By Mary Schwager, GalTime.com
The in-laws. The menus. The dress. The flowers. The cake. The dress. The band. The reception. The dress. The BUDGET! It's supposed to be a time of bliss but sometimes wedding planning is as far from blissful as you can get. Instead of starring on the "Newlyweds Show", brides are more likely to feel like they're playing "Let's Make a Deal."
When it comes to budgeting, let's face it the dress has got to be showstopper! Many times the euphoria brides experience when they find their perfect, beautiful, flowing dream dress is followed by sticker shock when they find out the price. They go home, jump online and comparison-shop. And… whoa they find it for much, much cheaper online, possibly hundreds, sometimes even thousands of dollars less. The dress euphoria is back-and that's just what scammers hope for. Don't fall for it!
When Natasha Dennisuk fell in love with this $6400 Rivini Lismora designer dress she used the Internet to see if she could find it cheaper.
That's when the trouble started. She found a woman in England with quite a sob story: She lost her fiance in a car accident and was now selling the same dress for just $1850. They traded emails and pictures of the dress, which looked like it was hanging right on the "former bride's" closet door. Natasha wired a $1,000 deposit to the UK.
Soon the seller emailed Natasha with some shady story about 'a stranger picking up the money and now she should wire the remainder of the balance.' Natasha says she had a bad feeling. "After I told the seller that I felt I was scammed and I would not be sending more money, she completely cut off contact with me. I later found out that her address and phone numbers were (not real) and that the hospital she claimed to work in had no record of her."
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The Federal Trade Commission says it has "scores" of complaints about wedding dress scams. Consumer watch website "Sitejabber" says it's seen a huge increase in wedding dress complaints and has tracked three main kinds of schemes:
1. Dresses that brides order online and never show up.
2. Dresses that DO show up and are dirty, torn, gross or just a mess.
3. Dresses that are flat out fakes. That Vera Wang may just be a Vera Shame and a bad knock off to boot.
Sitejabber's Jeremy Gin says it even issued a warning about wedding dress schemes. "We were dismayed by how many brides were being affected because it's such a sad story. It's a day meant to be so special in a bride's life and instead they're confronted with being scammed losing their money and maybe not getting the dress they want." Check out what happened to Maria Ray. She wanted this elegant Divina Sposa dress, which retailed for $1200 but she found it online for $400.
Here's what showed up in her mailbox! A dress with a mishmash of lace not even glued on correctly, boning missing from the corset top-it just flopped down, and a disgusting rusty pin still stuck in the dress, which poked her! She mailed it back to the company for refund-and the store claims "it never got the dress back". Maria is still battling it out with them.
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How can you avoid getting ripped off?
- Remember to ALWAYS pay with a credit, not debit card. Under the Federal Fair Billing Act, credit cards allow you to dispute purchases, and if you don't get what you paid for you can get your money back.
- Sitejabber says if you're going to use a search engine like Google to comparison shop, use it to investigate a dress retailer you're considering! Plug the wedding dress shop address into Google maps and see what it looks like. Is it an abandoned warehouse next to some railroad tracks? Is it a parking lot? A PO Box?
- Many of the counterfeit dresses come from China, so be careful especially if you're ordering from a foreign country. You may even want to call the customer service number, try talking to their rep's and see if you feel comfortable with them.
Maria did end up getting a beautful dress just in time for the wedding.
Natasha didn't get her money back-and because she wired the money she couldn't dispute the purchase. She ended up finding this very similar gorgeous dress-and, as you can see, she had a beautiful wedding. She also started her own company Lineage Bridal, designed to help brides consign high-end designer gowns safely and scam free.
Got a wedding story, or dress disaster to tell us about? Leave us a comment. We want to hear from you!
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