Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Instagram Online Shopping: How Not to Get Scammed

With the emergence of shopping through online social networking sites and applications like Facebook and Instagram, the joys of online shopping became even more accessible and instantaneous to shoppers from all walks of life.

But just how different is this from the "traditional" online shops?

One obvious difference would be the social interaction involved. After all, that is what "online social networking" is all about.

To be honest, I rarely shop through Facebook (unless I find them on Instagram) simply because there are too many clicks involved before you get to see the actual merchandise. (Yes, I'm lazy that way.)

This is why I prefer shopping online through Instagram - it's quick , straight to the point , and very appealing to a visual person like myself.

It could also be more personal and fun than shopping through websites or actual stores because the owner/administrator could like and even comment on your photos.

I think it adds to the charm of shopping online. ^_^

I noticed that Instagram online shops who create a theme for their photos or specialize in particular one-of-a-kind merchandise seem to get the most following and revenue from Instagram. This is especially true for Philippine-based online shops.

As an avid online buyer (and sometimes seller) on Instagram, I noticed several things about Instagram online shopping that might help you get started if you are nervous about buying online or even to prevent you from being scammed by the more scrupulous sellers.

# 1   Take all the necessary precautions when shopping online.

Don't be lazy and do some research about the online shop you are interested to buy from. As a precautionary measure, take screenshots of their Instagram page, the photo of the product you want to buy, the conversations you had with the owner/administrator in comment boxes, and also a photo of the shop owner (if available). Take note of the bank or money transfer details they sent you because this could help you track them down if they turned out to be scammers.

A lot of times, Instagram online scammers turn out to be either misguided teens or immature adults who think they can get away with it (even though they had given their real name). And it happens too, because a lot of Filipino buyers rarely take legal action and simply posts these online sellers as "bogus." (Which won't really do much help in getting your money back.) Of course, there also exists the "real scammers" with the actual fake IDs and major modus operandi backing them up. (Those are the kinds of scammers that may be harder to detect.)

Just remember that scammers are as quick to disappear as they are to get your hard-earned money.

If you must, begin your first transaction using only small amounts of money before ordering bigger amounts in the future.

# 2   Find feedback from other Instagram users. 

And by this I mean real feedback from actual customers and not just sponsored Instagram accounts (celebrity accounts included). Look for tagged photos in the "Photos of Me" section of their account. If they re-grammed feedback on their feed, go to the actual user and see if it exists. It is helpful to check if the one who posted the photo is an actual person by looking at their posts and how long the account has been active. Remember that scammers could easily send items to these accounts and then take money off their followers without sending actual products. (This is why I have a separate account for my online shopping. I do my best to make sure that all the online shops I tag in my fashion account were not just legitimate but also accommodating and responsible to ALL their buyers.)

But be cautious about these feedbacks as well. I have never been scammed online before, but I almost got close to being bamboozled by an online shop that USED TO BE a legitimate and trusted online shop.

Take note that it was my first time transacting with that shop and my first time to buy an item on a pre-ordered basis. 

I realized that the shop might be scrupulous the moment the delays started coming. At first it was only days. And then it became weeks. 

I waited patiently to receive a reply about my item since it was on a pre-ordered basis and I understood that it was not easy to get a hold of. But I received zero replies or updates from this seller. I started to get really angry. And I mean, REALLY ANGRY. (And you must know that I rarely get angry.) 

And you will not like me when I am angry.

The first reply I received was from her previous reseller. (She was really lucky the reseller replied for her at the time because I was already getting ready to file legal action against her.) When I got the reply from her reseller, I was able to acquire her Facebook page and was able to contact her. She made so many excuses for the delay and replied intermittently through Facebook. Despite the lack of replies, I tried my best to be patient with this seller, but she really made it difficult to do so.

What's more infuriating about the delay is that apparently, this lady had all the time in the world to take SELFIES.




She even posted them as her Facebook profile picture. --- And yet she did not have the time to reply to me! I mean, seriously?!

I was seriously getting furious but I did not hound her about it and was even kind. But then several MONTHS passed and I finally got fed up (and kind of scared) when she suddenly deactivated her Facebook account. 

Based on her previous FB status updates, I think she was either going through a really bad break up or having some serious issues with her in-laws. And to be brutally honest, I could really care less because it is NOT a good excuse for her irresponsible manner of running her business. (And besides, she could be making it all up.)

Reality Check: I am a CUSTOMER, not her friggin' FRIEND. 

If she can't handle it, then put the online business on hiatus. Or ask someone else to manage it. She's only hurting her own reputation as a legit seller anyway.

I had her real name, pictures, and all the other precautions I mentioned previously. I gave her one last warning through a text message (implying that I am ready to sue her) and gave her a way out (told her if she cannot get my pre-ordered item for me, she should just ship on-hand items of my choice worth the money I paid her). 

She agreed and I finally got items for the money I sent her, which relieved me to no end. When the transaction finally ended, I immediately un-followed and blocked her account.

Long after this incident, I got contacted by another one of her previous resellers. She was not getting any reply and asked me if I got my items from the same shop. She told me that she saw my old comments on the IG page and decided to contact me, afraid that she was being scammed by her previous supplier (She transacted with this online seller before and the transaction was smooth at the time). I told her that I eventually got my items (but not the one I pre-ordered) after several months, but it would not have happened if I didn't imply legal action against her. I told her what I did to get updates from this seller and gave her some advice on how to handle the situation.

Several days later, the reseller reported to me that she finally got her items too, but some of the items were the wrong design and color. She was disappointed with the transaction because she was also accountable to her own buyer who ordered the item from her. 

Apparently, this lady is still being the useless irresponsible seller that she was at the time I bought from her.

Her policy? Selfies first!

Before this incident, I usually steered clear from buying pre-ordered items. Needless to say, after this incident, I avoid them like the plague.

# 3   Online pictures and captions could be deceiving.

Be prepared to take a risk with your purchase, especially if the item is second hand or it is your first time to buy from that online shop. I've seen buyers complain about receiving secondhand items that were dilapidated and practically unusable. (But also be realistic with your expectations, especially if the item is being sold for a very cheap price.)

I have even seen second hand items being passed off as brand new. So PLEASE BE CAREFUL.

#4   A huge following on Instagram does not necessarily mean the online shop is legit. 

Or that the seller is accommodating and responsible for that matter. And always be careful when purchasing online (even if you've purchased from that online shop before). Make tip # 1 your online shopping habit. It's better to be safe than sorry!

# 5  Follow Instagram accounts that expose bogus sellers.

Although most of these accounts are helpful, please be advised that owners of these accounts do not always do their research. So take what they say with a grain of salt. Do your own research and you will eventually find legit and trusted online sellers of your own!

I guess that's it for now. ^_^

Do you agree with what I wrote on my post? Did I forget to mention anything? Do you shop through Instagram as well? Please leave a comment below and share your own Instagram online shopping experience!

Thank you so much for reading and happy shopping! ;-)