Delving into wigs or toppers can be life changing. Transformative even. It can help restore confidence, and support in coping with diagnoses associated with hair loss. It becomes a way of life for many living with Alopecia or medical hair loss. Wigs have become so common, so mainstream, that they are seemingly everywhere. There are no shortage of hair sellers or alternative hair options to explore! For those who wear hair regularly, one becomes compelled in their search to discover that perfect piece. For someone just discovering the world of helper hair, it can stimulate a newfound sense of optimism.
You’ve been saving up your pennies! The time has finally come to purchase that piece you can’t stop thinking about! It’s still in stock. How has nobody else scooped it up? Your heart is racing. Add to cart…click! You’ve just dropped some major cash on a new wig or topper and your adrenaline is rushing! You know this will be the perfect piece- it HAS to be. The cut, colour, style, hair type, size- it’s everything you’ve been hoping for. And she’s all yours! You’ve got a good feeling about this one…this will be the one!
Your excitement about this piece only grows while you patiently await its arrival. LOOK! There’s the mail truck!
You open the box and suddenly, a pit in your stomach. Something seems off. This is IT? This, my friend, is wig/topper disappointment…
We’ve all felt that disappointment. It’s all too common in the hair world. Hair purchases are laden with emotion, positive and negative. So many hopes and dreams for a better, more positive view of the self become wrapped up in these purchases.
Add to that the fact that it so incredibly difficult to shop online for hair! How things appear on the screen, how they are described by a seller, and how they are perceived by the recipient can vary widely. Even if you go into a shop to buy your hair, there’s a chance of wig disappointment. You picked the wrong colour, or the piece ordered for you doesn’t look like the store model you tried on. You’ve taken a chance on a colour you’ve been eyeing but it isn’t what you expected from the small colour sample or tiny square of pixels.
In this 2 part series, I’m going to walk you through how to manage this wig/topper disappointment.
First things first: breathe! It’s going to be okay.
The best advice I can give you about managing wig/topper disappointment is to prevent it altogether. It can be extremely overwhelming sifting through hundreds of listings, understanding different types of cap constructions, grades of hair quality, brands, and other features. You will want to do your homework before investing big bucks and get familiar with these basics. You also need to have an idea of what features are most important to you. If you like the flatness of a lace top, you might not get that with a silk based wig or topper. If you want a natural scalp, a silk top may be the way to go. If you don’t know the pros and cons of the various cap constructions, you haven’t done enough research.
Even if you know exactly what you’re looking for, and/or are an experienced buyer, making an impulsive decision to purchase a piece can lead you to miss details, or to purchase without ensuring you have had all of your burning questions answered! It can also lead you down the road of compromising on some of the aforementioned features you previously decided on. I get the temptation to make a hasty purchase because many of the well-known brands sell out quickly! But it can lead to costly mistakes.
Here are some MUSTS when it comes to preventing wig/topper disappointment:
-I said it already, but it’s worth noting again. DO YOUR HOMEWORK! You need to know wig/topper basics, cap construction, and take accurate measurements.
-Work within your budget, and even below your budget because as you will read in part 2, you should plan for aftermarket expenses to make your piece your own. Don’t forget about shipping costs and import fees!
-Become familiar with a seller’s return policy in advance of your purchase. Some sellers charge a restocking fee and/or require a piece to be returned within a specific time frame, with minimal or no modifications. This way, in the event a piece is not exactly what you’re looking for, you will know what to expect as far as returns/exchanges and be prepared for this. As a side note, you cannot and should not expect a seller to waive a restocking fee just because you don’t like something about a piece, have changed your mind, or because your financial situation changes (unless there is a true defect, in which case you should communicate directly with the seller to understand their policy about defective items). Restocking fees help minimize returns and account for the time spent prepping a product to ship to you, and then re-washing, re-styling, re-listing, and re-packaging items for purchase. You should also verify the seller’s return policy on custom orders as they sometimes differ from stock pieces.
-Factor in the cost of return shipping and restocking fees into your hair budget. Consider this a “try on fee” which some wig shops will charge. If you have the opportunity to visit a wig shop to do an in-person try on, expect a mark up compared to prices online, but this will let you have the opportunity to see, touch and try on a piece. Don’t feel pressured into buying unless you are certain about a piece.
-Schedule a consultation if its offered by the seller you are looking to purchase from. Some have free consultations and others charge a fee. Virtual consultations are sometimes offered. The fee is generally nominal and costs much less than a restocking fee so if you have a lot of questions, concerns, or are an inexperienced buyer, having a consultation can end up saving you money in the long haul. Communication is a huge part of making a good hair investment! If you aren’t satisfied with a seller’s communication or openness to answering your questions, try another seller!
-Make sure you read a seller’s FAQ section on their website and ask any and all additional questions before buying. You can ask a seller to describe a colour as it may show differently on one screen versus another, so having a description may be a more accurate way to familiarize yourself with the tone and shade to make sure you are ordering something that fits with your needs. Wigs and toppers also tend to be styled for photos so ask about the air dried texture if this is important to you. Request more photos if needed.
-YouTube is your friend! Get on there and watch a ton of wig/topper reviews, colour spotlights, tutorials and demonstrations to get a feel for a brand or colour you are considering. This is especially important in the case of purchasing synthetic wigs/toppers because you are pretty well unable to modify the colour of synthetic fibres. Read reviews on Facebook and other websites to see what others have experienced dealing with a brand.
-Talk to others whose pieces look how you would like yours to look and ask them what modifications they have made to their piece. This will give you an idea of a piece’s potential. It is sometimes helpful to look at unboxing videos so that you can see how a piece looked upon arrival and scroll through someone’s Instagram feed and/or YouTube channel to see if they have follow-up videos/photos of a piece post-customization.
If it’s too late for prevention, here’s what you can do:
-When you first receive your new topper or wig, you should take it out of the box and thoroughly inspect the piece for any obvious defects or flaws. You should also look at the colour in both natural and indoor lighting to make sure that it is the colour that you are hoping for. However, if it is a human hair piece, know that the colour is generally, but not always, a resolvable issue.
-Pieces can sometimes arrive with “box hair,” the helper hair equivalent of bed head. Or it may come styled differently than how you would generally style your own hair or pieces. You may also notice the uncut lace and the clip/comb placement. Look past all of this easily remedied issues.
-Put your emotions aside. We don’t tend to do our most objective thinking when we are overly emotional (positively or negatively). You may be over the moon about a piece and hastily cut the lace only to realize the cap doesn’t fit. Or you may feel disappointed with the purchase and resort to lashing out. A clear head will allow you to work out any issues cordially with a seller. Occasionally, issues are unable to be resolved and third party resolution can assist (PayPal or credit card protection).
-You don’t have to make up your mind about a piece the second you take it out of the box (unless it’s love at first sight!) Being familiar with a seller’s return policy will give you some flexibility in taking a day or so to think about whether you can make the piece your own. Try it on a couple times. Take photos. Ask a friend. Wear it around the house.
-If you have decided a piece does not and cannot work for you, initiate the return/exchange process per the seller’s policy. Items MUST be returned in the condition in which it was received and within the timeframe or a seller may ship it back to you at your expense and decline your refund request.
-If you have decided that a piece will not working for you, but don’t want to pay a restocking fee, reselling or consignment options are available. Facebook, Instagram (be sure to check out @TradingTresses), Poshmark, Craigslist, Kijiji and other online selling tools can allow you to recoup some of your money. You will need to incentivize your buyer to purchase from you by offering a discount unless you are selling a highly sought after piece. Why would someone pay full price from you when they can purchase directly from a seller and have the option to return or exchange? Sites such as RE: silkorlace (https://silkorlace.com/collections/re-silkorlace) or Doppelgänger Wigs will accept gently used pieces for consignment. This means they will do most of the legwork for you, but will cost a percentage of your sale.
-If you’ve decided to keep a wig or topper that isn’t QUITE what you wanted, or you’ve missed the return deadline, you can give your piece a function. Be creative! Can it become your gym hair, pool hair, updo hair, yard work hair, weekend hair, date night hair, hat hair, wash day hair, unexpected knock at the door hair? You get my point.
-Whether you decide to keep, return, exchange, resell or consign your piece, you should look at every hair purchase as a learning opportunity (albeit, a costly one). You will learn what you like or don’t like about a piece, which features you enjoy, which sellers you would buy from again or avoid, and any considerations you need to make to level up your next hair buying experience. Buying hair gets easier with more experience, so you will always be more in the know for your next purchase. And there WILL be a next purchase because even the best quality hair and caps don’t last forever!
Take it from me, someone who has experienced topper disappointment, it totally sucks when you think you’ve finally found your unicorn piece, only to find it’s not quite what you expected! Stay tuned for part 2 where we will hear from some wig experts who will help us tweak our pieces and make us shine!