Help! I’m about to flip my wig. Where is my refund?

Not all internet retailers are created equal. Hazel Wentt learned that important lesson when she recently purchased a wig from an online company called Aliexpress.

Wentt’s story is a cautionary tale about making sure that you know who and what you are patronizing when using an online company. Otherwise, if something should go wrong, the road to a resolution could be quite rough.

Wentt contacted us because she had ordered the hairpiece from a company that she thought was called DreamWorks through the website Aliexpress. She received a wig, but it was not the right color and she wanted to exchange it.

This is where her story gets hairy.

I could not use it because their ad stated that it was not possible to dye it. I requested a refund and Lychee M agreed to a full refund of $175.10 plus the return postage of $22.75 and I would now like to be paid the interest that is now accumulating on my credit card. After I returned it I never heard from Lychee M again even after I wrote him several times. He just ignores my email.

I tried reaching out to the customer service department. I chatted with Ethyl, then with Jinky, in an effort to resolve this dispute — all to no avail. Finally on July 19, Ferdie promised that I would hear from Aliexpress within 10 days. It is now almost three months and I have not heard from anyone. Eighteen days ago I chatted with Steph. She asked me to trust her and I would hear from her in 10 days. Well I did and am again disappointed.

Wentt further explained to us that she was told to ship the wig to a man in China called ‘Mr. Bin T.’ of Top Beauty Wig. After he received the wig, she would be issued her refund. So, Wentt spent an additional $22 and shipped the wig to Mr T. in Qingdao, China.

What could possibly go wrong? As it turns out, quite a lot.

Mr. T never responded or acknowledged receipt of the return. So now Wentt had lost almost $200 and the wig.

I have to admit that when I first read Wentt’s sequence of events I had to reread it several times in an attempt to figure out who sold her this wig. There were no less than three companies involved, and also various “first name only” customer service representatives. But, It seemed that the point of entry to her case was Aliexpress.

So that is where we started.

What is Aliexpress? It appears that this company is part of a new wave of online retailers that are considered “wholesaling platforms.” These websites are essentially online warehouses for various sellers. The sellers are usually vetted solely through reviews from other customers on the website. It is imperative to read the reviews of the individual sellers before initiating a purchase.

Interestingly, when I clicked on the terms of use of Aliexpress, I was introduced to yet another company in Wentt’s case, Alibaba. This seems to be the parent company of Aliexpress. These terms explain that they are a “web-based platform for exchanging information” and that they connect consumers and sellers. But they specifically state that they “do not represent the buyer or seller.”

Uh-oh. That doesn’t sound very consumer-friendly.

Additionally, it is explained that there are “transaction risks” and that the user of the website agrees that these transactions are “governed by the laws of China.”

I began to see Wentt’s chances for a refund quickly dissolving.

But we weren’t willing to give up just yet. So I signed into my newly minted account with Aliexpress, and I was connected to Ricelle. After I explained Wentt’s situation she told me that there was no record of a complaint from Wentt. I told her that I had seen the chat transcript in which ‘Jinky’ and others had told Wentt that she would receive a refund — as soon as Mr. T received the wig in China. At this point Ricelle promised me that within 24 hours we would receive an email addressing this complaint. Ricelle then told me that she wanted to do her job “honestly.”

Ok, that sounds promising.

I thanked her, and then waited the 24 hours and looked to our email for Wentt’s answer from Aliexpress.

It never came.

We had one last suggestion for Wentt: a credit card chargeback. Chargebacks should be the last option in consumer/company disputes. In this situation, Wentt had been very patient and had given this company more than ample time to straighten out her problem. Unfortunately, that patience cost her the ability to do a chargeback since her credit card company, as most do, required the chargeback to be initiated within three months of the purchase. By the time Wentt had contacted us, it had already been eight months since this wig debacle began.

And so we were, regretfully, out of options.

Although, we could not dig through all the layers of this company and get Wentt a refund, we do hope that her story will serve as a reminder that when dealing with a faceless retailer, do your research before you hand over your money. Make sure that the website has a good track record and read the reviews of the individual sellers. If it is an unfamiliar website, make sure to read their terms of usage. Lastly, if you cannot settle the dispute on your own, contact your credit card company and initiate a chargeback within the allowable time frame; this will force the company to respond.

Online shopping can be fun. It can give us access to products that are not easily available in our local communities — but make sure to do your homework. Otherwise you may find yourself without your money and without your merchandise. And that’s not fun at all.

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