Tuesday, 2 October 2012

HerRoom Punches Back


You might remember my post from a few weeks back aboutHerRoom.com’s bra shape quiz. I was offended and bothered by several features of the quiz—the lack of diversity of skin color in their illustrations; the use of loaded language to discuss body features that could be discussed neutrally; and their recommendations for my shape, which I felt were misleading and inaccurate based on my own knowledge and experience.

I recently received an email from a representative of HerRoom requesting that I take down the images from their site as my use of them was a violation of their copyright. Not being sure of who was in the right, and not wanting to put myself or my blog at risk, I quickly complied, removing the images and sending an email of apology to the representative.

However, I then took the time to become more familiar with the laws surrounding copyright infringement. My understanding now is that my use of their images was not an infringement of their copyright, as criticism falls under Fair Use.

However, I am a college student and I do not have time to be sued by online retailers, and so I find it prudent to choose my battles and attempt to create my own images that will get my point across without putting myself at risk. I also, and perhaps this may not be apparent, honestly do not want to hurt anyone’s feelings, and I do not enjoy doing so. Although I stand by every word in my original post, I don’t take pleasure in spreading hatred, nor was that the original point of my post. That is why I chose to be polite in my response to the representative, even though it is my opinion that she was not as polite as she could have been in her original communication with me. I am torn on whether or not it would be appropriate to reproduce the email I received here. Although I don’t believe I could be legally attacked for publishing her words, I do think that it would mean crossing my own ethical boundaries because the message was sent to me privately. Suffice it to say that the email criticized my blog for taking a harsh and negative tone in general, a view which I feel may have been formed more from my (somewhat ill-advised) blog title rather than the actual content. The representative also seemed to believe that I was struggling to find bras that fit me, which is not the case.

I respect the right of HerRoom to defend their work, and therefore I will respect their request that I not use their images. I also believe that the company meant the quiz to be helpful. However, I want to also mention that I still find a couple of the implications of our communication upsetting.

One is the fact that the representative did not respond to my comment in my original blog post that all the many images in their quiz are of white women. I would have expected that once this fact had been drawn to her attention, they would alter those images to reflect more diversity. To me, that seems the only reasonable response. I don’t like to think that the whitewashing was purposeful, and I can’t image that Herroom would want us to think that it was. I believe this is something that could use work.

Second, I find myself wondering if HerRoom, or any other site for that matter, would never have cared about my use of their images if I had posted a glowing review of their content. I accept that it was legally ambiguous and ill-advised to use the images without their permission, even if it turns out that I am correct that it fell under Fair Use. In fact, I was unsure about using the images at the time. But, if I am right that they would not have asked me to take the images down if my post had promoted their site, then that DOES amount to the suppression of negative feedback. I find that morally wrong. I am not directly or specifically accusing HerRoom of this, as I have no proof that this is the case. However, I would like to examine these ideas further.

There seems to be a growing sense among companies that bloggers exist to provide free advertisement for them. I have witnessed repeated incidents of outrage from companies when they feel they are being unfairly criticized and having their sales damaged by bloggers expressing their opinions. On the other hand, these same companies often publish links on their social media pages to positive reviews. So if they believe that the positive reviews by bloggers are credible, why should they shame and attack the same bloggers when they speak a truth that is simply less palatable to these companies? I view blogging as an offshoot of the press, and I believe that the press should be neutral. I see no legal or ethical reason why bloggers should not feel free to share their opinions and honest experiences with their readers. Using others’ images is of questionable morality, and I will not make that mistake again. But even beyond this, receiving an email with a threatening tone from a company I have negatively reviewed, even if I am legally in the right, makes me hesitant to do such a post again. But it would be wrong not to continue to do negative or critical reviews where I find they are warranted. Blogs and reviews exist for this very reason—they are not driven by the companies’ own advertising and marketing. In the end I do not care if sales of a product increase or decrease because of what I write. Rather, I believe that companies will succeed by producing products (and a public image) that are to the liking of their customers, not by suppressing any negative feedback. Good press will naturally follow good products and services. It does not need to be any more complicated than that. 

41 comments:

  1. This post is fascinating. I didn't have a lot of respect for HerRoom (before I read this). I have a bit less now. And I totally agree that you should choose your battles. But as you learn more, it will enable you to speak your mind with less risk. (BTW, I always find your reviews respectful.) Blogs don't exist to market for brands.

    PS: Your blog name may indeed have put them off. I don't know what to say about that. It's not your job to make your blog name "pleasant". Mind you, if you want less trouble, that might be something to consider.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree with regards to the title. I regret naming it that, it seemed funny at the time but I think it is misleading. But it would be very difficult, I think, to change the name now because it is what people recognize. It's definitely something to think about and I hope to come to a solution eventually.

      Delete
    2. Honestly, I like the name. What I like about this blog is that it takes a fair, but thoughtfully critical approach to bras and bra-fitting. We have enough blogs who only ever post about bras they love. I think this is your niche; go for it!

      Delete
  2. You know what? Shame on them. I agree that had your post been a glowing positive review, they would have not had the nerve to ask you to remove it like that. I am truly disappointed in them. I was going to let their outrageous "fitting advice" pass because I already knew my size, but this really shows what kind of company they are. I am not going to be making my large order from them anymore. If they had replied to you with reason and profession they would have earned more of my respect. But after this, no more remains for them at all. I'm sure a lot of other people feel this way too. Way to go, HerRoom. Push your customers away with offensive stereotypes and now, threats to those who just want to do what companies like them SHOULD be doing: making women comfortable with their bodies and actually giving proper advice.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I understand your position and not wanting to get in trouble, but this situation is ridiculous. HerRoom clearly felt threatened by your post, and their way of dealing with the situation was rather stupid, instead of taking the criticism and see what they could change to make their site better they choose to ask you to take down the images and intimate you with the copyright bs.
    Regarding the name of the blog I honestly think it’s funny and was the reason I started reading it in the first place! In a blog world full of stellar reviews of many bras it was nice to see that someone didn’t mind saying some of them actually suck.
    I don’t think you did anything wrong here, HerRoom were the ones who didn’t know how to handle the situation in their best interest, so please don’t change the name of your blog and keep “hating” the bras that deserve it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. P.S.: one thing I notice a lot in the bra blogging community is that everyone is somehow afraid of hurting someone’s susceptibility, people measure they’re words a lot. I don’t say one should purposefully offend someone, but I think people should be less afraid to express themselves, less afraid to offend bis breated girls or small breated girls or companies or pointy breasted girls or whoever. There is always someone who gets easily offended in spite of the words used.

      Delete
  4. Legal issues aside, I think your review of their quiz was great. While I do order from Herroom occasionally when I have a coupon code or find a decent price, I do take issue with several things on the site. One being the ridiculous "universal cup sizing," which I feel is just an excuse to not use letters beyond D in cup sizes.

    I think your point about how blogs seem to exist for companies to get free advertising is valid. I know if I want honesty, I should look at your blog and that is what keeps me reading it. A lot of other blogs kind of sugar-coat issues and you have to carefully read between the lines to know what you're getting with a bra.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I've been lurking here for a few months but had to contribute something to this post. Shame on HerRoom. You are entitled to your opinion and it would not have stopped me from going to their site. However, this will. Fortunately, I know my bra size so I don't have to take their test but what is wrong with a little constructive feedback? Especially from customers for whom it would really benefit? Why not listen to suggestions?

    I personally purchase most of my bras from Bravissimo as long as I know my size. I live in the US, but even with the exchange rate and shipping their pricing still ends up being cheaper than regular priced items at HerRoom, Bare Necessities or Figleaves. Besides, I emailed one of those sites (I can't remember which one it was) as to why they only carried some styles of bras up to a G cup, when I knew the manufacturer made the style up to a J or K (I have Bravissimo to thank for knowing that too). I never received a reply. Since American sites tend to ignore the larger cup sizes, Great Britain gets all my money.

    Anyhow, let me just say I love your blog. I'm 48 but have learned so much. I never even imagined one could have top heavy or bottom heavy boobs. But after reading your posts I now understood why I could have 2 different bras, both the same sizes and both able contain my boobs when I first put them on. One fits great the whole day and the other, after only a few minutes of moving, is empty at the bottom of the cup and my boobs are spilling out of the top! As you can guess, I'm top heavy!

    Anyway, sorry for the long comment. I just want you to keep up the good work and not get discouraged or intimidated by the big dogs.

    JayJay

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm glad you mentioned that, Anonymous! HerRoom and Bare Necessities both carry limited sizes of bras that go higher! It's so frustrating. Especially when they both purport to be such supporters of full-busted women... I generally find Figleaves to do a nice job of stocking diverse styles and sizes, and their shipping is a fabulous flat $4.95. But their prices really differ based on the brand... I wonder why that is? I bought Cleo and Panache bras from them last week for about $30 each, but passed over several Curvy Kates that they have listed for about $70. Weird.

      HerRoom is really on a roll. I've lost all respect for them after this. Keep up the honest and direct blogging! LIke the other girls said, we love you for it!

      Delete
  6. I wish more companies would work on improving their products and services rather than getting angry at negative reviews. I think less of Herron now, as I do any company that responds like this.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Maybe you could take a screenshot of the page with the images instead of using the images directly. Those pages are publicly available so I don't see why not, but I am not a lawyer so take this with a grain of salt. :)

    I'm really glad you made a review of Herroom's 'Know your Breasts' feature. I thought you made some very valid points which I agreed on as I read through the post. I'm even more glad you wrote this post! Keep up the good work, I love your blog! :)

    ReplyDelete
  8. Wow, why did they start to criticize your blog? That is off topic and unprofessional. I am very dissappointed by HerRoom now. Also, I think it is clear that it is indeed under Fair Use, so even if you do keep the photos away from the blog, don't feel like you owe them anything.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I am appalled. I will not shop with Herroom again & I will tel them why: I don't care for their bullying of an honest reviewer OR their characterization of my full-on-top boobs as malformed. WTF?

    ReplyDelete
  10. So, I was already on the fence about HerRoom because I read (in that Slate, article, I think?) that they were phasing out their 28 band bras. I wasn't terribly thrilled with their Know Your Boobs thing, but found it interesting (http://domesticoutlet.tumblr.com/post/29656887455/herrooms-bra-finder). And now, this? This convinces me that there are better bra retail sites with more honorable, helpful customer service.

    HerRoom, you just lost a customer for your rude, petty behavior. Good job.

    I appreciate the stance you take in your blog. At first, the tone was merely snarky and funny, but then it quickly evolved into a pragmatic approach to bra fitting. You focused on the specifics of bra fitting, and enabled me to really analyze what worked and didn't about my bras. The most helpful part of your whole blog has been the alterations posts, but the brand-specific discussions have been super informative as well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What she said. But please don't stop the intelligent on-target snark. I'd really miss that.

      Delete
  11. What a shame that Herroom was unable to take your valid and informed post about their unpleasant and discrimatory quiz seriously and improve the site. Yes, criticism that is not malicious or obscene is Fair Usage. Herrom have really shot themsleves in the foot in PR terms. Please don't let this unpleasantness upset you - many women really value your blog, including me - FJ Perriam

    ReplyDelete
  12. I just want to say that your blog is one of the most helpful bra-blogs BECAUSE you are honest and tell what you don't like (and what you like). Please don't stop being and writing the way you are and don't let yourself be intimitaded by any company not being professionel enough to handle constructive criticism.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I like the name a lot. And it's really good to have somebody in the lingerie blogging community who can say "this bra/company sucks, skip it". I can understand why you don't want to go to court with Herroom, but don't let it get on your nerves, they are wrong, not you.
    Malica

    ReplyDelete
  14. So sorry this is happening to you.

    ReplyDelete
  15. You go girl! Your blog is so helpful because it is honest. Keep up the good work. It's unfortunate HerRoom could not use your comments to improve their service or even address your concerns.

    ReplyDelete
  16. This is a great post. You've responded respectfully but honestly to a troubling interaction. I've been increasingly irritated with HerRoom; it's one of the sites I first shopped when I really started to understand bra sizing, and I DO think the company cares that women have bras that fit, but this inability to take constructive criticism maturely or professionally, especially considering that they are a large retailer and you are a one-woman blogger, is really disappointing. Add to that the very valid points (whitewashing, judgmental language, etc.) in your original post, the horrid Universal Cup Sizing abomination, and their emails that encouraged full-busted women to buy minimizer bras and small-busted women to buy push-up bras, and I'm no longer comfortable recommending them as a retailer. I'm not going to link to them anymore on Sweet Nothings. I think they may have women's best interests at heart, but they're doing a terrible job of showing it.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I do like their Universal Sizing System and I understand what they were going for on the quiz, but I am ashamed that the company would respond to your post in such a manner. I feel like the only reason they are still in business is because their customers don't seem to know that bras are wayyyyy cheaper on eBay, Brastop, etc. HerRoom's prices are similar to that of a boutique, but without the great customer service. Outrageous! Also, one commenter mentioned earlier that they are phasing out 28-band bras. Is this true?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They are "culling" their 28 bands, as they put it, because people make too many returns... Or something. But women with 28 bands have no brick and mortar stores to shop at and are often just guessing at their size. So of course they return bras more often.

      Here is the article the quote is from

      http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2012/09/large_breasts_small_waist_and_looking_for_a_bra_good_luck_.2.html

      Delete
    2. Thank you for responding :) ..and that totally sucks! Another good reason not to do business with them.

      Delete
  18. Thanks for keeping us all informed... This is kind of the final straw with HerRoom in my mind, and I really feel like I can't recommend them any more. I wonder if they'll have a response to this post at all..

    ReplyDelete
  19. I thought your original post made a lot of excellent points (that I agreed with, though I didn't get around to posting on the quiz)-- it's a shame they didn't sincerely consider your truthful, constructive feedback and take it under consideration.

    I was pretty offended by their description of my "omega" breasts-- less negative phrasing/ loaded language (and more diversity in their illustrations) would be a simple way to improve the quiz. Paying attention to the recommendations of people who actually HAVE that breast type to improve the quiz (and only supplying recommendations that are available in the cup sizes that will fit) are long-term implementations that would considerably improve the feedback I've seen so far!

    Thank you for sharing your experiences, and for the record, I love your blog and think it's useful and well-written, even if the title is a little snarky (not in a bad way, IMO). :D

    ReplyDelete
  20. Arg, I had a nice long comment typed out to you but my internet ate it. Here's the gist of it:

    1. Love the new background!

    2. 100% agree on the whitewashing- seems to be an easy fix, why not change it?

    3. Your original post reminded me that I really do need to get a post up on full on bottom breasts. :)

    4. I'm pretty surprised about the mention of copy-right issues. Wouldn't this be a problem if you didn't cite the photos and claimed them as your own? I mean, if you cite them then I think that would fit underneath Fair Use.

    5. 100% agree on the point of blogging.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'd just like to comment about the "whitewashing". Why does it matter? If the color used was black, would it really have caused any objection? Why do you see racism everywhere? Why do you all get so easily offended by a complete non-issue? It would never occur to me to think of this in racial terms, no matter what skin color was used in the pictures.

      Delete
  21. Well, Herroom, I hope you're reading, because I've made my last order from you. I'm a journalist and it really disgusts me to see a company behave in this fashion. They are, in essence, intimidating you. Because you had the gall to critize them. They are in the wrong. You do not owe them anything. They cannot sue you, and if they foolishly did they could not win. Therefore, the person who wrote that was only badgering you. I would put the word out about them, because this is unforgivable behavior in a business.

    ReplyDelete
  22. I've been reading your blog for a while & have never felt the need to comment before. But i just wanted to say ... carry on doing what you are doing. I've not been to the site for a few weeks so has this blog entry plus your more recent review of the marcie to read. Over the last couple of months, I have read numerous reviews of the Marcie, all done by bloggers who had been sent the Marcie free of charge. And guess what? You, the person who bought the bra, wasn't totally glowing in your praise. You said it was a good bra, but pointed out some negatives in the fit for you. IMHO, that is exactly what you should do and that is precisely why I read your blog. I have no clue about Herroom - I live in the UK so have no need of them, but their response typifies, to me, the way industries seem to view bloggers these days - as glorified, unpaid PR execs. Ignore them & carry on giving honest, unbiased & very helpful feedback on the bras & clothing you try.

    ReplyDelete
  23. My belief is that the figures on the chart should be all be colored fuschia or purple or some other color that has no relation to reality. This helps eliminate the optical illusions that can occur when moving from a figure in one color to a figure in another, while avoiding the whitewashing that is a bit disturbing. They're response to you, however, was more than a bit disturbing to me. Your criticisms were logical, supported by your own evidence, and came with suggestions for improvement. Really, they should be thanking you for the input. I wish I could tell you I won't be buying from them because of the way they treated you, but the truth is, I won't be buying from them because they obviously have little-to-no idea how bras should fit. I look forward to your future posts.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Keep on keeping on. I'm glad I've never ordered from HerRoom. Guess I won't be in the future either. Especially if they are phasing 28 bands.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Oh dear, whatever the law really is, it's probably for the best to not get involved in a copyright lawsuit. So, why not take the images out, and put the post back up again? It wasn't your intention to cause offence, and I imagine for 99.9% of readers, you didn't cause any offence at all. I found the post very informative and interesting, and you are completely entitled to an opinion on their service.

    And also, your blog title totally works... hearing positive reviews only gives me half the story, and negative reviews are usually way more informative when it comes to fitting problems, especially when accompanied by such indepth advice on alterations and alternatives. Considering that at least two-thirds of the bras I try on don't fit well enough for me to want to buy them, I hate most of the bras I encounter too. So, I find your blog refreshingly realistic. And awesome :)

    ReplyDelete
  26. Your blog is the most informative, well-written and interesting set of articles on bras anywhere ever. Far from getting annoyed, they should have offered you a job as an expert lingerie consultant, and asked you to devise a much better quiz for them. And paid you!

    ReplyDelete
  27. I had a moment with HerRoom once a while ago. It had to do with a quality issue and the lady who responded to me was nothing but rude. I sent her a reply back and complained about her customer service to which I received a reply from Tomima basically telling me to get lost. It was a couple of years before I ordered from them again, but I will only do so if I have a coupon. Interesting to note, Figleaves (US site, not sure about the UK one) has prices ranging from $10-20 cheaper than HerRoom, especially on newer products. They offer the Freya Longlines at around $48 instead of $68, plus they are more pleasant. I think I'll be switching to them from now on, and they have a lot more to offer in size 28 and various other brands.

    Has HerRoom responded to you in regards to this post?

    ReplyDelete
  28. I've never ordered from HerRoom and b/c of reading this, I never will. Especially if it's true sometimes they are higher priced than Figleaves which I also haven't ordered from. Besides Figleaves or maybe BareNecessities (I'm currently waiting on a shipment from them), I'll consider ordering from UK in the future. Even with shipping extra it might be worth it.

    ReplyDelete
  29. I feel incensed over HerRoom's censorious actions of asking you to remove their images. As a company representative, they should be aware of the full scope of copyright before sending out an official request. By claiming something as infringing upon their copyright where it is clearly within the realm of Fair Use demonstrates a lack of professionalism and a bit of a bullying mentality. This is especially so if, as you mentioned, these types of requests were only being sent to reviews with negative comments. I completely understand and respect your wish to not further yourself in any type of legal altercation. If in the future should something similar happen and you wish to stand your ground but are threatened with legal action, the good folks over at the PopeHat blog (www.popehat.com) can help you find pro bono help. They frequently write about first amendment issues.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Beyond the problems you've mentioned here, have you ever looked up Herroom service reviews? I have, and that's why I've never ordered from them before. Their return service comes of as a huge scam.

    ReplyDelete
  31. You are still in the U.S.A. and you still have the right to free speach! The folks at Herroom won't be getting my business. Not only because of your experience but also because I did read the complaints board and their reviews are awful!

    ReplyDelete
  32. You are still in the U.S.A. and you still have the right to free speach! The folks at Herroom won't be getting my business. Not only because of your experience but also because I did read the complaints board and their reviews are awful!

    ReplyDelete
  33. "I was offended [by] the lack of diversity of skin color in their illustrations"... Oh, puleaze!!!!! What, you want them to be "black and white"? (Yes, only an idiotic comment could answer your idiotic post!

    ReplyDelete