The first six months of 2020 was a turbulent time for Smilelove and their customers. After briefly halting operations, the company reopened promising a new business model and fulfilled orders.
But paying customers are still waiting for their aligners or refunds. Read through Smilelove’s recent reviews and you’ll find a disturbing saga of denied refunds, unshipped orders, and absent customer service. So, what happened? That’s what we’re here to discuss.
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Why Did Smilelove Cease Operations?
In short, the COVID-19 outbreak has hindered Smilelove’s ability to fulfill orders and provide customer support. But an April 24 Instagram post revealed that their financial concerns go a bit deeper. See for yourself:
From what we’ve gathered, Smilelove’s business model depends on a constantly growing customer base, and for a while, they were expanding rapidly. But when their growth slowed, Smilelove leadership found themselves in a dire situation, resulting in layoffs and service delays. And this is where, it appears, things began to fall apart.
Look over Smilelove’s customer reviews on the Better Business Bureau or Bestcompany.com and you’ll find a whole bunch of one-star reviews reporting a complete lack of communication. With a downsized staff, customer service faltered, leaving some customers feeling frustrated. These poor reviews made it increasingly difficult for Smilelove to grow their customer base. Then, COVID-19 hit.
Beginning in March, it seems like Smilelove’s customer communication fell off the map, and so did their reviews. A quick scroll through the comments on their Instagram announcement will reveal a lot of customer frustration with their radio silence.
The Better Business Bureau has warned new customers against doing business with Smilelove. They have over 240 complaints about Smilelove pending (because the company has not responded), according to Utah BBB President Jane Rupp. “This is a problem, because what Smilelove is saying is that they can’t afford to service current customers who have paid.
But, they are taking money from new customers, even if they may never be able to restart operations again,” Rupp said in a statement to Salt Lake City’s Fox13. “Putting any money into Smilelove right now is a huge risk for consumers. Their service isn’t cheap, and the business has given no guarantees that you can expect to receive their products, or your money back.”
Considering Smilelove’s current situation, we think it’s best to steer clear. Fortunately, they’re not the only home aligner company on the market. If you like what Smilelove treatment offered, you’ll find comparable alternatives in our guide to the 3 best Smilelove alternatives.
How Is Smilelove Dealing with Existing Customers?
Anyone who’s in the middle of their Smilelove aligner treatment might be worried and wondering whether they’re on their own now. We’ve spoken to Smilelove customers who are currently completing treatment, and they’ve said that the company has been nothing but responsive and helpful, even recently.
It looks like many of the customers filing complaints are people who have completed an impression kit but have not yet begun their aligner treatment. Some of them, however, pre-paid for their aligners but haven’t received a refund. If this is your situation, unfortunately, you shouldn’t expect a refund anytime soon. In a May 12 email to their customers, Smilelove said that they’re not in a position to process refunds right now. Here’s a look at the email:
All of this leads us to believe that Smilelove’s limited support team is focusing on customers who are currently completing treatment while they sort out a plan for restarting their manufacturing processes. But if you’re still waiting on an order from Smilelove, know that they are working on a plan to fulfill it. According to a May 21 blog post (since removed, but you can an archived version here), they’re working on an agreement with one of their partners to fulfill all incoming orders. And for every new order, Smilelove says, enables them to fulfill at least one existing order.
But accepting new orders (and payments) while you’re not able to fulfill your existing ones is a highly questionable business practice. In doing so, we think Smilelove isn’t doing right by their current customers.
Smilelove Customer Feedback
Don’t take our word for all of this. Here are some highlights from customer complaints to the Better Business Bureau (Smilelove has not responded or attempted to resolve any of them):
- “I ordered my impression kit and retainers for $1395 on Feb 29th and sent in my impressions […] On May 8th I requested a status update. They responded that because of COVID they could not offer refunds or continue with my order. I then requested refunds several more times and got no responses. I would like my order refunded because I never received my aligners.”
- “I paid SmileLove for orthodontic treatment in February, 2020 in full – $1,495. However, they never gave me my treatment and will not return my many emails or attempts to contact them via social media. I have asked for a full refund at this point, but have heard nothing from them since March, 2020. They still have a live website and appear to continue to be taking money from people. I believe they are fraudulent at this point.”
- “I’ve paid over $500 and still have not received my aligners months later. The last update I received was on May 11th saying they are not processing refunds and the production for aligners is on hold. It is now August and still no updates and I have reached out multiple times. Highly disappointed and disgusted with this company.
- “Purchased clear aligners and I never received anything. I paid 1500$ up front. Have contacted the company for months and months. Emails, phone calls, texts, and social media. I paid for them in October 2019, it is currently August 2020.”
These are just four out of hundreds of complaints, all telling essentially the same story: a customer purchased aligners, never received those aligners, was told that there would be no refunds, then never heard from Smilelove again.
Is Smilelove Gone For Good?
According to their Instagram announcement, Smilelove is staying afloat with funds from the federal government’s Payroll Protection Policy. A recent post on their blog, however, outlines their plan going forward. Here’s an overview of the changes they plan to implement as they get off the ground again:
- A price increase to $1,895
- An additional $300 fee for cases that require more than 40 aligners
- A staff reduction
- A specific customer service representative assigned to each customer
It appears that Smilelove fully intends to relaunch their business operations after scaling back a bit. Their plan seems solid and well-intentioned. However, we still have concerns. After a promising first round of fundraising, Smilelove has not been able to secure additional investors, which is often essential for growing startups. This lack of funding, combined with the damage to their brand image and customer liabilities, will make it very difficult to resume their previous operations.
As we outlined above, they have a plan and an essential partnership for moving forward, which is encouraging. But this plan still relies heavily on acquiring new customers, which may or may not happen at this point.
Best Alternatives to Smilelove
Once again, we’d advise you to stay far away from Smilelove. But this doesn’t mean you have to abandon your dreams of a straighter smile. There are a few different Smilelove alternatives that are operating as usual, including a couple that we think are even better options! Here are a few other home aligner companies to consider:
#1 byte: Best Overall Value
byte is our #1-ranked home aligner company and the fastest option on the market. Their prices aren’t quite as low as Smilelove’s, but we think their lightning-fast treatment times (3 months on average), personalized customer support, guaranteed orthodontist oversight, and nighttime-only option make them worth the extra cost.
Check out our full byte review for more information.
#2 Candid: Premium Service
Perhaps no other home aligner company takes quality as seriously as Candid. Like byte, they guarantee orthodontist oversight. Plus, they have a manufacturing partnership with ClearCorrect and they’re the only company to offer Remote Monitoring, which provides regular orthodontist check-ins to keep your treatment on track.
If you can handle their higher prices, Candid is also a great choice. See more in our full Candid review.
#3 AlignerCo: Lowest Prices
If you were drawn to Smilelove for their cost-effectiveness, take a look at AlignerCo. They’re the only company that beats Smilelove’s sale prices, and they do so without sacrificing product quality and customer service. They might still be young and small, but AlignerCo has set themselves apart as an effective and highly affordable option.
Interested? Take a look at our full AlignerCo review.
This is a difficult situation for everyone involved, and even though Smilelove has been a great option in the past, it’s no longer a safe or reliable option for new customers. If you’re first starting to consider home aligners, remember that there are a few other high-quality options out there! Our Top 5 Home Aligners Guide can help you get started with another company that’s currently in service.