What you should know about buying wedding dresses online

TEMPE, AZ - Buying a wedding dress online might be significantly cheaper, but how do you know if you are really looking at a good website?

It was a magical moment for Kat Miernick, who after months of waiting, tried on her wedding dress.

"Everything for this…yes…I love it," she told the gaggle of supporters, made up of her mother, sister and friend.

For months, Miernick, 29, has been on the hunt for the perfect dress.

"It's all about the color, detail, workmanship and how it fits," said Frank Hambicki, owner of Tempe's ‘Once In A Life Time Bridal and Formal Wear.'

Hambicki, who has been selling wedding gowns for more than 20 years, admits there is a constant struggle with online sites that lure women with deals.

"You can not talk to the person directly, pick up the phone," he said. "You don't know what the product looks like."

Recently, he said, more and more customers want to haggle down prices and they will use what they see online as a way to make a deal.

He calls the online deals knock-off dresses, which are not made with the same quality manufacturer dresses are made.

To lure women, he said companies overseas use the same pictures you'll find in his catalog on their websites.

Prices for the dresses are significantly cheaper.

"They try to make it identical, but they don't use the same beading, they don't use the same fabric, they don't use the same workmanship," Hambicki said.

He purposely bought a dress online to show the difference.

"They sewed the whole bottom of this dress like a bell skirt, but the original is not. It's just a straight hem line," he pointed to a flaw.

The problem is, women don't realize the difference until they get the dress and by that point, it might be too late.

They often are based in Asia, Hong Kong and China, according to Jeremy Gin, a co-founder of sitejabber.com , a consumer website that uses reviews to track down bad sites.

Based on reviews it came up with the top worst sites of online wedding gown sellers.

"That's not to say all sites based in Hong Kong or China are scams, but unfortunately many of them are," Gin said.

He doesn't think people should be discouraged from looking for online deals, but he advises consumers to do their research.

Use sites like sitejabber.com to look up what other people are saying about a certain website, he added.

"Worst cases might involve people having their credit card information, their identities stolen by these sites based in other countries," Gin said.

Gin tells people to look for a listed phone number on the sites.

If there isn't one, that is your first red flag, he said.

Miernick didn't take any chances.

She flew from Nashville to try on the dress she fell in love with months ago.

This story was generating a lot of attention Tuesday morning and was discussed during ABC15's Now@9. Watch the discussion by viewing the attached Now@9 video.

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