Counterfeit Valentine’s

Valentine’s is about three weeks out and we’ve already started seeing counterfeit products for Valentine’s. We’ll detail some of what we’ve seen as well as some of the longtime scams in the industry.

Fake EBay listings:
We’ve seen this one year after year, they will either use a real company’s picture or name and then ship something not even close to what was ordered. Another EBay scam is when the seller places a bulk order with a real company and re-package and ships it to the EBay buyer with the cheapest shipping possible. Of course those orders are received in horrible condition as the berries are too perishable for reshipment. While we’ve dealt with false ads from EBay in the past, the false listing are not magically limited to that online service, any similar service like Craigslist can have the same problems.

Free shipping:
We’ve seen several versions of this, some were so unscrupulous that customers claimed they were signed up for a monthly charge of about $15 without their permission, of course that resulted in a class action lawsuit, but it didn’t keep them from doing the same thing with another billing partner. Based on things we’ve seen online they are still up to the same tricks.
The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) has rules about when you can call something free, it can’t be free if you raised the price to cover it, it can’t be free for more than a few months and it shouldn’t be free if it’s always included. Companies that do that know they are breaking the law, if they knowingly falsely advertise you never know where they will stop.
It’s unreasonable to expect free shipping with perishable goods, nationwide one day service is expensive, after all: those packages are being flown around the country. When you don’t overnight packages with things like strawberries they can melt (or freeze), go bad or have a very short shelf life once they finally arrive.

False advertisements:
We’ve seen a lot of versions of this, one year the most heavily advertised company got caught running ads that said that competitors were sold out. Of course those competitors were not sold out, a small florist actually caught them and was able to get a screen shot of the false ad, they almost got away with it because everybody else was too busy to look at online ads.
Another version of false advertisement we’ve seen is when companies run ads for chocolate covered strawberries but don’t actually use chocolate, their online product descriptions don’t use the word chocolate but they have the word repeatedly in the hidden parts of the web pages. The companies that do this publish a lot of stories about the health benefits of chocolate, or recipes for it, but do not actually use milk, white or dark chocolate on their strawberries.

Product pictures not actually matching the product:
One multi faced company is actually advertising berries with leaves but shipping machined dipped leafless berries. Considering that this same company does not use real chocolate and was involved with the “Free shipping” mentioned above it’s not a surprise. When they lie on one front they will probably do it on another.

Summery:
There are a lot of dirty players out there, the biggest companies are the ones pulling the majority of these stunts, millions of people deceived with fake chocolate and all the other things listed above over the years. The EBay scammers tend to be smaller pop up stores, just individuals, the bigger scammers actually own sports teams, TV stations and more.

How to avoid the scammers:
Chocolate covered strawberries are very perishable, real gourmet chocolate is not cheap and shipping is never free. When you search for the cheapest price you are really looking for the companies that have moved from making a top quality product to one that will take every shortcut and broken promise imaginable.  When you go looking for cheap chocolate covered strawberries it’s just like heading over to the shady part of town and shouting “Rob me”. 

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