'It's a very expensive lesson'

FRIENDLY: A screenshot of the initial messages between Ms Jasmine and bag seller Serene Zhao. PHOTO: INTERNET

When the administrator told her sister-in-law last July that she was looking to buy an Hermes Birkin bag, the latter set her up with someone she knew.

The sister-in-law had bought a few bags through Miss Serene Zhao without any hiccups.

Miss Zhao told the administrator, who wanted to be known only as Ms Jasmine, she could get the bag for $19,000 - it was priced at $23,000 by other online sellers - but needed $5,500 as deposit first.

Ms Jasmine told The New Paper that their chats were friendly.

She transferred the deposit to Miss Zhao's bank account and got a reply.

"She messaged me and said that she received the money. (Miss Zhao) seemed like she had a procedure and nothing seemed amiss then," Ms Jasmine said.

After eight weeks and repeated messages from Ms Jasmine, Miss Zhao finally replied that she needed more time to "check out the Europe market" and would get back to her at a later date.

After this, Miss Zhao would only respond when Ms Jasmine pestered her for updates.

"Even so, she would reply only after one or two days and gave excuses to delay further," she said.


Ms Jasmine then contacted Miss Zhao using her husband's mobile phone in October last year.

"My husband pretended to be an interested buyer and she replied immediately, asking to meet up. That was when we suspected something was wrong," she said.

Ms Jasmine made a police report and went to the Small Claims Tribunal, but said Miss Zhao did not turn up in court on two occasions.

In her absence, the Tribunal ordered her to pay Ms Jasmine $5,526 as compensation, court documents showed.

Another woman, who wanted to be known only as Ms Cheryl, said she had known Miss Zhao for seven years.

"We used to be very close. She would tell me about her bag reselling business and that her supplier had run away.

"I tried to advise her to return the deposits that she collected, but she claimed she had her ways," said Ms Cheryl, who is in her 30s.

Sometime last year, Miss Zhao claimed that she could sell Ms Cheryl's Hermes Birkin bag for $18,000.

As she trusted her, she passed Miss Zhao the designer bag.

But she never got any money and later found out the bag had been sold. Ms Cheryl said she tracked down the buyer who told her she had paid for it.

"But I never received the $18,000 from (Miss Zhao). There have been no updates from her since then.

"I never expected her to be so shameless. We're talking about thousands of dollars here. She is really too much," she said.

Ms Cheryl, who is currently unemployed, said she is in contact with other women who had been allegedly cheated by Miss Zhao. At least four police reports have been made, reported Chinese evening daily Lianhe Wanbao.

Said Ms Jasmine: "We don't want to spend any more money hiring lawyers for this case. It's just not worth it. We just have to treat this as a very expensive lesson."

My husband pretended to be an interested buyer and she replied immediately, asking to meet up. That was when we suspected something was wrong.

- Ms Jasmine, who said that Miss Serene Zhao often delayed answering her messages.