No, it's not a scam but caveat emptor
Wish is one of the largest online shopping platforms in the world, but it has a somewhat dubious reputation. What exactly is Wish shopping and can you actually get interesting products without getting burned?
We’ll try to answer these questions and more. We’re going to buy something, so you don’t have to.
Is Wish a Scam?
Let’s be absolutely clear here: the Wish.com website is not a scam. Wish is a legitimate company and e-commerce platform. This means that:
- You can make a purchase with confidence.
- You will get your product (eventually).
- You can return your product and get a refund.
In other words, Wish shopping is, broadly speaking, no different than buying from a platform like Amazon. However, it has many of the same weaknesses as Amazon and, in fact, they are amplified thanks to the unique business model Wish uses.
If you understand what Wish shopping is all about, it can be a pretty great place to shop. If you go in blind, there can be quite a few hard lessons to learn.
Platforms like Amazon have a lot of third-party sellers who provide products through Amazon. However, Amazon is mainly known for procuring, storing and selling products directly, which is why it has massive warehouses filled with people, robots and goodies. It’s one of the reasons you can order something from Amazon today and have it tomorrow.
Wish isn’t like this. The products you see listed are essentially all from independent sellers, usually the actual manufacturer of the product or someone very close to it. This is largely why Wish sells products for so little money – the middlemen have been removed.
That does not mean the products themselves are legitimate or good quality however. Wish sells a lot of cheap junk. Of course, you’ll find plenty of cheap junk on any platform, but Wish’s market and business model attracts a lot of it. You’ll also have to be very careful when it comes to counterfeit products, something we’ll discuss in more detail shortly.
Wish Shopping Is Not For Sensitive Shoppers
Before we go any further, it’s very important that you know Wish seems to exercise no control at all over the products you’ll see. We were hit with explicit product images that clearly belonged in an adult category right off the bat, browsing through products.
This isn’t the end of the world by itself, but if you’re a sensitive person you may want to avoid the site since you could see somewhat explicit images with no warning. We certainly don’t recommend that you let children browse Wish. If you are OK with seeing the odd naughty picture, then let’s keep going.
Who Is Wish Shopping For?
The people behind Wish have spent years collecting economic data. They’ve been looking at what people spend, what sorts of products they need and who it may appeal to. Looking through the product selection ourselves, we think Wish is best for people who want::
- Cheap products that will do the basic job.
- Genuine bargains on products that are more expensive elsewhere.
- Weird, interesting or otherwise unique stuff you won’t find anywhere else.
So let’s look at the process of buying something on Wish.
We signed up using our Google account and things went pretty smoothly. Within seconds our account was created and we could add products to the cart. However, it should be noted that at checkout our account was put on hold pending identity verification.
This involved sending Wish a scan of our government ID. We have no idea whether this was just a random verification check, or whether this happens to every new customer. However, this is something other sites have done in the past as a form of fraud prevention, so it’s not particularly unusual. The account was unlocked about five days after creation and we could finally get to Wish shopping.
It’s not immediately clear when you hit the home page of Wish how exactly you’re meant to find anything. The trick, we found, is to click on “Brands” which will reveal a more traditional set of categories and brand sections to help you find what you’re looking for.
Also, look out for “verified” brand sections. These are guaranteed to be real-deal products by Wish. The stream of products that hit you on the homepage were less than useful.
The Product Selection
This is quite possibly the most important aspect of shopping on the website. It doesn’t matter how well the Wish website works, what really matters is whether there’s anything on offer that you actually want to buy.
On the one hand this obviously means that every person is going to find different levels of value when browsing the products available on Wish. Most of the products we saw while browsing the site were, quite frankly, cheap, junk or both. However, there was also plenty of interesting stuff with good user reviews. So don’t paint the entire catalogue with the same brush!
The Wish Return Policy
As with every other legitimate online shopping platform, Wish has a comprehensive return policy. It’s definitely worth going through their policy in detail. Make sure that the criteria for a return align with what you plan to do with the type of product you’re going to buy.
Our reading of this policy (we’re not lawyers!) does not seem to support getting your money back if it turns out that a product was counterfeit. Although the policy does say that items which are not consistent with the listing are eligible for a refund. However, that does not mean a product which ends up not being from the brand you thought it was would count.
Wish does specifically forbid counterfeit goods from being sold, but they have very specific guidelines you should also be familiar with.
Once again, if something seems too good to be true it probably is. You are never going to get a high-end thousand-dollar item for $10. However, if the listing specifically names the brand of the item we’re pretty sure you can get a refund or return if it turns out to be fake. Otherwise, stick to the verified brand categories.
Wish Is Still Pretty Risky
While you won’t get your information stolen, or fail to get a refund for defective or missing products, Wish still represents a minefield for unwary shoppers. Use your common sense when assessing a product’s price and the chances that it’s a fake item.
There are some types of products which we think are generally OK to buy from the site. Novelty items such as statues or memorabilia don’t always matter when it comes to being fake or not. If your item looks the way you expect and it’s mainly an aesthetic product, you might be perfectly happy with the price you paid and item you received.
The worst kind of product to buy on the site, is almost certainly electronics. While there are always a few rough diamonds to be found, the vast majority of electronic gadgets you’re going to find on this site will be of poor quality or perform very badly. Even simple items like audio cables or USB accessories are likely to not work as well as they should or have bad build quality.
So, let’s summarize the Wish shopping experience:
- The site is legitimate and you’ll get the item you ordered or your money back.
- The item may however be misleading and not in a way that violates Wish’s terms and conditions.
- It can take a long time before your item arrives, depending on where you live.
- You may have to pay additional import duties to the local government.
- We saw plenty of interesting items, such as novelty T-shirts, geeky statues and some pretty unique gadgets that are worth buying for a laugh.
As with anything, Wish is going to evolve over time. For now, keep your serious money shopping on platforms like Amazon, but don’t be afraid to browse the weird and wonderful world of Wish.
Tips & Speed Bumps
After finally paying for our item, a plastic figure from a popular TV show, we have a few tips, speed bumps and observations to share so that you have a smoother experience:
- Always Google for Wish coupons before you pay, we saved 20% on our purchase.
- You can only use the app to apply certain coupons.
- Wish can be used via the web, but the app provides the better experience.
- We had issues with payment (credit card or PayPal), so restart the app and wait a few seconds for PayPal to appear, even if it looks like nothing is happening
As yet, we have not received our order at the time of writing, but we’ll update this article when it does arrive and let you know what the final leg of our Wish journey was like.