This is Why You Don’t Trust Ads on Social Media

I made a mind boggling number of mistakes while trying to eshop for my wife

I would like to blame Governor Andrew Cuomo. If he had not spent the past 60 or so days delivering daily, clear, level-headed COVID-19 pandemic guidance to nervous New Yorkers, I would not be in this mess.

Ecommerce mess
 Lifewire / Alison Czinkota

As you may have heard, Cuomo has, for some at least, become a sort of folk hero and, I guess, sexagenarian sex symbol. The term “Cuomosexual” bubbled up on social media and my wife, being a huge Cuomo fan, jokingly adopted the term in a few of her Facebook posts.

Good old Facebook picked up on that signal and soon she saw a flood of ads for “Cuomosexual” merchandise, including a fetching gray T-Shirt shown over a pair of shredded, cut-off jeans my wife (nor I) would never wear.

Because my wife and I are connected in life and on social media through Instagram and Facebook, I soon saw the exact same ad (the jeans and gray t-shirt combo were unmistakable) in one of my feeds.

Look, I know I was being played by the algorithms, but I knew my wife fancied the shirt and, well, we’ve been stuck at home forever and I thought she needed a boost. So, I decided to buy it.

Andrew Cuomo
A governor like no other. (C-Span).  C-Span

Going to the Show

I followed the link and landed on a spare but relatively attractive women’s apparel site called SheShow.com. No, I had never shopped on it or heard of it before. Still there was the shirt. In fact, there was the exact same image of the shirt. It was $22. I started the buying process, including entering my email, and then saw that shipping was something like $8. With tax, it would’ve been over $30 for a t-shirt probably worth $10.

I balked.

Later, I was checking my mail and saw a note from SheShow. Yup the system noticed I hadn’t completed my purchase and offered me a 10% discount code if I returned and completed it now. I have to admit, I felt pretty smart. “See,” I thought to my self-satisfied self, “You walk away, and they beg you to come back with a discount. Why don’t I do that more often?”

T-shirt ad
It's a cute shirt, right? I bet my wife would've love it, but I made so many rookie ecommerce mistakes. (SheShow).  SheShow

Back at the site, I completed the purchase with the code and noticed the 10% reduction. Now I was paying roughly $27 for a $10 t-shirt. A confirmation email, complete with that now familiar picture of the t-shirt arrived in my inbox. Yay me.

The next day I followed “Track your shipment link,” and noticed in passing that the shirt was shipping all the way from China. It was set to arrive the first week in May. I realized it might almost count as a Mother’s Day gift.

Meanwhile, in my haste to buy my wife something, I didn’t change the credit card number that was pre-loaded into my system, which meant I was not hiding the purchase from my wife. So much for the element of surprise.

A few days later my wife was rectifying our accounts when she came across a $27 charge from some place called “SheShow.”

She looked up at me, because I’m home 24/7 now and often within eyesight, and asked me if I knew anything about it.

“What’s SheShow?"

I hemmed and hawed. “Huh, not sure. Did I buy something?”

“What kind of store is this? It sounds like a women’s lingerie shop.”

I grinned nervously and she just shook her head. Even though she now knew I bought something, she didn't know what it was. I still had the element of surprise.

Where’d You Go?

After enduring a day of my wife teasing me that I had bought something lacy for someone other than her, I decided to check the status of my shipment. The link in my email resolved to a page not found. I then decided to go directly to SheShow.com. It was gone, too. SheShow emails came to me via Shopify, an ecommerce hosting service. I sent them an email and am still awaiting a reply.

In Google, I searched on SheShow to see if I could find any recent news stories about the shopping site’s apparent demise (sadly, businesses going under during the pandemic is not uncommon). One of the first results was on business review site TrustPilot. The reviews were, in a word, bad. I mean literally. 59% of reviewers rated SheShow “Bad.”

Most of the reviews described apparel not arriving and getting a general runaround. This review was fairly typical:

“I wish I could give no stars. I ordered OVER a month ago. Nothing. Contacted SheShow, got an email assuring me it was coming (with a tracking number included). I attempted to track the package this morning and now it’s saying the shop is closed and the website doesn’t even exist!”

The reviews were, in a word, bad. I mean literally. 59% of reviewers rated SheShow “Bad.”

The more you know

My next stop was the Whois service to find out what or who was behind the SheShow domain. Unsurprisingly, SheShow was registered through Chinese ecommerce giant Alibaba, but there wasn’t much usable information beyond that.

I then turned my attention to the shirt image that so captivated me and my wife. After saving a copy of on my desktop, I dragged and dropped it into Google’s image search. What I found were dozens of the exact same image with different words printed on them.

T-shirts
Just sprinkle a little bit of Photoshop and you have a different shirt. (Google Images).  Google Images

Not sure how I missed it but, upon closer inspection, the “Cuomosexual” text on that shirt image was just text typed on top of the original shirt image, and not text printed on fabric.

I was a sucker.

Finally, while gritting my teeth over my newfound sucker status, I did a quick better Business Bureau search on SheShow. Bonus points if you guess the rating.

Yup, they got an “F,” which does not stand for “Fine.”

I’ll admit, I had a momentary freak-out where I realized that a POTENTIALLY VERY SHADY COMPANY now had my credit card info.

Page Not Found
The store and my order were gone. (SheShow).  SheShow

Owning Up

I resigned myself to the fact that my order would never arrive and, after letting my wife know that I had tried to order her this shirt (I never know what kind of credit you get for trying but failing to do something nice for your wife), I asked my credit card company to dispute the charge, and prepared for the possibility that some dude in China was now using my credit card to by face masks.

What I Did Wrong:

  • I let a flood of Facebook, Instagram, and online ads (all using the same shared signals, by the way) play me
  • I did not take a close-enough look at the online merchandise
  • I didn’t investigate an online retailer I’d never heard of before
  • I let the promise of a tiny online discount override my better judgement
  • I used one of my credit cards instead of either PayPal or a disposable credit card number from my bank
Better Business Bureau
Congrats, SheShow, you got an F! (Better Business Bureau).  Better Business Bureau

So What

The SheShow site reappeared a few days ago, but the online tracking code still goes nowhere. I never got another email from the company or Shopify and, at this writing, that gray “Cuomosexual” shirt has yet to arrive.

Next time, I’ll make and order my own T-shirt on CustomInk.com. Also, thanks a lot, Andrew Cuomo.

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