12.05.2012 IMPORTANT UPDATE: At the specific request of Light In The Box, comments were disabled and removed from this article to avoid conflict. Their concerns were based on the fact that the majority of the hundreds of comments originally posted were almost enturely negative reviews from unhappy customers alleging complaints against the company. My review and cautions, remain and reflect my own experience and are not necessarily the opinions of About.com.
About The Company
Light in The Box is an online discount store that facilitates shipments of a variety of items from China to countries throughout the world. Light In The Box offers thousands of products at bargain and wholesale prices.
Before ordering, read their FAQs and return policies so you understand that any items you need to exchange or return will have to be shipped back to China and you may have a very limited time frame to take action on order cancellations, returns, and exchanges - and their policies vary depending on the products your order.
Light In The Box's website is easy to explore and easy to use when placing an order. However, do not get so distracted by bargain price that you forget to read their return policies. If you get the wrong item, a damaged item, or have any other consumer complaint, expect very nice sales people to offer you very little resolution.
Unfair Order Cancellation Practices and Policies
Customers have a limited time frame (after receiving payment confirmation on an order) to cancel without incurring a substantial penalty (up to 75% of your total payment.) But Lightinthebox.com does not always send timely payment confirmation (this may be due to time differences between China and the U.S.) so by the time you receive payment confirmation you may already be past the initial cancellation deadline.
Prompt Customer Service - Sort Of
Their customer service department always responded within 24 hours and was consistently cheerful and polite. However, the customer service department will delay resolution by not honoring requests (i.e., to immediately cancel an order) by responding with more questions instead of taking action until deadlines for order cancellation and returns have passed.
For example, I was notified a week after I placed an order there would be an unforeseen delay. I asked to cancel the order. I received two follow up emails asking me if I really wanted to cancel. Each time I said yes. The third email from customer service advised me I was now 24 hours past the time allowance to cancel and would be charged a 75% restocking fee (in this case, almost $400.00.)
Customer Service Tactics To Deter Returns
One of the orders I test placed was for custom made dresses. The dresses arrived two weeks late (too late to wear to the intended event.) The quality of the sewing was first rate, however, the dresses were sewn with a cheap polyester fabric instead of the advertised materials. And, one dress was a size 4 instead of an 8.
Instead of allowing me to exchange the wrong sized dress they offered to reimburse me for having a local tailor let the dress out. After wasting four more days of email exchanges explaining the dress could not be let out two sizes, they said I could return it to China - but still did not send the return form. After another email of complaint they finally sent the return form along with a disclaimer it had to be in their hands in China in ten calendar days as that is all the time I now had left.
In the end, the required expedited shipping and customs charges to get it returned would have almost paid for the dress. Although, the return form does state they may reimburse you for shipping, the wording is vague and provides them with many reasons not to reimburse you.
Restocking Fees For Items Not In Stock
I experienced delay tactics on two other orders: one for jewelry and another for a small appliance. On one order, I inquired about the status twice and was assured the order was on time only to be updated a week later there was a three week shipment delay - but it was too late to cancel without paying a 75% penalty.
After a month of waiting the order still has not arrived but, I was reassured "they have bid out to find someone to fulfill my order." When I protested that it was not fair to charge me a 75% restocking fee for an item they did not even have a seller for yet, the response was simply, "sorry for the trouble."
When you shop any online service use a credit card that allows you to dispute charges for items not received. If you cannot cancel the order from China, you may be able to reverse the credit card charge. Take time to fully explore a website - read the fine print.
Perhaps it is most important to remember that when you are doing business with a foreign country you cannot walk into a local store and exchange an item or pitch a fit when all else fails.
And, threatening to sue would be taken as seriously as threatening to throw cotton balls: it won't stick and it won't hurt them in any way. You will not be able to sue Light In The Box in China from another country on a small claim because there is no international small claims court.