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The Amazon Platform Facilitates Piracy and Has Nearly Put Me Out Of Business

Sunday, December 04, 2016

I make art, I license art, I come up with funny sayings, pop culture references and print them all on baby and toddler clothing. I've been doing this since 2003. I have sold them on Amazon since 2008.

A couple of years ago Amazon changed their image guidelines from a 400 x 400 pixel image to a 1000 x 1000 pixel image with no watermarks allowed.

"MAIN images must show the actual product (not a graphic or illustration), and must NOT show excluded accessories, props that may confuse the customer, text that is not part of the product, or logos/watermarks/inset images."

Sales information is publicly available on amazon.com. That means anyone can see what items are the best sellers.

Because of their open marketplace, any seller can nab a listing and claim they are selling that same item.

These three things make it really easy for pirates to take other seller's best selling listings and make tons of money by claiming to sell the same product at lower prices.

I've worked really hard on all my listings with keywords, product descriptions, branding. Each Product ID in amazon earns juice depending on how much the item has sold and the reviews it's garnered. I've sold a lot of my baby clothes online and built up juice on my ASINs and positive reviews.

Because Amazon is an open marketplace, anyone can resell anything. I love this but Amazon does not protect its manufacturers. In fact, it has cultivated a platform that helps pirates hijack small businesses. There is no protection offered to the actual manufacturers.

I understand people copying my art, phrases and ideas. It's just part of doing business but when pirates are actually able to hijack my listings because they undercut me and therefore win the buy box and then they ship out cheap knockoffs under my trademarked brand, this is a different level of theft.

Not only are they stealing my art and ideas, they are taking my actual listings so that buyers no longer see my store unless they click the "see other sellers" link.

When someone comes to my listing and adds it to their cart they assume they are going to receive a Babywit branded shirt instead of some shitty copy. Here is a great example of what I'm talking about.


A knockoff is added automatically to their cart without them even knowing it.

**Update, 12/5 they've moved me back to win the buy box on all my listings and the pirates have been relegated to the Other Sellers Box. Huge win for me but nearly all my best selling shirts still have pirates offering deals below mine. Just spoke with Kohel Haver and he has agreed to become my legal representative in this matter.

From my end, I started noticing a downward trend on the sale of my products a couple of years ago but assumed it was just competition and a natural trend with so many other options available in the market. But, the downward trend continued. I was struggling along on maybe 3 orders a day...an 80% drop in my orders. My daughter suggested that perhaps no one wanted my designs anymore. Maybe I needed to figure out something new to do with my time besides coming up with new designs.

I began to think that perhaps she was correct.

Last month I noticed there were some people selling my designs and I filed copyright infringement against them but I had no idea the extent of what was going on. Black Friday came and went with absolutely no spike in sales. This was weird. I began to look into my listings and was shocked to find multiple other sellers offering my own shirts USING MY OWN LISTINGS below my pricing. I don't resell my shirts to other sellers so they had to all be knockoffs.

After making multiple calls and emails into amazon and every morning logging copyright and trademark infringements on their website,  the same issue continues to destroy my brand. Check out the form I fill out each morning.


If a thief is shut down, they can just reopen a new store, there is simply no way to shut down these thieves because they come back like cockroaches and unless Amazon decides to offer my brand a blanket of protection (which they could easily do with the flick of a switch) no matter how many times I report a violation, it doesn't really do much. My brand is so infiltrated with other sellers pirating my brand that the amazon customer rep told me that unless their legal department offered protection of my brand on their platform there was little I could do.

It gets worse.

Because these sellers are offering knock-offs of my own products on amazon at below my pricing it has had a major impact on my own website sales.

Then there is the negative impact on my brand because all these customers who are ordering from these pirates think they are receiving a Baby Wit shirt and so Baby Wit is a place to avoid because they sell cheap shirts with crappy printing on it.

It's been devastating to my business and my family.

Check out my cart with an illegally reproduced Baby Wit shirt from 7 different sellers.



I asked Amazon what would happen if I just turned off all my listings. Would it remove all my products from their platform? They said nope, because other sellers are offering this exact item then it would remain even after I deleted them from my account.

Amazon Policy :Detail Page Ownership and Image Restrictions: When a detail page is created, it becomes a permanent catalog page on Amazon.com that will remain even if the creator's inventory sells out. Additionally, when you add your copyrighted image to a detail page, you grant Amazon and its affiliates a non-exclusive, worldwide, royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right to exercise all rights of publicity over the material.

I am now in the process of finding legal help to draft a letter to Amazon but a resolution could take a long while. I am going to ask them to blanket my brand or remove all my listings so no other sellers have access to them or I will have to seek a legal resolution. They don't really leave me any other options.

But getting all this done will take time. Time I don't have as my business is in its death throes. I am sitting here watch the most income generating part of the year pass me on by.

I've just been forced to add to my own listings a buyer's beware message. This can only hurt my brand even more because who wants to read when buying baby clothes that they could be purchasing a cheap imitation. Ugh.

And, for Amazon.com, do they really want to be known as the platform that sells cheap imitations? Who wants to shop on a platform where they might unknowingly receive a knockoff in the mail every time they place an order? You would think a company powered by Amazon AWS would be able to fix this issue.

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Today is Election Day and I'm wearing white

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Isn't it odd that there has never even been a female on the ballot for President? I cannot adequately express how I feel today but what I feel runs deep.

I received this email in my inbox today and I wondered how Trump and his supporters could take all of his behaviors, reverse them upon his opponent and morph them into something so hideous as to simply become ridiculous. I know the crazies fall on both sides but this is just so far out there I had to repost.

Name: Glenn Canady
Email: glenn1964@aol.com
Telephone:

Comment: I saw your site today -  babywit.com

Please say a prayer right now that Donald Trump wins so all of Hillary's crimes are prosecuted!  Pray for the eyes of the people to be opened and for Hillary to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law!  Pray all evil FBI and Justice department personnel are exposed!

If Hillary is elected it will be WW3 with Russia.  She's a sick twisted pedophile who has ripped off America and sold our nation to the highest bidder!  If you want to see justice done then vote Trump so he can put her in jail!  Also spread this article around everywhere and tell your friends to do the same!  Hillary must be stopped NOW!  Only the ignorant or evil will vote for this witch.

I'm giving out prizes to every single person who views and shares this important information on Hillary Clinton and her pedophile connections!

Clinton Pedophiole Scandal Exposed!
http://www.stewwebb.com/2016/11/07/clinton-pedophile-scandal-exposed-u-s-republic-brink/

Hillary Clinton raped Cathy Obrien as a child!
https://youtu.be/hVolqxZpaaE


Donald Trump Tells America the Truth!
https://youtu.be/WzCqYTTxh38


Just email me at glenn@nsearch.com if you share the video for your prizes!

If you also want my free ebook showing a system making me an extra $200 a day whiile only taking 8 minutes of my time email me at glenn@crankmoney.com  with "show me the money" in the subject or download the ebook free at
http://www.crankmoney.com

Glenn Canady

PS - If you don't want to receive my messages with uncensored news and easy tips for making extra money at home, just email me the entire message you got to glenn@crankmoney.com with REMOVE in the subject and I will remove you.

To get uncensored news such as natural cures for all diseases join
http://www.project.nsearch.com

Thank you!

I wanted to childishly write back "No you're the puppet. PUPPET" but I knew any response was futile.

An aunt I've never met has been posting conspiracy theories about the Clinton's that run along these same lines. Trump supporters are not just for Trump, they believe Hillary Clinton is a pure villain, a she devil. She cites Sean Hannity and FOX news as her sources. I find Trump morally repugnant but I don't see him as the devil incarnate.

I believe that because of how corporations are set up and the lack of controls in place, that they only can care about bottom lines. And, in the process of growing their coffers for their shareholders, are destroying our planet. Let's get some financial reforms in place and have the 1% pay their fair share.

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Magento 2.1.2 A Quidk How To Guilde On Custom Theming for The Novice

Monday, November 07, 2016

I know not many folks out there are interested in this but I thought I would write down what I've discovered along my journey because I kept wishing there was a dummy guide out there for folks who are starting out in Magento 2 that may lack a developer background.

I have a rudimentary understanding of HTML and CSS, mostly just looking up elements online and then hacking some already developed code to make something work the way I want. I have no javascript or php background and have never written a command line to my server.

There are plenty of online guides on how create your custom theme directory but after that the Magento 2 Front End Developer Guide assumes you have a firm grasp on concepts and skips over basic steps. Also, there are a lot of annoying bugs in Magento 2.1 that take a lot of time to muddle through finding fixes.

I just updated to the latest release of 2.1.2 but it's taken me about a month of working in a 2.1.0 store to just get it set up with my products in it.

Because Magento 2 is so new, are some fairly annoying bugs in 2.1, some of them set me back a bit until I was gifted with answers to them on magento stack exchange and github.
These included:
  • attributes with multiple options that could be selected were not updating when products were selected in mass and one tried to mass update their attributes.
  • email templates not loading or saving. Turned out to be to separate issues, one a bug in the code and the other a permissions issue. 
  • the logo in the email header not being uploaded and you have to jerry rig it by uploading it to a folder mentioned in the source code. 
  • Still searching as to why some of my attributes in the drop down lists will not show up in the order listed in the defined attribute and 
  • why clearing my static cache causes all my symlinks to break and files to disappear. 
Also there were the user error stuff like when grey lines began running through all my images when I switched between the blank theme and my custom theme because the database somehow got confused and couldn't find the watermark image.

Or some irritating usage stuff like you have to create fake associated products in order to be able to select and associate already existing simple products to a configurable. Another was getting the "cannot gather stats! Warning! stat(): stat failed" message when you delete an image in a product that is apparently being used by an associated product (I think....that's what's going on) and this lovely warning makes your product inaccessible.

Something to note is odd things will happen if the permissions were not set properly so this is always something to check up on with your host (mine is nexcess and they are great at responding to support requests) to see if that might be the issue.

I've built out custom spreadsheets, figured out why the imports weren't working (some things to make sure of...configurables products go at the end, the images do not need paths and to get your products to associate you have to make sure the entire of list of configurable_variations is in there properly.)

Now, I'm ready to start building out my own theme but how the heck do I even start. The files structure is intimidating and for a newbie.

If you want a custom theme (I've based mine off the parent Magento Blank theme. I've seen doc advising against basing it off the Luma theme and I can't remember exactly the reasons but when I read it I decided to just go with the Blank) you will find the design/app folder that hold the frontend and adminhtml folders and this is where you will create folders that will hold your custom themes.

There is a Magento Folder inside there but if you've used composer for your install, it will be empty and you will find these files in a folder titled vendor/magento. In here you will find module folders and also a folder called theme-frontend-blank. If you go into the theme-frontend-blank.folder you will find repeats of these module folders for the magento blank theme.

You will not want to edit these files but you will be duplicating the structure of these folders and files you want to alter from the theme-frontend-blank or from the module folders a level above (depending on where you find the file you need. I tend to look for the files I need in my custom folder, then the blank theme and then the module folder a level above) to your custom theme when you want to overwrite the parent theme.

Again creating your theme directory is well documented across the Internet and I found this guide easy to follow. It's when you want to start changing things like button colors or how about just removing that magento bug line or the footer links....then, you've got to go searching to find what file that bug line is referenced and what block it resides in etc.

Apparently, each footer link, the privacy policy, the search, the advanced search and the contact link all reside in different blocks, in different module folders. You could go into each block, in each module and comment out that reference line. This fix was suggested by others but involved editing files in the vendor folder that could be overwritten during updates and seemed inefficient. I found the easiest way was to turn each block off in the default.xml files in your custom theme folder.

There are a ton of folders as each module has it's own layouts, blocks, css, js, html,  less etc files. It's a bitch to wade through and the only way I've found it's best to just download the site and do file searches for whatever is referenced in the dev hints paths (turn those on if you are looking for something) or in the source code (although this can be misleading as it will reference static files which you don't want to edit as those are created from the compiled less and will disappear etc as I have learned) using a text editor like sublime.

I am now taking a crash course (thank you udemy) in less (I quite like it as it uses variables and calculations to produce CSS) to try and what should be the simplest of adjustments to my theme. I just read this note on the magentostackexchange which is quite helpful. I'm about to try it so I will return to update on whether it works or not.

On a side note, I once met Magento Guru Alan Storm for coffee as he lives in Portland Oregon. I was needing my site overhauled. He gently informed me that my project might be too small for him. I'm laughing about that now. He developed something called Commerce Bug but it's way beyond my comprehension level that I imagine I won't be purchasing that for a year or two.


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The Story of A Small Business Fail

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Around 2007 or 8 I realized that the store I was using (Miva) was not going to be able to support my online business as it just didn't scale very well. I was growing so fast. Business had quadrupled in one year. We looked all around into various solutions and companies to work with to make my website thrive. On the recommendation of a friend we went with https://www.itpdx.com to redo the backend of our website. It was all downhill from there.

I didn't do my research and depended heavily on what the professional told me. ItPDX advised me to move to Magento for its scalability and robustness. ItPDX was supposed to build out a custom module and an incredible (tremendous) new store in Magneto. The transition was going to be smooth with these professionals, right? We sat down and I went over what I wanted. I thought we were on the same page but the solutions weren't coming the way I had specified. Very basic usability issues. The project kept going over budget. As it continued, it began to dawn on me that perhaps Brad, the owner, was not able to convey my specifications to his developers or he didn't have a solid team of developers behind him.

The professionals also failed to work into my new site a solid redirect plan. It was never even mentioned except for them to reassure me that after a couple of weeks, google would index my new site and I'd be back. So after launching the new site my business began to plummet. I began doing research and discovered it was due to losing all my juice. Because there was no plan in place for site redirects it was impossible to write code to automate them. I began the formidable task of manually redirecting over 15k urls. My rank dropped from #1 to #3 and then to the 3 or 4th page. With the flood of new competitors on the market with cool baby clothes I never regained my position.

As time went on I had to let my two long term employees go until it was just me managing a beast of a store. For anyone who has worked in Magento you know what I speak of. I hired developers online through odesk.com. I worked with Marcin in Romania for over 4 years.

After he moved on I went through a series of other developers. The problem was because I didn't understand how Magento was set up, I didn't have much say in the solutions various contractors came up with and on odesk, contractors are often just trying to find the quickest solution to your one issue. It continued to cause more damage to my website but after a certain point it was so dead it didn't seem to really matter. Plus, I had two kids, was playing music, writing, painting. It all got away from me and didn't seem a worthwhile endeavor to continue working on.

But, my guy, a Microsoft developer, finally talked me into redoing my store myself and learning how it actually worked. I decided to jump to Magento 2.1 as I was going to be attempting to learn the entire file structure, css, javascript, ssh, php anyway.

It's been an interesting journey thus far as a lot of my time has been finding workarounds to the bugs in Magento 2 and I am so grateful to the online community at stackexchange and github.  Anyway, the end result will be a very simple store with no customization and very few bells and whistles. Over time I will be adding in new features like my products, gift wrapping, my blog.

But, I am also excited as it has pushed me delve into coding which is so very far removed from making t-shirts. I hope you all stick with me through this journey.

Hopefully this story ends well.

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IRS scam phone calls

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

I just got a recorded phone call from the IRS informing me that they are filing a lawsuit against me. It's their final notice. They told me to call them at 509 2283481

I had to think about that because I've received two bills from the IRS. 

One I received shortly after having called the IRS on another matter where they kindly informed me that they showed that they had not received my corporate taxes (although they had received everything else) for 2013. I did not owe them any $ that year and I immediately sent in another copy. 

Shortly after I mailed it in a second copy, I received a bill for a late fee as apparently they charge you $180 a month for every month you are late for an entire year...without letting you know they are doing this. That came to $2,160. 

I now certify everything I send to the IRS. 

Then, this month I received another bill for over 2k from the IRS saying that for 2014 they had a different amount reported on the W-2 from my corporation than what I had reported on my personal income. The last quarter of 2014 I stupidly switched to a bookkeeper who was not familiar with payroll and had decided to use Intuit to run my payroll. Intuit apparently printed the wrong amount. Still trying to sort this one out with the help of my fabulous accountant. But, it's already cost $300 in just paperwork fees

Anyway, when I got this fake phone call I thought that they were really coming after me!! 

I emailed my accountant asking what I should do and his assistant told me this was an all too common scam. 
Just so you know, the IRS will NEVER contact you via phone or email. They only send you letters. 

Anyone who is bored, please phone this number and cry irreconcilably into the phone and then talk about the gun you have in your house and how you can't go on under all the pressure and then click this link.


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Copyright & Trademark & Free Ideas

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

I believe ideas and concepts to be ethereal (without ownership) until they are brought into their physical forms. Their physical forms can take on a multitude of shapes. The same ideas sit in our collective consciousness and it is only the way each individual manifests it that he/she should hold any rights to.

I've gotten dinged for making baby shirts that say "You're Old", "Caution, I Bite" and the latest ding is for my "Turnip The Beet" design.


The woman who has made the "Lettuce Turnip The Beets" sold so many of these shirts that she decided to pursue a copyright (does not protect phrases no matter how clever and witty) and also a trademark (by using this phrase on all her branding.) I understand her desire to hang onto this money making phrase. I also understand her anger at a major kids clothing manufacturer (Gymboree) who directly knocked off her idea.

Here is her design:

Here is Gymboree's take on the shirt:
Personally, I don't find it very attractive.


After I had produced my shirt, I noticed a bumper sticker that said "Lettuce Turnip The Beets" and I thought, wow that is even more clever than mine and then I saw the phrase "Peas Turnip The Beets" somewhere else and I thought that was darn cute too. I felt like I was riding the popular vegetable wave that had taken hold of Portlandia with all its varieties of kale, love of beets and gosh darn it don't we know how to cook up some collards now.

The owner of the trademark for LTUTB came after me with cease and desist via Amazon and I was flummoxed until I did some deep Internet sleuthing. I am assuming she feels that I am infringing on her trademark that she has gone through so much effort to put into place and protect.

So, I am considering changing my phrase to say something other than Turnip The Beet. I'm thinking "Squash The Beet" might be too negative. "Olive The Beet" is a twee contender. My Beet Box with a box 'o beets on the front seems very hip...or how about my favorite?...."This Shirt Is Beet."

*I went ahead and made a 'This Shirt Is Beet' today because this morning my daughter begged me to please not buy her any clothing unless she was with me. I want to give her this shirt.


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#legosforweiwei

Friday, October 30, 2015

I get why Lego's refuses to sell their blocks to Ai Weiwei. It's because in America, as a corporation you are not allowed to make any moves that may negatively impact your sales and I am sure supporting an artist and political dissident who brings attention to Freedom of Speech and Human Rights does not lie in their manifesto right? Except when I look at their company slogans over the years it seems that they need to append their slogans with "....as long as it has nothing to do with Politics."
I Can Build What I Want
Just Imagine
Make Your World Possible

No, no, I get it. Childhood is supposed to be free from power struggles and filled with building Ninjago kits.

It is an interesting event and one I do not intend to let pass without bringing my son's attention to Lego's refusal to sell in bulk to him. I am also excited to show him the donations pouring in from around the globe via social media #legosforweiwei and also to show him the wonderful things you can build outside of a Lego kit.

I made this special shirt here for fun. You can buy it on my site because I am only beholden to myself and so I can be political. Sort of like Donald Trump. ha ha




PS I am reminded that Dissident is a good word if social policy is wack, which it is.

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