Is Shein Legit or Scam? Shipping and Why Prices Are So Cheap

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What do you know about Shein? At first glance, the online retailer seems like a legitimate option to save money on clothes, shoes, accessories, and more.

The company spends a significant percentage of its revenue advertising to new consumers like you through your favorite social media platforms. Unfortunately, there are several problems with the website.

1. Who Owns Shein?

Shein is part of a conglomerate called Globalegrow, operated by CEO Jiadong Xu (Mike Xu). Globalegrow owns many B2C sites that sell directly to consumers around the world. These sites peddle apparel, electronics, and more.

Globalegrow operates numerous websites including Shein, Choies, Romwe, Dress Lily, RoseGal, Zaful, BeckyDress, Twinkledeals, SammyDress, Trend Gal, RoseWe, Modlily, and TidebuyGlobalegrow operates numerous websites including Shein, Choies, Romwe, Dress Lily, RoseGal, Zaful, BeckyDress, Twinkledeals, SammyDress, Trend Gal, RoseWe, Modlily, and Tidebuy

All are headquartered in Shenzhen, China, but partner with companies in other countries as well.

2. What Companies Are Similar to Shein?

First, it’s important to note that Shein is not the first name this online retailer has gone by.

Shein was originally called “Sheinside” before it rebranded in 2015. Cision PR Newswire reported that the name change was critical for continued development.

Sheinsider changed its name to Shein in 2015Sheinsider changed its name to Shein in 2015

Other company examples you may recognize are Choies, Romwe, Dress Lily, RoseGal, Zaful, BeckyDress, Twinkledeals, SammyDress, Trend Gal, RoseWe, Modlily, Tidebuy, and more.

These websites tend to follow the same business model and have the same customer complaints lodged against them. They all link back to the same company.

3. Shipping Practices at Shein

Relatively speaking, ordering from Shein can be a quick process. The company requires 1 to 3 days to process your order in China. From there, your order will be placed on a cargo plane and shipped through customs. Then, it is sent to a product warehouse before being delivered to your front door.

This process is different from other B2C companies that originate in China. Those companies generally rely on sea freight, which is less expensive.

Few companies can match Shien’s speed when it comes to overseas delivery. Shein averages a 10- to 15-day delivery, and also offers free shipping when a customer spends a minimum amount.

4. Understanding Fast Fashion

So, why is Shein so cheap? It’s actually quite simple. Shein is an example of fast fashion. The retailer’s clothes are not made to last forever. Rather, they’re made to match current fashion trends and are only intended to last one or two seasons.

Extinction Rebellion protesters in central London demonstrate against the environmental harms of fast fashionExtinction Rebellion protesters in central London demonstrate against the environmental harms of fast fashion on September 9, 2020

Shein’s clothes are not created with quality in mind. The company’s designs only stand up to about six wears before significant product issues appear. Seams will separate, materials will tear and embellishments will come undone. This is done intentionally. Shein products are not intended to last forever.

Because fast fashion designers like Shein only craft ensembles meant to last for a few wears, products quickly end up in landfills. This generates excessive waste and is horrible for the planet.

Extinction Rebellion, a global environmental movement, focuses on fast fashion as a major factor in the climate crisisExtinction Rebellion, a global environmental movement, focuses on fast fashion as a major factor in the climate crisis

Part of the reason fast fashion exists is because of social media. Consumers can now view different styles and trends at incredibly fast speeds, which means retailers work incredibly fast to pump out those new products before consumers move on to new styles and trends.

Companies like Shein deliver these products at too-good-to-be-true prices using cheap material and low labor costs, often in developing countries.

5. What are Special Economic Zones in China?

Special economic zones in China operate with free-market principles that allow Chinese companies to compete. These small geographical areas were initially developed as testing grounds for how capitalism interacted with the Chinese state.

Shenzhen was one of the first special economic zones established and one that has flourished well. It supplies many of the factories necessary for brands like Shein.

In particular, the Special Economic Zones help businesses get ahead on the market. Each one limits the power of authorities and facilitates as much free trade as possible.

This combo photo shows the financial trade district in Haikou of southernmost China's Hainan Province on March 14, 2008 (bottom) and the same location nearly two decades ago in January 1990. Founded in April of 1988, Hainan special economic zone (SEZ) is one of the five SEZs of China. Over the past two decades, Hainan's economic and social development has made remarkable progress. The appearance of cities and villages has undergone profound changesThis combination photo shows the financial trade district in Haikou of southernmost China’s Hainan Province on March 14, 2008 (bottom) and the same location nearly two decades ago in January 1990. Founded in April of 1988, Hainan special economic zone (SEZ) is one of the five SEZs of China. Over the past two decades, Hainan’s economic and social development has made remarkable progress, leading to a change in appearance for cities and villages.

Consequently, these zones quickly became factory towns with support structures like transportation.

Special economic zones attracted many people due to the increased job opportunities, and now other countries use this model as well. However, these zones offer few protections for workers, and conditions tend to be abysmal.

Low wages, overcrowded living conditions, and unscrupulous contract practices are common in China’s special economic zones.

6. The Child, Forced, and Slave Labor Problem

It’s not a secret that the garment industry is plagued with human rights abuses, such as child labor, slave labor, and forced labor.

The Guardian believes at least one in five garments was created using exploitative labor.

A warehouse in Dongguan, an industrial city in China’s Pearl River DeltaA warehouse in Dongguan, an industrial city in China’s Pearl River Delta

When discussing slave and forced labor, it’s vital to understand the term. Slave labor occurs when someone is given no choice as to whether to work, perhaps to pay off a debt.

Forced labor means the person must work or face dire consequences. In China, this occurs at the Uighur reeducation camps among other locations.

Zhang Xubo was forced to work in freezing conditions in Shaanxi, China, and lost his legs after being imprisoned as a slave in an illegal factoryZhang Xubo was forced to work in freezing conditions in Shaanxi, China, and lost his legs after being imprisoned as a slave in an illegal factory

Some companies, like Shein, have social responsibility policies that are available for the general public to read. These policies detail how these companies are able to work around human rights laws and regulations.

In November 2020, Shein stated that it works within the local laws and expects its partners to do the same. Because some countries allow children to work starting at age 14, technically, the brand is not breaking any laws.

Slave Labour, a mural by British graffiti artist Banksy, depicts a poorly dressed child at a sewing machine assembling a bunting of Union Jack patchesSlave Labour, a mural by British graffiti artist Banksy, depicts a poorly dressed child at a sewing machine assembling a bunting of Union Jack patches

By relying on slave labor, child labor, and forced labor, companies are able to save money on labor costs by paying workers low wages, and sometimes, no wages at all.

That’s a big reason why these companies are able to offer their products to you at a low cost.

7. Shein Customer Service Issues and Reviews

Shein is one of many Chinese companies with customer service issues and poor reviews posted on consumer review sites like Trustpilot and Sitejabber. According to these sites, all of Shein’s customer service agents are located in China, which makes it difficult for U.S. consumers to get in touch with the company.

However, there’s a good reason Shein relies on Chinese labor for customer service. Because China has a lower cost of living and a lower minimum wage, Shein can pay China-based customer service associates less than it would have to pay U.S.-based customer service associates. That’s why — after years of global business — Shein still doesn’t have a customer service phone number.

The only way to contact Shein customer service is by chat. When customers use the website’s chat function, they report a myriad of issues, such as broken English, unresolved questions, and unsatisfactory problem resolutions. Customers often become frustrated and discontinue their quest for compensation, which also means that Shein saves money.

Customers frequently complain about Shein's customer service, shipping delays, and credit card problemsCustomers frequently complain about Shein’s customer service, shipping delays, and credit card problems

Another frequent complaint by Shein customers is the return process. While orders typically ship for free with the use of a coupon, Shein requires customers to ship returns directly back to China at the cost of the customer. Because shipping from the U.S. to China is so costly — often, the price of postage exceeds the original cost of the order — customers are reluctant to do it.

Current reviews of Shein paint an overall bleak image. In addition to complaints about product quality, customers often complain about shipping and delivery.

Many would-be customers never receive their orders and have no package tracking data. Others complain about the difficulty of returns and how often — even when Shein customers properly send returns — they never receive a refund.

8. The Counterfeit Parade

Shein’s marketing and promotion practices are also sketchy, to say the least.

While Shein now claims to photograph its products in house, Shein products were previously advertised using images taken from various parts of the internet, including Instagram.

Not only did the products not match the pictures; in many cases, the company violated copyright laws. While it kept costs down, it also angered the fashion community.

Many shoes and products sold on Shein are knock offs and counterfeitsMany shoes and products sold on Shein are knock offs and counterfeits

Often, advertised products and delivered products did not match. Photos and product descriptions would tell one story, and the product itself would tell another. A consumer could order something advertised as “100 percent cotton” and actually receive a product made of plastic.

This mimicking helped Shein continue to add new products with less design and marketing work — which again, led to cost savings.

If you’re planning on ordering something from Shein, be wary. It might seem like a good deal at first but could become a potential headache later down the road.

Credit: WENN / Instar

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