Not the bargain it seems: Avoiding a leather coat rip-off

Investigations

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Before you jump on a great sale this holiday season, consider that the item may not be the bargain it seems.

First, you should research prices online to see how much an item is selling for before you shell out your hard-earned cash.

RELATED: 6 On Your Side Answers: Saving money on Christmas shopping

WATE 6 On Your Side recently investigated an instance of ads being taken from an actual leather products company, by a little-known Shopify online store.

How to spot the difference from a high-quality leather jacket to a possible fake one? A local leather maker shared some insight.

If a high-quality leather coat retails for more than $3,000, you would not expect that any business would sell it for just $50.

But we found such an ad online – local experts tell buyers, beware.

In Gatlinburg, Marsha Fountain is showing a piece of deerskin leather to a customer. Larry Laney has some leather projects in mind he wants to make as gifts for Christmas. Marsha sells leather by the hide at her Gatlin County Leather and Gallery store.

The leather she sells comes from tanneries around the United States.

At Gatlin County Leather, Elk is a popular hide because of its rich color, while thick Bison or Buffalo hide is often used to make belts and wallets.

The online ad

Since 1973, Overland has been making luxurious sheepskin leather outerwear. We showed Marsha and designer Jody Trammell Overland’s recent online ad for its line of leather coats and jackets.

They agreed a $3,400 shearling sheepskin coat is good-looking, “a very fine coat,” and is a popular style among discerning customers.

A viewer sent us a picture of the same coat from a website called Novaplum, where you’re encouraged to “act fast” at this price – around $50.

The leather experts say that simply cannot be done and have a nice jacket.

Marsha and Jody say they’ve never heard of Novaplum. The company’s ad claims there’s a markdown on the sheepskin coat from $76 to $53.50.

“One piece of leather would cost more than that. It takes about five hides to make a coat like that,” says Marsha.

WATE contacts Novaplum

We contacted Novaplum asking how they can sell a $3,400 coat for only $53. We also asked why the pictures of their website looked exactly like those on Overland’s website.

Novaplum’s website lists no business address, there also no one to call, so we sent an email five days ago. Their response: “Your case will be taken care of by our dispute management team.”

We have not heard back.

We also contacted Overland. The company responded quickly and directly. Overland said it’s “aware” that some pictures and descriptions of their clothing line have apparently been copied” and they’re taking legal action to stop it.

Back at Gatlin County Leather and Gallery, the advice is simple — know what you are buying before spending your money.

“I wouldn’t want anyone to spend even $53 on something that is not worth it. That’s got to be not worth it,” Marsha said.

Overland taking action

A spokesman for Overland tells us that Novaplum is one the many website that has allegedly copied pictures and descriptions from Overalnd’s online shopping site. Overland says it has reported 28 websites to date, hosted by Shopify, that are fraudulently claiming to sell Overland products.

Overland says it trusts that Shopify will take swift action to remove the websites that defraud customers.

Again – before you send money for something that seems too good to be true, first, do your research.

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