Shirts featuring April the giraffe, Harambe, other zoo animals could be scams

Zoo animals have become celebrities in recent months: April the giraffe, Fiona the hippo and Harambe the gorilla are just some of them.

But one college student was ripped off for hundreds of dollars when trying to buy a t-shirt to memorialize one of them, and has a warning for anyone looking to buy zoo merchandise online. 

Google search for Harambe shirt

Kyle Zimmerman is a savvy college student. But even the brightest of us can fall for a scam.

Zimmerman wanted a t-shirt honoring Harambe, the gorilla was that killed at the Cincinnati Zoo. "I just did a quick Google search for a "R.I.P. Harambe shirt," Zimmerman said. "And the first [website] that came up was Etsy."

Etsy -- an online marketplace for homemade crafts -- has dozens of Harambe shirts listed for sale.

"I found one for $25, and ordered it right then and there from my phone," Zimmerman said.

But the next day, Zimmerman received a receipt for $625. "The email opened up and said 'Quantity: 1, $25; Shipping: $600,' he said.

Zimmerman was stunned. "$600 to ship what was probably a $5 shirt?," he asked.

Furious, he checked the seller's listing, where he discovered, "[The seller] doesn't do cancelations or refunds, only returns."

Seller deletes profile

So he disputed the charge through his credit card and bank. But the bank couldn't stop the charge because, he explains, "The bank said I accepted terms and conditions of the seller, and so it was on me."

The good news: After he emailed Etsy, the site agreed to refund the blatant shipping rip-off. An Etsy spokeswoman pointed to their rules, which state that inflated shipping fees (beyond what shipping really costs) violate its policies, and are strictly prohibited.

Our attempts to reach the seller were futile, though, as he had deleted his post and profile.

Zimmerman admits he missed Etsy's safety tips, explained on its website, that say:

  • Check seller feedback.
  • Contact the seller directly through their "Conversations" feature, and learn more about him or her.
  • Read the seller's shipping fees and return policies.

Etsy says it is investigating the seller, who has disappeared. But this is a reminder that Etsy, like Craigslist and eBay, are marketplaces, not sellers. It's up to buyers to research each seller individually.

Next time Zimmerman wants a zoo animal shirt, he says he will "Make sure I check the details, because you could look for a cheap shirt, but end up hit for $600."

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“Don't Waste Your Money” is a registered trademark of Scripps Media, Inc. (“Scripps”). John Matarese reports on deals and scams so you Don't Waste Your Money. "Like" his page on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @JohnMatarese.

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