Too Cheap To Be True: What’s Behind Those Instagram Clothing Ads

January 10, 2018

For the Atlantic, Alexis Madrigal writes about his experience buying a camel-colored coat after seeing an ad for it pop up on Instagram.  When he receives the coat?

“The material has the softness of a Las Vegas carpet and the rich sheen of a velour jumpsuit. The fabric is so synthetic, it could probably be refined into bunker fuel for a ship.“

He’d bought the coat for under $100. “Who’d be fooled by that?” you’re thinking.. Apparently, enough people to make such businesses a growing phenomenon. Madrigal explores how someone can set up an online storefront with no capital or inventory, target advertising, even hire workers (!) with very little money, and sit back and let the hundreds pile up (well, not really). And why just by clicking through one of these ads, you may be sentencing yourself to seeing them again and again and again as your history chases you around the internet.

For more on how such enterprises use modern e-marketing tactics to try and  fleece suckers, check out artist Jenny O’Dell’s great piece “There’s No Such Thing as a Free Watch,” where she tracks down the provenance of a discarded timepiece.

It’s all a little depressing: junk product being sold through spurious means to customers who will be inevitably disappointed, sort of the modern digital equivalent of ads for X ray glasses in the back of comics. A reminder to do at least a little research before you buy online, to buy from reputable businesses, and that the truism “you get what you pay for” still broadly applies.

Read more here.