While scrolling through your Facebook feed, you’ve probably noticed ads for cute, trendy clothing that seems to come at impossibly low prices. You may follow the ad to websites that boasts thousands of listings, and yes, the ads appear to be true—these clothes are being sold for under $20.
Many college students have been flocking to these China-based websites like Zaful, Romwe and SheIn because of the low prices. Looking on the reviews for each website, especially for Zaful, you’ll see a pretty mixed bag.
So, what is the truth?
At face value, you’re buying something that is in style for less than half the price. But is what you see what you get? A Magazine talked to Kent State students about their experiences shopping with some of the websites.
Laycee Claes, a senior nutrition student, is an avid Zaful user.
“I have the Zaful app, so I usually just go on there and browse around for a bit,” Claes says. “I’ll click on a certain picture and read the reviews to decide if the product is worth buying. It usually takes about 10 to 15 business days to deliver.”
Claes mostly uses Zaful for bathing suits. Zaful’s swimsuits appear to be a popular subject in the YouTube community, appearing in haul videos from Tammy Hembrow, Tasha Farsaci and LeighAnnSays, among others.
Every swimsuit Claes purchased was exactly like the picture and fit her well. Only two of the 15 pieces she bought from Zaful didn’t turn out as she thought they would so far, and she says the company is very good with returns.
Claes also tried Romwe for a dress to wear to a wedding, and she says her product turned out “beautifully.” Shipping took two weeks just as Zaful did.
Sophomore hospitality student Keanna Strelau had a similar experience with Zaful’s bathing suits and customer service.
“Just a couple ended up being the wrong size,” Strelau says. “I didn’t consider that the bathing suits I was getting could be different sizing based on the suit.”
Zaful’s customer service helped Strelau when she needed it.
“They actually changed my order for me,” Strelau says. “I said I needed my stuff sooner, but it wasn’t going to get there in time, so they let me pick something else that would come sooner.”
Sophie Levan, a freshman criminology and justice studies student, seems to lean on the side of Zaful being a scam.
Levan first heard of the website from the aforementioned video by social media influencer Tammy Hembrow. Hembrow showed around 10 bathing suits in the video, and they looked very high quality for such a cheap price. However, the two products Levan received weren’t like what was shown in Hembrow’s haul.
“I feel like they were uncomfortable in that they seemed easy to fall out of,” Levan says. “[One of the straps] broke the second or third time I wore it.”
Levan says she wouldn’t recommend Zaful due to the cheap quality of the items she received, but acknowledges she can’t speak for their other products.
Besides complaints of cheap quality, these websites are known to steal designs and pictures from other designers and companies. In a 2016 Buzzfeed article, a Zaful bikini advertised on Facebook was found to have stolen a picture from Harper’s Bazaar.
Plus size model Felicity Hayward recently accused SheIn of selling “exact copies” of one of her designs. The company later reached out to Hayward to promote their new plus size line, which Hayward declined.
“You should be very cautious of SheIn because they rip off independent designers and expect you to work for free,” Hayward said in an Instagram story.
Claes doesn’t mind the controversy.
“All of my bathing suits have been made with such good quality that I could care less if it was an expensive brand’s design,” Claes says. “I can buy a bathing suit for $13 on Zaful and it look like it could sell for at least $30.”
All three girls recommend taking a good look at the reviews and sizing charts before buying your product.
“I think if you know it’s cheaper material for a low price, and takes a long time, then it’s trustable,” Strelau says. “If you know how they are, you can work around it.”
A Magazine advises potential shoppers to seriously review the website and product you are considering buying before taking the plunge. Always be sure to check the size chart, as sizes will vary. If the product isn’t yet reviewed and the price seems too good to be true, it may be a risky purchase.
Illustration by Madeleine Kidd