FINAL UPDATE: A good reason not to buy from LightInTheBox.com12/12/2008 Written by Roberto Preatoni
I was quite unsure if writing this article or not, but after all, this is a cybercrime archive and frauds based on the Internet are still cyber-crimes. Being Zone-H.org visited by a very large amount of daily visitors, including police forces and journalists I though that perhaps by posting my personal experience with the Lightinthebox Chinese dropshipper/wholesaler on this website might help others to avoid the same troubles I experienced.
Everything started December 2nd when, after looking in the local Chinatown shops I realized that the item I wanted to give as a Xmas gift to my son (and maybe to myself too) a cool cellphone watch, was already sold out. So I decided to buy it online from one of the many Chinese wholesalers, specifically from www.lightinthebox.com. I checked before on the Internet about comments or fraud reports regarding that company and, as I expected, I found out several comments stating mixed feelings as you can expect when we are talking about online commerce (negative comments might be also posted by your angry competitors)…
So I decided to take the risk and go for it. The item was labeled (and still is by the time I am writing this article) “Boxed to Go” which means that the delivery was guaranteed within 48 hours. I paid it with PayPaL.
Nine days after, on December 11th, I still could not check from my account page at lightinthebox.com the status of my delivery. So I took contact with one of their online helpdesk operators (james) who told me “I cannot see any info here, but don’t worry your goods will be sent within 48 hours”. I got a bit angry because 9 days had already passed and I also paid 49 extra dollars for a super-fast, 1 day guaranteed delivery.
I decided then to open up a PayPal case in the dispute center asking either to get my goods or to get a full refund. The result was that I got an email in which Lightinthebox.com told me that I was about to be contacted by one of their operators to solve the problems. Meanwhile I got another email stating that the item was shipped, providing me with a DHL tracking number.
I went to check my DHL page and I saw that the goods were shipped, but immediately a few hours later, they have also been returned back to the shipper.
I contacted then back the same helpdesk operator (james) who told me that I should not be worried, that the goods were on their way. I didn’t take this for granted, so I insisted that he should check more carefully the situation and in fact, after a while, he came back telling me that the goods were returned as I was completely refunded. He supplied me a refund reference number.
I went to check my PayPal page, and I didn’t see any refund. Also the reference number I was supplied by the helpdesk operator was inconsistent with the unique PayPal transaction reference, related to the purchase. At that point I understood that they were just fooling me around.
I tried to contact back James, but this time no answer was given to my chat attempts with the online helpdesk.
I decided to contact a different operator, claiming I had a pre-sales question and as expected, I was immediately welcomed by another operator (Andrew) who, after explaining my problem, told me that in order to get my money back, I should close the PayPal dispute. But if you look carefully in the PayPal dispute center, it is clearly stated that once closed, the dispute cannot be reopened. Very smart!
Of course I didn’t close the dispute but I converted it in an official claim, hoping to solve this problem once for good. Needless to say, every other attempt to talk to the Lightinthebox helpdesk was unsuccessful from that moment on. As well as all the tickets that I opened to their support center have been unanswered.
So far, I cannot say that the guys at www.lightinthebox are plain scammers, but certainly I can say that this is the most unprofessional service I ever saw, and I warmly suggest you to avoid that website. I will keep you updated wether I was able to get my money back or not.
Merry Chinese Xmas!
UPDATE 1: I talked to paypal over the phone, they confirmed no refund was sent to my account. Meanwhile after I posted this article, I got contacted by Jack Lu, yet another Lightinthebox operator. How many of them! So far I talked to James, Jack Lu, Andrew , Ronny , Mark, but hey, there are a lot of Chinese, I cannot complain much ! Here is the MSN conversation:
Lightinthebox Jack Lu
Hi Roberto, it is Jack, anything may help?
i would like to have my problem solved
Lightinthebox Jack Lu
your order number?
Lightinthebox Jack Lu
ok, one min
it’s 13 minutes so far
Lightinthebox Jack Lu
your order has been cancelled
yes i know
now please, dont tell me that you refunded me because it’s not, i didn’t get any refund
Lightinthebox Jack Lu6:10
paypal hold your payment
Roberto Preatoni 6:10 no
Lightinthebox Jack Lu
PayPal status: Reversed @ 00:42:51 Dec 11, 2008 PST
Parent Trans ID:16059552A9753861B
Amount: –230.24 USD
i talked to them 30 minutes ago
try to understand, i want to explain you something
see this code supplied by you: Parent Trans ID:16059552A9753861B ?
it means that the refund that you did went to cover the original payment that with paypal was carrying that code
but if you open my account status over your paypal page you will see that the code of my payment is different: 5MJ17436UF695144F so I don’t have any idea to whom you sent the money, but they didn’t come to my account, as the code is different and I got confirmation by paypal over the phone
6:12Lightinthebox Jack Lu disconnected
Shit! Not again…
UPDATE Dec. 15th
I received this mail in which they told me both that they didn’t refund me and that they did refund me.
Dear roberto preatoni,
Thank you for writing to us. We apologize for any inconvenience we might of caused you. I regret to inform you that the status of your payment has been frozen by PayPal. In order to unfreeze your payment, please contact PayPal promptly and remove the dispute you filed on the order.
Then we will arrange to refund to you asap
Thank you for understanding.
Anything else we can help please feel free to contact with us
Anyway, it doesn’t matter as in the same time I also received a refund communication from PayPal. Finally I got my money back.
I guess that down there at Lightinthebox there is a big mess and their left hand doesn’t know what their right hand is doing…
After publishing this article I have been contacted both by Lightinthebox operators privately on MSN and by their VP of sales by phone. I agreed (as it should always be) to post their answer to this article, provided they sent it to me by mail. Here we go:
Dear Mr. Preatoni:
I am writing to you with mixed feelings. First of all, I feel very sorry about your unpleasant shopping experience with lightinthebox.com.
What have happened to your order was a proven evidence of our growing pain — within 2 years, we are already one of the leading global online wholesaler that dealing with thousands customer inquiries and orders on a daily basis. Without making any excuses, here is what have happened to your order:
1. Due to our system problem with numerous orders before X’mas season, your order was miss placed and was not handled as fast as what we promised.
2. When we finally got to your order and was about to ship out the product, you already filed a dispute with Paypal that we had to stop the shipment. As I explained on the phone, we are very cautious about this kind of dispute as we also suffered losses from some past online scams when people file dispute to stop payment with no reason after we shipped out goods.
3. Our Customer Service would have contacted you to ask your preferred choice of either removing dispute in Paypal to receive your goods, or getting a refund. But again, due to the heavy workload, nobody contacted you in time.
4. Your call was then transferred to Sales that handles incoming calls for pre-sales inquiries, thus your complaint was wrongly handled by sales department when it was actually a customer service issue. Without knowing the problems of your order, they gave you false promises that we could ship out the goods right away, as they only saw we had inventory on the ordered product without knowing your order history.
5. When you decided to get refund, our online sales, without proper training, gave you wrong information again to ask you to remove Paypal dispute to get your refund, which is incorrect. Unfortunately their good intention caused more misunderstanding.
6. Also the incorrect answer was given to you when we were trying to refund you due to poor English of our sales people, “you were refunded” should have been phrased as “you will be refunded”.
7. When we did refund you through Paypal, our sales people didn’t know you, as a buyer, cannot access to the refund information we provided as a seller. Also, due to processing time at Paypal, there is another misunderstanding caused by the time widow between the time we refunded your account and you saw it in your account.
We understand the damage caused by this troublesome order is irreparable, but we do hope this detailed explanation will at least show you our sincere apologies, as well as our business integrity — we are ethical and responsible to all our customers. We also appreciate very much your understanding and tolerance to a baby company that makes many mistakes at early stage. The upside is we learned so many of our problems from your one single order, and we are in the process to improve our system, customer service, sales training and English skills to ensure what happened to you will not happen again in the future.
As I shared with you on the phone, the reason for me to recently join lightinthebox.com in China after many years of international work experience with some reputable multi-national companies is to build a world-class organization and deliver best services possible to our customers around the world. I am confident we will get there with continued efforts, better team work, you and many other customers’ support.
We do hope you will revisit our site and continue to try our services. “Nature does not expect us to be perfect, but only requires us to grow”. We will try our very best to grow together with more happy customers!
VP of Sales & Business Development
1) I got my money back
2) I got contacted by phone by Tracy Li, who told me that she’s a big fan of me and my job (cool, I didn’t know that hackers where so populars within Chinese PR agents). She told me that she sent a special Xmas gift for me but she also suggested to change the title of this article in something less harsh and less problematic giving the fact that Google is indexing all that is written here.
3) I got the Xmas Gift: A box containing a Chinese tie, a pair of cufflinks and a scarf. Uhmm, honestly I was expecting the cool watch I ordered in the very beginning but hey, it’s a gift, I can’t complain much. (Note for the Chinese PR agents: hackers don’t wear ties).
4) I opened my email today and I got a mail from Lightinthebox stating:
Thank you for shopping at LightInTheBox.Due to high demands during Christmas, there may be some unexpected delay on dispatching your package, or we have encountered problems regarding your order. We apologize for this inconvenience, please go to our Help Center at (http://help.lightinthebox.com) to submit a ticket, we will get back to you as soon as possible within the next 48 hours.
(If your request has been sorted out over phone calls or in other ways already, please ignore this email and we do apologize for this late reply) Best regards & Happy 2009!
?!?!? I didn’t order anything! These guys really have a messy CRM system down there!