Saturday, May 14, 2022

You can tell a lot about a deal by the way it is presented!

I recently clicked on an online ad. Yea, I know, a stupid thing to do.  But it was for some really cool looking Hawaiian shirts at a place called "Royaura" and I couldn't help myself.   Now, a good Hawaiian shirt, made of pure silk (which wears like iron - it is not  "delicate" fabric!) can cost $200 or more.  If it is well-made, the pattern matches on the pocket and where the buttons come together - this uses a lot of fabric.  A cheap shirt, like the one that Tom Selleck wore on "Magnum" is made of cheap cotton and the pattern doesn't match anywhere.  His is in the Smithsonian.

So when I saw these shirts for alarmingly low prices, like $29.99, I was intrigued.  We looked at the site and it seemed like some good deals on stylish clothing.  But then the e-mails started.  At first they were circumspect - just a reminder of the clothing and prices.  But as time went on - in terms of hours, not days - they became as desperate as a person at a singles bar at closing time.   One e-mail featured some sort of roulette wheel, where you could spin to get a discount. And prices were as low as $3.99 a shirt!

Or so they said.  I realized it was too-good-to-be-true and checked out the reviews online. On Sitejabber and Trustpilot, (which I wrote about before) the reviews were not so great.  Well, on one site, there were a number of five-star reviews in pidgen English, all with the same or similar text, from new users who never reviewed any other side.  It wasn't hard to read between the lines.

Some reviews were succinct:

Scam Chinese site

Almost all the good reviews are fake. You can tell this as some of the titles are eerily similar. Almost all these good reviewers have only reviewed this one business.

People will sign up to post a sole negative but who creates an account here to post just one good review for a generic branded shirt? No one.

I’ve reported several of these fake 5 star reviews
The "real" reviews - mostly 1-star, noted that the place was in China, that things were shipped by mail ("China Post") and took weeks to arrive - if they arrived at all.  And the products received were not what was ordered, or the sizes were way too small.  Customer service was non-existent and the "tracking numbers" they provided were fake.

This is not to say ordering things from China is a bad deal.  I have ordered dozens of things from China via eBay and they arrive - weeks later - in oddly-shaped packages marked "China Post".  But these were small items - usually a buck or two or three - and the price was so good it was worth the risk.  The prices were not obscenely low, however.  Pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered.

On the other hand, there are weird sites like "Wish" which has such a bad reputation that anyone ordering from it should have their head examined.  And "penny auction" sites like "Quibids" and its clones are not even auctions at all, but gambling sites, basically.

Of course, these scammy sites serve a useful purpose - they corral the great masses into ordering only from Amazon - a "trusted source" that lies to you every time you check out.  It is like how people justify leasing brand-new cars every three years because once they went to a shady used car lot and got ripped-off.  As if the only two alternatives were being ripped-off by a used car dealer, or being ripped-off by a new car dealer.  There are other options.

(CAVEAT:  I had to saw 1/2" off the closet doors on the condo, so they would clear the carpeting.  I needed a circular saw and the only place that had the Black & Decker 20V max saws (I am committed to that ecosystem as I own a half-dozen of those tools and maybe eight batteries!) was Amazon.  They have been pestering me to sign up for "Business Prime" so I did, they delivered the saw the next day and I promptly cancelled my "Business Prime" account.  So yea, you can steal the cheese, and this is not the first time I have signed up for "Prime" and then immediately cancelled once the goods were delivered.  By the way, this is my new favorite tool - you can finesse a battery-operated tool in a way you can't with the plug-in kind.  Drill, Sawzall, circular saw, whatever, battery has better finesse and control).

In this case, it wasn't hard to spot a raw deal at 100 paces.   It was from an Internet ad.  They had obscenely low prices.  They had no indication of where they were located, from their website.  They sent desperation e-mails, basically SPAMming me, offering even further too-good-to-be-true deals - in e-mails full of heavy HTML and animated graphics.  Finally, they have horrible reviews online and worse yet, had clearly tried to groom their image online (apparently a dozen women "bought three shirts for my husband" and were quite happy!).

So it wasn't that hard to walk away.  Lesson learned: Never, ever, click on an Internet ad!