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More Information You Can Use To Get Hot Topic To Do The Right Thing

Following up on Ryan Estrada‘s spot-on comment yesterday (short version: the people answering the Hot Topic 800 number have nothing to do with the situation, and have probably never been in Hot Topic themselves, so be polite!), I received and email last night from Dave Kellett. He must have gotten the right person at the call center (or I got the wrong one), because he got us a better number:

I was told to call their “Buyer’s Team” at 626.839.4681.

Called that number, and got a hold of “Allison”, the buyer for women’s tops. Or rather, got her VM. Left her a detailed message with my phone number.

Doubt she’ll call back, but she might.

In any case, I thought I’d forward on the info about contacting the Buyer’s Team … might save folks time rather than calling their (clearly) Bangalore call center.

Remember the rules: be polite; state the situation clearly; ask them to follow up with you about how Hot Topic will be compensating Jess Fink and Threadless for the theft of the shirt design, and how they will prevent similar situations in the future.

You can’t seriously expect every company to be able to “prevent similar situations” in the future. What, when they decided to purchase the design, they were supposed to hit up SnorgTees, Threadless, and every one of the dozens of T-shirt shops on the internet for designs with soap? Come on.

The level of indignance I’ve seen about this is just laughable. Yes, it happened; yes, Fink was obviously ripped off; and yes, it’s regrettable, but unless Hot Topic acts like an ass after this has been pointed out to them, they did not act irresponsibly in this matter, and the little stupid internet armies that have mobilized being all “OMG! Hot Topic is the devil!!1!” does not help anybody who is actually involved in this situation.

And frankly? The artist should never have posted about this on the internet until AFTER she had talked with people from Hot Topic about the matter. It’s a private, BUSINESS matter and should have been treated as such.

That said, because she did post about it, and because it was so obviously plagiarized, I wrote Hot Topic through their website, and I got this response (I lopped off a few unimportant sentences):

“We just heard from a representative of the artist’s about this and we are doing everything we can to fix this situation.

“I want to start off by saying that we at Hot Topic never intentionally try to rip off any artists’ designs. This design was sold to us as a vendor’s original piece of art. With so many independent artists and clothing companies around it’s really hard for us to keep track of EVERY single design that is being sold. In actuality, we really try working with smaller companies and independent artists because we like to make sure that they get the credit they deserve. We also work with them one on one and try to help them make more money doing what they love to do.

“We are definitely looking further into this issue and are going to work with both parties to resolve.”

Actually, I don’t expect this situation to result in Hot Topic regarding one stolen shirt design as a PR disaster or economic threat … but since corporations do have procedures for dealing with customer enquiries/complaints, and those efforts take time and money they’d rather spend elsewhere, I expect the nuisance value alone may prompt them to ask how they can avoid such expense in the future.

In principle, it’s no different than the time I resolved a dispute with AT&T — they had billed me without actually being my long distance provider, then refused to refund the money I was charged by my local phone company in less than 60 days “because our procedures don’t allow it” — by directly contacting the private secretary of the Chairman of the Board.

She had nothing to do with the situation, but one letter and two phone calls were enough of a nuisance that she lit a fire that got me my 35 bucks in two weeks instead of two months. Bugging Hot Topic (stock ticker symbol: HOTT, for you Kris Straub fans out there) may similarly cause them to tell their vendors, “If you sell us stolen designs, we’re going to make you as miserable dealing with complaints as we’ll be.”

And that could kill a lot of birds with one stone.

Allison is no longer (the sole) Women’s Tee Buyer, or the one handing Jess’s case. Because I’m a vendor with the company, I (contractually) cannot give out contact info; HOWEVER, I want to let you know that Jess’s case is already being handled. I emailed them several days ago, and they got back to me immediately saying that they were livid with the buyer that they purchased the shirt from and were taking the steps necessary to rectify the situation. They also have Jess’ contact info, and she has their’s. Point being, a million calls will not make Jess’s situation any better. People calling to protest to rampant resale of stolen (or reworked) art in general might be more effective. However (again), the Buyers numbers are not supposed to be available to the public in general as they are for business use and purposes, so anyone calling that number could just make the situation worse. But anyway, it’s being handled! No worries there!

[…] Finally, you can find a brief yet interesting discussion on the matter in the comments section at this Fleen post. Share This […]

[…] Gary over at Fleen offers some advise for joining in on getting Hot Topic to do the right thing. He wants us to get our point across to […]

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