One of the saddest aspects of Virtuous Prom is hearing horror stories from our customers about online dress scams they have fallen victim to. Often times, young girls are shopping for a great deal and they see a beautiful dress for an amazing (suspiciously low) price that can be custom made to their measurements.
It seems like a dream come true, a deal they can’t refuse, and they do what most of us would do – buy it!
What these girls don’t know is that 99% of the time, the item they’re purchasing is not the item shown in the photo.
What do I mean? Well, in the past five years or so and especially since the rapid globalization of AliExpress, the use of pirated images and the production of forgeries based on those images has sky rocketed.
Many Americans find themselves being defrauded because they don’t understand the subtle but sinister reality at play. When we shop online with western companies like The Gap, we never think twice about whether or not we’ll receive what we are shown in the photo, because we’re looking at Gap’s photo of Gap’s product. Additionally, if we don’t like the item or if there’s an issue, there are channels set up for returns and complaints.
Because the western world was first introduced to online shopping through western companies, we have an inherent sense of trust, but do not be deceived – this mode of presentation and selling is not inherent to all companies. In fact, there seems to be a strikingly different sense of ethics and sensibilities found abroad, especially in China.
From the data available at present, it seems that it is a standard and acceptable procedure for clothing retailers to use images from another company to advertise styles that they think they are capable of reproducing. There is absolutely no way for the consumer to tell whether or not the product they are purchasing will look anything like the stock photograph they based their purchase off of.
For example, a quick search of Amazon pulls up this item:
To the untrained eye, it might register as odd that the model is missing a head, but here’s what you’re not seeing:
That’s right, folks. This image belongs to Bella Formals. The vendor on Amazon has absolutely no legal right to use this image and has taken pains to obscure the image’s origins.
I guarantee you 100% percent that if you were to purchase this item, at least one element would be strikingly different. I also guarantee you that if you were to complain about the sizing or any other aspect you would not find a satisfactory resolution. From what we have heard, the very best overseas companies offer is to refund you your money once you have paid for the item to be returned internationally. This is the best resolution. The worst is to pay good money for a garment or item that is completely unlike what you wanted and completely unusable.
How big of a problem is this? Well, according to the American Bridal and Prom Industry Association in 2013 over 700,000 counterfeit wedding and prom dresses were purchased in the US alone, making it roughly a $70,000,000 industry annually.
There’s so much more that could be said on the subject, but for the sake of brevity I will leave you with this very informative link to the ABPIA’s website: http://www.abpia.org/category/counterfeit-wedding-dresses/ and this striking visual from the same page that illustrates our renewed need to live the words “Buyer Beware!”: