St. Louis, Mo., March 2, 2012 – When a schoolteacher from Belleville, Ill., went online to order a holiday gift for her daughter’s boyfriend, she thought she was buying an authentic David Freese Major League Baseball jersey. What she got instead was a fake.
“It’s the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen,” said Marceline Brooks, manager of the Cardinals Team Store at Busch Stadium. “It looks like somebody did this out of her house.”
With spring training in Florida kicking into high gear this month and opening day just weeks away, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) is warning baseball fans in St. Louis and elsewhere to be cautious when buying baseball jerseys and other sports-related items, especially online. The BBB also urges caution when purchasing authentic St. Louis Blues and other NHL apparel as hockey playoff season approaches.
The Belleville teacher says she knew she was in trouble when the jersey she ordered from www.stlouiscardinalsstore.com turned out to be too small and she could not get the company to give her an address to exchange it. A company representative told her that if she wanted another jersey she would have to pay for it. “Before I placed the order, I made sure there was a good return policy,” she said. Now, she hopes that other customers in the market for baseball apparel can learn from her $184 mistake.
Michelle Corey, BBB president and CEO, said that fans need to understand that the market for sports apparel is plagued by counterfeits. “Just because a business tells you it carries authentic merchandise doesn’t mean it is authentic. The bottom line is if you want to be sure an item is genuine, deal with businesses you know.”
The teacher said she was searching the Internet for jerseys when she found www.stlouiscardinalsstore.com which described itself as “the official pro shop of the St. Louis Cardinals” and offered authentic jerseys at deeply discounted prices. An official with Sportservice at Busch Stadium said that site and an almost identical one, www.authenticcardinalsproshop.com, have no connection to the Cardinals or Major League Baseball.
It was only after receiving the jersey, the teacher said, that she realized she might have been duped. The mailer packet was from Shanghai, China and most of the information on the envelope was in Chinese. After she was frustrated repeatedly in her efforts to exchange the jersey for a larger size, the teacher contacted the BBB, which confirmed the jersey was a knockoff.
The BBB found numerous phony websites claiming to sell authentic Major League Baseball apparel for the Cardinals and other major league teams. In many cases, the wording on the sites was in poor English or there were other signs that the sites might not be legitimate. Authenticcardinalsproshop.com, for instance, advertised an authentic Majestic brand Cool Base Rick Ankiel jersey, but the photo of the jersey showed the name “Rick Ankie” across the back. The same site offered an “authentic St. Louis Cardinals Joe Morgan” jersey, with No. 8 on the back of the jersey and No. 5 on the front. Morgan, who is in baseball’s Hall of Fame, played with five major league teams, spending most of his career with Houston and Cincinnati. He never played for the Cardinals.
Brooks, with the Cardinals Team Store, knew that the David Freese mail order jersey was a phony as soon as she saw it. She noted that the World Series patch was on the wrong sleeve, the Major League Baseball logo and Majestic patch were both incorrect and the cardinals’ eyes on the counterfeit jerseys had pupils, unlike the birds on authentic jerseys. Another tipoff: the Freese jersey has a Size 50 tag. Majestic does not manufacture a size 50.
The Sportservice official said the only way to ensure that online Cardinals merchandise is authentic is to buy from mlb.com or the shopping link at www.stlcardinals.com.
The BBB offers these additional tips for consumers looking to make sure they get the real thing when buying baseball merchandise:
- While some counterfeit items are easy to spot, others can be more difficult. If buying from a store or vendor, try to compare the item you are considering with a piece you know to be authentic. Look closely at tags, stitching and lettering on jerseys.
- If buying online, be cautious of prices that seem unusually low. Most authentic jerseys sell for anywhere from $260 to $300 each, not $120 or $150.
- If there is a problem with your order, make sure there is a return policy and an address where you can return it. Make sure, too, that there is a phone number you can call in case of a problem. Beware of any sites that have sketchy contact information.
- Look for BBB Business Reviews of merchants by going to www.bbb.org or by calling 314-645-3300.
About the BBB
The BBB is a nonprofit, business-supported organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. The BBB provides objective advice, free BBB Business Reviews on more than 4 million companies, 11,000 charity reviews, dispute resolution services, alerts and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. Please visit www.bbb.org for more information.
Contact: Michelle L. Corey, President and CEO, (314) 584-6800, firstname.lastname@example.org; Chris Thetford, Vice President-Communications, (314) 584-6743 or (314) 681-4719 (cell), email@example.com; Bill Smith, Investigator, (314) 584-6727, firstname.lastname@example.org