I believe in everyone being educated about the brands that they shop for. As we all know, bras are an investment. We are only willing to drop $40+ on something that we know will fit, when the benefits outweigh the risk. With this in mind I decided to start my latest series: Insider Tips for International Orders. In this series, I will compare various non-US businesses with regard to customer experience. I hope that this series helps you in navigating the world-wide web of bra ordering! :-) -Nicole
So, before we get too deep into this post, I figure I should put up a sort of guidelines to determine what’s important to consider when choosing to order internationally:
- Item cost
- Delivery (shipping) cost
- Return policy
- Customer service
- Are there any hidden fees or taxes (i.e. customs fees)?
- Quality of product (make, fit, consistency)
- Customer feedback on products AND service
- Resale potential if unable to send back
The businesses I want to compare for this series are: Ewa Michalak, Comexim, What Katie Did, and Bravissimo. While I won’t be able to speak to each qualification that I’ve listed here for each business, I want to provide some information for my readers that is useful. To start off the series, I wanted to analyze Ewa Michalak’s customer service experience.
We all know the bras by now (at least I think we do). Ewa Michalak is well known for their impressive size range, and padded bras that are unseen in US and UK markets. But other than pretty bras that we don’t see from US and UK retailers, what goes on under the surface of Ewa Michalak’s customer service practices? Let’s consider with the list….
- Item cost: Most of Ewa’s bras range from 119.00-169.00 zł which equates to $39-$55. This is fairly comparable to most US and UK companies and is what I consider to be actually on the lower range.
- Delivery cost: Delivery to the US is listed as 45.00 zł which equates to $15. I’ve paid similar shipping rates from Bravissimo.
- Return policy: Special orders are non-returnable; returns are accepted within 10 days of receipt of delivery and buyer must pay return shipping. Paying for return shipping is not unheard of, but the # of days to return is almost laughable as EM’s orders take anywhere from 2-4 weeks just to receive them.
- Customer service: Here is where things get a little dicey. I’ve heard a lot of good things, but I’ve also heard a lot of bad (I’ll include my own personal experience at the end of this post). The help team can be contacted through email. Barring time differences and language barriers, it’s somewhat of a toss up what you will get. Also, let’s not forget “Strapgate” and Ewa’s own attack on how US and UK bloggers are wearing her bras and the subsequent backlash. Ewa decided to get rid of 28 bands because she believed that customers were wearing her bras too tight….however, customer demand made the brand include 28 bands again. Also, they started to charge an extra 20 pln for any custom order (they did not use to do this, as late as December 2012). The brand also has a reputation for non-delivery on orders with them being sent back to Poland for whatever reason.
- Hidden taxes or fees: As an international customer, your only option for payment is PayPal. Ewa charges you a fee for this. Ewa also charges the EU based VAT tax (23%) on bras, shipping, and the PayPal fee -click on the photo below to enlarge it. I have never been charged customs fees to receive any EM order, so I’m not sure at what point the US will slap you with customs fees. Here’s the invoice for the PL Charlie that I ordered in Nov. 2013:
- Quality of Product: EM is notoriously known for fit and construction consistency issues. This is why so many international customers engage in bra fit support groups to try and determine what size they need to order from EM. Additionally, EM as a brand fits their customers somewhat differently to the way that many other people fit themselves, and as such there is confusion about size to begin with. Speaking from personal experience, I have ordered and received bras that were the same size and style, but fit vastly different and were made at a different level of quality….case in point:
This is the custom PL Gazeta (95J) I ordered and my PL Charlie (95J) together with the Charlie on top. The PL Gazeta’s wires are significantly wider, and the cups are shallower. In addition, the wires in the Gazeta are incredibly flimsy; I could bend them almost in half without worry of them snapping. Also, remember the fail that the PL Burgund was?
Reality: I custom ordered a bra that I thought I would love, but due to consistency issues, the bra does not fit and is – what I feel unwearable – and also non-returnable. The PL Gazeta costed me $80 including shipping et al.
- Customer feedback on products AND service: Feedback on products is typically positive. If your boobs get on with the narrow wires and cup shape of EM, their bras are going to be really good for you. There’s always a lot of hype about the prints and designs that EM sends out, and there is a reason. Service, again, can be dicey. I’ve read many times complaints about the tone of emails which trends toward snarky, as well as an inconsistency with what is available for custom order and what is not (i.e. seeing that some products come in a certain size and then being told that you can’t order a similar item in that size). I have personally had both of these things happen to me – snark and confusion.
- Resale potential: As mentioned, custom orders are non-returnable…so what happens if your bra doesn’t fit? No worries! There is a lot of demand for EM bras, so resale potential is typically pretty high, specifically on eBay, Bratabase and the Clothes for Boobs Facebook group.
A special note about the VAT tax and paypal fees:
I recently had a complete order sent back to Poland (you know, the order I was really looking forward to with the SM nana and the S grace???). I was told that in order to get my order in the US, I would have to pay for reshipment. Let’s get down to the nitty gritty here – I would have been willing to pay for reshipment of my order had I not already overpaid for my order. What I mean is that this specific order totaled up at 639.36 zł. ($210.49). Remember that EM charges the VAT tax - 23% – on each item. Let me show you:
On this specific order, between the VAT tax on each item, plus the PayPal fee (including VAT tax), I paid an extra 142.32 zł, which is equal to $46.85….. And oh goodness, seeing that number makes my blood boil. Why does that number make my blood boil? Because the VAT tax is a tax on items purchased by members of the EU in the EU. Meaning that international businesses should not charge US or Non-EU customers the VAT tax. Now, I’m not sure what the statutes are about this, but it doesn’t sit well with me and many others because it appears to be downright shady.
Again, case in point:
Thanks to a fellow blogger for providing this example for me.
So take away information on this post:
- There are certain risks to ordering from Ewa Michalak (customer service, language barriers, custom fees, VAT tax, and the potential for your order to be sent back w/out you knowing)
- They have a limited return policy
- Bras are made with narrow wires and deep cups, so if this doesn’t suit your shape, you are taking a gamble
- Prices are comparable to British and US brands
- There is some inconsistency with quality and fit
What about you? What kind of experiences have you had in ordering from Ewa Michalak?