for the label even. It was to be Sandy F. Those who know us also know the connection with that name.
Now, I also get a few ladies wandering into the shop each season who try on lots of outfits than wander off with a promise to return again with their sister later. It's common to all retailers I guess and mostly just an off-put to look elsewhere before making a decision.
We have had experiences though where the purpose of the visit was to find the true size of an outfit they like but had seen on the websites of foreign companies at less expensive prices than in the UK. Once they know their size they place an order on-line, and HOPE that all will be well.
Let me expand further on that. One such lady who had tried on a particular outfit for her daughters wedding and who really liked it, (you can tell) went off after trying on. She had even called the shop prior to her visit to ask if we stocked a particular label. Some 2 months later she came back to the shop and offered us the self same outfit she'd ordered on-line but which was too small for her when it arrived and was marked anyway. I mean. You just can't believe it can you? Did we buy it from her? I'll leave you to figure that out.

The sizing may be OK in a UK shop but different countries don't always use the same sizing so you can't guarantee to get what you really want anyway. There are plans to make a common sizing law for ladies fashions within the EEC but don't pin your hopes on getting it right at present.

The problem goes deeper though. If she'd bought the outfit from us and returned it later due to a size problem we could have arranged to change it, have it altered to fit or given credit for it. Try doing that to a company in the USA, China, Indonesia, India or wherever.

What's more we even allow you to change the outfit should it clash with the other mother's outfit. You don't get that sort of service from on-line overseas cheapie shops.

How do you avoid buying from such a company? Well for a start most Chinese ones have adopted the internet protocol of .co.uk for their websites, and if they also sell to the USA they use .com on the same name website.
That's common to real retailers too so you need to look further. If the address isn't shown then just don't buy. Simple. If there is no UK address then it's a scam site. Every website HAS to show certain information and a contact ADDRESS is one such thing.

Is there a return address for goods? You have rights as a consumer in UK law, indeed within the EEC countries. The distance selling regulations are there for your protection. They do not cover goods bought from China or outside the EEC though although there may be local laws in their own country. Try invoking them if you're wealthy enough or have someone who can speak Chinese in your family. In any case try returning goods to China. You'll be lucky.

Perhaps the biggest give-away of all when you bump into one of these Chinese copy sites, is that they show a huge swatch of all the colours they can make the outfit in. There are dozens of colours in all shades.
That's fine, you may think. I can pick the colour to go with the wedding colour scheme. Fine idea, but the truth of the matter is massively different. Every computer is set up differently. Some have brighter screens, some have a darker contrast, some have a warmer ambience and different hues and a lot of different screen resolutions to add to the overall loss of accuracy. That's even before deliberate misrepresentation from the manufacturers

You cannot, don't misunderstand me, YOU CANNOT, take a colour as being anything other than something similar to what you'll get, if you get anything at all. It may well be ghastly and not at all what you expected. It will not, IT WILL NOT, be exactly what you want and ordered and if not, try getting a refund.......
If I had been a genuine end user customer of the 3 outfits I purchased to wear at a really special event, I would have been left in a right mess. as was the lady who visited today. Fortunately we managed to help her and even had our dressmaker come in to do some urgent alteration pinning up. She'll have her outfit delivered to her home by myself on Wednesday.
It's as well she doesn't live in China. I don't deliver personally to foreign countries.

I want to give you another insight into returns policy of these companies and the best way really is to show underneath the terms and conditions of one of the most prominent of them. The most important thing to think about though, is that they treat each order as being specially made which knocks out ANY chance of a refund at all.
Here we go:
_____________________________________________________________
• Merchandise must be returned within 30 days.
• Merchandise must not be worn, altered, or washed.
• Merchandise must have all tags attached.
• Footwear must include the original shoe box in its original condition, without postal labels.
• Please Note: Shipping and handling charges are not refundable. 
• Final Sale items and customized dresses may not be returned. Dresses/ jackets/ belts/ shoes, all of them belong to custom items. Please be advised each dress on our website is made to order whether in standard size or custom size. ie no return (my insertion)
• Personalized and dyed items, earrings (including jewelry sets containing earrings), and personal care items (including lingerie) are final sale, no returns or exchanges.
• Contact with our sales within 48 hours to confirm return details after you get the parcel.

Please Note: dresses does not fit properly but fit the specifications you ordered cannot be returned or exchanged. As our dresses and clothing is made with additional fabric in the seams, you can make minor adjustments at a local tailor, at your own cost.

• Defective, Damaged or Misshipped Items

Defective, damaged or mis-shipped items are eligible for a full refund. When requesting your refund, please be ready to provide Customer Service with photographs clearly showing the problem with the items. If you believe your items were damaged during shipping, Customer Service will need photographs showing the damaged packaging as well as "Proof of Damage" documentation from your delivery carrier in order to process your refund.

• Sizing or Fitting Issues
As all of our dresses and clothing is hand-sewn and custom-tailored, the finished gown may vary by approximately one (1) inch in either direction of the specified measurements. To ensure that your item will still fit you perfectly, our tailors have created all our dresses with additional fabric in the seams to allow minor size modifications to be made easily. Item is not the size you ordered Should your item size differ from the specifications of your order by more than one inch, we encourage you to find to find a local tailor to make adjustments, and we will gladly reimburse you for up to 100% of the product price in tailoring costs. If you choose this option, please remember to request a receipt from your tailor as a copy of it must be provided when requesting reimbursement. Your item is the size you ordered but does not fit Dresses or clothing that does not fit properly but fit the specifications you ordered cannot be returned or exchanged. As our dresses and clothing is made with additional fabric in the seams, you can make minor adjustments at a local tailor, at your own cost. Please note: if your order specifications differ too greatly from the final sizing request, resizing may not be possible.

• Color Mismatch
The settings of your computer screen may alter the color of the pictures shown on our site. Slight color mismatches between the color of your item and the color shown on screen may not mean that the item is defective or mis-shipped. However, if you are confident that you have received the item in a wrong color, please contact Customer Service to see if a return or refund is possible. 

• Overdue Orders
If your order cannot be shipped by the time originally stated, Customer Service will offer you the option of keeping the order to get a 10% reimbursement upon delivery or to upgrade to Expedited shipping with no extra charge.

• Return Process
1. Contact our customer service within 48 hours upon the receiving of the order and attach related photos to specify or proof the reason for exchanging or returning.
2. After we have confirmed your application for exchanging or returning parcel, we will contact you through e-mail to resolve the problem and inform other information including the returning ID and address, etc.
3. After we have received your returning parcel, we will arrange the shipping for exchanged order or refund to you with 2-3 business days and send you an email.

___________________________________________________________
PLEASE TAKE NOTE. THIS IS NOT OUR SHOP SALE POLICY. JUST IN CASE YOU THINK IT IS.
My last post in my Google account (Saturday June 28th ) about our recent visitor from Hong Kong is enough to show the sort of service you get from us. She came from China and bought a couple of outfits she could have had copied in China.
Enough said?


_____________________________________________________________

As an addendum to the above I have considered my position regarding the publication of one such example. It's obviously not in our own interest to make such details known however on this occasion I think that it is absolutely vital to give you an idea of the problems you'll encounter from these scam sites.

To that effect the following website is one of the more prominent. You can even see an address on it for London but reading on you can see that it says it's not for returns or anything. I think it's just a registered PO box personally. So the site is tauk .co.uk
Add the www. when you visit it. The site is a real work of art. It's every bit as professional as any other site you'll see. More so in fact. However it also looks exactly the same as other scam sites

Then look on Facebook about the complaints and problems associated with it.

Need I really say any more.
Well, frankly yes.
See the topics on Moneysavingexpert as an example of how you stand in getting satisfaction WHEN things go wrong. Not IF they go wrong but WHEN they do.

I've also carried out a bit of searching for wedding dresses, mother of the bride outfits and prom dresses to seek out other websites scamming potential customers. I found many of them. It's peculiar but most of them look exactly the same when you open them up. They must either be the same Chinese scam company or employ the same website designers. There is one thing consistent with them all though. They do not appear to have any address shown on them. Even a telephone number isn't any use either as it isn't a mainland UK one on them, just an 0870 generic code to it. Can you even speak Chinese?

One thing I did find in my searches were numerous sites full of complaints about the companies. Broken hearts and tears aren't worth the chance of getting something which might just live up to expectations. 

One website has compiled a list of so called scammer sites which is pretty comprehensive. Of course these companies tend to take loads of orders then close down and re-appear in different guise later so the list isn't much good in knowing if a company is the real thing. Be sensible; that's the only advice I can give. If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck and waddles like a duck doesn't necessarily mean it can swim as well.

It may help if you use the facilities of  Scam Adviser to check out a website, but if you're already suspicious then why bother? Anyway, just type in the website of any you think may be trying to rip you off and see what Scam Adviser has to say about it.

Our shop, Norma & June Fashions Ltd, offers a friendly experience to visitors. We have as much stock as most any other 3 shops put together and we have a track record you can rely on. 
Forget the scam websites or order from them at your peril.

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