Should You Buy from Ewa Michalak?: 5 Ongoing Concerns

Editor’s Note: This article has been edited regarding the legality/illegality of charging VAT for non-EU countries.

CHP Gazeta Bra by Ewa Michalak - Image used with permission

CHP Gazeta Bra by Ewa Michalak – Image used with permission

Polish bras are a big deal in the full bust and fuller figure lingerie communities, for good reason: they’re awesome. While I’ve written about various Polish bra options before as part of other articles, I’ve never done a direct comparison among the companies. This spring and summer, I’ll be reviewing each of the major Polish bra companies so everyone can get a sense of which one might be the best fit for them (and their breasts).



I’m starting with a two-part series devoted to Ewa Michalak. This week I’m going to talk about the buying experience and customer service history of the company and next week I’ll review my latest purchase from them as the first part of the Polish bra company series. We’re starting with Ewa Michalak for two reasons: they’re arguably the most popular Polish bra option, but they also have one of the most checkered customer service histories. 

Margot Bra by Ewa Michalak - Image used with permission

Margot Bra by Ewa Michalak – Image used with permission

When I came up with the idea for this series, I hadn’t ordered from Ewa Michalak in ages. I ordered a beautiful lingerie set a few weeks ago to see what the typical buying experience was like. The invoice images that you’ll see are from that order, so they’re fairly recent. I’m going to cover the five most common complaints about Ewa Michalak, as well as my own experience – with anecdotal evidence from other bloggers and buyers along the way.

Slow Shipping or Shipments Having to Be Resent A Second Time:

I was really worried about this, as I’d recently heard reports of customers waiting two or three months for their Ewa Michalak orders. Mine came lightening fast, considering the circumstances – in three weeks! Polish Post can be slow and unreliable and packages frequently get stuck in customs, so I was impressed. I didn’t experience the issue that some have where packages were returned to Poland and required another shipping fee before they could be sent out again, which I was thankful for.

Unethical VAT Charges to Non-US Buyers:

VAT stands for Value Added Tax. Think of it like a sales tax, but instead of paying a percentage you pay a percentage extra to the company based on the value of the goods. They then turn that into the government and everyone is happy. If you’ve never heard of this, it probably means you don’t live in Europe! This tax doesn’t apply to the US, which makes most lingerie purchased in Europe is functionally 20% cheaper.

Illegally added VAT on my Ewa Michalak Order

VAT on my Ewa Michalak Order

That is, unless you buy from Ewa Michalak. This was one of my major issues ages ago and they still haven’t fixed it, as you can see from the extra 23% listed on my invoice. I don’t know if they think US customers won’t know that or if they just don’t care, but it’s a legitimately bad business practice and it’s been going on for years. I get that it is a pain to have two different systems, but every other business that sells to multiple countries does this – some even have automatic calculators on the website to let you know what the price difference will be depending on your location. Most lingerie business deals with this without charging VAT fees, except Ewa Michalak.

Paypal Fee Charges:

It’s against Paypal Terms of Service for a company to add a surcharge to get their Paypal fee back, but it is allowed in their TOS to charge a handling fee. See that bottom column? It’s specifically a charge for “payment type” – conveniently, Paypal is the only form of international payment that Ewa Michalak accepts. But the real kicker is when you read over: see how that 23% VAT charge that has also been applied to the Paypal charge? 

S Trapez Bra by Ewa Michalak - Image used with permission

S Trapez Bra by Ewa Michalak – Image used with permission

Lack Of Customer Service or Outright Rudeness to Customers:

Customer service is a really subjective area, especially when you’re dealing with different cultures and a language barrier. I’ve heard from multiple Polish bloggers and customers that the idea of customer service in Poland is completely different than what Americans expect, which is fair.  That said, if you’ve heard of Ewa Michalak it’s probably either through fans of their bras or due to their major customer service issues awhile back that got tons of press in the lingerie community.

The lingerie community has documented these issues pretty throughly: from outright refusal to communicate to pulling various bra sizes off the site as a punishment for customers who responded to a question about fit on the Ewa Michalak Facebook page. Various people have also reported feeling shamed by the company’s descriptions and attitude towards different types of breasts. Some customers were even told to go to a different brand when they questioned the fit of the bra that they received.

Two Ewa Michalak Bras in the same size compared - Image used with permission by FussyBusty

Two Ewa Michalak Bras in the same size and style compared – Image used with permission by FussyBusty

Poor Quality Control and Unequal Treatment of Customers:

I only bought one bra, so I can’t do a direct comparison against another in the same size. I’m tempted to do another order, since there’s a bra I really want and this is an issue that I’d like to look into further. The bra I received was well made, felt right on in terms of fit and is beautiful.

That said, other bloggers have clearly documented some serious quality control issues. Since you can’t really complain about bad products due to the customer service issues, that leaves you with the option of either selling the bra on or just getting stuck with a badly made bra. Ewa Michalak gets great press from bloggers, so I wasn’t surprised to hear from a blogger a few years ago that, when they complained about flimsy wires, they were told that they’d be re-sent a bra with “the good wires” (I heard this in a private forum so I don’t want to out the blogger who said it, but I was really shocked by it at the time).

Given my latest experience, would I buy from Ewa Michalak again? My answer is yes, if the bra was beautiful enough. However, I would do it knowing that I was getting overcharged and that I was taking a calculated risk on what the final product would actually be like. I don’t mean for this article to sound like a hit piece on Ewa Michalak: it’s not and I still like their products very much. I just think that any company, especially one as popular as Ewa Michalak, shouldn’t be able to get away with covering up some dicey business practices with extremely pretty lingerie.

Ultimately, if this stuff bothers you enough, you should shop somewhere else. If you love Ewa Michalak and just want your bras, you can also decide that you don’t care about all of this. Both options are totally valid: that’s the beauty of informed consumer choice.

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Holly
Holly Jackson

The Full Figured Chest provides creative and elegant copywriting for the high end lingerie industry.

19 Comments on this post

  1. KathTea says:

    I never realized that VAT charges are illegal for non-Europe/UK buyers. Then again, it makes sense as Vena Cava always refunds the VAT for my orders.

    I am slightly hesitant to purchase a bra from them now, which is disappointing. I am a UK 30B and only so few brands sell my size. Usually I end up with ASOS (usually unpadded) and Marks & Spencers. Then the occasional Mimi Holliday, if I am splurging.

  2. Bug says:

    I didn’t know about the VAT charge or the paypal charge, that said, they are still very low cost for someone in my size range.
    My most recent purchase was caught up in customs for a month,which was very frustrating, but they did email me back promptly with what I wanted when I asked for tracking info.
    Sadly the bra that I waited so long for doesn’t even fit. I don’t know for sure whether it’s from their error or mine, as I was ordering a bra for the first time since losing some weight and I find their size calculator unhelpful.
    I’m looking forward to the rest of this series as I am not familiar with most other Polish bra companies and hope that at least one of them has my size.

  3. Sweets says:

    Oh man, I did not realize the extent of some of the shenanigans, particularly the VAT issue, as both sets I’ve tried have been blogger samples. Hm. It changes my opinion about the brand a little, not so much about the quality (which has been fine so far), but it alters my recommendation (“I like these bras BUT CAVEAT…”). I just placed my first personal order, because there’s a set I want and I also wanted to see what the process is like for a non-blogger order. I’m really interested to see what happens.

  4. Lee Rivers says:

    Yeah, the added VAT and Paypal fees make the bras more like 55-65 dollars, plus ten more dollars shipping. I looked up what was going on with VAT and according to EM, they include it in the bra price, which doesn’t seem correct…

    “Prices of all items available in our store include 23% VAT.
    In Polish tax law there is a possibility of sending goods without vat ONLY to economic entities (companies). Private customers may receive tax refund if they bought the goods in Poland and take them outside the country themselves, declare the goods to the customs and pay the duty.”

    The Polish government’s website says “The zero-per cent VAT rate also applies to exports of goods defined as the export of goods from Poland outside of the European Union in performance of taxable activities. In order for the zero-per cent rate to be applied, the taxpayer must have appropriate customs forms stating that the goods have exited the territory of the European Union.”

    I couldn’t find anything relating to the EM statement on the site.

  5. Cora Cora says:

    Here’s what the EU’s official website says regarding VAT:

    Selling

    “If you sell goods to customers outside the EU, you do not charge VAT…”

    Source: http://europa.eu/youreurope/business/vat-customs/cross-border/index_en.htm

  6. WideCurves says:

    Bravisdimo charges VAT outside the EU, also.

    ORDERS OUTSIDE THE EU
    Although goods sent to addresses outside the EU are not subject to VAT, Bravissimo customers pay the same prices across the world as this helps us to cover some of the additional costs of providing a service to international customers.

    • Cora Cora says:

      That seems problematic…

      P.S. Charging the same price worldwide isn’t the issue, but charging people for VAT and then not giving it to the government is. I mean, that’s not discretionary revenue. They’re basically pocketing tax money.

      • WideCurves says:

        I’ve never seen them list VAT on my invoice (in fact, it says $0 VAT), and it’s a bit difficult to track price between the UK site price, the guesstimated US site price, and what shows up on the cc…but the gist (along with their online policy as stated above) seems to be non-EU customers are charged the same as EU customers…who are paying VAT.

  7. Catherine says:

    It’s not actually illegal to charge VAT outside of the EU. Once you are large enough to be VAT registered, you have to charge it to anyone in the EU who isn’t a business (at the rate of the country the business is based in, hence UK retailers are at 20%, Polish at 23%), and then pay it to the government. You CAN zero rate sales outside of the EU, but you don’t actually have to.

    Most businesses end up charging the same price to everyone, largely because it’s a software nightmare to do different tax rates to different countries – seriously, it’s pretty much THE issue that’s held up software changes on KMD for over oh, at least 18 months now? VAT admin is nightmarish, especially in world dominated by software that works on the sales tax model instead.

    Unless you are alleging that Ewa don’t pay their VAT bill (unlikely), there’s no evidence here that they are doing anything illegal.

    • Lee Rivers says:

      I think EM shouldn’t say VAT is included in the price if they make a separate charge for it. Are they charging it twice, or is the statement just false?

  8. cat says:

    These are all valid reasons for me to continue my business with other Polish brands.
    Even though Ewa Michalak is the most popular Polish brand in the full bust community, it is not the only one! I’ve been very happy with other brands in terms of customer service and fit so I have no reason to work with EM’s shenanigans.

  9. sabine says:

    I am from europe and vat is always in the sales price, you can see that at the invoice, prices are always include vat
    in the us the prices are exclude vat. i ordered 3 bra’s and never had any issue, fast shipping within 5 days, for me cheap, other companies are expensive, bra ewa incl shipping $ 50 , other companies about $ 100.

  10. Karen Golec says:

    According to the Ewa Michalak website:

    Prices of all items available in our store include 23% VAT.

    In Polish tax law there is a possibility of sending goods without vat ONLY to economic entities (companies). Private customers may receive tax refund if they bought the goods in Poland and take them outside the country themselves, declare the goods to the customs and pay the duty.

  11. Shanna Nanna says:

    I’m just seeing this article, but it is immensely appreciated. I’ve been on the fence about purchasing from Ewa; this information is great to have.

  12. […]  The brand has also had issues with consistency in sizing and poor customer service – this post gives a good run-down of some of the considerations prospective EM customers should make before […]

  13. Lauren Martin says:

    Personally, I’ve ordered bras from 4 other companies in the last year, before getting my bra from Ewa Michalak. This EW bra is the first on that has fit me properly out of 5 bras! If they need to charge a bit extra I will happily pay it. I don’t feel like I waited too long. 4 to 5 weeks. Either way, it fits, it’s beautiful, it’s got my boobs way higher than they usually are and the price is still cheaper than it is in the bra stores in Winnipeg; that carry my size. So far so Good.

  14. Naomi says:

    I have been measured by 2 different shops and got 2 different sizes recommended in EM. 50k and 48LL. Then another site said 115HH. I am so confused and braless. If you know of any sites that have my size other than Goddess and Elomi please contact me.

  15. Rae says:

    The review is dead on! I purchased one bra back in October 2014 and loved it. I knew about the VAT and the Paypal charges but still thought the price was fair. The bras was wonderful, the fit terrific. In January 2015 I ordered 12 bras and was not as lucky. Each fit differently with some being small. Even thought all were ordered at the same time, I had to split them into three different orders due to their system not allowing me to do a large order. Each order arrived separately with one taking three months to arrive. Needless to say, I’m thinking twice about going back.

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