MANGO ( December 24th ), ASOS ( December 25th ), and Koovs ( 25th December ).

I placed orders on these three online retailers in chronological order.

Koovs, being local “Made In India”, delivered first – December 26th. The courier person was courteous and the conversation was short. The cardborad Koovs branded box was in good condition and each item of clothing ( two shirts, one sequinned dress and one pair of trousers ) was packed in a plastic SealKing packet. There was also a large polybag within the box for returns and a returns form. You can self-ship the items for return or you can email them and arrange for a pick up. Two of the shirts, Sizes M, did not fit and I filled in the return form asking for an exchange with L Sizes and that I did not want a refund. The return package was picked up on 1st January. I missed a call from the Koovs office after which I received an email telling me that they had received my returns package and since they had been unable to reach me, they were not going to exchange the items and had refunded the amount as a Discount Coupon / voucher within my Koovs account on their website. Ok then. I didn’t appreciate the auto-decision there but decided to re-check their website for new stuff and ended up purchasing two sweat shirts.

Above the package when it arrived and below the package getting ready for returns. Since the box was in good condition, I put the shirts back in the box and then wrapped the box in the large returns polybag. Did not even have to write the address / print a label because the bag contains those details.

In terms of the e-commerce platform, I like the videos they have of models wearing clothes and walking to show how the clothes might look. Since I’m not yet well-versed with how to shop online and what things to look for, I completely missed that one of the shirt’s short sleeves had buttons on the side. Descriptions of the items are also well detailed and except my doubt about “what size”, there really wasn’t anything left to my imagination.

I wore the KOOVS dress I’d ordered for the dinner at Le Cirque.

I’ve also, since, utilized the coupon that was provided for the returned items and purchased two sweat shirts from KOOVS and the package was delivered at my Gurgaon address on the 9th of January. These people are QUICK with deliveries.

The next package that was delivered was my ASOS order.

Linex Courier services called me up on my mobile to inform me that a Customs duty of ~Rs. 6,000 would be applicable on my package. If I was willing to pay it, they would make the delivery. I was informed that the Customs duty was calculated on the entire cost of the package including cost of items as shown on bill + freight charges + insurance charges + customs handling charges. I confirmed if all of this was legal and no bribes were involved and whether I would receive everything in writing. They confirmed it was all regular procedure.

While placing the order on ASOS, I was aware of the possibility of customs duty.

The box was delivered to my address 2-3 days after that call. The person from Linex couriers who showed up gave me the heebie-jeebies – he stared at me lecherously the entire time he was there – all I could think of was he’d seen the brassiere that I’d ordered – in the box. The ASOS branded cardboard box had been opened and was badly taped with Linex branded duct tape. I told him I am writing a story on online shopping and that I needed to take photos of the box and the items as I open them in front of him. He assured me verbally that the box had only been X-Rayed and that none of the items had been touched / opened. Which I found to be false once I cut open the tape holding the box together.

There was one leather bag : outer polybag had been opened to reveal the entire bag and the tissue-paper stuffing of the bag had been removed and re-stuffed. I could not see any damage on the bag. The other contents were a brassiere, which had been taken out of it’s plastic packing and put back in. I could see finger marks on the cups. I had also ordered two pairs of stockings. While the black ones looked untouched, the non-sealed side of the box of the tan stocking had been opened and the stockings looked like they had been stuffed back. I’ve never seen such badly wrinkled stockings – and I am unable to figure out how this happened to them – whether at origin or in transit or at the Customs or at the courier.

The person from Linex Couriers also informed me that if I ordered good that were worth more than Rs. 5,000 and the delivery address was in the state of Uttar Pradesh, Customs Duty would be charged. He said the amounts were Rs. 10,000 for New Delhi and Rs. 3,000 for Gurgaon. I’m not sure these numbers are factual but I have received a leather bag costing more than Rs. 20,000 on my Delhi address and no Customs Duty was levied. This was an international order as well but this was December 2012.

While I was cutting open the box, the person from Linex courier continued to talk about how duties were such a pain and he related an anecdote about a “Minister’s daughter” and how she threw a fit about the customs duties but she still had to pay. The exact amount of the Customs Duty that I paid was Rs. 5,636 as written on the bill – but this gentleman from the courier company asked me for Rs. 5,700. I handed him exact change for 5636 before slamming the door on his back.

Receipts for the customs duty and other charges as well as the ASOS returns shipping label and a couple of photos of the bag. Doctor’s bag – leather and suede.

I can’t even imagine going through the process of “returns” with ASOS – I would’ve definitely returned the wrinkled stockings. I doubt I will be ordering again sadly.

In terms of the e-commerce platform that ASOS uses, they have videos of the model wearing the items and walking on a ramp – but this not true for ALL the items they are selling. Again, since I’m not so well-versed with online shopping, and even though they had images of the bag that I purchased in various angles, etc. I completely missed that the bag does not have a zipper and has only one button to open and close. And I always like my bags to have a zipper.

The third delivery was from MANGO. DHL is their courier partner. I received a call from DHL saying my package had been received but it was on hold till the Customs Officer checked it since the package contained “imitation” jewelry specifically “from Spain”. The package had been shipped by MANGO all the way from Barcelona. I was informed that the Customs Officer only came in on Tuesdays and Saturdays and since the day after the call was a Tuesday, I was told I should have my package before the end of the week. Just before the end of the week, I received another call from DHL informing me that I would need a Form 39 from the Sales Tax office in order to have my package shipped to my address in the state of Uttar Pradesh. When there was confused silence from my end of the phone, I was informed that if I could provide an address for delivery in New Delhi, no such form would be required. I emailed them ( a legitimate DHL email id ) with my address in New Delhi and awaited delivery. It was made the same day I provided my New Delhi address to them. 4th of January.

Above, the status of the shipment before I passed on the Delhi address to them.

I had also tweeted about the first call from DHL and tagged MANGO’s Twitter account. MANGO promptly responded asking for my order number. They said they would get back to me with details on whether there was an issue and would help me resolve it. They did get back to me on email saying that this “Customs Hold” was regular procedure. Does no one from India order from MANGO online? Because if they did, MANGO would have informed me the same without having to check.

If you are in India and are ordering online from MANGO, their website restricts you from ordering items that cost more than Rs. 17,000 or a number of items that is more than 25. While I was ordering I was miffed that there was a limit in place but after my experience with the ASOS delivery, I have a new appreciation for these limits.

Some photos of the delivered box and some of the items.

MANGO’s returns are also not pre-paid – if you have to ship – but you don’t have to ship – you could just walk into a local MANGO store and they will process your returns there – I haven’t tried it but seems convenient.

My initial apprehension for ordering “clothes” online was that I couldn’t be sure of the fit. Brands have such varied sizing policies and sometimes sizes differ from style to style.

Another apprehension was “returns” – for both Indian and international shipments. I wasn’t sure returns would be worth my time. While Koovs did handle it without a hitch, they were presumptuous about the solution. I’ve already mentioned I don’t have the inclination to deal with returns with ASOS. If they were local, I would have definitely asked for a fresh pair of tan stockings. But there is no box / polybag in which I can return the item. Neither is the shipping label prepaid. ( Koovs return shipping is pre-paid. )

This was the first time I ordered clothes online and the experience of actually shopping while ON the website has been tedious. I had assumed it would be a lot less stressful because I wouldn’t have to drive and spend hours walking through actual physical stores. Maybe I’m just used to the “community” feel of shopping with Akanksha, but this online shopping thing wasn’t as entertaining as I’d hoped it would be.

Since I’m not clear on the laws governing the Customs Duties and International Shipments, I’m also not feeling particularly bright when it comes to dealing with the courier companies.

From this experience, I have concluded that the only way for me to be comfortable ordering fashion items using e-commerce platforms is to first try the platform. Once I’ve placed ONE order with them, I can know how their sizes work, how their returns procedure works and how much trouble it will cause me. Trouble is, trials are not free.

There’s a whole bunch of places one can shop online. I’ve been hearing good things about – haven’t tried them yet. One of the things that I really like is that smaller, individual artist and designers are able to set up their own shops online and we can order from them directly.

Another issue I had with MANGO was this : The trench coat I ordered was before their end-of-season sale was announced. The cost of the coat was Rs. 7,590. When the sale was announced, I went online to check how much money I could have saved and the listing on MANGO showed Rs. 10,900 cancelled out and the discounted price shown as Rs. 7,590. I immediately got in touch with them on Twitter and asked them how this was possible and their response was that this coat had been part of a promotion before the end-of-season sale had been announced. I don’t recall any promotion, nor did it reflect the discounted price when I purchased it – I’m not satisfied with their response. However, since I never buy during sales, it doesn’t directly affect me. ( The cost is no longer listed on their online Indian store. )

I like how this space is evolving. And I am going to be ordering from MANGO again – I’m very pleased with the quality of the clothes, the imitation jewelry and the shipping procedure. ASOS should also get DHL as their courier partner and all NCR shoppers should get their shipments to a Delhi address.