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This blog is dedicated to stamping, tips, musings, and whatever I want to post.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Reap What You Sow--the PTI Train Wreck

I am receiving many questions asking about the graphic I posted yesterday about PTI on this blog, from customers who are not part of the PTI Forum and have no idea what has been happening there for the last year. This post will be my attempt to post the facts as well as my personal opinion about how it is being handled.

Firstly, you should know that I have been a loyal Papertrey supporter from the very beginning. I was a fan of Nichole Heady’s work before she started the Papertrey Ink, (with Julie and Jane Heskamp), as their brilliant and talented designer. I have also been a fan of many of the Design Team over the years. I LOVE PTI product. I love their designs. I own more PTI product than anything else and I have been stamping for about 18 years now. I am an avid stamper and love good product. I also think they offer excellent product for a reasonable price. I have not found cardstock as wonderful anywhere else. I love their coordinating stamps and addition sets. I feel they have been the most innovative stamp company that has existed in the last 5 years.

A couple of years ago PTI produced ink pads that were clearly defective and that seemed to be the initial problem. I sent pads back per their instructions and it took 4 emails and about 6-8 months to get a refund. They only refunded for certain products and some customers never got a satisfying resolution. Additionally, returns were made at the customer’s expense when it came to shipping, which has been the way they do things for defective items, even at excessive cost and time for international customers.

The decline of this company, particularly in customer service has been obvious for over a year now. The sheer number of people who report they never got packages, or got them only after repeated hounding of customer service is appalling. Dozens and dozens of people have reported that they never got prizes they were owed for many months after repeatedly contacting customer service. The 2011 Anniversary sets as of a couple of months ago were not received by what seemed to be hundreds of customers. A pallet of packages was lost in the warehouse for 12+ days and only discovered after customers repeatedly complained. Even when it was discovered customers were not immediately notified.


Things kind of reached a pinnacle when the mishandling of customer service became a focus when Karen (an international customer) posted an email from Julie, who is one of the owners. She directed the thread to Nichole as Karen had faith that Nichole would apologize for Julie’s response and remedy the situation. Honestly, I think that is what all the customers expected but instead, Nichole’s response was, “I am sorry that YOU misunderstood the policy”. It should also be mentioned that Karen had tried to contact Nichole personally and was unable to do so. PTI refuses repeatedly to provide a customer service phone number. It appears this was all Jenn’s mistake in the first place, as Jenn specifically said “your equivalent of first class mail" to Karen. Nichole and Julie treated Karen very rudely. The thread was then deleted and Karen asked again for resoluton in another section of the forum and that section was then completely removed from the entire forum, leaving only the main board for customers to ask questions since their emails were being ignored. Jenn finally refunded the $20 for international shipping. Customers at that point became very vocal and many came out of the woodwork not only to state they had had lengthy frustrations, but some also revealed actual emails where they had been told by an owner that if they were not happy with the customer service (despite issues still unresolved) that they should probably just shop elsewhere.

Recently, when there was a mistake made in a stamp set, customers were told to send a self-addressed, stamped envelope and they would receive a correction in 4-6 weeks. Really? What happens to the customers who have this problem and don’t read the forum? Why shouldn’t the company automatically just send one and pay for the postage themselves to replace each set that went out?

Only when customers became extremely vocal did the placating begin with little visible fixes here and there. Sadly, it seemed to be window dressing as the big issues were still continuing as the customer service representative became increasingly abrupt with customers on the public forum. In fact, changes only seem to come after very vocal customer public “tantrums”.

We then received notice that since Customer Service was thousands deep in emails they could not answer, they were deleting (yes, you heard that right) all the emails and people could just resend them their issues. Unfortunately, this was all on the forum so thousands of customers/potential customers had no idea that their emails had been deleted and so they were waiting, with some probably still waiting to this day.

Other issues have included a new website, which debuted on the 5th Anniversary Release. Once before they introduced a new forum, which was a disaster and customers were afraid this would be another debacle. And—it was. People could not use reward points, people could not complete orders, some credit cards were unjustly rejected and some of us, including me, could not get PayPal to work. Additionally, to this day the store is a total mess with many duplicates, impossibility to find certain items and for awhile they even had the buttons up for the wrong inks. Just try to navigate the pages with the tiny thumbnails, particularly if you have not memorized the hundreds of titles for the actual sets.

As things went from bad to worse, 4 former Design Team members began to reveal their histories with PTI and the frustrations that led to them leaving PTI. These 4 had previous remained very quiet. It is my guess that they knew that this would all come to a head without them having to tell their experiences. No need to seek revenge as they knew long ago that things were not being run with efficiency and integrity in their opinions.

There have been so many problems that I cannot go into the details of all of them. People have been sent the wrong items, sent sets with problems, had their orders held without their knowledge known as the “binder debacle”. Customers have had to fight for every little detail to be fixed often at their own expense. The company actually made the customers provide a year’s invoices before they would believe that the customer “deserved” an anniversary set. I don’t know about you, but I have never had to save stamping invoices from anywhere. It is the company’s job to keep records.

Customers have been treated like liars and some have posted emails from owners that were seriously disrespectful. These are not rare instances, but common responses.

I have, for years, purchased, recommended, and did HUGE amounts of free advertising for this company and I want to publically make it clear that I absolutely do not support their business practices any longer.

Yesterday, one of the Papertrey representatives “hand slapped” on a legitimate thread concerning customer service that had been stated in a fair and calm way. He continued to get more rude as the thread went on. The thread then disappeared. One regular asked for a clarification on a question and from that moment several customers were banned, one after another from the forum. In my opinion, none of them broke the TOS and yet they were banned without warning. There was NO apology from the rude administrator and instead the customers were blamed for the problem, as is PTI’s recent way of dealing with problems brought up by customers. Many of those who simply wanted the issues to be fixed honestly have now been silenced. Or, at least PTI thinks they have been silenced. I think the fallout they are about to experience will show once again that they have once again used very poor judgement.

Will I still use their product? Yes, absolutely. There is nothing wrong with the stamps and products that I own and I have put a lot of money into my PTI collection. I still love PTI design. I will still buy used items from individuals to add to my collection. I may still participate in shares with other customers so that I can replenish certain items or complete collections of designer papers, etc.

I will no longer direct anyone to their company. If Nichole Heady were to leave PTI and design elsewhere I would give that a chance. In the meantime I will be purchasing from Waltzingmouse, Hero Arts, Lawn Fawn, Impress Stamps, Ellen Hutson, Wplus9, Simon Says, and other companies with good service and integrity. I will only purchase from companies that show through their actions that they value their customers.

The customers are not to blame for what has happened to PTI, despite what the company implies on a daily basis on their forum. PTI bears that full burden themselves. Banning customers, deleting customer emails, removing threads about those problems, bringing in DT members to post inane threads to try to cover up the real issues will not make their problems go away. Refusing to provide timely customer service contact and a phone number is just wrong.

I also want to give credit to several former PTI customers who helped me compose this and helped me with correction of details and facts.

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