So, after my last post about Redbubble, I decided to do some searching on the internet. I guess they have a reputation for screwing over artists as well as their customers. On a site called Complaint Board they get substantially more complaints than their competitors (even Cafepress. And no, the irony of that is not lost on me.)In fact, there is even a Facebook page dedicated to letting people know about Redbubble's questionable practices.
Now, the internet is a lot like gossip. One or two people, or a group of people that hang out together, and the information is questionable. However, a number of unrelated people all with similar complaints--extremely long wait times, poor product quality, deleting customer complaints on their feedback message board--and you have to start to wonder if maybe there's something to it. Additionally, a company that is committed to improving will often look themselves up online and find ways to improve service if the complaints point to something particularly egregious.
I finally did find where, in print, they state their cancellation policy. If you look on their page, under the art gallery, there is a banner to "like" the page. Under that, in small but bolded print, there are a number of links. Under that, next to the copyright, there is a small link that says "user agreement." If you click it, there's a lot of information pertinent to artists, but if you scroll about halfway down, there's information for consumers, in which they state a no-cancellation policy. A bit further down, there's a disclaimer where they may cancel for any reason. It's worth noting that, unlike some companies that don't charge you until your order is shipped, they actually do charge you as soon as you place your order. So, the cancellation policy is definitely one of those "hidden in small print" sort of things. Details may not be my strong suit, although thoroughly researching stuff generally is. In this case, I decided to trust the recommendation of someone I knew. As he tends to complain about businesses more than I do, I figured if he liked them, they were solid. Alas, their policies and the experience of others seem to suggest otherwise, so at this point, I'm pretty sure the only thing to do will be for me to wait a bit longer, and if it doesn't ship within a week* I'll call my bank to dispute the charges.
It does make me sad, though. Not just because I wanted the t-shirts, but because I had hoped that I'd truly found a more independent site where I could truly support artists. When a website like Redbubble does this, it makes it that much harder for solid, reputable businesses to establish themselves. If you get ripped off by a website, you're more likely to steer away from trying out new companies. Which means more money for companies like Amazon and Cafepress, because at least you know what you're getting. If my experience winds up paralleling the experience of so many other people, then in the future, I'll probably only buy from new sites if (a)they have some sort of certification (such as the A+ icon that the BBB gives out) or (b)if I can give them a test run with a very small order (as in $10 or less) first. I also won't let a recommendation from an acquaintance dissuade me from doing my due diligence in terms of research.
So, what will I do for t-shirts from now on? One idea is to learn to make them myself. I can exercise my creativity while truly supporting the arts through a class at my local art center.
*I was going to call on Monday, but have decided I'll probably have better luck if I wait until after Christmas, both because the call centers will be fully staffed and because it will be officially after the delivery window by then.