GearBest: Counterfeit Item, Uncooperative Staff, PayPal Dispute Needed

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 Problem

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 …

32gb-fake-authentication-label

… 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.

number-queried-748-times

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.

16gb-real-authentication-label

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.

32gb-fake-rear-label

A genuine rear label is much better aligned and does not have such defects.

16gb-real-rear-label

The Chase

After documenting the issues, GearBest were immediately contacted. The chronology of the case is summarized in the following table:

gearbest-case-chronologyRespectably, 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.

fake-sku1 fake-sku-2

Specifically, they:

  • 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:

counterfeit-item-claims-rules-2016-05-12

It clearly stated that the item was to be collected by the seller at their expense.

The Mediator

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.

The Fallout

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.

Conclusion

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.

About lui_gough

I’m a bit of a nut for electronics, computing, photography, radio, satellite and other technical hobbies. Click for more about me!

This entry was posted in Computing, Electronics, Opinion, Telecommunications and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to GearBest: Counterfeit Item, Uncooperative Staff, PayPal Dispute Needed

  1. Aardvark says:

    I sympathize with you and PayPal. I have had several unpleasant experiences with PayPal too. My first was where they advertised a rebate on any purchase between certain dates. Registered for it, made a purchase and they claimed I was not registered :/ Other times trying to get refunds on items never received or defective merchandise. PayPal would tell me to deal with eBay and eBay would tell me to deal with PayPal. I use PayPal because I have to in many cases but I have a separate checking account just for PayPal use, which I keep a small amount of money in at any given time and I no longer take advantage of any of their so-called “promotions” figuring I will get “screwed” somehow. Only buy things with PayPal for an amount of money you can afford to lose without too much regret.

    • lui_gough says:

      Indeed, it seems like a few people got a raw deal out of PayPal, but at least in my case, without their backing I would have probably lost quite a bit more in other cases as well. From just a rough back of the envelope, they still work out to be “worth” the surcharge and fees that some vendors impose, just as insurance in case someone screws up. But of course, I’m not the sort of person to just go and flippantly spend unless there’s a good reason for it – the number one way to avoid being scammed is to avoid purchasing in the first place.

      – Gough

  2. David Sutherland says:

    It doesn’t seem too immature to sever all ties based on one bad transaction to me. Not when they are selling illegal goods. Xiaomi should get involved and have gearbest investigated for selling fakes. Outrageous garbage like this ruins brands.

  3. rasz_pl says:

    Why would you send it back? 🙁 It is clearly ILLEGAL. You should start your Paypal case stating in bold _it is illegal for you to knowingly posses and traffic_ this counterfeit item, and ask them directly what proof of destruction they require

    • lui_gough says:

      Suffice it to say, if customer service agents were as rational and understanding as we’d like it, that would work. Evidently, they didn’t care the category of “not described” whether it’s just because it’s a minor difference or an illegal copy. I stated multiple times to them that it is their mistake, it is illegal and I shouldn’t have to foot the bill for its return, but even after three attempts, they didn’t choose to inform me of their own product which offsets return shipping costs. It just goes to show how much their service agents know and care – they have an attitude where every message is “concluded” and closed with a single reply, without even reading the question sometimes, and with lots of boilerplate cut and paste. It’s poor service from PayPal as well, don’t get me wrong, but the fault really originates with GearBest.

      – Gough

  4. tristan says:

    I got you man when making your case to paypal be sure to point out that shipping a counterfeit good is illegal and them requesting you to do so is requesting you to break the law as long as the counterfeit ruling goes through you wont have to return anything if this fails do the same thing with a credit card chargeback

  5. Natalia Portillo says:

    I’m surprised about the return. I though laws in Australia strictly forbids shipping of counterfeit packages, more even so returning a counterfeit item to the seller. In Spain you must give it to the authorities (it is not illegal to keep it, but radio emitters not authorized by the EU are illegal to use, and any counterfeit is illegal to ship, sell or distribute)..

    I had a problem with AliExpress because they wanted me to return a counterfeit. Another seller gave me problems with eBay, and Paypal got thru the US customer center so they didn’t understand. Just a call to Spain’s customer center got me covered.

  6. Coops says:

    Would be best simply to sign up for Paypal’s “Return Shipping” refund system

    https://www.paypal.com/au/webapps/mpp/returns

    They subsidise $45 per return, 8 times per year.

    That way, you don’t end up out of packet

  7. Justin L. says:

    To me, it’s not really surprising that they (the retailers) drag out the warranty processes and stuff via after-sales customer support. I guess that’s just one of the problems with buying stuff from China, but it’s generally fine because I generally only buy lower cost (under around $30 AUD) items so it’s still annoying but it’s not a huge deal.

    Whenever I buy stuff from China, I’m basically expecting that the customer reps will be incredibly slow to respond, to the point where I’m waiting a couple of weeks for a reply. Yes, it sucks, but I guess that’s part of why they can still make money while competing with a huge number of other online retailers.

    I might have just gotten lucky with my experiences (and the fact that most of them were missing parcels), but I’ve found that most of the time they are really slow to refund/resend, but eventually they will send you another parcel or just return your money. Gearbest seems to prefer resending it, and quite a few sellers on AliExpress seem to prefer just giving you your money back after trying to scam you a few times (YMMV as these are all individually owned). DealExtreme seems to be the better one when it comes to refunding missing parcels, with you just submitting one ticket request and getting your money back no questions asked, compared with GearBest where you have to wait a ridiculously long time with the staff constantly asking you to check your post office. No, I’m not affiliated with them, but that’s just one experience so you will probably get a different response.

    As for counterfeit items, they’re all horrible so your best option is buying through PayPal and getting a refund from there.

  8. Mikey says:

    Should have told them you received an empty box. 🙂
    If they defraud you, why can’t you do the same in return?

    • lui_gough says:

      Because that would be fraud and I’m an honest person? You don’t right wrongs by committing further wrongs. Besides, they can probably get you if you do that as some of the more honest sellers weigh their packages and photograph them before dispatching into the mail system.

      – Gough

      • Mikey says:

        You didn’t right wrongs, you lost money and time for trying to stay honest. If you’re ok with that – cool. I wouldn’t be ok with that.
        Even if they weigh their packages and photograph them and 100% sure they sent you a full package, Paypal would have sided with you, as they can’t prove you received that same full package (as things can happen on the way). Trust me, I know what I am saying…

  9. stuntmansteve says:

    I’m glad I read this article – I’m currently embroiled in a similar issue with Gearbest. I’ve just escalated to PayPal but I didn’t know about the “Refund Returns” programme. I’ve signed up for that now.

    In my case, I bought a phone from GB. Upon receiving the delivery, I found the box to be empty. I attempted to contact GB but they constantly evade questions, offer the same lousy “either we refund you 50% of the cost or you pay us 50% and we send you a new product” offer, and change tactics (ask me to open a case with the shipping company, say they’ll open a case, they don’t open a case, they blame the company, etc, etc).

    Reading about it, there have been many people with my experience:
    * https://techtablets.com/forum/topic/gearbest-item-stolen-in-transit/
    * https://www.threadless.com/forum/post/1009600/ordering_a_new_ugee_graphics_tablet_gearbest_warning__my_ongoing_battle_to_get_my_money_back_or_item_sent_out_again/
    * http://vapingunderground.com/threads/beware-gearbest-experience-review.319741/
    * https://www.planetofthevapes.co.uk/forums/ecig-discussion/everything-ecigs/threads/lost-gearbest-item-now-resolved.123119/
    * http://www.hotukdeals.com/ask/gearbest-package-received-don-t-want-refund-2666822
    * http://www.hotukdeals.com/ask/anyone-purchased-from-gearbest-2238946?page=4

    Gearbest clearly works by defrauding people on a mass scale. Awareness needs to be raised about their practices.

Error: Comment is Missing!