Why wouldn’t you want to stretch your buck while shopping for your favorite brands online? Shopping on a traditional retail site and paying full price may be the way to go if you are absolutely in love with a certain something but it can also put a strain on your wallet. Bargain hunting for the most fabulous designer deals can be fun and there is no doubt you can find some amazing prices. However, online designer deals are no panacea. Over 10,000 Sitejabber reviewers have recorded their experiences and some of the stories are not pretty. Over 58% of reviewers have reported problems ranging from ridiculous return policies to horrendous customer service. The following are the four most common issues.

1. NO Refund Policy

Typical of many bargain designer sale sites is a zero return policy. Nearly a quarter (24%) of reviewers who reported problems with designer discount sites, reported having an issue with return and refund policies. Unlike most retail sites, a bargain site will offer no refunds but only allow store credit. Chances of you getting your money back are slim to none despite a 100% satisfaction guarantee. One company, Gilt.com, is notorious for their “no refund” policy. Reviewer Sara was unhappy with the way things turned out with her purchase:

“Their customer service is the worst. They only accept returns and only for store credit. They are very unwilling to help a customer. I am always ‘indebted’ to them with store credits if I return something and forced to spend my money on their website until I use up the credit.”

Okay, okay so you order something, it doesn’t fit or it’s simply not you and the store credit policy stands. But, there’s also reviewer reports of receiving the wrong order and the company won’t accept the item back—leaving you with something you didn’t want and without your money back. Reviewer Bonnie ended up with this situation:

“Worst customer service ever! They sent me two of the same item, double charged me, and refused to let me return the duplicate item.”

Be careful about leaving your credit card on file. There’s been reports of the company automatically making a purchase on your behalf when you place items on your “wish list”. One reviewer learned her lesson the hard way:

“If you click on the wish list, it automatically charge on the net. Never leave credit info on the net. So fed up with its customer service too. A different mangers reply same email without answering inquiries. I’ve never done any review on shopping site, but this must be known to everyone!!”

Do not to leave your credit card on file for a company who doesn’t have a return policy. Before you begin your bargain hunting be sure you are okay with the return policy in case the item doesn’t work out the way you’d like.

2. Monthly Charges That Won’t Go Away

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Some online stores do have great deals but there’s a catch—when you make a purchase, you are automatically signing up for a “membership” with not-always-well-advertised monthly fees. Often known as “subscription shopping” sites, these online businesses are popular with Sitejabber reviewers, who have reviewed them over 1,700 times. However, their experiences have been mixed to say the least–more than 78% of the reviews are negative.  One reviewer found out there were unknown credit card charges for being a part of a “buyers club” and there was no chance in getting a refund:

“Thought I had just ordered one pair of shoes, then $39.95 charges kept showing up on my bank statement. I called to have them refund my money, but they said once the amount is charged it becomes a store credit and is not refundable to your bank account. I had no clue I was signing up to a monthly club. Also in the FAQ section it doesn’t say that they can’t refund “store credits”, that is buried in the fine print.”

Sitejabber reviewers have reported this to be true from sites like JustFab.com. If you buy from sites like this, just make sure you are the type of consumer that wants a new shoe every month. Once you do sign up, companies like this may make cancelling difficult. Reviewers have even cancelled the monthly subscription but continued to get billed. For Lodia, the company denied the fact that she called to cancel:

“I contacted them to request for refund of my monthly charges and they kept on saying that they are unable to do so because they don’t have a record to prove that I did in fact contacted them to make that cancelation.”

The lesson learned in all this is to get a reference number from these companies or better yet record the phone call for proof of cancellation. Also, be sure to check your credit card statement monthly to make sure you aren’t being charged for a membership or subscription you don’t want. You can also call your credit card or bank to block future charges once you’ve canceled.

3. Customer Service? Not So Much

Reviewers have also reported a serious lacking in customer service if an order goes wrong. You could end up spending time, energy and money trying to get your order straight and your money back.  Nearly 30% of all Sitejabber complaints around online designer deals can be connected to customer service issues. One reviewer shares:

“Right now it’s been nearly a month that I’m trying to get my $230 back from an item that was the wrong color — it was THEIR mistake, but of course it’s been a total hassle. Their customer service reps feed you complete misinformation and downright lies.”

Don’t be lured into purchasing from a bargain fashion site just because they have seemingly unbeatable deals. Some discount fashion sites have unreliable customer service:

“Ideeli is filled with good deals but the customer service when something goes wrong is a bit unreliable. I’d use it again but with some caution.”

If you do get a hold of a representative, you may be faced with substandard service:

“Received my ferragamo wallet and it was very different from what was pictured on the site. I did the live chat to tell them my merchandise was different. Got Tricia, she was the most unhelpful rep I’ve had the displeasure of live chatting with…. The way the supervisor handled that conversation was atrocious. Honestly, I knew I was shopping at a bargain site and probably should have stopped me right there and then. I’m not expecting nordstrom or bloomingdale’s level of service here but at least try to address the point the customer is trying to make.”

After you spend your energy trying to rectify bad service and an overall bad situation, it’s easy to feel like what you got for your money wasn’t a bargain at all.

4. Over-Promised Flash Sales

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Many sites will claim to be having a flash sale to get the consumer to make a purchasing decision quickly. But the truth is, just because there’s a flash sale doesn’t necessarily mean the item you buy is cheaper than on other sites. In reality, a flash sale may not mean the best price:

“The bodum bistro double wall cup 15oz is listed at originally $58 and they are selling for $40… After doing some online research I have yet to find an original price of $58 even on the bodum website the mug goes for $40.. so it is a little fishy that their original price is $58, when that price doesn’t exist anywhere.. I even found them for $40 with a 15% discount on another site… I contacted the chat now crew and the representative was just dismissive, no help at all.. I thought ideeli was supposed to be a discounted site with the best prices.. not the original one”

Before you make a quick decision on a flash sale, check out other sites to make sure that you are indeed getting the lowest price.

Sometimes the website will say the item is in stock but it really isn’t. Your item could take a while to actually be delivered. Don’t always expect the items to really be in stock and ship immediately–even if the website says it is in stock.

Be careful about having high expectations for your item to ship immediately. Sometimes the website can be misleading when it says an item is in stock but really isn’t:

“Found a Furla bag that I loved…ordered it immediately when the sale started. When ordering, website stated that the bag was in stock and ready to ship that day. When selecting shipping, the site offered overnight shipping for extra. I upgraded to overnight – thinking great I will receive it tomorrow. My confirmation email stated that it would ship the day I ordered and be delivered the following day. Well, it did not ship that day  I wanted it before Valentine’s Day, and now it has not shipped again. Why would I have upgraded to overnight shipping if I knew that there was a possibility that the website was lying and that it was not available to be shipped immediately? I would rather pay full price and know what to expect.”

More often than not, the flash sales tactic is used by these kind of companies to push you into making a purchase. Don’t fall for this, there’s plenty of good deals out there and if you are really set on making a purchase, just be prepared that you may be compromising both service and valuable time if something goes wrong.

Smart Bargain Hunting

The internet is a great place to find great deals. The trick is learning how to avoid the bad deals. Before making that spur of the moment bargain purchase in fear of losing out an impressive deal, it pays to do your research upfront and perhaps even accept that sometimes it’s actually worth it to pay full price.

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