By GREGORY ZELLER //
It is a period of online commerce. Rebel shoppers, striking from their homes and offices, have scored numerous victories against the evil American Retailers.
But beware the dark side, warns the Better Business Bureau, which is advising everyone in the Outer Rim to steer clear of Zo Galaxy, a wretched hive of scum and villainy posing as an online dealmaker.
Zo Galaxy goes by a lot of names – the QStarWars Store, JGalaxy Toys, Bobitex, ZedGalaxy Play and many more – and owns nearly as many web domains, each offering out-of-this-world deals on “Star Wars”-inspired collectibles, videogame systems and other hot items.
But according to a BBB file opened in June, Zo Galaxy and its clones are nothing but a dark fleet of credit destroyers – a phantom menace operated by scoundrels, using their technological terrors to execute a fairly basic scheme.
The bureau, which has given the Brooklyn-based (kinda) business an “F” rating, considers Zo Galaxy “a moving target,” with more than 20 different aliases and URLs, all registered to “untraceable private domains.”
Customers are lured via ads on Facebook and other social media platforms, promising terrific bargains for a limited time (often with a timer conveniently clicking down, like a Death Star quickly orbiting a gas giant).
But the pressurized pitch, of course, is a path to the dark side – products don’t show up, customer emails bounce, U.S. mail is returned to sender and Zo Galaxy has no published phone numbers.
As far as the BBB is concerned, the company is lost in space. Following several customer complaints, the bureau sent an Aug. 1 letter to Zo Galaxy’s Brooklyn address, asking owners to substantiate online advertising claims – but according to the bureau, the letter was returned by the U.S. Postal Service.
That prompted the “F,” but neither the customer objections nor the BBB’s admonitions have stopped Zo Galaxy from spinning. The bureau is still receiving complaints about the rogue unit – 17 (and counting) through December, according to the not-for-profit watchdog, many from frustrated shoppers who purchased Sony PlayStation 4 consoles for the bargain-basement price of $99 apiece, only to have their new hopes crushed far, far away.
As of Thursday, a simple Google search uncovered a Jedi Temple’s worth of merchandise for sale at zogalaxystore.com, where the “Star Wars” toys look great, the prices are stellar (up to 80 percent off retail), worldwide shipping is free and a full refund is “always guaranteed.”
But it’s a trap, warns President and CEO Claire Rosenzweig of the BBB Serving Metropolitan New York (the branch covering New York City, the Mid-Hudson region and Long Island), who notes the evil mind trick can be especially effective this time of year, when hyperspace is jammed with deals on hot collectibles.
“Scammers can use popular toy trends to trick holiday shoppers,” Rosenzweig said Wednesday.
To help galactic citizens navigate around Zo Galaxy and similar Sarlacc pits, the BBB is beaming several suggestions to all Alliance outposts, encouraging consumers to ensure legit contact information, search the web for honest customer feedback and generally avoid too-good-to-be-true social media ads, which probably are.
The BBB also operates a real-time, regionalized Scam Tracker where consumers can report cons and shoppers can search specifics, checking individual companies and products for rip-offs.
Armed with these weapons, the brave band of online shopper struggling to restore freedom to the economy may have a fighting chance against villains like Zo Galaxy, according to Rosenzweig.
“Anytime you see unusually low prices for hot items on an e-commerce website, be skeptical,” she said. “It could be a scam.”