Charleston, SC – Irene Dorsey is an avid online shopper. So when an ad for a new online retailer popped up on her computer, she gave them a try.
“I looked at the photos, and the photos were great,” Irene told News 2’s Rebecca Collett.
She spent $250 on eight items with TOPJARA, which has since become Hotcoth.com. The items were not the same quality as they appeared in the pictures online.
“The material was awful,” she explained. “You could practically rip it.”
After documenting the problems with pictures and in writing, she shipped the clothes back and asked for a refund.
Via customer service emails, the company told her the clothes were shipped to a wrong address. Even though an employee signed for them there, the company denied ever receiving them. Their solution was giving Irene half of her money back.
That’s why she called Collett.
“This is a bigger problem than just one disgruntled customer,” Irene said.
According to RetailMeNot, in 2016, China’s e-commerce market surpassed the U.S., to become the largest market in the world. And many of those Asia-based retailers target shoppers like Irene.
“I would really only trust shopping online at places you know,” Emory Hiott, a Charleston Southern University Professor, told News 2.
Professor Hiott teaches marketing at CSU. She says if you’re going to shop online, don’t click on links that pop up or are ads on your social media. She recommends typing in a URL in a new window. Once you’re on the site, verify the URL has a lock beside it to make sure credit card information is protected.
“If it doesn’t have that lock the information can be shared,” Professor Hiott explained.
While you’re shopping, look past the pictures
“You can do all sorts of things with Photoshop,” Professor Hiott explained.
Read over the site to check for typos. And before checking out, read the description of the products to give a better idea of what to expect in the material and size.
Finally, make sure the retailer has a working phone number on their site. When News 2 contacted Topjara, a customer service representative told us via email they don’t have a phone line because of international costs.
The company would not provide a statement.
And even though they promised Irene a refund weeks ago, she’s yet to receive it.
If you are going to shop online talk with friends who can give personal testimonies or read reviews, but be warned, those can be faked.