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By now, the climactic nature of this story has long passed, but it’s not old news. You may have originally heard about this story from Tea Spill, a YouTube channel covering beauty-community-related drama. She has a lot of great information about this story, so I highly recommend checking out her video! If you have not seen the video, allow me to give you a little bit of backstory about how this mess started. 

First of all, what is Kickstarter? Kickstarter is a campaign platform that allows creators/artists to find backers and support, so that they can have the resources to make their dreams a reality. Backers can choose which projects they would like to contribute to, and in turn, the creators can reward their backers with gifts, perks, or other privileges once the project is fully funded and completed. It’s a great system, and many creators have had enormous success using this platform. 

Unfortunately, not everyone has a great experience on Kickstarter- including the backers. Sometimes, if a project falls through, backers are left with a thinner wallet and no completed project. You would expect the project at fault to refund all of the money, but sadly, that’s not always what happens. 

Before I get too ahead of myself, let me first explain what the Lisa Frank Kickstarter is (I will also include a link to the page, if you’d like to do more research yourself). This project was supposed to be a collaboration between indie makeup brand Glamour Dolls and iconic artist Lisa Frank, who many of you 90s babies will probably remember. In theory, I think a Lisa Frank makeup line is a creative and fantastic idea. If this project had been better executed, I truly believe it would have been a huge success.

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Many other people seemed to agree with that notion, because the campaign to fund a Lisa Frank x Glamour Dolls makeup collection garnered over 5,935 backers and raised over $370,000. That’s right, $370,000 was raised by good-intentioned folks who loved the idea of this project, and of course, they were promised early access to the products before anyone else. Depending on how much you donated, you could get anything from a free digital background to the ENTIRE collection, so people were pretty stoked. The campaign was launched in February of 2017, and was set to be finished that September.

Well, September came and went. No products were received. Updates from the company became more and more sparse.

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Again, if you want all the juicy details, watch Tea Spill’s video. I’m just here to give you the highlights and my current thoughts on the situation. In a nutshell, this is what happened: as the updates became fewer and fewer, backers (obviously) became more and more concerned. Products were not being developed at the original planned pace, which is normal, but this was at a WHOLE ‘nother level of disorganization. By the fall, they had only developed one product: a bronzer. The big kicker came in October when random people (who hadn’t even backed the project) started receiving the bronzer in their Ipsy bags. Yes, the backers have STILL not received any of the products they were promised, but random Ipsy subscribers were finding the product in their bags. Seems unfair, right?

It gets worse.

October comes and goes. Backers have still not received any of the products they were promised for their donations. Then, some of the products started showing up in Hot Topic stores.

As you can probably imagine, patience was running thin by this time and backers were starting to get pretty pissed. I mean, I would be to. They are literally the ones who funded this project with the promise of having early access to the products. Now, the general public was receiving products before the funders? Yeah, it’s all sorts of messed up. Glamour Dolls released some sort of bullshit statement about “retail partner pricing”, and how it was supposed to be a “surprise”, but that obviously didn’t solve anything. Even more shady, there was a huge hole in Glamour Doll’s statement. At the beginning of the campaign, they sate “We started these products from scratch with you,” but what Glamour Dolls is saying is that the products were already developed before Kickstarter? I mean, come on. Make up your mind. Or should I say, makeup your mind.

There are lots of other really juicy side stories that emerged at this time, including the fact that Glamour Dolls may have stole some designs and molds from other companies, but I won’t open that can of worms right now. We’ve already got enough on our plate as it is.

Another promise that fell through had to do with the “Digital Background” promised to backers who pledged $5. Well, Glamour Dolls ended up scratching that idea, and instead elected to give backers an AUTOGRAPHED, VINTAGE Lisa Frank postcard.

Except, lo and behold, it wasn’t a vintage postcard. It also wasn’t really autographed, it was just the same signature photocopied onto hundreds of postcards. So much for “total transparency”, Glamour Dolls. Many backers also received their postcards bent and creased, which is frustrating, to say the least.

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Pretty sure a “vintage postcard” wouldn’t have a QR code, but alright.

And yes, the backers who pledged $100+ have still not received ANY products at this point. Anyone who donated $100+ was promised the entire collection, and now, months later, all they get is, what, a bent postcard and maybe a bronzer? 

Anyway, after the Ipsy and the Hot Topic fiasco, communication between Glamour Dolls and the backers became more or less nonexistent. I’m serious. The last update from Glamour Dolls was more than a year ago. To this day, TWO YEARS LATER, backers who pledged as much as $200 have still not received anything. Glamour Dolls even deleted their instagram account, and upon further research, both of the founders of the company have altered their LinkedIn profiles, so it’s like the company never existed. Thousands and thousands of people who pledged over $300,000 are now the victims of fraud, and there’s nothing being done about it.

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That’s the biggest reason why I wanted to write this article. In October of 2019, there is still no update, no refunds, no action. This is downright wrong. Even though I was never involved in this project, I really sympathize with those backers. And Glamour Dolls is basically a walking clown show at this point. 

From my understanding, Kickstarter itself is not held liable for this fiasco because it’s out of their control at this point. The only person(s) who can really be held liable is Glamour Dolls, and obviously, they’ve completely wiped themselves from the map. Although it’s frustrating for the kickstarters (and quite literally fraudulent), there are still things we can do to support them. One thing you can do is select “Report Project to Kickstarter” at the bottom of the campaign page. 

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Interesting side note: Kickstarter still lists the Lisa Frank project as one of the “Projects They Love.” Really, Kickstarter? You may be alone in that sentiment.

I’ll link that below if you want to help support the backers. I suppose you could also report Glamour Dolls to the FTC, but I won’t say you’re guaranteed to hear back from them any time soon. Lastly, spread the word! The more we pressure Glamour Dolls/Kickstarter to respond to the issue, the more hope there is that these victims will receive their refunds. Remember, some people pledged up to TWO HUNDRED dollars, and they’re still living in the dark. As a broke college student, I’d be pissed if this happened to me.

Also, please share this article and Tea Spill’s if you are interested in this story. I truly believe this story is not getting the negative coverage it deserves.

Kickstarter Campaign: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/168282293/lisa-frank-makeup-collaboration

Tea Spill’s Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NoyfOhJI1B4

Coming up next: What’s in Season in October?

I consider myself to be pretty careful when it comes to browsing the terrifying void that is the interwebs. I always ensure that my phone searching is set to “private”, so my history and personal information cannot be saved when I visit sites that might try to loot me of my data. Nothing detrimental has happened to me before, but you can never be too safe, right?

Actually, there was a situation where I almost got myself tied up in a fraudulent internet extortion. And that’s what I’m here to talk about today, the time I almost metaphorically threw $200 into a burning trash can. Like I said, I tend to be pretty careful when I use the internet, so the fact that I almost got tricked by this shady website is marginally concerning.

Basically, here’s the story from start to finish. I was browsing on Google or Amazon, as I so often am, and a clothing store advertisement popped up on the sidebar of my screen. I was used to seeing advertisements like this before- that is how companies track our spending habits and sell to us, after all- but I’d seen this exact company advertising to me at least 5-6 times in the past. In my naive stupidity, which I have subsequently learned from, I decided that it was unlikely a powerful company like Google would let a blatant scam slide through as one of its advertisers. They have to have some control as to who they let advertise, right?

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That was pretty much the primary catalyst for me to just look at the site, which is called BerryLook. I wasn’t going in with the intention of purchasing anything, I just wanted to see what this advertisement Google was shoving down my throat was all about. And if it looked reliable enough, well, I could go from there and decide if it was worth it.

There are red flags to look for when determining if a site is fraudulent, but unfortunately, BerryLook is cunningly smart in covering their tracks. First and foremost, the site itself is arranged and laid out to look extremely professional and high-end. You have to really look hard to find any spelling errors or discrepancies, the photographs are all professionally shot, and even the site reviews are all extremely positive. On the evening I was contemplating ordering some clothes, the site was having a huge blowout sale, and I’m not surprised to see that (yet again!) the site is holding another sale on all clothing. It’s just another marketing technique to make the clothes look more expensive than they actually are, so you really think you’re getting a great deal when you shop. And, like I said, each and every product I looked at on the site had at least a four star review. Fantastic!

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I think I started dropping items into my cart (it might have been my payday), and whilst I was in the middle of punching in my card, I started to feel…a little off. And that was when I decided to look at some external reviews from other websites, causing me to gasp loudly and essentially save my $200 from being thrown into the abyss.

YIKES.

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Probably goes without saying, I emptied that damn cart and deleted all my card information faster than you could say “scam”. And, immediately afterwards, I found myself kicking myself in the midst of my relief. How the hell could I have almost let that happen? Why is this legal? WHY WOULD GOOGLE HARASS ME WITH THESE ADS?!

There’s way too many fingers we can point in this situation, but from a consumer perspective, I’m just here to warn other ladies and gents from similar situations. Because BerryLook is actually a Chinese company (not from the US, like they claim on the website), there’s nothing the FTC can actually do to stop this scam. Trust me, I’ve tried reaching out before, in my ravenous outrage after realizing I almost got scammed out of two hundred hard-earned bucks.

I can’t explain to you how these fraudulent advertisements made their way to me (and tens of thousands of other poor suckers), but I’m happy to show you some actual, authentic reviews! (In case you hadn’t figured it out by now, the reviews on the actual BerryLook site are generated by computer bots. Another crafty marketing tactic, might I add).

Hilariously, the paid accounts and bots that we see on the BerryLook app have also tried to peep up on actual authentic review sites, like TrustPilot and Sitejabber. Trust me, I could spend HOURS just watching these bots get attacked by the angry scammed customers. It’s live entertainment at its finest.

On several of these negative reviews, BerryLook responds with the same old automatic message with irrelevant links to nonexistent tracking numbers. Even if you didn’t order anything, and you’re just posting a review to shit all over the company (like I did), you’ll still get an automated bot message asking you for your tracking number. It’s actually hysterical.

I’m very happy to report that BerryLook is getting the negative exposure it deserves through these negative reviews and Facebook pages dedicated to denouncing the brand, but BerryLook is just one of many fraudulent companies. Because these companies are overseas, there isn’t much we can do as consumers besides just continue to expose them. The legal action we can take is just not really up-to-par yet, even though Google is the one referring us to these fraudulent companies…

What I can do, however, is offer some tips and advice on how you can avoid a similar situation. First and foremost, the reviews you read on the site are not always reliable, and you should take them with a grain of salt. My personal favorite sites for reliable reviews are TrustPilot and Sitejabber, like I said, but I also visit Scam Finance and Knoji. Read up on the company as much as possible so you know your money and card information is safe, especially if it’s a brand you’ve never heard of. Keep a sharp eye out for grammar mistakes and constant sitewide sales, as these can usually be signs of fraudulent foreign sites. And, above all, listen to your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, especially when it comes to spending your money, it probably isn’t.

If you’ve experienced a similar situation, of if you’ve actually been scammed by BerryLook yourself, let me know in the comments! I’m quite shocked at the lack of media coverage this issue is getting, considering the fact that thousands of people have been ripped off by this company alone.

Coming up next: #WCW: Anne Shirley from Book to Television