Recently I had an interesting email conversation with a woman who “took a gamble” on a scarf from TBN, even though there were horrible reviews visible, in plain sight, from scores of TBN customers. These were one star ratings and blistering reviews that would have kept most credit cards firmly anchored in a wallet instead of “taking a gamble” on a cheap scarf from China.
I started the conversation by asking her if there was a “made in China” sticker on her newly purchased scarf (which was made from material “a tad bit stiff and there was a hole where a 1/2″ piece seemed to be missing from the lace part of the scarf”). She said “no, there was no ‘made in China’ sticker”, instead she sent me a photo of the scarf with it’s cute little “handmade with love – Three Bird Nest” tag. TBN would have loved to have had her stop there, but helpfully she sent me a second picture of the scarf with it’s SKU/bar code taped to the outside of the package. Dumbfounded, I asked her why she thought something that was “hand made” needed a SKU/bar code attached. I’ll stop the story here and simply say that people don’t appear to understand that a “hand made” item doesn’t need a bar code sticker, and that, in fact, a bar code sticker attached to a hand-made item is an infinite loop of crazy.
But the bar code/made in China question brings up a double jeopardy situation that TBN currently finds itself mired in. A situation worse than it’s 100+ furious customers with their scathing reviews, a non-existent BBB rating (it was an F until they discredited her store) and the universal stink hanging over the entire Etsy community’s heads. TBN, by removing “made in China” stickers is in direct violation of the US Department of Homeland Security “Country of Origin Marking” requirements.
You see, there is a funny little thing called NAFTA “marking rules” that require that TBN disclose to it’s customers in which country the item is primarily “hand made”. There are no exemptions to this rule that TBN can claim ~ in other words they can scam Etsy’s customers, such as the woman who believed that a hand-made item needed a bar code, but the US Department of Homeland Security isn’t going to be that naive. And if TBN removes the “made in China” stickers in order to pull the (nylon) wool over their customer’s eyes, they are triggering a much heavier hammer than the BBB and it’s wimpy “F” grade. Not even Etsy’s complicit board members will be able to bail Ms. Schaffer out of this mess.
Conversely, leaving the “made in China” stickers ON the items is just as risky for TBN, because obviously a head wrap made of one piece of lace that states “made in China” doesn’t have, nor will it need significant enough alterations to come even a continent’s length close to changing which country the item is “originating” in.
So which is it going to be…pick a bone with Etsy customers, or pick a bone with Homeland Security? I know which one I’d pick, but oddly TBN seems to be straddled right in the middle of both positions, a very fascinating double jeopardy situation worth paying attention to.
Later this week…the story of the disappearing “negative” reviews from TBN’s site and the sudden random sprinkling of 5-star “shipped fast” reviews, designed to let all the customers know that the “warehouse issues” have been resolved. Fair warning Etsy and TBN ~ not all of us think that a “handmade item” needs a bar code sticker…and some of us are even smart enough to print the negative reviews before they disappear.