FINAL UPDATE: A good reason not to buy from

12/12/2008 Written by Roberto Preatoni

lightI 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​.light​inthe​box​.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 light​inthe​box​.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 Light​inthe​box​.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.

Try it by your­self: http://​track​.dhl​-usa​.com/​T​r​a​c​k​B​y​N​b​r​.​a​s​p​?​S​h​i​p​m​e​n​t​N​u​m​b​e​r​=​7​4​8​3​5​67840

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?

Roberto Preatoni
hello jack
i would like to have my prob­lem solved

Light­inthe­box Jack Lu
your order num­ber?

Roberto Preatoni

Light­inthe­box Jack Lu
ok, one min

Roberto Preatoni

it’s 13 min­utes so far

Light­inthe­box Jack Lu
your order has been can­celled

Roberto Preatoni
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
Trans ID:3Y866532TV000360K
Amount: –230.24 USD

Roberto Preatoni
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,

Dear Cus­tomer,
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.
best regards,
cus­tomer ser­vice
Any­thing else we can help please feel free to con­tact with us
Light­InThe­Box .com

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 light​inthe​box​.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 light​inthe​box​.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!

Yours sin­cerely,

Tracy Li
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:


Dear cus­tomer,
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​.light​inthe​box​.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!

Cus­tomer Service


?!?!? I didn’t order any­thing! These guys really have a messy CRM sys­tem down there!

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