You get what you pay for: Don't fall for Internet dress scams
There are scam websites that post photos of clothing they've swiped from real designers' websites, attempting to sell you what's in the picture, but what you get, isn't what was advertised.
While getting a bad dress online might sound like a $20 mistake, it's shaking up a billion dollar industry by ripping off designers.
Most women have seen the Facebook ads showing adorable outfits at unbelievable prices. It's tempting to click and shop, but as the saying goes; if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
"They are paper thin, poorly stitched together, no construction, no lining. It's just an absolutely horrible product and it's going to be devastating to you when it comes in the mail," said Laine Berry.
Devastating for you and for real fashion designers, like Laine Berry. She designs for Mon Cheri. One of her dresses, most recently featured on the Miss USA stage.
These scam websites are stealing photos of designer's dresses, putting them on their websites and selling you a knock-off version of the dress that certainly doesn't look like the picture. Berry says she's had her photos stolen at least a dozen times.
"I think people don't understand these photos are actually owned by somebody. They're paid for. The production of the photos are paid for and those are being stolen. Taken and used, so the dress you think you're getting isn't hanging in the factory in China that's going to send it to you. That's not their perfect sample. That's my photo that I've taken of my dress and it's not what you're going to get," Berry said.
For example, we found an evening gown for sale online, but a deeper search showed the photo was actually ripped from a red carpet appearance by Miss Tanzania. A one-of-a kind frock that won't be showing up on your door step.
Women across the Internet have posted what the picture showed they were getting, versus what they actually received in the mail.
Berry says her Conway store, The Royal We, sees a lot of disappointed ladies around prom time, and worse, around their wedding.
"We will have two or three every single weekend who come in," Berry said.
Channel 7 News ordered dresses from several different websites that seemed to have the most consumer complaints online.
A dress from the website Sammy Dress ended up looking like a table cloth with ribbon sewn on.
A dress from Zaful appeared to be a thick, structured dress in the picture. A similar dress was seen on Nordstrom.com for $100. On Zaful, it was only $11.99. Upon getting it, it's apparent why. The dress has no lining. It's completely see through and nothing more than a handkerchief poorly stitched together, not even enough care to line up the stripes.
A dress from Dress Lilly virtually unraveled before our eyes.
The biggest fail of them all, a sheer lace gown for $40 from Zaful, very similar to a Mon Cheri design. The real one clearly lined with tan material.
The one we got from Zaful was made of heap lace, falling apart, completely sheer, and not lined at all.
"There are about three layers before you get to the outside of this garment. So if something shows up to your house and it's not made like this, it wasn't made by a real company," Berry said.
Mysteriously, all of our orders arrived on the same day, and each in similar tiny packaging, even though they were purchased from what appeared to be different places.
That's because according to Buzzfeed, all of them are tied back to one single Chinese company.
The American Bridal and Prom Industry Association estimates at least $300 million is lost in American retail sales a year because of these counterfeit clothing websites. Hurting real Arkansas businesses.
"'Well, I'll order it for $30 and if it's terrible, it's no big deal.' And you're not really considering all of the people you're damaging outside of yourself when you're giving money to a counterfeit organization," Berry said.
The ABPIA has filed lawsuits against more than 1,000 websites, pushing for tougher federal legislation and closer monitoring of these counterfeit shipments.
"From manufacturers, down to small mom and pop boutiques like this one. It is destroying a huge segment of bridal and prom industry as a whole," Berry said. "It's thievery. It's thievery. It's just like you went into a store and took a dress off the rack and left without paying. It is exactly the same thing and it's important that people start to see it that way."
The other things we heard from consumers is that getting your money back for these dresses is nearly impossible with these foreign companies; most only offering a 5 percent refund. There's also a chance you may never get your dress if the shipment is seized by the government first.