The PR Meltdown at Nasty Gal, and What We Can Learn From It

Like most women entrepreneurs, I enjoyed Sophia Amoruso’s book #girlboss. It seemed like the first of its kind, and being a vintage-enthusiast who used to sell the odd dress or two on ebay ( which is/was a super competitive place to make a profit), I was drawn to Amoruso’s story.

While I had never purchased from Nasty Gal ( her clothing store) I  pinned several dresses I liked to one of my pinboards, and recently saw that one dress was on sale. I decided to buy it, and also made another order. My family then purchased me another dress from Nasty Gal for my birthday, since it too was on sale and trying to find clothing in my size here in Chiang Mai is challenging.

It wasn’t until the 70 percent off sale hit and I received little to no info about where some of my orders were that I knew something was wrong.

I did a little googling and found out that sadly, Nasty Gal had filed for bankruptcy but had fortunately been purchased by UK retailer Boohoo. The more I researched, the more I realized that this wasn’t the only bad news to hit Nasty Gal and Amoruso.

For starters, the company was bought for only 20 million when it was estimated to be a heck of a lot more then that. The 70 percent off sale was obviously to get rid of all the remaining stock and liquidate their assets, and so that Boohoo could add their new stock to the site, once they got access to it.

But there was a heck of a lot more to it then just that.

According to Jezebel, several of Nasty Gal’s employees have filed lawsuits against NG for various reasons, including that one employee was fired when she was on maternity leave. Then there is the fact that employees have claimed Nasty Gal became a toxic work environment.

But that’s still not all!

According to several sources ( including one vendor on Instagram), Nasty Gal’s former owners haven’t paid them for their stock!

Ashley Glasson ( of L.A. based label LNA) told businessoffashion.com:

“They were placing really large orders up front, and seemed to be really behind the brand, with a great team of people working on the buying side,” Glasson explains. “We were having great sell-throughs, then getting paid just turned into a non-existent process.”

Nasty Gal was also sued for apparently copying other people’s designs.

All of this information disturbed me, and while I wished Amoruso the best on her #girlboss brand ( which now has its own site and events), I felt differently about her. Plus, where were my orders?

I contacted Nasty Gal’s online chat ( which took a long while to start chatting with me) and asked them why my items hadn’t shipped yet. They explained it was due to the sale, and I accepted that and assumed they would all get to me eventually.

And some did.

Then, I noticed one day that Nasty Gal’s site was down for maintenance…and when it was live again, I could no longer log into my account.

This means I could not ( and still cannot) track orders nor check on the status update of the final order ( that my family bought for me) and whether it had finally shipped out.

I contacted customer service, and they told me that many others who had purchased from the brand when it belonged to its previous owners ( I’m assuming Amoruso?) were unable to access their accounts because the new owners ( clothing brand Boohoo) still didn’t have access to them.

Frustrated, I decided to just wait it out. But I went on Instagram to see if others were having similar issues and if like me, they too were locked out of their accounts.

What I saw stunned me. 

Hundreds ( if not thousands) of mostly-female customers have taken to Nasty Gal’s social media accounts to ask where the F their orders are, why they can’t get into their accounts, and when they would actually get access to their accounts.

Others claim to have been double charged, or charged the full price of their items that were supposed to be 70 percent off. And some claim to have had their cards associated with their Nasty Gal accounts charged out of the middle of nowhere, while others have had their orders canceled, with no notice whatsoever.

 

 

Two vendors have commented on the many photos Nasty Gal keeps posting to seemingly bury the plethora of comments from pissed off customers. @theraggedpriest says on the above photo from NG’s Instagram ‘ How’s about paying us some of the $52,000 you owe? Or at least an email? You got us? I doubt it.’

Nasty Gal’s twitter account was also bombarded by frustrations from customers who placed an order last month and haven’t received it, or have been locked out of their accounts or double charged.

One customer had whoever runs the NG twitter account basically go off on her. She took a screenshot of the convo in case Nasty Gal deleted it, which they did.

Thankfully, media outlets have begun covering the PR meltdown that’s unfolding. Cosmo quoted me in an article ( under my @holisticfamilies username) as did Brit+Co, and both highlighted the possible fraud that’s going down. Racked, Refinery29, and Seventeen magazine have also covered the issues.

At the time of writing this, I still cannot log into my account and have no idea if the final order ever shipped. I did receive one of the other items purchased, although it doesn’t fit me well, and according to Nasty Gal, I cannot return it because I ordered it from the previous owners of the brand.

But my experience is nothing compared to what hundreds of other customers are claiming on Nasty Gal’s social media, from their Fanpage to their Instagram account.

Who Is To Blame?

Is this the fault of previous owners or Boohoo?

In reality, they both have a responsibility to make sure that customer orders are fulfilled, and that any account issues get fixed asap. Boohoo has done a horrific job from a customer service point of view.

 

I reached out to Sophia on Twitter and asked her ( in as polite a way as I could muster) if she knew who was responsible for the myriad of issues her former customer are facing.

 

She kindly replied and said ‘ I wish I knew. I left in November, I’m so sorry.’

I appreciate her replying and as I’ve mentioned in this article, wish her the best, but it seems like no one associated with both the current and former Nasty Gal brand wants to take responsibility.

Boohoo has the job of finding out who is responsible, and holding them accountable for both their customers and because Boohoo will ultimately lose money and have their brand get severely tarnished by the huge PR flap that’s unfolding.

Boohoo borrowed 12 million pounds to purchase the Nasty Gal brand and customer base ( list), and yet they won’t do what it takes to make sure that customers get what they paid for.

On top of that, will the vendors who claim to be owed money ever get paid?

What We Can Learn

As an entrepreneur that works in social media, personal branding, and content marketing, I’ve learned an incredible amount through the Nasty Gal disaster.

For starters, Nasty Gal apparently went under due to buying too much too soon. They took large amounts of investor capital and opened a huge head office in LA, plus two expensive retail stores. Apparently, they also had issues retaining customers.

Sophia is incredible at building a brand, both as the Nasty Gal name and also as a personal brand. However, the lingering issues that plagued Nasty Gal- from allegations of copying designers work to owing vendors money- show that something went wrong in either her leadship skills or her CEO’s, and on top of that, it also shows that Nasty Gal still to this day has accountability issues, which is evident by what’s happening right now.

What I’ve learned is the importance of staying small as a solopreneur and staying within budget. I actually like being a microbiz. If you want to scale, scale. But do it within reason and when the time is right.

The Nasty Gal PR meltdown has also provided an opportunity for other brands ( such as indie designers) to let Nasty Gal’s customer base know that they would never treat them the way Nasty Gal has.

How can Boohoo fix this?

In my opinion, it’s too late in many respects. They should have issued a formal appology on their site and emailed customers about the account issues, with details about who to hold accountable for double charges and other such issues. Because they’ve failed to do this, I believe they’ve lost their hard-working, young clientelle base who deserve better.

On a side note, I do not think bankruptcy equals failure, and articles insinuating that Amoruso is a failure for this reason sadden me. Businesses come and go, just take a look at the success rate in both the retail and restaurant/dining industries! Despite her business shortcomings, Sophia has inspired a generation of entrepreneurs to say yes to starting their own businesses, and doing it their way, and she also took a little Ebay store and made it one of the most well-known vintage businesses in the world.

However, where she did fail is in making sure that both employees and vendors were happy, at least in the last few months when she was at Nasty Gal, and she also hasn’t stood up for customers will order issues by finding out who to hold accountable. Was it the CEO she hired? Was it because someone ( guessing management) laid off most of their employees at the distribution center, with apparently little notice?

We’ll see what happens and if customers who have had order issues will actually receive what they ordered, and when/if I get what my family ordered in February, I’ll update you.

I encourage more press and media outlets to cover this topic, particularly because of the women who have spent thousands of dollars at Nasty Gal and have not received their orders, and for those who have been overcharged. They deserve to have their money back, and media outlets can help shine a light on this issue so that maybe they will actually get what they ordered, or a refund.

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