BUYER BEWARE! Purchasing your Formal Dress Online
I have seen this countless times: a young lady frantically combing the store racks last minute for something to wear on her special day because she bought, what she thought, was a beautiful prom dress online (this scenario actually occurred 2 days ago at THE DRESS DIVA).
Look, I get it, the hunt for the perfect dress is tough, and there seems to be mounting pressure on these teens to find something that is better than their peers. The story is more common than you may think: a young lady spends hours online, looking through Pinterest, Instagram, etc. When she finds “the” dress, the next step is usually to find the best price. (Sometimes, the boutiques don’t have the best price, but there are reasons for this: rent on a building, paying employees, etc. However, I guarantee you, that you will see the workmanship and quality that an authentic gown offers as well as have experience staff's guidance.) This young lady who is searching online with a budget may find, what she thinks, is a reputable company displaying an authentic picture of “the” dress. Excitedly at getting a great deal on the dress of her dreams, she orders and weeks or even months later the dress arrives nothing like the picture. Oh, yeah, and to add a little extra insult, there are no returns on that dress!
Unfortunately, many Chinese websites are in business that steal American prom dress designers’ copyrighted images and sell counterfeit dresses. These dresses do not fit properly, are lacking the workmanship, have shoddy bead work/details, terrible zippers that break easily, use poor quality materials, look nothing like the real designer dress, and in some cases, take months to ship. In 2014, American prom designers and American prom retailers (online and offline) lost an estimated 300,000+ dress sales and retail sales of more than $100 million dollars to rogue dress sites (that’s not even counting Canadian retailers!). The government has seized packages being shipped from these counterfeit websites, but the problem has continued to grow as new fraudulent sites show up in internet search results, boasting company legitimacy and trustworthy discounts.
Here are some helpful tips to think about when purchasing your prom dress online (better yet, come on in to a retail location and support local). You may pay a bit more, but you will get to try the dress on and get the quality advice from trusted and experienced sales staff.
This is a dead give-a-way! A designer determines the price of a prom dress, and retailers are required to sell the dress at that suggested retail price. This also levels the playing field between retailers to ensure that the stores aren’t undercutting each other. So, if you find that most of the sites in your search are selling a particular dress for $298, and then find it on another site at any kind of discounted price, it is most likely a counterfeit dress. Therefore, if you see a dress on every website and retail store for $298, and then find it on a website for 10%, 20%, 30%, 40% or 50% off that price, it is a FAKE dress. Yes, the picture may be the same, but did you know that they steal the designers’ copyrighted images and use them on their websites to sell you a counterfeit prom dress? There may be an exception to this rule: that a dress has been discontinued, and the retailer is selling it cheaper to sell it out of their inventory and gain floor space in their store. But, if it is a current style for that season, it will not be discounted in any way.
2. Advertising Online
Consider this: just because a website advertises on Google's or any other search engine's search results, does not mean it is a legitimate website: the ads are dominated by counterfeit websites using the credibility of being an “approved advertiser” on Google's ad platform to fool you into thinking they are selling authentic dresses.
Websites that sell products have live seals that verify the site is protected by an SSL certificate, or note that the site has been verified by PayPal as a legitimate business. Counterfeit websites steal these verification seals and place them on their websites, but they are not active and cannot be clicked on. A real SSL certificate on an eCommerce site is mandatory if you want your credit card information to be secure and protected.
4. Contact Information
Authorized North American Prom Dress retailers have their contact information listed clearly and prominently on the pages of their websites, including address, phone number, email, and contact form. If the website has no address, or an address outside of the U.S., avoid ordering from them. You may also notice a lot of these sites have a timer/clock on the page. To verify a website is an authorized retailer, visit the “Where to Buy” page of the designer’s website.
The shipping on these websites is often free of charge to the purchaser. What these Chinese factories are trying to avoid is detection by custom officials for shipping counterfeit goods into the U.S. and Canada. Normally, there are customs and duty taxes that you would have to pay, and avoiding these taxes is a violation of Federal Law.
The text on the website is muddled, broken English. Often on their “About Us” page, you will be able to understand some of the sentence structure and then other parts, it will seem as though Google Translate was used very poorly.
An example: “We have honored to employ the most experienced designers and tailors in creating every piece of clothing for you according to your marvelous body shape. It not only provides your ideal-made wear as soon as possible, but also can ensure you a best gesture at any occasion.”
“How long will be the parcel arrived our country?”
If everything on the website is listed as “on sale”, the dresses are counterfeit. North American Prom Dress Retailers are not permitted by the genuine designer to discount their dresses. And, if you see a dress on an auction site, be aware that most American Prom Dress Designers forbid retailers from selling their dresses on these types of sites.
8. Style Numbers
Often, counterfeit dress style numbers differ from the authentic dress style number. Sometimes, style numbers don’t even exist on these counterfeit dresses. Style numbers are created by the prom dress designers and are utilized by all retailers to reference the dress.
10. Custom Services
Genuine Prom Dress Designers have specific size charts that they use to construct dresses and they do not make custom dresses for prom. Retailers use the designers’ size charts to help you determine the best size for you. If a site is offering to make a custom dress for you, it’s a counterfeit dress.