Blogger Suze of Miss Vinyl Ahoy was scoping ModCloth‘s selection recently and found a quirky, chunky necklace for $37.99. A quirky, chunky necklace at ModCloth, you say? What’s out of the ordinary? The problem is Suze spotted (and purchased) the same exact one about a year ago at Forever 21… for less than $10.
Before she weaves the rest of her terrifying account, she takes the time to ponder who’s being evil in this equation (I would just have a rage seizure, destroy my computer, then go down to the nearest Forever 21, punching indiscriminately):
My point? Who’s screwing who? Is Modcloth purchasing these necklaces at rock-bottom prices, only to resell them for 4x what they cost to purchase? Or is Modcloth’s supplier ripping them off?
Suze put up a few more examples of this possible ModCloth/Forever 21 conspiracy (one of them pictured above) in which a dress or skirt retailed at Forever 21 for a fraction of what it went for on ModCloth.
When she tried bringing her findings to the attention of ModCloth via their Facebook page, someone deleted it. She then contacted them directly (it’s worth noting that she goes out of her way to be patient and generous throughout):
It was on the page, with no comments, for about an hour. Then, as about six comments come in the span a few minutes, someone from the Modcloth staff chose to delete the entire thread and a subsequent comment left on the Facebook page about the post from someone else.
The link posted on the Modcloth page was not meant to create any controversy, but was a way to make sure someone at Modcloth saw it. I was hoping to get a response from someone, hopefully explaining that you were unaware of your suppliers selling the same merchandise to these fast-fashion stores.
And then ModCloth responded with this:
Sorry it’s taken us some time to respond; we’ve been investigating the items you raised, and it’s our busiest time of the year. Thank you for your post and for giving us the chance to weigh in on this topic! We’re sorry we removed your post on our Facebook wall; it violated our comments policy, which does not allow posts that link to competitors’ sites… We realize, however, that there are grey areas and we don’t want to discourage healthy conversation in our communities, and we certainly aren’t trying to hide anything. We’re excited for the chance to join the conversation here.
First, it’s important everyone know that we never repackage goods! We’re strictly a retailer, and we source our items from designers all over the country and the world. We can’t know whether other retailers will carry similar or the same items. In fact, trade shows are often months ahead of when we receive our inventory, and it’s not possible for us to know whether items we’ve bought will turn up on other retailers’ sites until we actually see them online. It is never our intention to “steal a style.”
Additionally, we don’t have the buying power of larger retailers, as we make much smaller orders. In those cases where we are offering the same items as other retailers, we may not be able to negotiate the best price with the designer due to our order size. And, sadly, we’ll never have visibility into what suppliers are charging others.
Here’s what we’ve learned on the items you raised. We spoke to the necklace designer who confirmed that the item is unique and she has never sold it to Forever 21; and so they’re likely similar, but of very different construction. We couldn’t reach the designer of the Show in Seattle Dress (red, grey, and black plaid), and so we have taken the item off the site until we can confirm its origin; if it’s the same item, we will return it to the designer or donate it. We cannot confirm if the last two items are the same items, but they are not in stock and we don’t intend to restock them.
Eight years ago, we started out as a small company that was operated by a college student out of her dorm room. We’re happy to be where we are today, and we’re even happier to be growing so quickly! Now, we’re launching between 25 and 50 new products every day! Even if we knew of all the items being simultaneously carried by other retailers, it’s nearly impossible for us to cross check all of our designs and prices against them. We try to offer the best shopping experience through our fast shipping, generous returns policy, beautiful images and descriptions, and great customer service, and sometimes that means we can’t offer the lowest prices. We strive to, though, and can use your help!
So, what can you do as shoppers? If you like the items we offer and you want to continue shopping with us, let us know when you see ModCloth items carried on a competitor’s site at another price by emailing us at email@example.com. This will help us be more informed and work more closely with our designers in offering the best prices and the most unique items.
The best way to grow is through criticism and feedback, and we are listening. Thank you so much for your thoughts – we really do appreciate them!
I’m inclined to think ModCloth’s move to excise Suze’s link from their Facebook page didn’t have as much to do with plainly “violating their comments policy” as “revealing their evil plot to rip off faux-indie girls everywhere,” but that’s not the point. What do you think? Who’s in the wrong here? Is this just another entry in Forever 21’s nefarious knockoff racket or is ModCloth taking dirt cheap goods and jacking up the pricepoint… nefariously?
Read the original entry in its entirety, “Who’s Screwing Who?” at Miss Vinyl Ahoy
And if you’ve ever felt duped by ModCloth, share your story!