Is Shopping At Zaful A Scam? What You *Need* To Know

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If you’re a woman between the ages of 13 and 30, you’ve probably heard from Zaful, whether you realize it or not. The fast-fashion retailer made a name for itself through incessant sponsored Zaful Facebook ads and Instagram posts showcasing trending swimwear designs sold for the price of an In-N-Out combo. Fast fashion purchases are always a little iffy from a moral standpoint, but Zaful’s deals cross into “too good to be true” territory, leading interested shoppers (and bloggers) to wonder if this is another episode in the 21st century’s Season of the Scam alongside Fyre Festival, Anna Delvey, and Theranos. Maybe it’s our youthful optimism to blame, maybe its the student loans emptying our wallets, but even as internet-savvy millennials who should be able to spot a swindle miles away, we’ve held out hope that Zaful was more than a money-laundering front masquerading as an online retailer.

John Frigo, the eCommerce lead of My Supplement Store, compared Zaful to influencer favorite Fashion Nova, another fast-fashion site that functions similarly to Zaful despite Fashion Nova’s recent mainstream popularity. Fashion Nova is a dropshipping retailer, meaning they don’t make their own product or hold any inventory. Instead, they go onto other sites like Ali Express, DHDate. ChinaVision, or 1688 to take their product photos and post them to their own online stores. If Zaful follows this model, when a consumer places an order through Zaful, the company then goes to Ali Express or its peers and orders that same item, sending it to the original customer’s address.

“This is why items take anywhere from a couple of weeks to a couple of months to arrive because it’s coming from China. It’s also why things fit poorly and quality is a tossup as to what you’ll get,” John explained. “Zaful likely hasn’t ordered or tried out any of this stuff to vet the quality, so they really don’t know if what you get will be great quality or complete junk.”

While it’s true that ordering directly from Zaful’s website, where shoppers can take advantage of special deals via the company’s loyalty program and flash sales, can lead to month-long shipping times, Advisory HQ learned that Zaful has over 400 pattern copyrights and 128 supplier partnerships worldwide, supporting Zaful’s claims that they’re a direct-to-consumer store unlike other fast-fashion brands. Because not all of the products on Zaful’s website (of which there are definitely more than 400) explicitly carry the Zaful name, Advisory HQ decided the site likely carries a mixture of Zaful’s own fashions and dropshipping orders.

Zaful’s in-house designs are (supposedly) made with sustainability in mind, which would make them more ethical than designs you’d find through Fashion Nova and their peers. The Zaful website mentions quality supplier partnerships, a living wage for workers, and eco-friendly screen printing inks as vital to their designs, and the quality of Zaful’s products hasn’t raised any flags amongst their IRL fans. Zaful’s probably lying, but at least shoppers can claim plausible deniability. Still, when it comes to swimwear, you get what you pay for.

As a regular Zaful shopper myself, who was admittedly drawn in by Zaful Facebook ads, my experiences with the company have been hit or miss. I’ve never been the victim of a phishing scam like Patricia Bright or received ripped items like Brianna Renee, but sizing issues have run rampant. Both of the aforementioned bloggers mentioned aggressive size discrepancies between tops and bottoms in bikini sets, and I’ve purchased Zaful suits with gigantic bottoms and barely-there tops (and vice versa) that are clearly a victim of poor quality control rather than a stylistic choice. Luckily, my items have always actually arrived, and since discovering Zaful’s Amazon Prime store, I’ve been able to get their dirt-cheap styles in two days or less.

Even if you do play it safe by sticking to Amazon purchases instead of buying through Zaful’s online store, smooth sailing isn’t guaranteed. Liz Guidone purchased two Zaful suits from Amazon and had similar issues with sizing. After purchasing one medium suit and one large, Liz noticed that she barely fit the large even though she usually wears a size small. Liz kept the large swimsuit because she liked its flattering cut, even though the sizing was way off, but she’s planning on retiring the suit at the end of the summer season because the coloring faded after frequent use. I experienced a similar phenomenon after just two wears, with my favorite Zaful suit’s pattern almost immediately being bleached by the sun. I guess that’s just the price you pay for fast fashion — you spend $15, wear it once, then recycle it and move onto the next swimwear fad.

Liz’s issues with Zaful really started after she tried to send back her ill-fitting medium bikini. When she went to return the suit, which cost roughly $20, the company said the time and cost of shipping was too high to be worth the return, offering her a 15% percent refund if she just kept the suit and dropped the issue.

“They were offering me a $2.40 refund for a bathing suit that was too small and also that didn’t arrive with a hygiene sticker on the bottoms,” Liz said. “I went back and forth with them a while, and I eventually gave up and gave it to my younger, skinnier cousin instead.”

Melanie Lilly-Buster also experienced issues when trying to return Zaful swimwear, this time after buying directly from the Zaful website. She recalls the retailer having a “No Returns” policy for swimwear and lingerie, but because the bathing suit she was sent didn’t match the picture online, she was credited with Zaful points for a future purchase. The bikini was only $10, so Melanie resigned herself to quietly taking the L and gave the suit to a friend. Out of at least a dozen swimwear purchases from Zaful, this was the only time Melanie encountered an issue.

“Sure, the bathing suits are shipped from overseas so it may take a bit longer to ship than normal,” Melanie said, explaining that she thinks Zaful is worth the wait and has recommended the site to many of her friends. “When you’re paying $10 to $18 for a whole bikini, the tradeoff is worth it compared to spending at least $30 per piece anywhere else.”

Nearly every customer we spoke to seemed to have at least one Zaful horror story, but none of them have sworn off the fast-fashion retailer completely. We’d explain Zaful Facebook ads (and the brand itself) as the Internet Era’s answer to those budget retailers in downtown fashion districts like Los Angeles’s Olivera Street or the random discount stores scattered around Miami’s South Beach. For every nine junky items that aren’t worth the fabric they’re made with, there’s one perfect steal that makes the journey worth it. As with any fast fashion purchase, you’re taking a risk every time you order — a risk that your items will get lost on the way from some random warehouse in China, a risk that customer service will never answer your emails again, a risk that your items won’t fit and there will be nothing you can do about it. But there’s also a chance that you’ll spend $15 on a magic swimsuit that fits perfectly and looks like a million bucks. The only question is, are you a gambling woman?

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