No Sweat Apparel Corporate Bullies
A couple days ago, I wrote an article about how Chief Operating Officer Robert Hoffman from No Sweat Apparel had been threatening legal action against us if we didn’t stop using the phrase “no sweat” in the category titles of one of our shops of sweatshop-free clothing on CafePress. I was shocked that Mr. Hoffman hadn’t had the decency to just pick up the telephone and give us a telephone call before threatening a lawsuit.
It was an especially rude thing to do given the way that we at Irregular Times have in the past gone out of our way to write several positive articles about No Sweat, along with links to their web site, to help send some business their way. You would think that Robert Hoffman and No Sweat Apparel would want to maintain the positive relationship, and get some more good free press. That’s how people in small business treat each other.
My mistake was to think that No Sweat Apparel is a small business. It’s not – not by a longshot. No Sweat Apparel is just a subsidiary of a large multinational corporation. The friendly, small operation look of the No Sweat Apparel web site is just a facade. They’re a big corporate operation with lots of money made through some other, not-so-friendly industries like HMOs.
That’s right, HMOs – the health care plans that are set up to restrict medical treatments people can get, in order to cut costs. That doesn’t quite fit the No Sweat Apparel brand image, but then, I guess image isn’t everything.
Trying to be friendly, I spend a good amount of time making the adjustments to our shop sweatshop free clothes. I made the changes that were requested, as communicated to me through CafePress. I wasn’t happy about taking the time to do it, but I didn’t think it was necessary to be belligerent.
Unfortunately, belligerence seems to be second nature to Robert L. Hoffman and his corporate team. Hoffman sent an aggressive follow-up email making even more demands. He demanded that the URL of the shop be changed, and that the language be changed even more. It wasn’t good enough, Robert Lowell Hoffman, said, to change the section titles “no sweat” to “no sweatshop”. Hoffman insisted that I would not be allowed to use the phrase “no sweatshop”, but would have to use the phrase “non-sweatshop” instead. He even complained about a graphic that didn’t even include the phrase “no sweat” and didn’t look anything like the No Sweat logo (which itself uses a ripped-off graphic).
Hoffman ended his email with the following threat: “We are not happy with No Sweatshop as an alternative. I am requesting this matter be adjudicated today. I will be leaving for the remainder of the week. If I do not have a clear indication by tomorrow morning that the matter is sufficiently resoolved I will forward it on to our attorney for the purpose of following up in my absence.”
No sweat?!? This episode reminds me of nothing so much as Bill O’Reilly and Fox News suing Al Franken for using the phrase “Fair and Balanced” on a book cover. It’s a case of frivolous legal aggression, and what’s more, it never had to happen. All Robert Hoffman had to do was pick up the telephone and be nice. I guess in the corporate world that No Sweat Apparel inhabits, they’re just too important to talk to little people like you and me.
We do not accept the legal merit of the complaints by Robert Hoffman, No Sweat Apparel, and their parent multinational corporation. However, unlike Al Franken, we do not have the money, the manpower or the time to defend ourselves. No Sweat’s corporation has the power to send attorneys out to bully us and swamp us until we’re dead in the water, even before there’s an appearance in court. We’re not a big corporation. We’re not even incorporated as a tiny S-corporation. We’re just a few ordinary people trying to make a difference. Against their big guns, we don’t have a choice.
We do not recognize the legal validity of No Sweat Apparel’s position, but we do recognize their superior financial and organizational power. So, I’ve taken the store of sweatshop-labor-free shirts that they’re complaining about offline.
If the people at No Sweat Apparel were really interested in helping people buy sweatshop free clothing, you’d think they’d work in cooperation with others who have that mission. Instead, they’re taking the corporate approach, and working to stop other people from selling sweatshop free apparel.
Thanks to the corporate bullies at No Sweat Apparel, there are fewer items of sweatshop free clothing available to people today.