Lost Stock mystery fashion boxes leave customers furious. The campaign initially designed to be charitable has left customers disappointed and furious as they didn’t receive what they had hoped for, but isn’t the point of a mystery box that you’re taking a gamble with its contents?
Soon after lockdown high-street stores where forced to close their doors, and a scheme called Lost Stock appeared, offering shoppers the chance to have a mystery fashion box delivered to their door.
Customers provided a range of details including their age, gender, size and clothing preferences for the retails to match items, they then paid £39, and waited for a parcel containing a minimum of three items of clothing, which they were told would retail for approximately £70.
The initial goal was to sell 50,000 Lost Stock boxes by the end of the year. By September, 116,000 had been ordered as bargain-hungry Brits snapped up the deal online.
The Lost Stock initiative was created by Cally Russell, an Edinburgh-based businessman and the founder of the fashion shopping app Mallzee, to buy up clothing produced in Bangladesh for western brands.
But as the boxes arrive on customers’ doorsteps they have been dividing opinion. While some buyers have been delighted with their purchase, others say they are “disappointed” and “furious & feeling duped” because they did not receive what they were promised.
As the pandemic reached its high, retailers including Topshop and Dorothy Perkins chains, as well as Primark and Edinburgh Woollen Mill cancelled or suspended £2.4bn of clothing orders from the country’s garment factories in an attempt to reduce their losses.
So what goes to charity?
Almost 40 per cent of the proceeds from each £39 box, about £13, is donated to Bangladesh through the Sajida Foundation, a non-profit organisation based in the country. The donation is enough to feed a Bangladeshi family for a week. The other plus side to the concept is it saves the clothing from landfill so it helps the environment.
Are the complaints legitimate?
The contents of the Lost Stock box were a disappointment for Besma Whayeb among others, however, Whayeb who writes a sustainable fashion blog does not think the three tops and dress she received matched the clothing preferences she indicated.
“It wasn’t what was promised and the customisability of Lost Stock was actually quite a big selling point for me,” claims Whayeb.
“It was quite frustrating, it leaves me in a position where I have three out of four items that I don’t particularly want and they are sat in a bag at the back of my wardrobe.”
Other customers have complained about finding a “made in China” label in some items of clothing, or about being furious at the time waiting for their boxes to arrive.
Some have expressed disappointment on social media that some items in their box appeared identical to tops being sold on the website of the discount fashion and homeware retailer Matalan for less than £70.
How are complaints being addressed?
Russell has apologised to any customers who are not satisfied with what they received and said the firm would find a solution, such as a refund if they got in contact.
He confirmed Lost Stock would also cancel the orders of any customers who were not willing to wait for their box.
So they’re doing what they can to help with complaints, but in all fairness, can you really complain about a mystery fashion box not containing something you want?
He said the initiative had only bought cancelled stock from factories, the vast majority of which were in Bangladesh, but also purchased a small number of products from elsewhere.
“We always said in rare circumstances that we might buy stock that has been cancelled in other countries, and this has been on our website since the very start,” he says.
Russell would not disclose which high-street retailers had originally ordered the clothing purchased by Lost Stock, but said he was aware some items were available online.
“Those lines were cancelled lines and obviously that retailer has now reinstated parts of it,” he says.
Is it fair to complain about the contents of a mystery box with a focus on charity?
Lost Stock says it has thousands of “very satisfied” customers, significantly lower return rates than most online retailers, and that 20 per cent of customers have placed a second order. Which is great news for the charity.
Roberta Lee, a sustainable fashion stylist, bought a box to support the cause and says she was “pleasantly surprised” what she received.
“It frustrates me that people can be so negative about what they have got in the box when it was clearly outlined at the beginning that it was a response to the challenge with unpaid orders due to COVID-19. It wasn’t an exercise in styling and fashion,” Lee says.
Under the UK’s distance selling regulations, Lost Stock will have to refund any customers who are not satisfied with their purchase.
When it launched the initiative, Lost Stock encouraged customers to swap any unwanted items with each other, or donate them to charity, which seems like a really logical way to be a decent human.
How can you help going forward?
Since its launch, a children’s clothing box has been added, as well as boxes containing autumn and winter clothing for adults. It’s a fantastic idea for Christmas along with visiting your local charity shop, to save money and help good causes.
Meanwhile, western brands continue to cancel orders that have already been produced in Bangladesh, leaving the country and its residents in financial despair.
“A factory owner got in touch with us who had 270,00 pieces of knitwear cancelled by a UK retailer with no payment made,” Russell says.
“Hopefully what we have done can be a catalyst for long-term change, and can drive people to think more about the supply chain where they buy their products from and the impact that they can have.”