CLEVELAND — Local consumer experts reported online purchases are climbing and so are complaints related to buys involving ads posted on social media.
Cleveland Better Business Bureau President Sue McConnell said her agency handled more than 9,000 complaints, totaling $13.4 million in bad online purchases in 2020.
McConnell said the COVID-19 pandemic played a significant roll in the spike in complaints, with so many trapped at home and buying online.
Emma Renn of Painesville said she had to deal with two bad buys she made through social media ads. The first purchase involved a small toy puppy, which according to the ad moved like a real dog and had real looking features.
But Renn said when the item was finally shipped to her home it was a big disappointment.
“I thought that’s a good price and I’m on a fixed income, so I think I’ll order it," Renn said. “It’s supposed to be a 'lifelike' dog, it’s supposed to wag its tail, it’s supposed to walk and bark. In the advertisement a person was calling for the dog to come to them and the dog would run over to them and it would sit and do everything like a real live dog. But when I got the dog it’s not what they advertised, it doesn’t do anything, it’s just a little stuffed animal, a cheap stuffed animal at that. I paid $28, almost $29 for this little dog, and I could have picked it up at the store for a dollar.”
Renn said she also tried to buy a powered recliner for $99 and $50 shipping and handling for her mother, but the item was never delivered.
Renn's effort to contact the Chinese company produced no customer service results.
“And I said 'give me a tracking number or give me the company that delivered it to her home and I can track it myself to see if they delivered it to a different address,' they never did get back with me,” Renn said.
News 5 attempted to contact both Chinese companies involved in Renn's purchases, but both online stores were shutdown.
McConnell said consumers must do their homework and run online checks on the company before they make an impulse purchase.
“You can go to BBB.org, you can Google the names of those businesses, you can see if people have filed complaints or customer reviews," McConnell said. “Do a screen shot of it, if you get an email confirmation of the purchase, save that email. We suggest you use a credit card when you buy online, because then you have some recourse if the item never appears, or it’s been misrepresented.”
McConnell said consumers must read all purchase terms and conditions before they open their wallets.