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Online shoe rip-off exposed

Internet shopping is fraught with fish hooks, said TV show Fair Go presenter Pippa Wetzell in a story about Gisborne woman Shar Wharehinga’s experience with an online trader.

Mrs Wharehinga turned to the consumer watchdog after online footwear retailer Sandy Shoes charged her $48 each for two pairs of orthopaedic shoes.

Except the shoes were not orthopaedic as advertised. They did not have the arch support Mrs Wharehinga needs — and they were the wrong size. The retailer’s Facebook advertisement offered free shipping in New Zealand and free returns.

But when Mrs Wharehinga’s daughter took the shoes to the post office to return to sender she found the track and trace postage would cost $98.

Although the shoe seller’s web address read sandyshoesnz the retailer was based in the US.

“All the signs made me think it was in New Zealand,” says Mrs Wharehinga.

“Everything in the ad made me believe it was in New Zealand. I think they were being disingenuous all over the ad, saying it was New Zealand.

“I thought it was a scam after I got the shoes, and it was a scam.”

When Mrs Wharehinga emailed the company she was told Sandy Shoes had no physical address in New Zealand. After numerous fruitless exchanges via email and messenger a frustrated Mrs Wharehinga posted negative feedback on Sandy Shoes’ Facebook page in the hope it would warn others off.

A woman who had a similar experience with Sandy Shoes saw Mrs Wharehinga’s feedback and got in touch with her to say she had a list of people with grievances about the company.

“She’d seen other people’s comments and had contacted them,” says Mrs Wharehinga.

“So I emailed Fair Go and said Sandy Shoes were ripping a lot of people off and getting away with it.”

Having already received many complaints about the company the Fair Go team visited Mrs Wharehinga in Gisborne and filmed her as she told her story.

Mrs Wharehinga had not checked the shoe seller’s fine print which said the company’s warehouse was not in New Zealand and the customer would have to pay for return of the goods.

“That is why it is so important you read all the fine print before you hit ‘send now’,” said the Fair Go presenter.

“Our advice – don’t let pretty pictures fool you . . . and don’t fall for glowing reviews.”

When Fair Go followed up one apparently satisfied customer’s review they found it was fake. They contacted Sandy Shoes.

“If a product is defective we refund it immediately without the customer having to return the product,” read the response.

Sandy Shoes refunded Mrs Wharehinga and said she could keep the shoes.

The company’s Facebook page and website has since been

taken down.

“I wanted to get my story out there so other people didn’t get ripped off,” Mrs Wharehinga said.

SOLE-VED: When Shar Wharehinga’s online order for two pairs of orthopaedic shoes was botched the Gisborne woman uncovered a scam and took it to consumer watchdog TV show Fair Go.Picture supplied