Unfortunately, a few weeks ago, I was scammed. Not by a Prince halfway across the globe or someone posing as Canada’s tax revenue agency, but by a website that I had confidently shopped with in the past.
As a treat to myself, I figured I’d scour The Real Real with the hopes of scoring a Stone Island jumper in my size. I knew that the selection was quite vast and in the past, had seen some unique pieces for good prices. After a few days of looking, I came upon a soot grey knit rollneck with an O.G. badge and a slight pull on the sleeve.
After seeing the price, I jumped on it. In the past, I’ve purchased countless pairs of Jordans and heard nothing but good things from peers. So when I clicked to confirm the order, I threw all caution to the wind and had complete, blind confidence in what I was doing. If I had the chance, I would have roundhouse kicked me off the chair and never let me click order in the first place.
A week passed and the box finally showed up on my doorstep. I sifted through the packaging, eventually removing the item from the box. Immediately I threw the rollneck on and took to social media ready to flex what I hoped to be my go-to, dumb reach sweater this fall.
I took a few quick flicks, then took the jumper off and did some inspecting. I first noticed that the knit gauge seemed to be far too thick and the cotton had a very generic feel. Then I took to the left side of the roll neck. Somehow, I had missed the monstrosity which sat connected to the buttons. The badge was short, stubby and appeared as if a toddler had just tried its hand at sewing.
In sheer disbelief, I looked inside at the tags to find the Certilogo. Brands such as Stone Island, C.P. Company and Moncler offer an authentication QR code for all individual pieces where the consumer can pull out their smartphone, scan the code, answer a few questions and the website will spurt out whether the garment is real or fake.
Well, this sweater came back fake. I took a few deep breaths and proceeded to contact The Real Real’s customer service line. Let’s just say, the phone calls did not go well and I am currently still disputing the transaction with my bank.
The whole situation was quite ironic. The fashion writer, Stone Island fiend and supposed expert on shopping somehow managed to get scammed by people thousands of kilometres away. The worst part? Whoever sold them that jumper in the first place sat back and counted his cash.
Now, I’ve said all of that to say this: below are five steps to ensure you shop with confidence.
DON’T FALL IN LOVE WITH THE PRICE
One of the oldest sayings when shopping is that if a price is too good to be true, it probably is. Whether the piece is found on second-hand websites, consignment shops, marketplaces or your mate posting a piece on their Instagram story, that rule of thumb still applies.
Do your due diligence and research past and present prices on websites that offer the piece. Cross-examining what a garment sold at in your particular size will help you gauge just how good or bad the deal in front of you is. Sneakers in particular are easy to judge as sellers tend to rank shoes out of 10 points. If your listing is of an Air Jordan 4 Bred “8.5/10”, find other Breds with that description to see what price they fetch generally.
DO SPECIFIC RESEARCH ON THE GIVEN PIECE AND SELF AUHENTICATE
Taking a step back after finding a killer deal is difficult to do. But, it may be the difference between finding the right piece for you and spending weeks fighting with your bank. When shopping for clothing, it’s a good idea to find the piece in a designer’s lookbook. In the case of my rollneck, I wish I had referenced the knit’s from the season it claimed to be from. At the very least, finding the same piece in a different colour is a good sign.
As well, certain garments may have specific tells which can help you point out authenticate and foo-foo. YouTube is often a great authentication outlet for sneakers. As well, I will never stop vouching for Facebook groups. Odds are, there is a specific group on Facebook for whatever garment you are looking to buy. People in these groups can help you authenticate your pieces by using their own expertise or comparing the garments they currently own with the ones you’re posting.
If you’re able to, scour the internet for anything related to the specific piece you’re looking at. Whether that’s similar listings on other websites, brand-specific tells or even going through forum threads to see if the piece you’re shopping for is counterfeited frequently.
All in all, the best way to self-authenticate is through research. Whether you choose from the options above or figure out tactics of your own, one quick search can make or break your shopping experience.
PURCHASE ON TRUSTWORTHY SITES THAT PEOPLE CAN VOUCH FOR
Now this one is a little bit easier said than done. In my case, I previously trusted The Real Real which claims to have a rigorous, multi-step authentication process. Clearly, part of that process isn’t pulling out a smartphone and scanning the most obvious QR code in the world. But, I digress.
Doing a quick search on the site itself can help determine a company’s legitimacy and track record when it comes to selling authentic products. Grailed for example is a popular marketplace-style website and app which explicitly tells users that authentication must be done on their own terms. Staff scan through listings to remove fake pieces but, items are sent directly from seller to buyer.
On websites like The Real Real, StockX and Goat, products are shipped from the seller to a universal authentication factory in a location hopefully near you, then to the buyer’s house. Now, this extra step can be helpful, especially when you’re on a website where you can’t request more photographs. However, if you have the chance to ask for more proof, do it. Seeing specific photographs can only help you authenticate your items further, thus helping you shop with more confidence.
MAKE SURE THERE’S A FALLBACK PLAN
In the unfortunate event that you get scammed, the worst scenario you can be in is where you’re unable to recoup the funds. Facebook marketplace is a bit dangerous in this sense as cash transactions are extremely difficult to track. Most times, the most that can be done in these situations is the scammer can have their account banned.
However, PayPal has a great policy that helps you dispute purchases which you deem to be either inaccurate or unauthentic. If you purchase a piece that is listed as “Tags still on, never worn, deadstock”, and it comes beat to shit, then you can make a claim to help recoup some funds. In extreme cases, PayPal will even refund the entire amount if they find your claim suitable.
Purchasing through your credit card is also quite safe as well from a scamming standpoint. However, banks have different approaches to how they handle situations. For example, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, or CIBC, will not look at your case until two weeks have passed and you have attempted to reconcile with the company from which you’ve purchased.
ASK FOR HELP
Similar to the research point, there are forums worldwide made specifically to help people find and authenticate clothing items. Odds are, someone, somewhere owns the garment your looking for and can give you accurate specifications to look for, as well as some obvious telltale signs.
As well, your mates are just a call away. Someone in your friend group or a random on social media could potentially have the answer to the question you’re looking to ask. Everyone is an expert on something, and for all you know, your friend is the perfect person for the job.
I hope these tips help you avoid what I experienced, and am still, unfortunately, going through. Shopping online can be dangerous and a bit hard to navigate, but with these steps, your experience should be as smooth as could be.
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