Tag: blogging

Did Blogger Freckled Fox Commit Fraud? A Legal Analysis

March 29
21 Comments

I predict this post will set off a storm of emotions, because it’s going to cover cancer, death, fraud, and blogging. It’s a long post, ready?

Today we are going to discuss whether Freckled Fox blogger Emily Meyers deceived people who gave her donations after her husband died in June 2016. Emily remarried in September 2016, eighty or so days after her husband’s death, but still accepted donations made after she had already remarried.

Could Emily be implicated for fraud? She seemed to accept charitable donations for her widowhood while omitting the crucial information that she had already remarried and was going on a honeymoon. I’ll analyze this issue using the common law fraud cases I have read in law school.

Emily Meyers Freckled Fox instagram picture

All pictures are from Emily’s Instagram unless they are screenshots of the donation pages

Background: Freckled Fox is the name of Emily Meyers’ lifestyle blog, where she posts about fashion, family, and hair. Two years ago, her husband received a devastating stage 4 cancer diagnosis.

When her husband Martin eventually passed away from the cancer in June 2016, Emily was left as a widow with five children. I can’t imagine the suffering and grief that this young family has undergone. I have nothing but empathy and condolences for Emily and her five children.

As you can already tell, there are so many facets to Emily’s story. That’s why I have to write very narrowly, because I am only concerned about the donations given to her after the news of her husband’s cancer diagnosis.

I will not be discussing Emily’s children, the cancer, or the fact that Emily was just shot by a gun a few weeks ago (long story short, Emily was shot by her new, second husband; she’s ok even though she has some knee damage. You can’t make this stuff up).

Emily Meyers remarriage after husband's death from cancer

Before we get anywhere with this discussion, let’s get some disclaimers out of the way.

“Hasn’t Emily suffered enough?” some you might say in response to this post. I know she’s been through a lot. Cancer and death are tricky subjects to write about. That’s why I’m not going to write about them. I promise I will only focus on whether donations to the Meyers family were received with honest intentions.

If you have problems with any blog post involving a recent widow, or cancer in general, I can’t appease you. Nothing I say will convince you that, yes, even though a very tragic thing happened, there are objective issues around the touchy subject that could warrant legal analysis.

We can’t bury our heads in the sand when tragedy strikes; as a lawyer-in-training, I have to learn how to deal with the issues underlying people’s tragedies. I’m actually writing this post because the topic of internet fraud came up in my Fraud class at Harvard Law. I ultimately decided to do my presentation on blogger fraud.

Emily Meyers and husband Martin's death

Look, Emily’s story is upsetting and her husband Martin’s death is tragic. Period. Again, this post isn’t about Martin or his untimely death. I am not trying to impugn the reputation of a recently deceased person.

But using cancer as a shield against any analysis is also distasteful. This post is about money and fraud. If you were defrauded, or scammed out of money, you would probably not be satisfied if the fraudster used the defense “you can’t criticize me because someone in my family had cancer! That justifies everything! Go away!”

I also think that charitable fraud is more despicable than regular fraud. I am less offended by regular fraud (“hey, wanna buy this authentic Chanel bag for $50?”) than charity fraud, which uses a sad tale to trick us with emotional appeals.

People like to donate to charities because they feel that the money will help someone in a hard time.  Wouldn’t you be furious if someone took advantage of your empathy to make money for another cause?

Emily Meyers remarried after husband Martin died

“Who are you to criticize how a widow spends the donation money?” some critics might say to me. Now we get to the actual analysis about the donations. This question requires us to start in April 2015, when Emily’s husband Martin was diagnosed with stage 4 melanoma.

Martin and Emily tried a variety of treatments, even a experimental treatment in Mexico. As Martin’s condition deteriorated, kind-hearted neighbors and fans of Emily’s blog set up fundraisers to help Emily out.

As you can imagine, treatments can be very expensive and the Meyers also had five small children to take care of. There is no doubt that fundraisers and donations during Martin’s diagnosis were deserved and righteous.

Martin sadly passed away on June 15, 2016.

Emily Meyers remarried to Richard Carmack

Eighty or so days after Martin’s death, on September 9, 2016, Emily remarried a man named Richard. The picture above is from Emily and Richard’s wedding photoshoot in September.

I initially did not want to give details of how Emily and Richard got married, because it would distract from the story. But the details are just so crazy that you need a summary. Emily knew Richard from high school and when they were pen pals.

Once Martin had died, Richard traveled to her doorstep to give Emily a letter. His reasoning was that he did not have a stamp, so he hand-delivered the letter. Richard and Emily revealed this to their Instagram audience during an Instagram Live segment.

Emily Meyers the Freckled Fox blogger remarried after husband's death

I’m not judging anyone who decides to remarry quickly. Grief makes you do weird things. But the timing becomes problematic because there are only 80 days between Martin’s death and Emily’s remarriage to Richard.

  • This means that the sooner Richard and Emily hooked up after Martin’s death, the longer the courtship period where Richard can get to know the five kids who just lost their father.
  • It sounds like a good thing for Richard to take his time getting to know the kids, but the tight time constraint means that he would’ve had to basically swoop in quickly after Emily became a widow.
  • On the other hand, the longer that Richard waited for Emily to grieve, Emily would have had less time to make a rational decision about remarrying.

I’m not sure which scenario I want to believe. Both are equally dubious to me.

After Martin’s death, there were ongoing donations and fundraisers set up to benefit Emily. Let’s see if any of them overlapped with her remarriage. Then we’ll analyze whether this looks shady.

Donations to a pop up shop for Emily Meyers and her children

One of the fundraisers was a pop-up shop whose proceeds would go to Emily. This pop-up shop posted a call-to-action approximately one month, or 30 days, after Martin’s death. Emily could have started dating Richard at this point; it sounds crazy, but meeting Richard 30 days after Martin’s death would have left them only 50 days to date before they married. So 30 days after Martin’s death is in the sweet spot when Emily and Richard could have reunited.

But doesn’t that sound problematic? Emily could have already started seeing someone when this pop-up shop was raising funds for her late husband. And because the money from a pop-up shop doesn’t transfer immediately, Emily would probably not have received these funds until her second honeymoon (edit: Emily commented below letting me know she did not have a honeymoon, just a wedding).

Was this Emily Meyers paypal donation fraud?

Another fundraiser was started by Emily’s friend Camille. Camille posted that she could accept cash Paypal transfers on Emily’s behalf. There are no details when Camille ended the fundraiser, so again, it could have been going on while Emily was making plans for a new husband to move in.

Hope for Martin fundraiser benefitting Emily Meyers and her family

And yet another fundraiser “hope4martin” raised money independently; it’s unclear when this fundraiser started and ended (sometime in September), so I’m including it in the timeline.

And lastly, Emily had a Youcaring page that asked for online donations. In this case, there is no debate that donations were solicited well after Emily remarried. The YouCaring page was up until at least October 9th, and there is a comment on the page at the bottom from December 16th that made it look like it was still open in December, 3 months after Emily and Richard were already married.

Some of the comments on the Youcaring page show that Emily was already married before donors found out. Yet the page remained open for business. Although the page posted updates about how much had been donated so far, at no time did the Youcaring page reveal that Emily had remarried.

Martin Meyers YouCaring page

Edit: a commenter got feisty in my comments so I’ll copy word-for-word what the YouCaring page said: 

The demands of being a mother and a care taker have left Emily with no time to work and help bring in income to pay their bills both medical and every day living expenses. This has been one of the many burdens she faces with this difficult trial! I know there are so many of you who desperately would like to help this sweet family out! If you feel you can or are willing to donate, every little bit counts!

Donors to the YouCaring probably expect the following to be true:

  • Emily has no time to work
    • so there is no adult able to work in the household
  • she has no help to bring in income
  • and she has no help with the kids
  • donations are being solicited for the “sweet family” of “Emily Meyers & Children.”

We’ll see that some of these assumptions were already false while the YouCaring page was open.

As you can see in the revised timeline below, all of the fundraisers could have lasted until Emily and Richard had already made plans to marry. At this point, was the money going to Emily’s care of the kids, or would any of it be used for the wedding and honeymoon?

Emily Meyers the Freckled Fox blogger remarried timeline

Some of you might want to argue “so what? A widow isn’t obligated to tell you what’s going on her in life!”

Are you sure you want to defend that logic?

Sure, Emily didn’t have to tell the pop-up shop anything about her financial or personal info. But don’t lie; there is something about Emily’s story of being a recently-widowed, stay-at-home-mom of 5 children that motivated people to donate.

If you heard Emily’s widowhood story, you’d probably donate because it sounds like her world is shattered. Her husband and income earner has died. It is crucial and important to sustain the 5 children and help the stay-at-home-mother when the breadwinner has died.

You’d be fuming mad if you found out that the widow had actually inherited a million dollars. Or if the widow was actually a Kardashian/trust fund baby and she never needed a breadwinner in the first place. Or if she was hiding a gambling problem and was going to use the donation money to play blackjack etc.

If anything about the story changed, your willingness to donate would change.

Let’s also spin it the other way: if you think that it didn’t matter to donors whether Emily was remarried or not, you’re basically saying that donations would have stayed the even if Emily revealed that she had remarried. But if donations would have stayed the same regardless of what Emily said, then why didn’t Emily reveal the truth that she was remarried?

It’s precisely because you know deep in your heart that donations would DEFINITELY have been affected. Donations for a remarriage aren’t as generous as donations for a widow losing a husband to cancer.

Emily probably did not tell the fundraisers about her new status because it might have hurt donations. The simplest explanation is the easiest.

 

Emily Meyers remarried second wedding dress photos

Picture from Instagram showing off Emily’s second wedding dress

Besides, for crying out loud, the name of the YouCaring page was “Support Emily Meyers & Children” up until the day it closed. The title is meant to manipulate your emotions to make you feel like you could help out an unfortunate family of little ones. It never disclosed that this family had a new father and support.

Of course, Emily might have omitted the crucial info because she was too busy grieving or planning a mountaintop wedding, But as her instagram pictures reveal, she had time to hire retain a photographer (edit: Emily commented below that the photographer shot their wedding pictures on a mountain for free), buy a dress, and post blog-worthy shots like the one below.

Yet she didn’t have time to send a quick text to the fundraisers to let them know they might want to update their info? Supposedly the people holding the fundraisers are her closest friends, right? So if these close friends didn’t even know about the second wedding, who did? Why was it such a huge secret?

It’s starting to look like they were counting on people not being aware of the remarriage.

Emily’s donors don’t need to know her personal details, but it’s only fair for them to know the scope of her financial needs. Some of those donors were donating when Emily already had another caretaker and another potential source of income.

 

Emily Meyers and Richard Carmack remarried second wedding pictures

Pictures from Emily Meyers’ second wedding

So should this count as fraud? Donations are generally considered gifts and not subject to fraud (with some exceptions that I won’t talk about), but let’s take a look at what the common law on fraud says. In the common law, there are several elements that need to be fulfilled in order for a court to find fraud.

I’ll explain the elements by using the example of a kid who asks for field trip money even though the field trip is actually free. The kid really wants to spend the money on candy.

  • There has to be a representation of fact
    • Kid: “I really need this money for a field trip.”
  • The representation is false
    • The field trip is free, but the kid wants spending money for candy.
  • The representation is material
    • The parent gives the kid money because of the kid’s statement. The kid’s statement is material because it affected the parent’s decision.
  • The kid has to have intent to defraud.
    • The person trying to trick you has intent to defraud if they are aware that they are omitting key information or saying something that isn’t entirely true.
  • The parent has to have reliance on the kid’s statement
  • The reliance is reasonable
  • The parent has been injured or damaged by the trickery.
    • See, e.g., Strategic Diversity, Inc. v. Alchemix Corp., 666 F.3d 1197, 1210 n.3

Reading the comments on the YouCaring page, you’ll see that a lot of people are complaining how they felt defrauded:

Donors alleging fraud on Emily Meyers YouCaring donation page

Let’s see how Emily’s actions stack up against the common law elements of fraud.

  • The YouCaring page seems to represent that the money was needed since Martin was the breadwinner and Emily needs help with childcare costs.
  • The representation could be false.
    • The YouCaring page was not closed when Emily remarried Richard, a new breadwinner and caretaker. Emily did not seem to update the page when her financial situation changed, which could basically be a lie by omission.
  • The representation is material
    • The comments show that people were motivated to donate because they thought Emily was a widow in need. So Emily’s representation affected their decision to donate.
  • Emily could have had the intent to defraud
    • You can kind of argue this one since the YouCaring page and pop-up shop were started by people other than Emily.
    • But that’s no excuse for why Emily did not notify them that she was already remarried when they wrote her a check for the funds.
    • You can also defraud through omission, or failing to tell someone crucial information
  • The donors had reliance on Emily’s word:
    • The comments show that quite a few people relied on Emily’s interpretation of the events to make their decision to donate.

Emily Meyers Freckled Fox remarried and donors to her YouCaring page are alleging donation fraudEmily Meyers remarriage and donation fraud?And finally:

  • The reliance is reasonable
  • The donor could have been injured or damaged by the trickery.
    • People gave up hard-earned money for a cause that turned out to be not quite truthful. They were financially damaged.

If all of these elements can be met, a lawyer could make this into a reasonable case for fraud. In other fraud cases I’ve read, the remedy is usually to return the money to the people. I don’t know if it’s possible at this point to return the money to the donors who felt like they had been tricked

(EDIT: Emily commented below that all the money donated after her marriage was returned. I asked why the fundraiser simply didn’t disclose the remarriage instead of going through the hassle of returning the money later).

Maybe the best solution is to use Emily’s situation as a cautionary tale. Consumers should do their research before donating their money. And maybe we should stop trusting bloggers altogether.

But the frustrating thing about this particular case is that someone who DID do research could still have been tricked because the second wedding was kept as an air-tight secret.

 

Emily Meyers - remarried and shot by new husband Richard Carmack

That’s what provoked me to write this post, because the fraud here seems more heinous than regular ole “here are some magic weight loss pills!” Emily knew her fans would grieve for her, and she used her tragedy to solicit funds—even though eighty days later, she was no longer a widow and she had a new income winner that no one knew about.

Bloggers form personal connections with their readers, so this is less of a stranger trying to defraud you and more like a best friend tricking you. It feels like a betrayal. It makes me less likely to trust bloggers. And less likely to donate to cancer fundraisers.

Now that I’ve been burned by Emily, other deserving families will not be getting my donations because I’m scared they are also hiding something. As a grad student, I can’t afford to give my money away to people who are willing to hide material facts from their readers.

I wish Emily and Richard luck in their new remarriage (here is where I tell you that Emily was shot in the knee by Richard in March 2017, but they are still together), although I will no longer be reading her blog after this distasteful YouCaring incident.

I feel like what I’ve written is fair, and actually, if you compare this post to the one I wrote about Stylish Petite, you’ll find that this post is far more gentle. Emily has suffered and I wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt, but there is no question that she has severely damaged the relationship she had with her readership and possibly hurt other cancer families from getting the donations that they need.

 

Why Bloggers Should Never Use Shopstyle vs Rewardstyle

February 17
6 Comments

There are some things that I wish I had known before I started blogging. I never thought my blog would earn money, but now that it does, I sometimes wish a more experienced blogger would have told me to avoid using Shopstyle as one of my affiliate networks.

Shopsense/Shopstyle Collective (I use the names interchangeably) is a network that pays you for each click that your blog generates, regardless of whether that click leads to a purchase. In contrast, I use another affiliate network called Rewardstyle that only compensates me if a reader makes a purchase after clicking my link; with Rewardstyle, I don’t get paid if the reader clicks the link but decides not to buy.

I used both networks for a long time, and I’m here to tell you that I wish I hadn’t touched Shopstyle at all.

Shopstyle affiliate network hides how much you earn from each click

If you’re curious how much each Shopsense click is worth, they will literally never tell you. On the Shopsense FAQ, it states vaguely that:

You earn a set amount for every valid click that goes from your site . . . The rate you are paid per click depends on a number of factors, including how often clicks result in sales for the retailer, the amount of each sale, and whether those products are returned for a refund. As a result, the rate you are paid can vary over time.

And, boy, does the rate vary! Shopstyle enticed me by initially granting me 5 cents per click: with 20 clicks, I was already making a full dollar! In contrast to my other affiliate networks like Rewardstyle, which only paid me if I make a sale, Shopstyle promised to guarantee income even if my readers didn’t make a purchase.

But the goods times didn’t last. Within a year I found that my rate per click was dropping to 3 cents. This doesn’t sound like a big difference, but it’s a 40% decrease in my earning potential.

And how much is my rate today?

1/2 of a cent per click. 1/2 of a penny. It would take 200 clicks for me to make a single dollar from Shopstyle. Shopstyle has effectively gutted my earning potential by 90%.

(Update: At the end of this post, I asked you to click a Shopstyle link to test my payment rate (thanks for clicking guys!). I found out that my rate just dropped to 0.4 cents a click.)

And look closely at my earnings:

Shopstyle does not pay bloggers for every click

I had linked an ASOS item that earned 2 clickthroughs, and a Talbots item that was clicked on, yet I received ZERO cents for those clicks. Why am I not being compensated for certain clicks? I will never know. There is no transparency for what you can expect to earn from each item that you have worked hard to link.

In contrast, Rewardstyle tells me upfront what I will earn from each purchase. Sure, my readers might not buy anything and I would not be rewarded solely for the click, but when they do make a purchase, I can count on a specific amount in my account.

Shopstyle vs Rewardstyle as an affiliate network for fashion bloggers

Today, I looked up how much I made in Shopsense recently. $9. In the same amount of time on Rewardstyle, I’ve made $125.

“But Brittney,” you might be saying to yourself, “Maybe you’re just using Rewardstyle more than Shopstyle! And didn’t Shopstyle say that the payment rate depends on the quality of your traffic? Maybe your readers aren’t buying anything from the Shopstyle links, so your traffic quality is low.”

Good points. Luckily, Shopsense actually helped me conduct an experiment that demonstrates how both of these assumptions are false.

Shopstyle does not pay bloggers as well as Rewardstyle

The Experiment

In November 2016, Shopstyle told me that if I used Shopstyle exclusively on my blog for the entire month, they would reward me by giving me an additional 20% of my November earnings. I decided to take them up on the offer. For November, all my new links would come from Shopstyle only.

My old Rewardstyle links were still active, but I predicted a decrease in my Rewardstyle earnings because all my Rewardstyle traffic should now go to Shopstyle, since I would only be using Shopstyle links.

My blog traffic was normal in November and I posted regularly. If my traffic was good enough to make good money on Rewardstyle, then I should see a bump in my Shopstyle earnings given the same traffic. Plus Shopstyle had promised to add 20% on top of any amount I earned!

The Results

I made a little over $1 on Shopstyle that month. In contrast, my existing Rewardstyle links from October and before still earned me $38. So without even trying to use Rewardstyle in November, Rewardstyle still earned me more money.

And that’s how I learned that Shopstyle’s compensation system is a scam. All my traffic was diverted from Rewardstyle to Shopstyle. If I had the same number of readers, and my readers clicked at the same rate they usually did, and they bought things at the average rate, then why didn’t my Shopstyle click rate increase?

Shopstyle analytics are terrible compared to Rewardstyle's affiliate links

This is a slightly less important concern, but the lack of reliable analytics is another downside of the Shopstyle system.

  • When a reader clicks a Rewardstyle link, my dashboard immediately shows me what link was clicked and how many times.
  • Shopsense, on the other hand, only updates once a day, usually at midnight.
    • This means that I can’t track how well a link is doing during the day to determine whether my readers like what I’m showcasing.
    • I also can’t see how much I am making so far that day, whereas I can easily track my Rewardstyle commissions by the minute.

Another downside is that Shopstyle only lets you see the top ten most clicked items.

  • So if your readers click more than 10 items (which they should be doing, if you want to make money), there is no option to expand the list to show more.
  • You also can’t tell which items are unpopular, because the analytics just stop reporting after the top 10 links.

This is one of those cases where it’s useful to compare a simple screenshot of Shopstyle vs. Rewardstyle. See how simplistic Shopstyle looks next to Rewardstyle’s data breakdown?

Shopstyle vs Rewardstyle for bloggers

In Rewardstyle, you can expand the list and see every last link that was clicked, and how many times it was clicked. You can even see when the clicks occurred, and what platform your readers are engaging with the most, whether it’s blog or instagram.

Blogging is all about analytics, and it’s no wonder that I slowly turned over to Rewardstyle to better track how my links were doing on an hour-by-hour basis.

Fashion bloggers should avoid using Shopstyle

“But Brittney, all the major bloggers use Shopstyle now! Barefoot Blonde and Gal Meets Glam and Pink Peonies!” It’s true; these bloggers all use Shopstyle even though they used to be featured on the Rewardstyle page. But those major bloggers are rumored to have gotten a huge payout to use Shopstyle. They might also have been promised higher commission rates if they switch to Shopstyle.

Ultimately, these larger blogs are fundamentally different from mine. I don’t have a large readership that generates a lot of clicks that can add up. Instead, I have a smaller readership, but one that seems to trust my recommendations; I have more long-time readers whose clicks are likely to lead to a purchase. Rewardstyle makes more sense if I want to maximize my close audience.

P.S. Oh btw, if you feel sorry for me, you can click this Shopstyle link. I might not even earn any money from it! Who knows! And if I do earn money, it will probably be 1/2 of a penny. Update: I have earned 2 cents from 5 clicks. I thought my rate was 0.5 cent a click, now it’s apparently changed to 0.4 cents.

I hope none of you make the same mistake I do.There are too many affiliate network options out there for you to settle for Shopstyle’s vague nonsense.

To conclude: 

If you have a large following, you might be tempted to use Shopstyle because you get money for each click. But let me warn you: just like how Shopstyle stopped paying me 5 cents a click, your rate could get slashed as well. You’re still getting screwed if you have 5,000 clicks a day but each one is only worth half a cent. Unless you can get a guaranteed flat rate from Shopstyle, or unless your blog is big enough to support a higher rate, it’s not worth your time to earn pennies a week.

And although there are fundamental problems with Rewardstyle as well, I find it to be the better alternative so far. You can see my blog’s growth reflected in my Rewardstyle earnings, but as my readers grew, my earnings in Shopstyle paradoxically went down.

 

My Perfect Fashion Blogger Life

April 1
8 Comments

Perfect fashion blogger life morning teaLast weekend was one of the best I’ve had in a long time. It’s always a treat to wake up to a cup of tea but even more so when there are fresh blooms in the room.

Gold diamond hoop earrings pink turtleneck sweater NYX Istanbul lip cream

Easter weekend was absolutely amazing!!! We had lots of Easter festivities and everything felt happy. It was kind of a stressful and really busy few days leading up to the weekend so I was really excited to escape a couple hours with friends. We had so many laughs, yummy food and rosé while out in the spring sunshine all day. White hollister off the shoulder dress This white dress is an absolute favorite of mine. I think everyone needs a classic white for spring and summer! Also I love this dress from Nordstrom here. And here. And this dress. And here, here, or here. I also found a similar one here, or one for $30 here, or one with a v-neck here and here and here. Momoya sushi lunch special Friday & Saturday nights are our date nights. We tried to take advantage of our time together this weekend! It’s cheesy but one of my favorite things to do is go to dinner! And get a smoothie. For dessert, macarons are the way to go. Along with a plate of donuts and cupcakes arranged artfully around my shoes on the table. This nail polish is one of my faves – I love the way it looks. It’s so stunning and will go with so much of my wardrobe!

Here’s to a smooth-ie start for the day. #smoothie #strawberrysmoothie #strawberries #tropical A photo posted by Brittney (@beautyvbrainsblog) on

After a long, hard day of running errands and brunch meetings, I love to relax with a spa day and a face mask. I put on The Bachelor and do my nails.

Gosh, I’m so relatable, with my life of leisure. I can’t wait to take pictures while twirling in a flower field, before getting some avocado toast. Thank you so much for stopping by!! <3

 

 

 

 

Ok, so this is pretty obviously an April Fool’s post making fun of how bloggers write and showcase their lives. In case you thought I was being over-the-top when I wrote this post, I mostly just copied and pasted from blogs like Gal Meets Glam, Barefoot Blonde, and The Sweetest Thing.

The best satire is the truth, usually. Us bloggers sound like a superficial and insipid bunch.

This April Fool’s, I wanted to pull the curtain back on blogger behaviors so that we aren’t fooling anyone. Sure, bloggers portray an aspirational lifestyle where apartments are bright, and where desserts are colorful yet doesn’t make anyone fat.

The reality is a little muddier. Bloggers work with affiliate programs that teach us how to take the perfect Instagram shot (so we can sell more products). Instead of presenting original content, often bloggers are tempted to sell out and became mouthpieces for established clothing brands. When readers get tired of the sponsored content, bloggers often censor comments and ignore “haters.”

How fashion bloggers take Instagram pictures

Today, I’ll show you some of my reality. This is how many shots it takes to get the perfect Instagram picture to show off the flowers that I bought. I kept the flowers alive for a record 9 days (so I could reuse them in more photos).

IMG_8329

Brittney, in real life, doesn’t pose perfectly with one hand in her windblown hair, looking off to the side. The real Brittney smiles like an idiot for an outfit photo (without realizing I still had the tag on my sweater) (and completely oblivious to the child face-planting in the background).

Labbit birthday cake

What’s real-life Brittney’s most treasured possession? It’s not shoes or bags. Instead, it’s this stuffed rabbit with a mustache on its face (seen here attending my little sister’s birthday party). Sure, these styrofoam plates aren’t Insta-worthy, but this day was surely more memorable than some picture of latte foam art and my #bagoftheday.

IMG_8333

The real Brittney sends tons of weird selfies on Snapchat (follow me 👻: beautyvbrains). My Instagram and blog are “curated” to present a clean, streamlined image to the world. But I’m never as well-dressed or as pensive as I might come across on social media.

The truth is that I oversleep for class, I stress-eat entire chocolate bars and then skip breakfast to make up the calories, and I have had to crop my blog photos because I still have pasta residue on my face in some pictures.

I’m a mess, I laugh at Vine videos in the middle of class, and I listen to old Jonas Brothers songs when I’m at the gym.

I think I’ve had enough of the year-round April Fool’s joke that the fashion blogging industry has perpetuated: no blogger goes to brunch every day (always ordering the same boring mimosas and avocado toast) or come out of Pilates class with dewy makeup on. No blogger maintains their size 2 figure by eating all the macarons and donuts and ramen on their Instagrams. Some bloggers aren’t even size 2 to begin with, but we photoshop so well that you can’t tell the difference.

So I’m going to continue being the snarky jokester, exposing the fashion blogging stereotypes that have become a tired riff, and I hope more bloggers will join me. After all, it’s not hard to laugh at bloggers when we are constantly writing the jokes about ourselves.

 

This Fashion Blogger Tried to Profit from 9/11

January 14
11 Comments

Stylish Petite blogger tries to profit off of September 11th anniversary instagram post

There are a few things you should know about Annie Mai Thai Seuss, the fashion blogger who tried to profit off of 9/11. The first thing is that she is a serial copycat: she has copied outfits and photos from Extra Petite for years. There is no debate about this. Smart people have reached a consensus. Annie has plagiarized outfits for so long that there is a photo gallery of her outfit plagiarism, which I found on GOMI.

Here are some examples (the original outfit from ExtraPetite is on the left, the copycat from Annie is on the right):

Annie from Stylish Petite copies Extra Petite Annie from Stylish Petite copies Extra Petite Annie from Stylish Petite copies Extra Petite Annie from Stylish Petite copies Extra Petite

(Outfit plagiarism, by the way, is the lamest form of plagiarism. You might plagiarize an essay to meet a tight deadline. But copying other people’s blog outfits and then posting the same outfits on your own blog just days later? Can you even call yourself a fashion blogger at that point?)

(Annie’s blog name used to be “ReallyPetite”–which was suspiciously similar to Extra Petite–but she has since changed it to StylishPetite after backlash).

Another thing that you need to know about Annie, and her blog StylishPetite, is that she really, really love affiliate links. When you visit Annie’s fashion blog and click on a link, her links are actually “special” tracking links that embed cookies in your browser. If you click on a link to a retailer’s website and buy something from that website, Annie receives commission for directing you to the retailer.

Annie Mai Thai Seuss Stylish Petite gomi affiliate links

I’m fine with bloggers using special links that generate commission when readers buy items from a blog post. I use affiliate links in my own posts. Affiliate links are highly rewarding, enabling some bloggers to earn income just by showcasing their outfits and linking to the retailer.

Annie takes this practice to a new level. On the front page of her blog she has one hundred and thirty affiliate links. She basically affiliate links every other word in the sentence. If you find a full, coherent sentence on that blog that isn’t an affiliate link, let me know. And if you click on one of her links, you can generate $$$ for her blog.

Even the pictures on Annie’s blogs are affiliate linked! See the screenshot below, where Annie has written “Click on ANY item that you like!”, without revealing that you will be redirected to purchase an item once you click on the picture.

Annie Mai Thai Seuss Stylish Petite affiliate links gomi

This is probably against government policy, according to the Federal Trade Commission, which requires bloggers to disclose when they are using affiliate links!

But using shady business practices hasn’t stopped Annie. She even affiliate links her instagram pictures. In fact, Annie’s entire Instagram feed, like her blog, is filled with affiliate links. Almost every picture has something called LiketoKnowIt.

Annie from Stylish Petite affiliate links everything using LiketoKnowIt including her socks

LikeToKnowIt allows people to “shop” Instagrams. See the “www.liketk.it” link at the end of her photo description? You can sign up for LiketoKnowIt with your email, and every time you see an Instagram pic with a “liketoknow.it” link, you can double-tap the picture to receive an email telling you where to purchase the items in the Instagram pic.

Of course, the email is full of affiliate links that will reward the blogger whose Instagram picture you “liked.” In the above example, if you had “liked” Annie’s photo, you would have been sent an email telling you where you can buy her mug and her socks. If you end up clicking on anything in the email, your purchase generates commission for Annie.

Annie abuses LikeToKnowIt like no one I’ve ever seen. She affiliate links her nightstand:

Annie from Stylish Petite affiliate links everything using LiketoKnowIt including her nightstand

She affiliate links her kitchen (?) (Because her instagram fans totally want to know where she bought her refrigerator).

Annie from Stylish Petite affiliate links everything using LiketoKnowIt including her kitchen

So Annie affiliate links the flowers on her kitchen counter, and copies other bloggers. But maybe I’m being too hard on her? Maybe she’s just trying to maximize her blog earnings and needs outfit inspiration. I had decided to give her the benefit of the doubt, and I followed her on Instagram so I could occasionally shake my head at her greedy affiliate links.

This is where my post really begins. On a warm, solemn day (9/11/15 to be precise), I scrolled through Instagram, admiring people’s heartfelt memorial posts about 9/11.

Then I saw this:

Annie Mai Thai affiliate link 9 11 September 11 anniversary instagram never forget

To be honest, I stared at the picture for a full 2 minutes. It felt surreal to me. Annie had posted about 9/11 by affiliate linking her sofa.

I couldn’t believe what I saw, so I “liked” the picture and received the email linked to Annie’s 9/11 instagram picture. The email was full of affiliate links for Annie’s table, the gold spikey thing, and the lamp.

On 9/11, a day of national mourning for a tragic terrorist attack that killed thousands, Annie tried to use affiliate links to sell her fans some furniture.

Let’s break this down. Here’s the instagram picture again:

Annie Mai Thai affiliate link 9 11 September 11 anniversary instagram never forget

Don’t try to tell me that Annie wasn’t trying to profit off of September 11th:

  1. She used liketoknow.it on the picture. If she had really wanted a touching tribute to 9/11, she could have taken a picture of anything else in the world and chosen not to use affiliate links. Instead, if you “like” her picture and sign up for emails, you will get a lovely shopping email showing you where to get the items in the picture.
  2. She used the #neverforget, the top hashtag that day. This hastag is used for the specific purpose of recognizing 9/11’s anniversary. She probably used this hashtag to generate more views for her picture. This way, she broadens the reach of her links.
  3. She used emojis to convey her sadness about 9/11. Oh, a (sad face) and (American flag emoji) shows how much you care, when you’re trying to get people to sign up for LiketoKnow.it and click your links.
  4. Also, when people asked where the items were from in the comments, Annie did not respond directly. Instead, she asked them to “click the link in my profile for details.” The link in her profile takes you to her blog. Which is crammed full of affiliate links. She wanted you to mourn 9/11 by going to her blog and buying some Ann Taylor sweaters.

I’m not sure who I’m angrier at, Annie or the commenters on her Instagram pic who were too focused on Annie’s lamp to realize that she had just affiliate linked 9/11. Seriously, no one commented on how crass Annie was being?

Stylish Petite blogger Annie affiliate links 9 11 anniversary to profitStylish Petite Annie can GOMI for trying to profit off of September 11 anniversary

Businesses have been criticized and received flack for offering 9/11 discounts for mattresses and golf courses, or for trying to profit from 9/11. How is Annie acting any differently than Macy’s sending you a 9/11 promotional email with the title “Today we mourn (sad face emoji) (American flag emoji) BECAUSE THESE LOW PRICES ARE ABOUT TO COME TUMBLING DOWN!”

Yet Annie is so proud of her 9/11 Instagram picture that–as of Jan. 10—the picture is still up for everyone to see.

I had tried my hardest not to judge as Annie copied other bloggers.

I rolled my eyes when she affiliate linked her home decor.

But now I realize that Annie is not just a shady, greedy, copycat blogger. She’s also a despicable human being.

I want Annie to know that I once interviewed a lady who had been in the World Trade Center towers when the plane hit. The lady told me how she was one of the lucky ones, who managed to find an exit door after running down hundreds of stairs through the smoke and fire. She had barely left the building before the rubble began raining down on her.

Had this lady gone out the other side of the building, she would have died instantly, because the tower would have collapsed on top of her. She was one of the last ones to leave. There may have been other people in the stairwell. She was not sure if everyone got out.

There are people on 9/11 who didn’t die from the fire, smoke, or impact of the plane. They were stuck on the floors too high up to be rescued. Many of them chose to jump to their deaths rather than burn slowly in the flames.

Firefighters who were not on-call that day still volunteered to help rescue people from the rubble. They chose to stay, some of them perishing during their rescue efforts.

I don’t care what you think about the Iraq War, 9/11, or U.S. policy. When I visited the 9/11 memorial last year, I could barely imagine 2,900 people slammed against the floor, screaming, burning, fleeing, as the towers came crumbling down. I can’t imagine anyone’s family members being there, struggling to breath, wondering if they should jump because help was too far away, praying they’d see their family again.

Most of all, I weep. I weep for how a community came together on 9/11, how brave the first-responders were, how even today, we honor the dead through sincere tributes.

I also weep for a petty blogger who cannot understand the power and significance of a national tragedy, a blogger who chooses to use the 9/11 date to affiliate link her furniture and knick-knacks, to sell us items from her living room.

It’s ironic that Annie used the #neverforget hashtag so she might gain some commission revenue off a 9/11 anniversary picture. Because now I’m writing this post—so that the Internet can #neverforget one of the worst fashion bloggers I’ve ever had the displeasure of eviscerating on my website.

Annie can earn her commission, and copy whoever she wants, but I have burned through the thesaurus looking for the right words to describe the pity, disgust, and disdain I feel for this narcissistic woman who will try to sell you the vase on her table before acknowledging the tragedy in a world outside of her commercialized bubble.

Oh, and if you disagree with me or disagree with my post, feel free to send me an email with your IP address so I can ban you from ever accessing my blog again. I’ll be so sad that you won’t be clicking my affiliate links and helping me make more money! (sad face emoji) #neverforget

Someone Stole my Blog Name – Migrating and Rebranding my Fashion Blog

September 16
9 Comments

Migrate and Rebrand Fashion Blog

Welcome to my new blog! For those of you who thought you would be reading my posts on Another Beautiful Thing, it must be quite a shock to see yourself on a new website. Why did I have to move so suddenly, Gone Girl-style?

I had to complete this blog migration the quick and dirty way for a reason—someone had taken my blog name from right under my feet, and was probably going to extort money from me if I wanted ownership of my blog name. In the dead of night (okay, over a period of two weeks), I packed up Another Beautiful Thing and secretly transformed into a new persona.

Let me back up. I started Another Beautiful Thing in October 2012. I’ve watched it grow from ugly duckling blog, to slightly less awkward teenage blog, to a blog about budget fashion outfits.

Another Beautiful Thing fashion blog rebrand and migration to WordPress

A few weeks ago, I found out that Disqus, my commenting system, would no longer work on my web host Blogger. I decided to graduate my blog into its own domain name at www.anotherbeautifulthing.com. Before I could do the fun stuff—such as designing a new website layout—I had to secure the domain www.anotherbeautifulthing.com.

One problem.

You know those people who save the last open seats at crowded restaurant for their “friends” (who never show up), or people who take your reservation at a bar? I call those people squatters, and my domain www.anotherbeautifulthing.com was the victim of a cyber-squatter. When I set out to buy my dream domain, I found it had been registered—just this past March.

Wow, I thought, I was just a little too late. But I had been writing Another Beautiful Thing for nearly 3 years at that point, and I thought that maybe this person just wasn’t aware that my blog existed.

Certainly it would be foolish of them to invest in a website only to find that I owned all the social media names associated with Another Beautiful Thing! And imagine the search-engine confusion if they were trying to create their own blog with the same title as one that had been existing for years.

So, using the public WHO IS directory, I looked up the person owned the domain I wanted, and gave them a call.

Me: “Hi, I’m a fashion blogger with the blog Another Beautiful Thing. I am interested in the domain www.anotherbeautifulthing.com and was wondering if you would be willing to part with it?”

Him: “Ok, well, you can find my email on the WHO IS directory. Send me an email with your story or whatever. Bye.

I remember this particular exchange very well because it instantly rang some alarm bells in my head. This was a person who sounded like they had

1) had this conversation many times before,

2) was pretty numb to these requests, and

3) was only going to grant my request if my story was sad or tragic enough.

Someone who wanted this domain for their own dream blog wouldn’t have this flippant tone about selling a domain name (I’m sure my fellow bloggers would agree; we go to desperate measures and great lengths to make sure our dream blogs are perfect down to the tiniest of details).

Further research uncovered that this same person had bought 19 other domains in their name:

19-domains

other-websites

None of these domain names seemed similar in any way, except for the fact that other people might want to own them. I began to suspect that the person I was dealing with had not purchased www.anotherbeautifulthing.com for their own purposes, but rather as a bargaining chip.

Warily, I sent the owner an email that hopefully did not betray how badly I wanted the domain name:

Another Beautiful Thing domain name purchase

The response I received a few days later surprised me:

Another Beautiful Thing domain name negotiations

I suddenly felt bad. The owner wanted to use the site to start a family blog!

But then I read the last sentence again, where he asked about how much money my blog was making. Was this to gauge how much I’d be willing to pay to coax him away from his idea?

A little more investigation revealed that The Owner had uploaded this image, which was tagged “Another Beautiful Thing” and was linked to “BringingSexyBacktoBeerDrinking.com”—another domain name that The Owner had purchased:

The image is in the little white square in the middle of the page that says “#1 Affiliate Network”: Yes, The Owner had uploaded a Rakuten badge under the title “Another Beautiful Thing.” In case you didn’t know, Rakuten is an affiliate network that pays commission. So it looked like The Owner wanted to monetize Another Beautiful Thing for himself.

Trying to stay calm, even though I was getting angrier by the minute, I wrote back:

In my response, I chose to be honest. My blog doesn’t make a ton of money, and I was a student who couldn’t pay very much to get the domain of her dreams.

However, I tried one last tactic: since I used “anotherbeautifulthing” on all my social media websites, perhaps The Owner would be dissuaded from owning a domain that lacked access to any of these social media outlets? After all, what company or person would want to buy a domain if all the Twitter and Instagram handles were already taken?

 

My brilliant plan was ruined. At that point, I saw very little I could do. The Owner portrayed his “family-friendly blog” as a huge goal, and owned the name that I wanted. Even though I owned the social media handles, he didn’t need them anyway.

If he actually did go through with his plan, there would be a thousand “Another Beautiful Thing” mini-blogs from his family members, and who knows if anyone would ever be able to find my fashion blog with those websites clogging up Google?

But one thing I knew for certain:

I no longer believed his little story about wanting to build a mini, family-friendly Facebook website.

Instead, I suspected that The Owner was in the business of acquiring “hot” domains just in case someone else wanted to buy them from him. Don’t tell me that someone who owns “SolutionToDieting.com” and “SinusPainRelief.org” is planning to open a family-friendly website on every one of those domains.

Lesson learned, kids: always register your domains and blog names. Even before you think you’ll need them.

about-me-preview

But this story has a happen ending: when I was forced to rebrand, I found that I was at the perfect time to do so.

I used to write about double standards for females and body-shaming in little side posts, but now I could feature whatever I wanted on my new platform.

I can now write about beautiful, smart women at the same time I post my own personal style.

And this new blog will allow me to explore the idea that beauty and brains don’t have to be at war with each other.

(To see the rest of my new look, head over to my About Me page!)

Goodbye, Another Beautiful Thing. Hello, Beauty V Brains. May you live forever.