Ok, you you’ve been onto Ebay and got yourself a really cheap bottle of the fantastic Chanel Coco Mademoiselle perfume… only it doesn’t quite ring true. Maybe the smell isn’t quite what you were expecting, maybe the colour rang some alarm bells, or maybe the box seemed a bit clumsy. Either way, you’re online savvy and it couldn’t happen to your, right?
Well, it happened to me, so in my usual, slightly over-the-top way, I’ll explain how it happened, what I noticed and what I did next…
How it happened.
It was Christmas and the wife dropped the usual hints about her perfume running out. Straight onto Google. “100ml Chanel Coco Mademoiselle Eau de Parfum”… £150? You’re having a laugh! Ebay… £55. Cool. 97% positive feedback? Cool. Of course I look up why it wasn’t 100% (because I’m online savvy) and it turns out it was a broken bottle. Cool, it happens I guess. There were positive review for the Coco Mademoiselle perfume, so looks like the seller has a list of satisfied customers. I place my order, it arrives. Christmas morning… the doubts start. “I’m not sure about the colour”. Ok, perfume goes into quarantine and I start the Columbo routine.
Now, it’s still Christmas so I go online again with (less bravado this time) and order some more perfume from Boots for £85. Can’t go wrong with Boots. It arrives so now I have the chance to do some comparisons.
How to spot a fake:
So, first off. There are a few good guides on the eBay site. Here’s one for the bottle and the box. However, these seem to differ in a few points with my experiences. Maybe it’s the US version versus the UK, maybe it an updated product and the counterfeiters have had time to do some changes. Whatever it is, I’ll just give you what I noticed..
The basic packaging:
Not so easy so far! They both look pretty similar. However, there are some overall differences and clues. The fake packaging had printing and fonts that were thicker and less ‘refined’ than the real one. The quality was less and there were some subtle mistakes, such as the ingredients. But on the whole, let’s face it, you wouldn’t know. The bottle is much easier to find fault with but when the box arrives in the post, you’re not going to open it before you gift wrap it are you! This is partially what the counterfeiters rely on.
Just a few subtle differences in the font sizes and positioning. Without a real box to compare, you wouldn’t know.
Now the back is where it starts to get interesting. There are some pretty big differences in positioning and thickness of the lettering (thicker on the fake). The ingredients were the most obvious, with a spelling mistake, different line-breaks and completely different ingredients at times.
The scanner didn’t really do justice to the gold (which was pretty similar on both) but did manage to show the lower quality of the logo and embossing on the fake.
Again, the base was where it got a bit more obvious, but only when you have one to compare to. Fonts were different and the embossed numbers (just visible on both) were in different locations. However, on other online guides, they were both embossed just above the 116.520. The real one I have was embossed just below the barcode. Also, for those more observant / more geeky among you, the barcode is actually different. Not sure if this is an internal Chanel thing though, so may be a red herring.
Opening the box:
Very subtle but the flaps inside the real box were sharper then the more rounded fake.
There is a subtle indent on either side of the real box lid flap too.
The colour and smell:
Now we’re getting somewhere. If you’ve had Coco Mademoiselle before, you’ll know it’s pink. The fake was yellow / brown in colour. That was the first real alarm bell. The second one was, as you’d expect, the smell. This was Eau de Parfum, i.e. the strong stuff and it just didn’t stack up. It smelt slightly of Coco Mademoiselle but didn’t last. Eau de Parfum is supposed to last for up to 8 hours. The fake lasted for about a minute or two. They’d obviously been clever to use diluted Coco Mademoiselle to confuse the less vigilant among us.
The thick bottle:
The biggest giveaway on the bottle itself is the thick base and (relatively) rougher construction. Again, without a real bottle to compare to, you wouldn’t know but it’s so obvious when you see it. Remember, Chanel is all about sophistication and delicacy, not chunky bottles and dubious printing.
The bottle base:
Managed to scan these on my flatbed scanner and the result clearly shows the differences. Besides the fact the fake one has a clumsy glass moulding mark compared to the refined line around the real one, the text is different. Other online guides suggest the fake can be picked off with a finger nail but this was printed on pretty solidly.
Other online guides suggest these are obvious to spot as they are made of plastic. My fake seemed to be made of glass. However, there were a few things in common with other guides. The Coco Chanel double-C logo was not very centred on the fake. It was very slightly off on the real one though. The fake stopper was a little lop-sided however. Hard to see in the photo but the square top part was slightly angled compared to the bottom part. There was also a very subtle difference on the round plastic band above the white and gold ring. The real one had small dots around it (just visible).
Other guides also mention the top not fitting well or coming off when the bottle is held by the stopper alone. Mine seemed pretty secure and led to a few “maybe it’s not a fake?” moments. However, when the real one arrived, the real stopper went on with a definite ‘click’.
There are two things to note on the spray nozzle, the colour and the shape of the part inside the bottle. Some fake bottle have black nozzle inserts (the small hole that the perfume squirts out of), my fake was white… but compared to the real one was actually a more of a transparent white. The part inside the bottle (the pump) was much larger and protruded into the bottle on the fake (as seen in the photo above). Curiously, the real bottle squirted about twice as much perfume as the fake.
The gold overprinting was much cleaner and sharper on the real one. I’ve tried to get the light to show up the step in the printing where the gold is printed over the frosted logo. On the real one, the gold is exactly to the edge of the logo. In the fake, the gold covers the ridge on the outside of the logo, creating a step. Minor point but seemed in keeping with the theme of lower quality printing.
A quick test:
So, with all your new-found knowledge, what do you make of this… I’ve literally just done a search on Ebay and found this from a Polish seller…
Check out that super thick bottle… the stopper is twisted but the logo is in the middle… and the pump sticks down into the bottle a long way. Now you can see why most listings don’t show the actual bottle, or show a stock Chanel product shot. If in doubt, ask the seller to send a photo of the bottle, as you’ll get a much better idea from it than you would from the box.
I reported it, of course.
So what to do:
Firstly, I reported it to Ebay. Just log in, go to the Resolution Centre then select “I received an item that does not match the seller’s description”. Select the item from the list, click “Continue” and follow the instructions. The listing was taken down pretty quickly so nobody else could be duped.
I then sent a message to the seller saying it was a fake (but doing it nicely), asking them for their response. Nothing arrived. I repeated the process the next day mentioning that I need to start a claim but was aware that leaving “FAKE” on their feedback would be rather devastating for their Ebay history. No response.
I noted that one of the other buyers had already posted feedback on Ebay that they had a fake too. So I posted my feedback too. Hoping this could only help warn others. The other buyer contacted me too and we compared experiences. Again, hopefully solidarity and sharing of ‘evidence’ would only help our cases. Assuming the other satisfied buyers are real, I feel sorry for them and hope that Ebay contacts them now that the item has been uncovered as a fake. I hope so.
I had paid with Paypal so I then went over to Paypal and started a dispute claim. Like Ebay, go to the Resolution Centre and click “Dispute Transaction”. Then click “Item Dispute” (as the other one is about someone stealing your money). Then click the “Find Transaction ID” button and click the Transaction ID of the item in the popup window that arrives. Then just follow the process. You’re essentially saying that the product was “significantly different from the seller’s description”. Sounds vague but that also covers counterfeiting. Paypal will then freeze the seller’s money in relation to this item send the seller the details and give you both a channel to discuss the issue. If they agree to refund, great. If they don’t… then you can officially escalate it to a Paypal Dispute and Paypal will look at the evidence and decide one way or another. I’m still in this process but I can’t think how they can not repay the money to the buyer. I guess the process also covers people who received a green shirt from a seller and they will probably accept it with a bit of a discount. With my case involving fake goods, it becomes a legal issue.
Don’t return the item!
When the seller did reply, they said they would be happy to refund, just send the item back first. It made 100% sense to me NOT to do this as they would probably just sell it to someone else less vigilant. I contacted the government’s Consumer Direct site and asked them. They confirmed this would actually be illegal. Here was their response:
Based on the information you have provided, the key legal points in response to your enquiry are as follows:
Under the Sale of Goods Act 1979, any goods sold need to be as described, which in your case would apply as the goods being counterfeit would effectively constitute a product misdescription. This obligation is binding on private sellers as well as traders. Under the above law, if you are deemed to be still within a reasonable timeframe from purchase, you would be able to reject the goods for a full refund. Such a timeframe is not specified in law, and would differ on a case by case basis, with the decision ultimately resting with a judge in a Small Claims Court.
Additional to the above, as the sale of counterfeit goods is also a criminal offense, the seller is not able to insist on the goods being returned due to the fact the goods may then be sold again, as you have correctly surmised. I would therefore send the seller a recorded delivery letter making reference to this and the above legal position. Go on to state that you are requiring a full refund, allowing them a reasonable timeframe to respond in (e.g, 14 days).
Trading Standards would also not get involved in dispute within a private sale. In this instance, it may be worth making a formal complaint to both Ebay and Paypal at their addresses below. However, you should be informed that this does not guarantee to get all your money back.
P.O. Box 700
Richmond Upon Thames
PAYPAL (UK) LIMITED
However, if the seller is in fact a trader, we can refer the details to their local Trading Standards department for their attention on the matter. Please provide us with your full address details and those of the seller if this is the case.
I also contacted Chanel directly and asked if they wanted the bottle for reference or should I destroy it. They sent a very sweet note back saying to destroy it.
The seller still hasn’t contacted me to confirm whether they are happy to refund the money so I’ll have to wait until a reasonable period has passed before I can automatically escalate the dispute on Paypal. This seems to be 14 days. However, checking their Ebay details, I notice they come up as “No longer a registered user”. Uh oh…
In the interest of getting this post out there so it can hopefully be useful to somebody, I’ll update it with the next installment when it happens.
Do the seller went quiet. I escalated the dispute with PayPal and they game me 14 days until they would decide. I received an email yesterday, here’s an excerpt:
You can get a refund
We’ve looked into case # and decided in your favour.
This means you can get your money back providing you:
1. Return the item to [name withheld] by 11/01/2011 in the same condition as received. Please use a trackable postal service that enables us to track online and verify delivery to the seller’s address.
So this was Friday night on the 8th. The 11th was the next Tuesday. I had 3 working days to get it to the seller… but I was off to LA the following day. I thought this timeframe was a little unreasonable, however, as you may have read above, I was NOT going to send the item back to the seller under any circumstances.
I phoned PayPal, struggled through their horrendous automated system and 10 minutes of mad ‘Flight of the bumble bee’ waiting music (not a clever way to relax customers). The customer services person explained that I had to send it back… I disagreed. They held firm. I explained a bit more. They then seemed to get it and explained that ‘the system’ puts fakes in the same category as ‘not as described’ and that she would amend the case. Now I simply needed to get proof it was fake and send confirmation withing 10 days. I mentioned I would be in LA from tomorrow morning and I wouldn’t be back in time, so could I have an extension to the time.
The conversation went something like this:
Me: Given your system has already made a bit of a wrong decision, and now we’re on the right track after being sensible over the phone, can I also ask for a little longer to respond.
PayPal: Sorry, the terms state 10 days.
Me: So, let me get this right. If I don’t send it back in 10 days, you will give my money to a known counterfeiter?
Me: Ok, Hmmm. So you’re happy to use your terms and conditions to guaranteed a known counterfeiter receives fake goods?
PayPal: Sorry. That’s what the terms ans conditions are for.
Me: Wow. So did you read the blog I wrote, with all the evidence? And Ebay have deactivated the seller’s account for selling fake items.
Me: Ok. Hmmm. Could you possibly just read that? I’ll hold.
PayPay: [holding music]
PayPal: Ok, I see what you mean. Ok. In that case, we’ll send you a legal document to sign. Just send it back stating that you’ve destroyed the goods and we’ll release your money. You have 3 days.
Me: Ok, thank you for getting there eventually. Thank you for your time.
So here’s what I did…
And I hope this post has been useful.