Lolita fashion has a robust secondhand market, which means that someone can build a fantastic wardrobe without ever purchasing a new item. However, shopping secondhand is also taking a risk. You may have bad pictures, poor descriptions, or just a flaky seller or buyer. Chances are, if you buy things secondhand, you’ll have a bad experience sooner or later. You don’t have to panic though! Here’s how to handle a bad transaction on Lacemarket and other sites.
Note: for the purposes of this article, I’m going to be referring to buyer to seller interactions like eBay or Lacemarket, not transactions facilitated by shopping services. Even a good shopping service will have limited options if an item doesn’t arrive to you as expected. This topic could get it’s own article in the future.
Avoid a bad interaction in the first place.
This is sort of a “well obviously” point, but I think it’s important. Before you buy, review the description and the seller’s terms. Look at the pictures and ask for more if you aren’t satisfied by what’s available. Ask for additional measurements. Review the seller’s feedback. If you’re unclear about anything, make sure you ask questions before money exchanges hands. If a seller can’t or won’t provide the info you’re requesting, consider that a sign that maybe the transaction won’t go smoothly.
Consider what is in the seller’s control.
While it’s frustrating to receive a damaged package or something arrives much later than you expected, consider how much control the seller had. If a seller dropped a package off promptly and provided you with a tracking number, they don’t really have much say in how long it spends in transit. Similarly, a seller doesn’t have control over the customs fees in your country. However, if a seller sent a poorly packaged item that arrived with damages, that’s absolutely something they could have avoided.
Message the seller privately to lay out your complaints.
With some secondhand sites, once feedback is left it can’t be changed later or it closes the transaction. Though it might be scary, most sellers aren’t trying to rip you off and want you to be happy with your purchase. Messaging them and letting them know that you weren’t satisfied is the first step to coming to a solution that’s going to work out for everyone.
Come to the table with solutions.
Most secondhand sales are final and most sellers don’t accept returns. So what can you ask for if something isn’t as described? The most common answer is a partial refund. I tend to think of a refund like this as the cost of professional cleaning or repair that the buyer will have to pay for because of undisclosed damages. While you don’t have to, it may be useful to get a quote from a local business (like an alterations shop or cleaner) that you can provide to the seller.
Be prepared to use the tools at your disposal to get the results you want.
Now I’m going to say this with the caveat that I don’t think most buyers or sellers want to fight, scam, or extort anyone. Those situations do arise, and you should be on the lookout for shady buyers and sellers. But for the vast majority of sellers and buyers, they just want to exchange frills for cash.
If a solution can’t be reached with just a private conversation, it’s time to reach out to other parties. If an item was damaged in transit, it’s up to the sender to reach out to their courier or postal service to open an insurance claim. This process can take a long time and will require documents to prove the item was damaged by the carrier.
It’s extremely important that you use PayPal or a similar company (like a credit card) in order to maintain seller/buyer protection. If you receive an item that is different from the description, PayPal does have dispute resolution. This will freeze the money from the transaction until the dispute is resolved. You’ll need to provide documents to prove that you received something other than what was described. PayPal allows for different levels of escalation, so you can continue to work with PayPal to get appropriate compensation.
Leave appropriate feedback
Even if you didn’t have a good transaction with a seller, it’s important to leave accurate feedback so other buyers can make informed decisions. In general, I’d say that if a seller resolved an issue with a private message, I’d give them positive feedback. Being responsive to issues as they come up is the sign of a good seller and I think positive feedback is warranted. If you needed to resort to PayPal claims or chargebacks after private messages, I’d feel pretty good about leaving negative feedback.
Make detailed listings with clear photos.
When you’re selling, make sure you’re going overboard with details. List the flat measurements. Link to the lolibrary measurements. Talk about about how the garment fits you. Take pictures of all sides of the dress, including the lining and tag. If you run into a buyer who isn’t happy with their purchase, your detailed listing will help you show that you gave as much info as possible.
Pack and ship your items with care.
I collect and wear Fluevog shoes, a quirky shoe brand from Canada that also has a robust second hand market. I have received no less than three of my pairs of Vogs in unpadded mailers with no bubble wrap. While none of my shoes have arrived with damage, I’m certainly not willing to take a chance with those sellers again!
I applaud sellers who reuse shipping supplies in an effort to cut down on waste. Many companies now ship in resealable envelopes that can be used more than once. You should still ensure that your items are well packaged. If there’s a chance that an item could break or be crushed in transit, make sure you pack it in a sturdy box or bubble wrap. Make sure that your dresses are packed in well sealed containers. I always double bag mine, so that if the outer bag rips water won’t get on the item.
True story: I have gotten a message from an unhappy buyer on Lacemarket. They purchased an old dress that I had never worn because the fit was totally off for me. Because I’d never worn it, I didn’t look closely at certain parts of the dress, which had damage. I was mortified when I got the message and didn’t respond for about a day. However, in the end, the buyer and I talked about the damages, and reached an agreement without any Paypal claims or chargebacks.
If you get a message about a buyer being unhappy with some part of your transaction, don’t panic! The buyer isn’t commenting on you as a lolita or a human being. They also likely aren’t trying to scam you. They just want an item they can fall in love with.
Take their complaints seriously and determine whether this is something that was in your control. Did you mistype the measurements or fail to notice damage? Did your postal carrier destroy the box in transit? If the buyer doesn’t have a solution in mind, ask them what they’d hope to get to make the transaction better.