Sunday, July 20, 2008

Buying DVF On eBay- A Cautionary Tale


Early last month I did a stupid thing. I was wasting some time on eBay and somehow wandered from my regular browsing for vintage perfume into the dark realms of apparel. I did a quick search for Diane von Furstenberg and was happy to see a large selection of items. I'm a big fan and a very loyal DVF customer, so an opportunity to add an item or two to my collection at a very attractive price was just too good to pass.

You see where this is going, right?

While I know how to spot a fake perfume seller and haven't fallen into that particular trap in nearly a year, it didn't occur to me that a DVF dress, photographed from different angles and offered by a regular seller (not a pro) with a 100% feedback and a total score of 100-something could be anything but what it was claimed to be. I clicked "buy it now", paid immediately and waited for my dress to arrive.

What a disappointment! As soon as I touched the fabric I knew something was wrong. I have several of these silk jersey wraps, and they all are soft and smooth to the touch. The dress I was holding had an unpleasant synthetic texture and the print looked off, as did the seams. A few minutes of internet research made it clear I was taken for a ride.

Apparently, there's a huge industry of counterfeit Diane von Furstenberg dresses, and eBay is a prime venue for its distribution (unlikely to change now, that the US Court cleared eBay of responsibility to authenticate items and sellers). Fortunately, there are pretty easy ways to spot them. In my case, the telltale signs were:
1. fabric
2. seams
3. a label saying "silk jersey" instead of just "silk"
4. lack of an inside tag identifying the style (this one should appear in every silk wrap purchased from a department store, as this dress was claimed to be.

Giving the seller the benefit of doubt, I contacted her and informed her the dress was fake, and whoever sold it to her wasn't honest. She insisted she bought it from Saks in NYC and paid $325. My next step was opening a claim with PayPal and informing eBay, for good measures.

That started a long and painful process that only ended last week. In order to prove my claim, I had to bring the dress to the DVF boutique in the Meat Packing district, who took it (upstairs) to their headquarters where a VP of production identified it as a fake in writing. All that had to be done within a very short time frame (PayPal rule), which meant I had to hound the DVF people to finish the process so I could fax the letter on time. A regular retailer can't/won't do anything to help, by the way. While Saks, Neiman and the others are authorized distributors, their stores would not do anything to help, other than sympathize with you.

After that bit of fun I had to mail back the dress. But PayPal's instructions were a jumbled contradicting mess that couldn't be cleared until I returned from Paris, begged and pleaded for them to reopen the case, had my husband take over the phone interaction because I was seeing red at that point, mailed the wretched dress and finally got the refund last week.

So there you have it. Personally, this was the last time I buy a DVF (or any designer) item outside of retail store. But if you're planning to take the risk, check out this guide to spotting a fake DVF: Part 1, part 2 and part 5 were especially helpful.

Photos are from the actual auction I "won". Credit belongs to the seller.

11 comments:

  1. I'm so sorry to hear about your experience -- and I'm in complete awe of your determination to get your money back. It's stories like this that prevent me from even typing that URL into my browser.

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  2. Oh, you are a brave girl! I admire your determination.
    lavinia

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  3. There is a lot of discussion right now on Perfume of Life boards about the recent French court decision to fine ebay a lot of money for selling counterfeit perfumes and the lawsuit by LVMH. It might have some bearing on the selling of counterfeit fashion items, too. That's great you persisted until you got your money back.

    Calypso

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  4. Maddening isn't it? This is why I have a love/hate relationship with shopping online.

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  5. Brava- eBay used to be more fun. Until the last year I've never encountered any problems and have never disputed a transaction (I joined the site in 2001). However, this was the third problem I had this year. It definitely makes me rethink the whole thing.

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  6. Lavinia- I'm not sure it's bravery. More like rage...

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  7. Calypso- Yes, I'm aware of the discussion. I think the French went too far. What's next? Declaring flea markets illegal? A garage sale police? The thing is, here in the US the court has already rejected a similar lawsuit from Tiffany and cleared eBay from responsibility. That's not so good, either.

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  8. Mandy- I love online shopping. I just want to know that I'm paying for the real thing, you know?

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  9. Wow, I am impressed that you succeeded in getting your money back, given the hoops you had to jump through. Good work! I almost bought a DVF dress on eBay once - thanks for the caution!

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  10. I have bought 4 DVF dresses on eBay. I think one is a fake. I will still buy them but I am very careful.

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  11. I'm in a dispute now with a Chanel jacket that is clearly a fake. Hopefully it will be resolved soon. I've bought a few DVF dresses online but I try and stay with the super sellers and one's that have a no fault return policy. It can be done but you have to be aware and ask for more pictures, like to side seam tag ect...Thanks for sharing your story

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