With the economy the way it is we’re all looking to save a few bucks and there’s no doubt that the best deals on many branded products can usually be found online. Unfortunately more and more scammers are looking to take advantage of our tighter budgets and counterfeiting has become an increasing problem for many big brands. After all how can you tell if a product is genuine or not when all you have to go on is a picture, a 200 word description and an email address?
Well, the good news is there are several pointers that the savvy shopper can look for and best practices you can follow to protect yourself when buying brands online. Following the tips below will help to ensure you don’t get scammed and can shop for branded products online with confidence.
1. Is The Price Too Good To Be True?
Complete the well-known saying; ‘if something looks too good to be true, then…’
We are all looking for deals, but if RRP on a product is $100 and most merchants are selling the item for between $90 and $100, then a site is selling the same product for $50 this should raise a big red warning flag in your head. This is not always the case as it may a genuine merchant is looking to clear out old stock etc, but it is certainly rule number 1 and makes it even more important that you follow the other tips below.
2. Are Contact Details Clearly Displayed?
Call me old fashioned, but if a merchant does not clearly display contact details then my first thought is that they have something to hide. A telephone number, email and physical address on every page is a big trust signal, but at a minimum they should have a prominent link to a contact page which contains all these details. Sorry, but a generic feedback form does not cut the mustard. I want to know that if I have a problem with my order I can call a physical human being on the phone.
Assuming all the contact information is correctly in place, it goes without saying that if the physical address of the Company is in China and you are ordering from the UK then you may have a problem when ordering branded goods.
Disclaimer: This is not to say there are not genuine Chinese merchants, but again it should raise a flag and cause you to look more closely at other signals mentioned in this article.
3. Does The Site Look Genuine?
Trust your instincts. If the website looks like it was designed by a 5 year old, then do you really feel safe in handing over your credit card details? Any serious merchant will invest in a professional web design, which is reflective of their corporate image.
Warning: A good, professional web design is a positive indicator, but again look at all the other factors too. There are good web designers in China too after all!
Is the content well written? Does the person who has written the product descriptions look like English is his or her first language? Here’s an example product description from a website selling counterfeit ghd straighteners: –
‘Welcome to buy cheap GHD Red Peacock 2012 in our GHD UK online store. Here you can find kinds of GHD IV Styler products. We can give you 100% Quality Guarantee.’
Can you really? I doubt it. In fact I doubt I would ever see the ghd styler.
4. Look For Reviews Of The Merchant on Independent Review Sites
Google the company and look for reviews. Search for them on independent review sites such as Trustpilot.
Bad reviews = bad news (obviously!)
No reviews = possible problem, but they could be new
Good reviews = good, but check that the reviews seem genuine!
5. Check the Manufacturer’s Site for a List of Approved Stockists
Many manufacturers will list approved stockists on their website, or have a url validator service where you can check if a website is approved. If the manufacturer of the brand you are looking for has such a service and the site you want to buy from is listed as approved then you can be confident that you are buying genuine goods.
6. Be Careful When Buying from Market Place Sites
There are great deals to be had on ebay and amazon, but unfortunately these sites can also be a magnet for scammers. Be extra careful when buying from a market place site and if you see anything suspicious, report it.
7. Use Your Credit Card
I won’t go into obvious points like looking for SSL on checkout pages (surely everyone knows that now, right?) but a good tip is to always use your credit card when buying online. Credit card purchases are protected by default and if you are scammed your card provider should be able to charge your purchase back to the merchant. Purchases through Paypal are also protected.
8. Contact the Seller Before Purchase
Still concerned? Give the merchant a call (their contact details were clearly displayed weren’t they?) or drop them an email. Do they respond quickly and professionally?
Pre-sales enquiries are a big part of any genuine merchant’s service and they should be happy to answer any questions that you have, so don’t be afraid to ask!
Following the tips above should ensure that you will be safe when buying branded goods online and can enjoy saving money on your favourite branded products, be they ipods, ghd straighteners or UGG boots. Just stay vigilant and remember ‘Caveat emptor’… buyer beware!
Ghd Compare is a price comparison and review site for genuine ghd hair straighteners.