Wednesday, May 1, 2013

What's going on, Swift? Why someone's trying to suppress our freedom of speech!

Thanks to everyone for the kind words and well wishes about my back and my exam. My back is feeling better - it's all about the piriformis muscle right now, and I'm working on stretching and not doing too much every day, which is really boring! - and my exam went well. These are two of the three reasons I haven't posted much recently.

The third is this...A Canadian shop owner about whom numerous complaints have been made on this blog is threatening me with legal action because she feels these complaints are costing her business. I gave her an opportunity to respond to the complaints last year, and she did. Two weeks ago, the store owner approached me by email and her husband contacted me by phone demanding I remove the reviews or her lawyer would be in touch. She wrote to me the other day to say lawyer would be contacting me at my work address. I haven't responded to any of these messages, other than to ask that her husband not call me as I was upset by his phone manner. I'm waiting to receive the lawyer's letter to see the legal basis upon which a customer of a store is prevented from offering a review of his or her experiences and how such a review might be considered "abusive" towards the store and/or owner.

As an aside, it's weeks later and I haven't received anything from any lawyer, nor have I heard from Saffire Blue. 

I've always said I'll write the blog as long as it's fun...and this is the kind of thing I live to do. I believe in free speech. I believe in being accountable for what I write and what I share with you. And I stand behind what these readers have written about this supplier.

My original career path was all about the law, and I paid my way through university as a legal secretary to learn all I could. I'm not a lawyer, but I've fought and won three cases, one of which was against a government. Coupled with my love of writing, this seems like the perfect way to spend the summer.

I also believe in courtesy and niceness. Asking and discussing is so much more productive, which is why I ask you to be kind to me and to each other instead of yelling and name calling. If you have a problem with me or something I've written, talk to me and assume I'm receptive instead of attacking and bullying!

The reason I haven't written this week is because I've been doing my research on the notion that someone can be sued for defamation of character for writing or allowing to be written a review of a store or product.

All the precedents point to the idea that something written in good faith is fine. Defamation of character is all about lying about someone, and the reviews written about this supplier ring true, and were confirmed by my experiences with them. 

I need to make it really clear that my time was taken up with research. This blog isn't going anywhere! I was having too much fun with my nose in the virtual books!

Ask yourself these question - Have you ever read a review of a product or service that wasn't good? Should that be allowed? Should the business owner be allowed to demand those reviews be removed? Should you be forbidden from writing anything that isn't positive about a product, service, or retailer? Aren't sites like Yelp or Angie's List or things like Consumer Reports based on the idea of reviews from actual customers? Should anything that might cost a business owner potential business be prohibited?

Here is what I ask of you, my fabulous readers - please do not post anonymously. Those who don't have Google accounts can sign off with a "Bye, (name)" or email me within two hours of posting. I will delete all comments for which no one wants to be accountable regardless of topic or content. I will happily stand up for your freedom of speech, and all I ask is that you honour me with at least a first name.

My mom always says the only things scarier than an angry Swift is an angry Swift who knows she's right. This is going to be interesting...

We'll be back to normal by the weekend! In the meantime, why not take a walk through the archives and see what you've missed? Try the label "formulating" for learning how to make your own lotions or "anhydrous" for all the non-water containing products. See you soon!


Veronique said...

I know exactly which supplier you are talking about. Once i spent almost a thousand dollars on an order and i was just missing a thing or two and i sent them five emails and they never wrote back. So I went on their facebook page and wrote them a note and I woke up to an extremely angry phone call from them being super defensive telling me that i was trying to give them a bad name and I was lying. It was the worst experience I have ever had with any business. Needless to say I have never ordered from them ever again. Don't let them bully you. You didn't even write anything bad about them, it was just some former customers saying they had a bad experience there. Hang in there!

Paradisi said...

Is that ole 'She Who Must Not Be Named'?
It's appalling, really. Trying to strongarm a blogger over opinions is ludicrous.

I'm sorry this is happening. Hang in there.

Ingrid said...

Hi Susan,

If you can be sued for giving a review other than stellar, then most manufacturers of products sold on Amazon, Shopping Channel, etc. will have a heyday.
I believe they call it "Freedom of Speech"
Sheesh, what a petty company you are dealing with and I don't believe they have a hope in heck of silencing you.
Love your attitude, girl. Go get 'em.

Cheers, and much support.

Rebel Fan said...

So sorry this is happening to you. I know the feeling. Crazy industry, huh? -Carol

sssoap said...

I don't think it's the industry .....maybe some people within the industry ?

Rivergirl said...

I believe the person to whom you are referring- is well known in the soaping world, and has been again on a bit of a tirade lately. All blow- no go. But very hurtful and rude. Please contact me if you wish so I can refer you to a place online where we who have been abused by the "person who shall remain nameless" congregate and collect documentation that does in fact support all of us in this matter.

Organa said...

Hello Susan!
I do not really know what happened.
But I think we all have the right to complain or publicize a service or something that is not correto.Isso serves to inform people who do not know and be able to anticipate future problems.
If it was a problem with supplier is very interesting to make and will not cause any problem, why trusted providers will not hurt you but help you improve the quality of their services.
What is your blog you have the right to write whatever he wants.

Carry on.

Mesha Tucker said...

If stating an honest opinion of a product or service is something you can be sued over then why does eBay drive you crazy about leaving feedback.

Michele Clarke said...

I guess shows how large your audience really is. That's a compliment. Chin up!

Bonnie said...

Stay away from this L-ady. She is no good. I also got threatened with lawsuit for my negative review. She then turned around and publicly asked others not to do business with me and others. THAT is actually illegal (factual truthful reviews are completely legal. She can only sue if she can PROVE it untrue) and I have all the screenshots of her libel. I'm praying this woman is stupid enough to sue me because I did a little investigations into her "business". It turns out she has no business under any name she does business under. I looked up all her many biz names. In the state she is in, even a sole proprietor needs a business license if taxable goods are sold and delivered in the state. She is not registered to do business in her state and I have proof she did not collect sales tax as required on an in-state order and in order for her to sue for the loss of her business she would have to sue us ALL and have her so-called business audited to prove it's worth but you see those audits would reveal a lot more than she is willing to reveal. Don't worry about this troublesome person who I think is unstable and needs some kind of professional help. She has threatened suit to many all over (and that proof is also available) and always claims to have a lawyer where you live (convenient). She never sues. She's full of hot air and it's actually disappointing because there are so many slandered by her we would all surely have a class action suit that would bury her... if it were worth our time and hassle. But one of these days she will burn the wrong person and lose her shirt. Take care and try not to let her bother you. Let her stay in her own sorry world where for some reason, everyone is out to get her, constantly... a reality she has manifested from her own actions.

abigail wickham said...

Hi this is Abigail and I read your blog and find your information informative. This is where I do my research for any ingredient of product I am looking for. Keep up the good work and I will keep visiting.


LSG said...

Susan, just a note to say how I appreciate and use your blog. I hope all goes well for you.

Nancy said...

Being able to boycott a business based on our own and on others experiences is the backbone of Capitalism - the way it is supposed to work. This issue is more than free speech ...
Swift ... you are on the right path.

Alexis said...

So........there's a Lord Voldemort that sells crafting supplies?

Dose that make you the Harry Potter of lotions? ;-)

Always thought of you more as Hermione..... though I have the hair for the part more than you do. lol

OMG...I get busy and don't have time to look at blogs, and when I finally do get time, it's like all heck breaks loose. Just spent more time than I needed to looking through posts to see who the mystery person/company is and decided I probably really don't need to know. But at the same time I'm still wondering who it is since I stay away from forums and such for the most part and am clueless to the nut jobs that lurk in the hobby.

Not sure if it will make you feel any better to know this, but I have several hobbies and it seems like there's always one complete psycho in every group. IMO these are people who can't handle being told they are wrong or that they did something wrong, and they make noise or threats in order to get their way. Don't put up with it.

Chaeya said...

I think with your legal background, you have nothing to worry about. I also work as a legal secretary and from what I read here from others, you could easily bury this chick and file everything pro per. I've dealt with the same vendors for almost 10 years with no problems. So basically, I don't know this lady and I don't want to know her. I understand your reluctance to name her. I also believe she is a blow hard.

canfieldfive said...

(My Mom says the same thing about me, LOL!)

Wow, I didn't even realize that was going on! I totally agree with what you're saying about freedom of speech in reviewing. I hate it when I have to give a bad review of a product or service, but giving a bad review, when it deserved and used as a last resort, is as much of a public service as giving a positive review when you've had a good experience.

When someone has taken the time to get in touch with a company about something they could do better, that company's response should be to thank them, then to MAKE that change. NOT to harass customers who suggest that they do what any good business should always strive for- growth and improvement.

If you aren't interested in improvement, you are doomed to failure.

Take care, Swift! Glad to hear you're on the mend!

catherine said...

Wow Susan.

I've been too busy to really read/comment on your blog lately bc things have advanced w/ my son's therapies (in a good way :). I keep meaning to comment on previous posts (I enjoyed your recent 'start your own lotion business' post and comments).

So now I read today's post and I just want to say GOOD FOR YOU. It's a pain and not-fun but by standing up to this company/person you are taking a stand for all of us and we appreciate it.

It helps so much that you have a legal background. We're rooting for you.

GOOD LUCK even if you don't need it!!!

Lise M Andersen said...

Susan, you are right in taking a stand here. Unfortunately, there are always going to be a few bad apples in the bunch, and we can't always avoid them. From what I have read so far (and not knowing the background in full) it sounds like you are in the right and are not even the only person this company has harrassed. Hang in there (and feel better in your back soon!)

Christopher said...

I had to read this twice just to make sure I read it right. Getting sued for writing a review that reflects negatively on a service or product? It's preposterous! I've never heard of anything like it.

I don't have a degree in law nor any experience in that field, but I'm 100% sure that she does not stand a chance in court, if it gets that far.

I'm really sorry this is happening to you, especially since all you want to do is inform and help people. You should just brush it off your shoulders and maybe even counter sue.

Hugs and support,

kiev@miraclebars said...

In a galaxy far far away I at one time was in the legal field as well. I did a quick search - I am not sure how this would pertain to your legal system with I know nothing about - but its an interesting article.

Pay attention to the last paragraph, as stated you as the owner of the blog can not be held liable for comments written, but the people who write them CAN be.

Here the argument is freedom of speech - and what it comes down to is truth. So if those people want to sue each person whom writes something negative then that is their prerogative; however, if it be proven that what the poster wrote is true then.....there is no basis for the suit. Like many things cost of such an action prohibits many.

kiev@miraclebars said...

Ooops posted too quickly - sorry this is happening to you.

You didn't cause the situation - its unfortunate they don't simply clean up their act.

Lavarie - der Seifenblog said...

I'm happy you know your rights and don't back down where you don't need to!
Your blog is always such an inspiration and full of profound information (and exchange) - it would be a shame if they managed to put you off blogging freely!

Lindalu said...

Hi Susan,

I am so sorry you are going through this. You can't be sued for voicing an opinion....

Ruth said...

So glad I can hear your voice..
I love your blog..
The only reason I can think of, why someone would not like it...THEY ARE JEALOUS..
Keep up the good work..

Marie said...

I wish I knew who you were talking about to make sure I never do business with them!!

Hang in there...... we're on your side.... the right side!!


Carol Holmes said...

Hi Susan, I'm happy to hear your exam went well and your back feeling better. Being a runner I know the discomfort a tight piriformis can cause. I'm very saddened to hear you're being threatened with legal action. If this shop owner provides excellent customer service her business can't suffer because she will already have built a loyal customer base from which referrals will naturally follow to grow her business. However, if the opposite is the case, well the outcome is obvious. Any good business welcomes critique - 'What did we do good','Where can we improve, how can we do it better'. A customers opinion matters. If a negative opinion or review is found to be groundless it will become apparent very quickly as the business will continue to flourish based upon its good reputation. Thank you Susan for being such an excellent example of how people should treat each other.

Michoux said...

Thank you for your time and your generosity. I couldn't find the supplier who is threatening you, but I hope I will never have to deal with him. Keep saying the truth. Whatever, the most important thing is that your are feeling better. As a new-by I have to say that I did not give up thanks to you. I love your blog and you are my reference.
All the best.

Mychelle said...

Go Susan! We must fight for freedom if speech at every opportunity. It is the backbone of freedom itself. Ridiculous claims and inappropriate behavior. You fight Sissn, we all have your back. Power to the people! Power to the people!

Mychelle said...

of* & Susan,* respectively.

LeKenda said...

Oh boy! I don't know who this person/ company is but it sure sounds like a real winner! I have had negative reviews of some of my items and you know what I did....IMPROVED them! Now I am doing better than ever. If several people are finding your customer service lacking the fault lies with YOU not them.

And to whoever this mystery person is, I truly feel sorry for you. You thought that by threatening legal action you could bully your way into a bigger customer base. Ha! What you have actually done is lay the ground work for a case of harassment (and in America a case of terrorism depending on the language you use which I am quite sure was not pretty or polite) Please do yourself a favor and spend your time improving your business (and according to another poster actually making it legal). Swift sounds like she is just itching for you to attempt to sue her, not a good sign for you.

Gillian Fryer said...

Hi Susan, I am one of your may admirers: I have benefitted greatly from your insight and willingness to share. I too am sorry this is happening to you.

I was plagued with Piriformis Pain Syndrome for about a year on each side, at different times. I am sure it started from exercise (heavy Dead Lifts) and I went to an acupuncturist and a massage therapist and I did the normal exercises (lying on back, put ankle on bent knee of opposite leg and pull bent leg toward you and hold; yoga pigeon position; flossing: seated, straighten leg and round body over leg, then extend leg and sit upright) but NOTHING helped. I ended up taking lots of Ibuprophen (I know its not good for me) and my husband would massage with his elbow as hard as he could. I finally gave up and kept lifting weights. After 3 months of seriously working on the glutes, the pain went away. I know it is anecdotal, but I think the pain was in response to exercising an area where I had severe muscle weakness. ( I had the same issue with a painful shoulder and I think it was b/c of muscle weakness.) So maybe that might help you...? You are way younger than me, so hopefully you will recover faster!!

Secondly, I DO have a law degree (which I don't use) and I can tell you some general things: The truth is a defense to defamation, so as long as what you said was truthful, they can't legally do anything, though they can make life pretty miserable -- even there, you can get legal help to prevent them from contacting you. As you know: any reputable business would do everything reasonable to mitigate customer complaints, not make them worse! Secondly, there is a form you can file in the US to absolve yourself of liability for the posts of other people on your website. I can't recall it right now, but I can search it out. There is probably a Canadian equivalent. Basically you making a statement that you are not liable for the posts of others is not enough, esp since you review posts before you make them public. LMK, if you would like me to find more info on it.

Also, others would look at your intent in the posts you made regarding this business: could it be concluded that you were trying to selectively damage their business? Have you reviewed other similar businesses?

ANother thing: it is NOT appropriate for them to contact you at your work address, since this blog is a private enterprise without a legal connection to your job (you aren't running this blog for your boss.)

I could go on, but I better stop before this becomes even longer! I guess the ball is in their court, so see what they do first. Oh, and try to document everything!

IrishMolly said...

As some one who has a degree in Criminal Background - I call shenanigans. There have been numerous cases against people who post negative reviews on sites like Yelp! and Angie's List. In all these cases it was not the provider (Angie's/Yelp!) of the website that got sued it was the people who left the reviews. In that aspect many companies who perused legal action against the individuals that left the comments committed BUSINESS SUICIDE because no consumer in their right mind would do business with that company A - knowing their track record and B - knowing that they legally went after consumers who are PROTECTED under the Freedom of Speech amendment and had legitimate complaints. Let them throw a fit - people KNOW who this business is and the more they threaten you, the less likely people are to do business with them especially since they are known to make errors with orders and be especially rude about it. Instead of voicing opinions on your blog - people that have legitimate complaints on the way they preform business and respond to customer service should also post on Yelp! and other sites that allow business reviews to show that its not an angry mob on your blog. Also, if you have any more VERBAL interactions (Swift, or consumers) RECORD the conversation. If you have a complaint about the products or missing products and the business does not resolve it CALL The Better Business Bureau of the United States and Canada. Look for statistics on complaints opened and resolved on them. My name is Cait and I approve this message. I also have $20 dollars to my name. American Dollars, which adds .23 cents to your CAD dollars. This is just an observation made on previous court cases. I have no idea who this business is, this advice is meant to be taken as just that, and to be used with ALL business interactions that one comes into contact with.

magoo said...

If a merchant doesn't want bad reviews then he/she should provide an excellent customer service. Attacking you instead of using those reviews to improve which is wrong shows that this woman knows nothing about business.

Keep going, Susan, you are making an invaluable job. We, your readers, stand by you.


magoo said...

If a merchant doesn't want bad reviews then he/she should provide an excellent customer service. Attacking you instead of using those reviews to improve which is wrong shows that this woman knows nothing about business.

Keep going, Susan, you are making an invaluable job. We, your readers, stand by you.


Aljonor said...

The company should just do the right thing by correcting its mistakes and then asking the customer to re-write the post saying that the problem was solved. If they bully people, it is going to make it worse for them. We are now living in a society where people are communicating with other people all-over the world. This company just better get use to it. Word of mouth spreads faster than anything. This is the basic concept of marketing.

Ingrid said...

Hi Susan,

I have to admit to being a little baffled as to the identity of this company that intends to take legal action against you for negative reviews by you and viewers on your blog. I think I have followed your blog very closely over the last 4 years or so and I can't identify the culprit - according to the other posts I read on this subject, neither can they.
So, what gives? Who exactly is this company threatening to sue you for Lord knows what?
I would like to know as I would prefer to avoid purchasing from them in the future.

Thanks for the info,

sfs said...

I completely agree with Ingrid. I'm now afraid to place an order with anyone right now!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Thanks to everyone for your support, advice, and links. Keep them coming!

I'm a Canadian blogger and it is a Canadian company, so Canadian laws would apply to the situation, and that's what I've been researching. I have no concerns, to be honest. The reviews aren't defamatory if they are true, and given my experiences, I can confirm the things my reviewers are claiming happened to them happened to me. I have email from the supplier from a few years ago when we tried to work together up until now, and I would consider those evidence to support what the reviewers are saying. I can't imagine she has a case, but I'm a firm believer in being ready for anything, so now I have my research done to support my position.

And I always know when someone hasn't done their homework about the law when they start their e-mail out with "without prejudice". From this blog: "This is where "without prejudice" letters come in. Marking a letter "without prejudice" protects the contents of the letter from being disclosed; the letter is being sent without prejudice to the party's position at trial. To be clear, however, just marking a letter "without prejudice" isn't going to automatically exclude the letter from use at trial. To be excluded, the letter must actually contain a settlement proposal..." Writing "without prejudice" when you are telling me to remove reviews from my blog or threatening me with legal action doesn't mean the letter is protected, but it does tell me an awful lot about the person writing to me and the level of legal advice they have received.

As for who it is...all will be revealed soon, I promise. I can tell you this - I have removed all references to this company from the blog, such as links to their blog posts or shop, except for the post she wants me to remove. So you know it's not any of the Canadian suppliers I write about in the "Where to get supplies (Canada)" list on the right hand side of the blog. It's also not an American or European or Australian company or a company that spans more than one country.

Thank you again for your support. It's wonderful to know that you care so deeply about this blog and what I'm offering. It really is amazing...

Kelli Spears said...

Hi Susan,
This topic could really get me angry too if I let it. There are people and companies out there that only want to hear "good" comments about the products or services they offer and they get angry or negative when it's not all sunshine and roses. My opinion is, if companies have a review option on their website they better be prepared for both. A review is basically someones opinion or experience with that company and/or their products/services. Having said that, they can have the BEST customer service or products etc. and it doesn't matter. There will always be someone who isn't satisfied. I think the whole reason for reviews should be a learning or improvement opportunity for the business/owner. If it is something about their business or products that could be improved upon then it shouldn't be seen solely as a negative. If it is someone just leaving a nasty review just to be nasty then most people reading that can tell by the content or language that the reviewer is just being negative to be mean, especially if most of the other reviews are good.
If a company keeps getting bad reviews for the same reason over and over then they had better correct whatever issue they are having (on their end) instead of threatening and/or harassing the customers. If there are 10 negative reviews for the same reason then there is probably some merit to them.
A big part of a companies customer base, or future customer base comes by word of mouth (basically reviews) and with the internet that could mean great things or not so great things for the future of their business.
They cannot take away Freedom of Speech and people will talk so my suggestion would be, if they want to stay in business make sure to remember it's the customers who will make that happen......or not.

mz bloom said...

I am sorry you are going through this with 'that company'. Please know if carried further please contact me. I have kept all my documentation of our emails back and forth over a situation I consider very unethical. The lady is not nice and she is causing her own problems by how she does business. I am not one to be bullied either. This industry needs to have a place where, we as customers, can express ourselves and help each other grow our practices and product making businesses. You tried to give the business owner a chance to maybe correct things but it did not work. I believe now your intentions were good and things went horribly wrong because of the type of person she is.
Be well, stand tall!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi mz bloom. Thanks for your offer of support! I'm sorry you had to go through stress with her - every week there are more and more people reporting negative experiences with her, which makes me wonder how she remains in business! I don't think I'll have any problems with her, but it's nice to know as a group we're monitoring the situation and will support each other as necessary!

Danuta Kildan said...

Somehow I missed that post and mentioned the supplier, forgive me Susan, not more of that. I really appreciate your blog and everything I learned from you.

Leanne R said...

I too have boycotted them permanently. Terrible customer service and bad business practices. For those who wish to experiment: Try posting a negative review of something you bought on their website. It will never show up. They screen reviews and post only what they want. NEVER again will I purchase from them, and I have shared my experiences with all I know. Eventually their dismal business practices should put them out of business.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

We aren't alone in our problems with Saffire Blue. Funnily, I haven't had anyone come to the blog to defend them. That's just weird...