Eyeing that dream Louis Vuitton or Chanel bag and scouring eBay for a pre-owned version you can afford? Make sure you get what you think you’re getting with these tips for how to spot — and avoid buying — bootleg merchandise.
If the price is too good to be true...
The market sets the value of designer goods, so if you see something that’s way off scale — it’s probably a fake.
“For instance, if you find a Chanel Classic Flap Bag in pristine condition for $300 online, buy at your own risk,” says Elizabeth Bernstein, director of handbags for online pre-owned luxury good reseller Portero. While we'd all love to score the bargain of the century, “very few businesses, if any, would be willing to sell at such a drastic discount.
Do a little online sleuthing
Reputable and legitimate businesses should list all the relevant and traceable data, like physical addresses and phone numbers for reaching customer service reps, on their websites.
“Many counterfeit sites do not have this information listed as they want to keep their operations hidden — for obvious reasons,” says Bernstein. For an added jolt of confidence in the business you’re considering patronizing, she says, “Search to see if they have any mentions in acclaimed publications such as Town & Country or reputable bloggers like Damsel in Dior.”
Mind the details
When purchasing a pre-owned item, research all the ways you can authenticate a prospective buy. Bernstein recommends trying to acquire additional info from the seller.
“Ask questions about date codes, holograms, date stamps, and stitching, and see if they have intelligent answers,” she says. If your seller is unable to answer basic questions — you may already have all the info you need to know about the item’s authenticity. “Any real website selling expensive luxury product will have a staff that is well-versed in the products and will provide impeccable customer service,” she says.
This may be a case when you really can judge a book by its cover: If the website you’re browsing looks hastily thrown-together or seems suspiciously hard to navigate, those may be red flags.
“A site that sells luxury merchandise should function well and look on par with the quality of the product it sells,” Bernstein says. “The pictures should exhibit the detailed craftsmanship of the item you would like to purchase. Additionally, the site should have a luxury feel with a smooth shopping experience from beginning to end. If you are struggling with the functionality of the site, and unable to determine the quality of the product as a result, it probably means there is no quality involved in the transaction.”
Get it in writing
Don’t take all the risk upon yourself: Buy from a site that guarantees authenticity. And, if possible, default to an established company, rather than an individual seller, which may provide more levels of protection and recourse.
“Make sure you are buying from a long-standing company that has a proven track record for offering 100 percent authenticity. Established companies will have expert authenticators on staff,” Bernstein says. “If you decide to purchase a luxury item from an individual seller, you will not have the same protection you do when buying through an accredited company.”