In October of last year, an MJ Defrancesco ordered a dice necklace from me on Etsy. The week after, he ordered another one. Cool, repeat customer! The he ordered another. Then he ordered one and had it sent to someone else. Ooo, he's giving them as gifts! He must really like them. I was very happy. He continued ordering them, having them sent to himself or various other people in various countries, all the way through this month.
Unrelated, I was browsing eBay for Firefly and Serenity stuff because I'm obsessed, and found someone selling the Blue Sun Travel posters. Ooo, shiny. I'd only seen them on eBay and this seller appeared to have the best price, so I bought them, thinking "Less than $40 for all 5 posters? Great deal!"
The next day, I'm in my PayPal account printing a shipping label for someone who made a purchase from me, when I notice a payment to MJ Defrancesco, a name I know well. I was confused for a moment then realized I had bought those posters from HIM! What a funny coincidence! I was pleased our various geeky internet selling ventures had come full circle. I even emailed him to say how funny it was.
Then I thought, what other fun geeky stuff might he be selling? Let's find out! He has an entire store full of fun geeky things. How neat.
Then my heart dropped. Then the rage started.
Right there in his eBay store was my dice necklace. I could tell it was mine because HE WAS USING MY PHOTOS. MY photos, that I painstakingly took after cataloging all my dice and arranged the necklaces and options so nicely and used my nice camera and edited the photos in Photoshop. MY WORK. The photos have since been removed from the listing and I didn't think to screen shot it, so unfortunately I have no proof. I hope you will trust me.
This means all those dice necklaces I thought he was sending to friends WERE BEING SENT TO HIS CUSTOMERS. Notice anything else funny? Oh yeah, A TEN DOLLAR MARK-UP. To say I was livid would be the understatement of the century. I was a veritable She-Hulk of rage.
I immediately sent him this message, after I had just messaged him saying how funny it was that we bought from each other:
"Other hilarious coincidence? YOU'RE USING MY DICE NECKLACE IMAGES. CEASE AND DESIST IMMEDIATELY."
I then called eBay to report him. While I was on the phone with a very nice but bewildered Indian lady, he removed the photos and I received this message from him:
"...hope all is well sarah -
...posters have been shipped -
...will add tracking -
...photos removed as requested -
very truly yours -
I concluded on the phone with eBay, who would "investigate further." Right. I responded angrily to him:
"Did you really think it was okay to resell my necklaces and use my images without permission? Did you really think it was okay to have me do YOUR job and send the necklaces to YOUR customers? I thought they were GIFTS. I thought you were just a good customer. I am NEVER selling to you again, you lying worthless jerk. I can't BELIEVE you did this to me."
To which he maddeningly responded thus:
"...thank-you for gifting the world with your creations -
...this item has ended -"
What the EVERLIVING FRAK??? He was just making me MORE ANGRY. So I responded, a little more calmly:
"I appreciate that you are trying to apologize, but I don't think you're getting why I'm upset. You USED me. If you had only ASKED me first, we could have worked together on this. Ask permission and give credit. It should be pretty common sense. Instead you used my product and images without permission or credit. I put a lot of work into cataloging, photographing, editing, and listing my products. All you did was use the work I did. That's not fair to me at all. I hope, if anything, you can at least understand that."
He promptly sent:
"...as a sincere apology for this unprofessional (d*ck) action a full-refund has been issued -
...please accept your item free-of-charge -"
I was slightly mollified at this point. $40 worth of free posters was kind of cool. I didn't respond. I was completely worn out from my rage and just wanted it over with. Which I thought it was. Until today.
The UPS man comes to the door and hands me a package from ThinkGeek. "Huh," I think to myself, "but I've already gotten the order I placed with ThinkGeek." I open it to find...the Blue Sun Travel posters I ordered from MJ Defrancesco. Which you will see, if you follow that link, were EIGHTEEN FRIGGING DOLLARS FROM THINKGEEK. Not $40. Not even close.
He did the EXACT SAME THING HE DID TO ME...to ThinkGeek. He sold an item in his store, ordered it from the merchant, and had it delivered directly to his eBay customer. Of course I immediately looked it up on ThinkGeek. And found the dramatically lower price. And flipped out again.
I love ThinkGeek. They are one of my all-time favorite stores. If I had realized they sell those posters, I would have bought them from them in a heartbeat. Stupidly, I thought his $40 price was good. Luckily he refunded me for his "d*ck behavior" so I haven't wasted any money on them, but WHAT THE FRAK?
Further delving led me to find Ian Leino's Serenity Sake t-shirt in his shop (which I own, and bought directly from Ian Leino, THE ARTIST) today, so I notified Ian that he's probably doing the same thing to him. No artist credit in his eBay listing, big surprise. Gods forbid the customer figures it out and buys directly from the artist.
Amazingly, MJ has decent feedback, and none of his negative feedback seems to indicate anyone else has caught on to his game. Don't worry, I'll be adding my own. I also reported him to Etsy, trying to get him banned as a customer in case he was doing it to anyone else, but they sent a typical non-answer:
"Thank you for reaching out to us. We are so sorry to hear about this. Intellectual property concerns are a legal matter which Etsy takes very seriously.
If you believe that another member or item on Etsy is using your photos, you may choose to respectfully contact the other person via Etsy Conversations with your concerns. This page from our Help site provides information about using the Conversations feature on Etsy to contact another member: http://help.etsy.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/71/
For concerns about other types of infringement, we must follow specific protocol when handling these complaints. Etsy has a detailed policy regarding how to report infringement, and if we receive proper notice per the policy, we may remove listings from a shop."
Since he was not infringing on my rights with an ETSY listing, there is nothing they can do. Whatever. Thanks for nothing.
Here's my packing slip from ThinkGeek:
I don't know how his other eBay customers haven't smelled something fishy when their package "from him" arrives directly from another vendor. I doubt he has a single item in his store actually in his home. I can't prove that, but it appears to be his selling method to use photos from someone's store, create a listing for the item at considerable mark-up, then order from the original vendor and ship it to his customer when the customer orders from him. It feels like that's probably what they teach you in those sleazy "Get Rich on eBay" seminars.
The worst part is, he's probably just skating on the edge of legality. I'm not 100% sure we can get him on anything but the copied photos. But what he's doing makes me SICK. Sure, the original vendor/artist gets paid, but MJ makes a profit for doing NOTHING. It's just exploitation. It's DISGUSTING.
So, if you're a vendor affected by this and want to do something, I can supply all of MJ's contact information. If you're a friend and are as outraged as I am, leave a comment to make me feel better. This whole debacle has been a ridiculous roller coaster of rage.