5 Major Red Flags About Shein Retail Experts Are Warning About

Here's everything you need to know before ordering from the online fashion outlet.

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Online shopping has made it easier than ever to deck out your wardrobe on a budget, especially thanks to sites like Shein. The fast fashion company has become a go-to resource for affordable clothing and accessories that can be shipped right to your door. But despite its quick rise to global popularity, the company isn't without its fair share of controversy or serious issues. Read on for five red flags about shopping on Shein, according to retail experts.

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There can be problems with quality and consistency.

Visitor sign at SHEIN distribution center
Jonathan Weiss / Shutterstock

The rise of fast fashion has made it easier for shoppers to fill their carts to their heart's content without the risk of blowing out their budget. But unlike traditional clothing manufacturers with nominal pricing, experts warn you might be getting what you pay for with Shein.

"While these low prices on trendy pieces can be very tempting, consumers need to know that those low prices come at a cost," warns Mandy Cordia, owner and founder of The Kindness Cause. "Consumers are often surprised to receive items that look very different from what is pictured online."

She that the bargain pricing "usually indicates low-quality materials (which have been known to include hazardous chemicals), poor craftsmanship, and inconsistencies in manufacturing."

It's a mess if you need to send something back.

While it's certainly convenient, shopping online can often become complicated whenever you need to send something back. Unfortunately, experts warn this is especially true for Shein.

"While Shein's return policy is decent, the process can be a bit cumbersome," Joseph Manktelow-Pimm, retail analyst and fashion stylist, tells Best Life. "Customers might have to cover return shipping costs, and it could take a few weeks to process, which can be frustrating if you're eager to get a refund or exchange an item."

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It's harder to trust the reviews.

The SHEIN logo on a laptop screen
Shutterstock / Wirestock Creators

Shopping online often requires some research before you make a purchase, sifting through reviews from other customers to determine what's actually worth buying. However, Cordia warns that this process has been tainted on Shein thanks to the company's practice of incentivizing "verified purchase" reviews.

"Shein rewards points to customers for reviewing products in exchange for discounts of up to 70 percent off an order," she says.

Unfortunately, Cordia says this point system has led to hundreds—if not thousands—of 5-star reviews that give minimal context or helpful information to the consumer reading them.

And the trouble isn't just limited to the product page, either. "While common across the retail industry, Shein also has an extensive reach on social media given their large Gen Z customer base, partnering with influencers for free merchandise or financial compensation in exchange for sharing the love with their followers," she adds.

Finding clothes that fit well can be tricky.

woman trying on dress

Online shoppers are often willing to trade in the ability to physically inspect a garment and bring it into the changing room for the convenience of having it sent to their front door. But in the case of Shein, sizing can make this process a particularly prominent concern.

"It's not uncommon for shoppers to find significant size discrepancies, with items being too small or too large, despite following the provided size charts," says Joseph Manktelow-Pimm. "It's always a good idea to check each item's size guide and customer reviews, but even then, the fit can still be unpredictable."

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The company's actions allegedly feed into a much larger set of serious problems.

A close up of someone visiting the SHEIN website on their smartphone
Yau Ming Low / Shutterstock

Fast fashion companies like Shein have made it notoriously easy to overload on clothing over the course of a year. Unfortunately, experts say this shift in the industry has created a whole other set of serious problems that deserve more attention.

"While low-quality materials, poor craftsmanship, unhelpful reviews, and ill-fitting clothing is annoying, those things pale compared to the unsafe working conditions, human labor violations, toxic chemicals found in their clothing, and their disastrous impact on the environment," says Cordia.

"And despite the fact Shein has made many statements to say they are addressing the issues—even going as far as flying influencers to their factories—it would be incredibly naïve to think that working conditions seen by these influencers are typical and will last beyond the moment they leave," she adds.

Ironically, there is still a high cost to such bargain shopping. "The reality is that low prices are actually very expensive because of the means by which those low prices are achieved," Cordia says.

Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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