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Buyer beware: A Toronto man learns online reviews may not be what they seem

You've probably seen them on your social media feeds: online ads offering deals that look too good to be true. But have you ever clicked? One Toronto man did and now he's sharing his story to warn others that giving into that impulse buy might not be a great idea.

He thought he was getting a sharp, camel-coloured overcoat. What he got instead ... well, see for yourself

Thomas Hargittay was in the market for sharp-looking men's overcoat. So when he saw an ad for what seemed like a great buy, he pounced. At $39.98, who could blame him? (CBC)

You've probably seen them on your social media feeds: online ads offering deals that look too good to be true.

But have you ever clicked? One Toronto man did and now he's sharing his story to warn others that giving into that impulse buy might not be a great idea.

Thomas Hargittay was in the market for sharp-looking men's overcoat. So when he saw an ad for what seemed like a great buy, he pounced. At $39.98, who could blame him?

Hargittay didn't go in totally uninformed. The 33 glowing reviews he saw for the coat seemed to check out.

"If you read these reviews, that would lead you to believe that you were going to get a pretty a high-end jacket," he told CBC News.

'There could be some slight differences,' company admits

But what arrived in the mail instead looked closer to a lab coat — or maybe even a nightgown. 

"The lapel pocket is just a strip of material that's been sewn on," he noticed. "If I actually bend my arms, the lining starts to rip on the inside."
On the left is the coat advertised online at Bonitata.com. On the right is what Hargittay received in the mail. (CBC)

A response from the website where Hargittay made the purchase, Bonitata.com, acknowledges "there could be some slight differences between the picture and the real item due to various lighting conditions and photo taking techniques.

"We feel so sorry for the item problems," it says, urging unhappy customers to provide photos of the items they aren't satisfied with. "We will help you confirm and solve your problem timely."

Hargittay didn't think returning the jacket was worth the effort, opting instead to absorb the cost. But he wonders how many others are being "taken advantage of" by similar companies. 

Don't be fooled by the reviews, says expert

Online retail expert Reilly Stephens cautions shoppers to treat reviews with a discerning eye. 

In the case of Hargittay's coat, she says the way the reviews were written seemed "a little bit robotic ... not really giving any information or any real tips about the actual product itself.

And while more and more of these websites are cropping up, often the people behind them don't know what they'll be getting from a supplier either. 

"Products are sourced from various places... so the retailer never actually knows what they are getting. In some cases they make just take a photo of what they'd like to sell and then source photos from somewhere else."

Her tips to shoppers: buy from reputable companies, make sure to review return policies ahead of time and beware of generic-seeming reviews.

For his part, Hargittay jokes that while he's stuck with his jacket, he plans to make the best of it, even if that means getting some laughs on a night out.

"I'm going to wear it out this weekend."

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