Caveat Emptor——Let the buyer beware!

While that warning was penned by the Romans over 2,000 years ago, nowhere is that phrase more applicable than on the Internet today. The web is replete with countless merchants selling bridal and social gowns.  What most unsuspecting buyers do not realize is that there are two problems facing consumers.  1) Rogue Chinese websites selling counterfeits and seconds and 2) Unreputable retailers selling used, damaged or mis-sized goods.  The sheer number of both is staggering.

Over the years we have seen many brides in tears and in a state of panic when their “dream gown” arrives stuffed in an envelope with no resemblance of the gown they ordered on-line.  I have never had one tell me she was able to get a return authorization to get her money back. The most recent bride (and please bear in mind we don’t sell wedding gowns) told us the bust points on the gown she ordered on-line were 5 inches higher on one side than the other and that the embroidery on the left half of the gown didn’t match the right half!  By the time it arrived she was 28 days away from her wedding and she was scrambling.

We’ve had several mothers over the years tell us that they ordered on-line only to receive dresses that were either defective or in the wrong size. They too couldn’t find someone to answer the phone to make arraignments to send it back.

I have a vivid recollection of a mother who called us up crying hysterically. She ordered her dress online from a store in California. When it arrived it didn’t fit like the one she had tried on in a bridal salon in Baton Rouge with her daughter. We had 5 of that very dress in stock in different colors and sizes – and she lived 20 minutes from our store. She found the dress online for a few dollars cheaper and ordered from an unknown entity. When she came to us I put her in the dress, in her correct size and in a color that she looked beautiful in.  I documented everything she brought in – from the paper work, the hang tags on the dress, to the box it self – to assist her in trying to get her money back with her credit card company. She was kind enough to post a great review on yahoo about us (6/8/11), as well as a warning to others who would consider buying on-line.

The take away from the story is, know whom you are buying fromI strongly recommend you purchase from brick and mortar stores in your area. If there is a problem, I guarantee you will want an actual person to talk to face to face instead of a nameless, faceless entity that either doesn’t return calls, or a bank of operators looking at a computer screen with no real knowledge of the merchandise and no personal relationship with the manufacturer.

I was an expert witness in a federal court case pertaining to copyright infringement a few years ago. I gathered information and testified on behalf of a major bridal manufacturer. The company the lawsuit was filed against was making counterfeits in China and selling them in this country. With my years of experience in this industry I have a great appreciation for the seriousness of the problem.

Most people don’t realize how many rogue factories there are in China that have websites showing well-known designers dresses at a discounted price. These are nothing more than extremely poor copies. Unfortunately, many times unsuspecting customers don’t even realize that they aren’t buying from a retailer in this country.

In an effort to thwart these problems some manufactures do not allow online pricing of their gowns, nor do they allow pricing over the phone. One example is Jasmine Bridal. Jasmine also posts a warning about buying over the Internet on their own website.

At the end of the day, my hope is that your wedding will be everything you dreamt it would be, and that this time of planning will be a cherished memory in the future. I urge you to shop with family and friends; try your gown on for the first time in front of the full-length mirrors at the bridal salon & take pictures. Shed joyful tears, hug and laugh together. Memories like that can’t be bought on-line.

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