For me, it’s the best place to connect with photographers and creative ventures that share a mutual respect for authenticity, craftsmanship and visual storytelling. But then there’s Folk Magazine.
With a following that’s currently 700K strong, Folk’s gorgeous Instagram page caught my eye a couple years ago and I immediately added #livefolk to my already-robust list of hashtags. At the time, the company appealed to me as a space to share and discover content from photographers around the globe. But it wasn’t until last year, after making my first and only purchase on their site, that I realized they’ve actually been preying on young creatives and getting away with it for years. Here’s my cautionary tale of how I was duked by Folk Magazine and what I’ve learned about them since then.
On April 22, 2016, I was scrolling through Instagram when I noticed a post by Folk Magazine debuting a really nice Yosemite t-shirt for sale. Immediately, I’m sold because my boyfriend and I had been planning a Memorial Day trip to Yosemite and the shirt would be perfect for capturing clutch Instagram shots in front of El Capitan.
I texted the picture to him asking if he would wear it. He replied: “Sure. I’m not rolling my sleeves up tho”
Fair enough. So from folklifestyle.com, I purchased the tee along with a Yosemite sweatshirt for me. The total came out to exactly $53. I received an order confirmation for both items that same day and felt pretty satisfied with my experience thus far.
Honestly, I didn’t think twice about the shirts again until I received shipping email notifications on May 2 — ten days after I placed the order. I remember thinking wow. that took a long time to ship. I’m glad I bought these shirts early on. Our Memorial Day vacation was now just 3 weeks away so it seemed the shirts would be arriving just in time for the trip.
When I opened the emails that day, I noticed that the tracking number for my boyfriend’s shirt didn’t show any items listed for shipping — only that a label had been made.
On my other order for the sweatshirt, the tracking number wasn’t even included. The shirts were being delivered to two separate addresses so there should have been two separate tracking numbers. It didn’t bother me at the time. I just shrugged it off and made a mental note to check my one tracking number in a few days for an update.
A week goes by and I randomly notice Folk Magazine is promoting another item for sale on Instagram. This triggers my memory and I think oh crap! where are my orders? In my naiveté, my first concern is that the shirts might be waiting for me somewhere for pick-up and I’ve failed to retrieve them. But when I return to the tracking number I was given, it still shows the same status: shipping label printed.
At this point I realize something can’t be right with this tracker. I text my boyfriend to see if his shirt came in and he says he hasn’t received anything. So I refer to the notification email to find a contact number and, of course, nothing is listed. I send a reply email to firstname.lastname@example.org and wait. I’m on high alert now and checking my email frequently. I find a phone number listed for the company but the line just rings and rings. At one point, I even DM’d the company on Instagram and no one ever responded. All the while, Folk continued to promote new products on their Instagram. I commented under a few of the posts inquiring about my orders. And that’s when I notice other users wondering about their shipments too. Eventually, I manage to find contact info for the founder Ben Ashby. So, on May 12, I sent him a more dire email stating that I’m done reaching out and I’ll be reporting Folk to the Better Business Bureau if I don’t get an update. Apparently that was all it took to get an immediate response. Here was Ben’s message to me:
The tee will be sent out next week. Unfortunately the sweatshirt has been on back order for sometime. We sent out a mass email. They will be going out by the end of next week or the beginning of the week after
Lies. I didn’t get a mass email. And why wasn’t I alerted about the supposed back order before I purchased the sweatshirt? Folk’s Instagram continued to deflect all responsibility, spewing nonsense about back orders being sent to a fulfillment house. More lies.
Frustrated, I posted a comment letting them know I’m done with the excuses. Soon after that, I’m blocked from their Instagram. But not before a stranger sends me a DM warning me against the company and sharing her own story of how she was scammed. She tells me to dispute the charge with my bank, file a complaint to the BBB (where they have a 1 star rating) and check out the Instagram page BoycottFolkMagazine where other victims have shared their stories.
The page revealed a lot more to me about the company’s wrongdoings, sharing screenshots and complaints about transactions well over the $53 I lost. Recently, one user pointed out that the trendy, hipster-bait content on Folk Magazine’s Instagram isn’t even original.
“He just photoshopped his dumbs**t bear logo over a kohls ad. Why hasn’t this guy been stopped?…”
In the 10 days remaining before our trip began, my boyfriend went online and made Yosemite shirts for us and we received them in no time at all. We arrived at the park safely and spent 3 days hiking, camping and shooting. It was incredible.
I didn’t give another thought about Folk Magazine until December when I randomly received a package in the mail. Alas! It’s the Yosemite sweatshirt. My boyfriend also received his shirt that month too. But it looked drastically different from the item that was pictured on the site. Whatever. All I could do was laugh and toss the shirt aside. Full disclosure: I’ve worn it out a few times. Mostly as a reminder never to be duped again.