With the constant influx of innovative, new, low-cost and high quality from lesser known Chinese manufacturers, a constant battle is to find a source of these products with a good price from someone that you can trust. Online marketplaces are often ripe with counterfeit products, take a long time to fulfill orders and often lead to disappointment. To that end, there are several vendors which often receive positive recommendations, one of them being GearBest. I had worked with GearBest over a period of a year in reviewing their products under review challenge terms. While they have never failed me in supplying review products, just recently, they failed to deliver as promised, and ultimately resulted in both time and money lost.
The particular problem order was for a Xiaomi Redmi Note 2, 32Gb for my father. The unit arrived and appeared to be counterfeit. Specific indications included …
… this particular anti-counterfeit authentication label which had suspiciously clean text, no “anti-peel” cuts in the corners, and no tactile sensation on the printing. When checked for authenticity, it was found to be checked over 700 times at the time of receipt.
Why an authentic product would ever carry such a fake label is beyond me. Comparison with a previously received product which was genuine shows clear differences in the label – note the cuts, tactile printing, font, etc.
There were also some differences in the rear label including a smooth textured label with printing defects – notice bleeding on the 0’s, especially in 1080p, alignment problems with 5.5″ line, as well as vertical alignment issues with the approvals text “GB/T22450.1” which is raised above the line level, and extra spacing near “YD/T1595.1-2012”. The printing alignment is also not completely straight.
A genuine rear label is much better aligned and does not have such defects.
After documenting the issues, GearBest were immediately contacted. The chronology of the case is summarized in the following table:
Respectably, the item arrived in 10 days after the order was placed, however, that’s where things went south. I co-operated with every request but they failed to communicate and come to an amicable resolution.
- Did not address the issue which is that the item appears to be counterfeit as its anti-counterfeiting label had anomalies.
- Continued to offer the same lousy resolution of GearBest Wallet credit of US$10 + 5*cost of item in GearBest Points – but the “conversion” rate is 50 points per US$1, and the points cannot be greater than 30% of the purchase value and are only valid up to 6 months. As a result, they were only offering me US$24.375 of “in store” value with lots of caveats for a mistake they made.
- Did not seem to care that I was a reviewer of their products and worked with them right up to the order date. This seems a very foolish decision on their behalf, but at least their after-sales team seems to play the hard ball with everyone.
- Afterwards, was only willing to accept the product back with a refund into GearBest Wallet, but with shipment at my cost. Again, unreasonable as the mistake is on their part, and I will be both out of pocket in shipment fees and out of pocket in terms of being without real cash.
- Did not care that I had contacted a person from within Xiaomi who confirmed the item I received was indeed counterfeit.
Specifically, I had to resort to using PayPal Buyer Protection, and open a case. As of the 12th May, I took a screenshot of their buyer protection policy link which stated:
It clearly stated that the item was to be collected by the seller at their expense.
After opening a PayPal case, GearBest seemed to take their time on everything. Only after five days did they then open a ticket in return claiming that they noticed that I opened a case against them. I provided the information for the other ticket, and told them that I had wasted enough time and effort and provided enough chances for a resolution.
It was only after this that they were willing to accept a return, with them requesting that I use “standard” shipping and that I pay for the return. At this point, I felt disinclined to co-operate and deferred the decision to PayPal, as I believed that the seller would not be co-operative and could claim the item had “gone missing” on return and then I’d be at a total loss.
GearBest was not above offering a very similar lousy offer of US$20 partial refund through PayPal to settle the case. Such a resolution only benefits the seller, as the buyer is left with a potential lemon. Counterfeit products have no support from the original manufacturer, might not have the same features, quality, longevity, safety, etc. If you accepted such a refund and the item suffers premature failure due to poor build quality, or has been tampered with and contains backdoors, or maybe even blows up in your pocket and takes off a leg, there’s no-one you can go to. It also negates the fact that such products are illegal and infringe on the intellectual property of others.
After declining the offer, PayPal requested the item be returned at my cost to the seller. This seemed at odds with the screenshot I took above of their policy, so I had contacted them three times to enquire and complain about this, as this is the seller’s mistake and I should not be out of pocket especially given the policy.
The first reply was totally boilerplate with no reference to the link supplied nor sympathy for the problem. The second reply was similar, drawing an analogy to “returning an item to a physical shop”, and not referring to their policy. By the time the third reply appeared, I magically found the document link I had used suddenly turned into a “not found” and that their new policy said that the return cost was to be borne by the purchaser.
Reluctantly, I sent the item back at a cost to me of AU$36.31 by tracked (no signature) as requested by PayPal and provided the documentation as requested. A one week delay was inevitable, as I was in Melbourne for my conference.
The item was delivered by 29th May, according to the tracking, but no updates occurred to the case. I sent an enquiry about the case on the 8th June, which resulted in a request for delivery and lodgement confirmation which I immediately provided. It was only ten days later that I had received a refund, seemingly due to a time out in waiting for a response from the company.
This case shows a failure in the customer service of GearBest. They failed to resolve the problem while it was in their hands, and they failed to accept responsibility for their mistakes. They initially were very timely on the responses, but that soon faded as soon as they realized that I was not an easy target that they could get away with dumping a product on.
Their lack of timely response ultimately costed a total of 51 days lost in trying to resolve the issue and a net financial loss of AU$39.25 in postage fees and currency conversion losses in the refund, which is 20% of the original purchase price due to the fault of GearBest and their suppliers.
Their lack of timely response towards the end seems to be a deliberate measure to frustrate and possibly delay the publication of this article – which I had promised, would be forthcoming. As a result, I can say that they have definitely done themselves a disservice, as I won’t be shopping with them again.
While it would be immature to claim that people should boycott a particular store over a single bad experience, I think prospective purchasers should think twice especially when it relates to higher value items. Grey importers and resellers are often known for problematic after-sales support, and it seems GearBest is no different. Don’t expect them to understand your issues, and don’t expect them to provide reasonable resolutions. Don’t even expect them to answer to acknowledge receipt of your package – and potentially be completely out of pocket. Purchasers should weigh up whether it is worth the risk to purchase from a particular seller, in light of the potential hoops they may have to jump through to make ends meet, and the potential for being out-of-pocket, either completely or partially. In short, GearBest failed me big time, and even when forewarned about the article that would eventuate, they failed to take action.
Buyers should also be proactive and use all technical measures to verify the authenticity of the goods they receive, and have rightfully paid for. Settling for a counterfeit item is often a poor choice, as it lets the seller get away with illegal trading of counterfeit goods and leaves you with a sub-par product. Check those anti-counterfeit labels and look for packaging discrepancies.
It also highlights the need for buyer protection mechanisms when dealing with such stores. Without having used an “escrow” type payment service, in this case, PayPal with buyer protection, I would have had no leverage against the company who were deliberately misunderstanding and repeatedly offering unacceptable resolutions. The additional surcharge (in some cases) is definitely worth it for the peace of mind which can come about using such services.
However, that being said, PayPal could have done much better. Their case reviewers took a lot of time to reach conclusions, and the long periods of “waiting” for a response from the other party were excruciating. Worse still, is their customer service. When enquiring and complaining about having to foot the return shipping costs on three separate occasions, they failed to explain correctly in regards to what appeared to be a recently changed policy in regards to counterfeit items, and failed to inform me that I was eligible for Refunded Returns, which requires pre-registration and submission of details within 14 days of lodgement. As a result, I was out of pocket on shipping costs. I think it’s pretty obvious that if someone is complaining about something, and you have a product to address that particular complaint that you let your customer know!
Further to that, because of the way PayPal handles currency conversion, and because the transaction was charged in US$, a few dollars were lost in the refund because of the movement in exchange rates – which PayPal likely had profited from. This is not particularly fair, given the fact that it was termed a “reversal”. As a result, a buyer can stand to lose out even if they have their return postage refunded.
GearBest supplied a counterfeit item, and failed to resolve the problem amicably, reasonably or accept responsibility in the face of proof. Their lack of timely response ultimately costed a total of 51 days lost in trying to resolve the issue and a net financial loss of AU$39.25 in postage fees and currency conversion losses in the refund, which is 20% of the original purchase price due to the fault of GearBest and their suppliers.
I can say that they have definitely done themselves a disservice, as I won’t be shopping with them again. Prospective purchasers should really think twice about dealing with them, especially for high value items, and consider the use of Buyer Protection, following through with it if necessary. Without the leverage provided by PayPal, I would have had no chances of recovering any money at all.
While they present a positive side to reviewers, and have a large presence amongst websites with their aggressive marketing offers, their after-sales support is a problem and they seem prone to deliberate misunderstanding of the problem and continued attempts to “keep” any money they have obtained by offering in-store credit. To not acknowledge the problem in the face of clear proof is irresponsible, and the sale of counterfeit items illegal.
PayPal could have also done better in response to my complaints and enquiries about return postage charges which were to be borne by the seller under previous policy. If they had informed me about their own Refunded Returns scheme, I could have saved most of my losses.
As of the publication of this article, I am officially severing all ties with GearBest and I will no longer accept any more of their products for review. Articles already published will remain online, as the products themselves are not at fault, but I urge you to reconsider before purchasing from them.