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Beware of gray-market haircare products

July 7, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Consumer specialists are warning shoppers about gray-market hair products. These are products that are sold through unofficial channels or at unauthorized places. For example, a gray-market shampoo is one that is only supposed to be sold at a salon, but ends up on the shelves of your local store.Many haircare products that say they are only sold in professional salons are appearing in places like CVS and Target. Consumer experts say when something like this happens, it is called "diversion"; in other words, when a salon or distributor engages in backdoor sales to stores, it is called the "gray market" because those actions are not illegal, but it is a violation of the manufacturer's contract. Therefore, the company can no longer guarantee the product's quality.

There are times when gray-market haircare products turn out to be counterfeits. Illinois police recently confiscated hundreds of bottles of fake shampoo. In Florida, fake Paul Mitchell products were seized; and after testing, officials found they were contaminated with harmful bacteria.

A surprising thing about these gray-market products is that they usually cost more than many would think. For example, "Curly Sexy Hair Detangler" costs $16.95 at a store, but costs a dollar less at a local salon.

"You're going to pay more of a premium for that product because they still have to make a profit off it. They're not getting it that much cheaper," said Kenny West, Red Door Salons.

Target told ABC it offers professional haircare products to better serve its guests. Target also said it buys the products on the open market in full compliance with the law. CVS says all of the haircare products it sells are obtained through legitimate channels and that customers can receive a full refund for any reason.

 

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