CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Prom season is in full swing, where young women and their moms or friends go on the hunt for the perfect gown, for their night of glamor.
“I love the black, and the blue! Heh!”
Those are the excited cries from high school junior Alexandria Ryamond, who is with her mom, Andi, at Reign Fine Apparel in Charlotte’s Stonecrest shopping center. This year’s hunt for the perfect gown couldn’t be more perfect compared to last year.
“I was like, this is the dress. I love, love, love it…but it was the wrong size.”
The teen and her mom then decided to find the gown online, and discovered it, selling for about 100-dollars less, and placed the order.
But days turned into weeks. One week turned into two, then three. Something was clearly not right.
“It didn’t come, it didn’t come, and it didn’t come.”
Then, just four days before the big day, the package arrived from China. This was red flag number one. Then Alexandria opened the package.
“I opened it up and pulled it out and it didn’t look like my dress. I tried it on, and it was awful. I cried.”
The dress was a fake. It was the wrong length, wrong cut, and fit so poorly, the floor-length gown, came up to Alex’s knees.
“In the beginning of April, I start seeing girls rolling in-- at least three to four a day. It’s unbelievable,” said Jamie Converse, owner of Reign Fine Apparel.
Converse says this kind of online swindling happens all the time. While it’s hard to tell just how many of these counterfeit dress websites exist, there are some telltale signs to look for while shopping on the Internet.
“First, this is 2013 prom. There is no reason for a $200 dress to be discounted [so heavily] on a current prom style…authorized retailers have contractual agreements with manufacturers not to sell below a minimum price point,” she explained.
Untrustworthy sites, Jamie says, will steal manufacturer’s photos and make up their own descriptions.
“They have these unusual SKU numbers. This is their own SKU number, and it doesn’t say [the brand] of the dress, so that’s a huge red flag.”
Another detail to look out for, is where the dress is coming from, and shipping times.
“You see DHL anywhere on the site, and it means the dress isn’t coming from the U.S. Also, three to four weeks to order a dress? If that’s the case, then they’re making it themselves, and it’s counterfeit. Even if the dress is back ordered, it shouldn’t take that long.”
The Charlotte chapter of the Better Business Bureau says these websites simple get away with selling these garments, because patrolling the internet is much harder than retail, brick-and-mortar stores.
While the U.S. Secret Service does deal with counterfeit items, their focus is more on large handbag busts, or fake cash and multi-million dollar operations. The BBB says your best defense is to know what red flags to look for.
As for Andi and her daughter, say they’ve learned their lesson. Out of curiosity, did she find a dress she liked?
“Yes! But I don’t know. Daddy would have to be the deciding factor on that!”