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Discounted shopping websites draw consumer complaints

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They offer seemingly great deals online, but a cluster of discount websites is racking up complaints from consumers who say they didn’t get what they ordered.

The Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois on Wednesday issued a warning about 35 shopping sites that have attracted 143 consumer complaints to the nonprofit BBB system.

The websites, which list purported offices in Naperville, Champaign-Urbana, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Nashville, Tennessee and West Chester Township, Ohio, offer discounted hunting and tactical apparel, tapestries, watches, car accessories and athletic wear.

But some consumers say they never received the products they ordered — or if they did, the items were shoddy.

The BBB found the websites have unusual return policies that exclude most items from refunds.

And in some cases, shipped items arrived too late to be returned, complaints to the BBB said.

Some of the websites are virtually identical or share similar design features. BBB investigators linked the businesses via shared addresses, phone numbers, email addresses and connections on social media.

Despite the supposed office addresses in Illinois and elsewhere listed on the sites, BBB spokesman Thomas Johnson said it’s not clear where the websites are based.

Chicago BBB President Steve Bernas said consumers should be wary of deeply discounted items on unfamiliar sites, which may simply be “too good to be true.”

Sixteen of the 35 sites have already gone inactive, including OutdoorAlpine.com, JerseyBoss.net, She-Tech.net, InnerPiece.net, DropRave.com, PaintballSociety.com, MidasAthletica.com, TrendyCastaway.com, GraphicGalz.com, CycleWhiz.com, Empressina.com, TrooperTek.com, TapestryGalore.com, Raverz.net, ValorDrones.com and ZenithAthletics.com.

A McHenry woman who ordered a jacket on a website called Hunteroo.com told the BBB the charge went through, but she never got the item and was unable to reach anyone at the operation.

“This was a birthday gift and I am very disappointed and concerned that their phone number is no longer in order,” the woman wrote in her complaint.

An examination of the Hunteroo refund policy unearthed this bizarre disclaimer:

“Due to the nature of our products and our manufacturer specifications, some of our clothing are sent 2 sizes larger than what you actually ordered. This is to ensure that the article of clothing matches the actual dimensions of our sizing chart. In any circumstance, we have a strict no refund policy on incorrect sizing. Thank you for understanding.”

The policy also states that sale items can’t be returned for a refund — even though every item on the site is marked either “sold out” or “on sale.”

The Sun-Times was unable to reach the Hunteroo website operators by email and through their online contact form. The phone number listed on the site was not functioning.