Several years ago I first encountered Kerrie Allman when I ordered ~$100 worth of cashmere from her company, Hipknits. Actually, my mother ordered it- it was to be a Christmas present. We ordered at the beginning of December. The yarn never came. Eventually I contacted the company, and after several messages, was told it had gotten lost in transit and they promised that another replacement shipment was on the way. I replied back- "Will it be the same yarn I ordered? Because it looks like it's sold out on your site..." but never got a reply. A few months after that, there was still no yarn, and I began asking for a refund. No reply. I tried every email address I could find, and since Kerrie had claimed in several venues to have an "overactive spam filter", I also sent Ravelry messages (during this time Kerrie was posting on Ravelry so there's no reason to think she wasn't getting them.) Eventually, frustrated, I started a thread on Ravelry asking if anyone else had had problems, and what they did to solve them. (The first post has been edited pretty significantly from it's original form, hence all the links and such.)
Posts POURED in. So many orders "lost in the mail." So many replacements promised. So many emails "lost in the spam filter." Since Kerrie was shipping from the UK, and kept making promises to replace orders, most people missed the window of time where they could contest payment with Paypal. And once that window was gone, the communication stopped. (Meanwhile, Kerrie kept posting fluffy little bits of nonsense on her blog and otherwise interacting online as if nothing was wrong- as if she didn't have hundreds of emails in her inbox representing thousands of dollars owed.
Soon, other complaints emerged. Designers had not been paid for their patterns in Kerrie's online knit 'zine, Magknits. One designer hadn't even been notified that her design was accepted, until she saw it on the front cover of the next issue. A yarn store reported placing a HUGE order of Hipknits yarn- half of it never showed, and the rest was so tangled and fragile that it all had to be rewound by hand and sold at a deep discount (in fact, I visited this yarn store over two years later, and she STILL had some. It was that unsellable.) One person informed me that Hipknits used factory seconds as its base yarns- inferior quality, obtainable cheap. I don't know if this is true, but it would certainly explain the quality of the yarn I saw.
By the end, I had finally received a refund from Kerrie's then business partner (she never bothered to email me back herself), Magknits had been closed down with no warning (in what appeared to be an act of spite, though who knows), and I think about that time, Ravelry instituted the "don't use Ravelry for customer service" rule :-P (Sorry Casey and Jess!!) I actually consider this experience lucky- it happened when I was a fledgling designer and prevented me from ever submitting to one of Kerrie's publications. As an interesting sidenote- my refund was Paypalled directly to me, even though the order had been placed with my mother's credit card, which is insanely unprofessional. It was also for $100 even, even though the order was something like $95.85. As far as I could tell, they didn't even have any of the original order information anymore, and were just taking my word for it that they owed me :-P
Kerrie founded (I think? She ran it, in any case) KAL Media, which produced such magazines as Yarn Forward (now "Knit" and soon to change again), Inside Crochet, and quite a few more.
Again, designers reported not getting paid for their work, or receiving their samples back in the mail, and, as is par for the course, not getting any sort of communicative response from the company. Finally, last summer/fall, designers began speaking out- on Ravelry, on Twitter, and on their own blogs. Some have been paid, albeit many months late. Some have not. Not just designers, either- tech editors, too. Many designers never got their sample back, despite promises to the contrary.
Owing a great deal of money, KAL Media went into liquidation. I don't know *exactly* what that term means legally in the UK, but what I do know is that the company was "bought" by All Craft Media, which is owned by Kerrie's husband, and apparently absolved of all debts. There were claims that ACM would honor the contracts and debts that KAL had racked up... but, as they are quick to point out, they aren't *obligated* to.
That's right- Kerrie and her husband are still profiting from magazines filled with designs from designers who were never paid, and telling the designers that they don't HAVE to pay them. Neener neener, suck it, designers.
And the latest drama to unfold- the Knit Magazine Sock Club has been riddled with many of the same problems that Ms Allman is known for- "lost" shipments (man, she really needs a new mailman!), a complete lack of useful communication, marked by unanswered emails, deleted Ravelry posts, unkept promises, and the occasional poor-me post or email that only serves to make everyone angrier. Apparently the last shipment, rather than being a hand-dyed yarn as promised, will be a cheap commercial yarn worth far less than what sock club members paid.
Why am I telling you this?
Because I am so, so tired of a new thread cropping up every few months with a new batch of upset, ripped off knitters and designers. It makes me sick that this person is still in business, and that people are still defending her and giving her second chances.
Designers- I don't care if you are newbies, you deserve to be treated with respect, and there are a lot of companies out there who will do just that. KAL/ACM feeds off of new, inexperienced designers who are desperate to get published or who don't know their history. Don't submit. Your talent is worth more than that. Before submitting to a new publication, do a little research :-)
Knitters- please, please don't support this company. Not only will you get ripped off (sock club failures, subscriptions delayed or lost in the mail...and let's face it, the quality is going to go down when designers stop wanting to submit!) but you'd be enabling KAL/ACM to profit off designers that they apparently have no intention of compensating.
Anyone owed money by this company: Don't give up. Unfortunately, public shaming seems to be the only way to get them to listen. If you've purchased something and you're within the 45-day-Paypal-window, CONTEST that shit ASAP. You can also contest through your credit card company, and I've heard-tell that contacting something called Trading Standards (the UK's BBB, I believe) couldn't hurt, though if they haven't shut her down yet, I don't know what it'll take. If you are currently working on a design for one of their magazines, I highly recommend calling off that contract or getting payment before you send it. Designers- don't worry about looking "unprofessional"... every other editor worth their salt knows exactly what's going on and isn't going to fault you for being open about this. They're the ones being unprofessional. Don't let them get away with it.
And finally, Kerrie- get the fuck out of this business. Seriously. What are you doing?? Running a business isn't for everyone, you know. There's no shame in data entry or grocery-store-cashiering.
A few References and Resources:
A list of current ACM publications:
- Knit Magazine (soon to be renamed, again. Perhaps because of all the unfortunate hashtags?)
- Inside Crochet
- Simply Beautiful
- Sew Hip
- Handmade Living
- Handmade Fashion
- Modern Quilting
- Hipknits (I believe currently run by a relative)
(Am I missing any?)
And here are some other posts about this company, in case you are curious:
Joyarna (some good links in that one.)
Here's Trading Standards:
Anyway. Enough boring old serious photoless drama text for one day. Back soon with something cheerier and woolier :-)