4 Red Flags About Shopping on TikTok Shop, According to Retail Experts

Take note before handing over your credit card.

If you're on TikTok, then you've probably been intrigued by TikTok Shop (and may have even bought something from it already!). The feature, which launched in the U.S. in September, allows you to see and shop the items featured in videos. The results are two-pronged: It gives creators a new way to earn commission from brands, but for many consumers, it's just another form of digital temptation.

In practically every other video on TikTok's For You Page, there's a call to action to purchase the latest lip gloss, blow-dry brush, or compact walking pad. But before you fork over your credit card information, you might be wondering if the platform is legit. It turns out, there are some serious concerns. Read ahead for the biggest red flags when using TikTok Shop.

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You don't know exactly what you'll get.

Table of Cheap Sunglasses {Checkout Counter}

As anyone who's ever purchased a flimsy product from a digital ad will tell you, whenever you buy something online, there's a risk you won't get what you expected. According to Julie Ramhold, a consumer analyst with the shopping comparison site DealNews.com, there's anecdotal evidence that this is true of TikTok Shop, too.

"Some sellers can use bait-and-switch tactics—show you one thing in a video and then, when you order, send over an incredibly cheap version of whatever you ordered that isn't the same quality as what was pictured," she says.

Of course, this could happen on sites like Amazon and Etsy, too, so Ramhold offers the same advice that she does for those platforms: "Read reviews and use common sense—does it seem too good to be true? If so, then it probably is."

Some orders never arrive.


Another major issue is that some packages from TikTok Shop simply never show up.

"Customers have reported instances where items from their orders were not received, leading to frustration and the inconvenience of seeking refunds," says Jeanel Alvarado, retail expert at RETAILBOSS. "This issue is particularly problematic for those purchasing gifts or needing items by a specific date."

If you need your purchases to arrive in a timely fashion, you might want to consider a different retailer.

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There may be some bad actors.

woman at home checking her mail - domestic life concepts

Not every seller on TikTok is exactly who they say they are.

"There's always a risk of encountering fraudulent sellers or counterfeit products," says Alvarado. "Exercise due diligence before making a purchase by verifying the seller's presence beyond TikTok, such as checking for an official website or confirming their business registration and licensing."

However, even if a seller checks out, it doesn't mean you'll get what you pay for.

"For example, there has been a surge in TikTok sellers advertising luxury handbags from brands like Louis Vuitton, Chanel, and Hermès, which could potentially be counterfeit if not sold through a legitimate consignment store," says Alvarado. You might want to save those types of purchases for merchants you trust completely.

Fortunately, Ramhold says that this doesn't mean all sellers on TikTok Shop are illegitimate. "It will vary, and it's important to do your research—even if it's just cursory—before making a purchase to save yourself the potential of wasting cash and avoiding a return headache," she says.

It's super new!

Tyumen, Russia - January 21, 2020: TikTok and Facebook application on screen Apple iPhone XR

TikTok Shop is still quite fresh—and that fact on its own is a pretty big red flag!

"It's a new platform, so it's important to be cautious when making any purchases," says Ramhold. "That doesn't mean avoid the TikTok Shop altogether." But when you do, make sure you're on the lookout for anything suspicious.

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Juliana LaBianca
Juliana is an experienced features editor and writer. Read more
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