Really and truly and totally unbelievably, this post promises to live up to its title...
It all started back in December when I was searching Etsy for my dream Gunne Sax dress- a red & white gingham sun dress. And I FOUND it! It was a new seller, gunnesaxlady, with odd photos of Gunnies lying on the floor, but the shop owner Toni was willing to lower the price in trade for one of my Gunne-esque dresses. We exchanged addresses and sent our dresses off.
Then three weeks ago when I started listing my Prairie Dress A Day dresses she quickly bought up the first dress using another Etsy account, gunnesaxgal. I didn't realize at the time that this was a separate account, with the names being so similar, or else I may have been more wary of the next development- the fact that she hadn't paid for it and had marked "pay with other" at checkout. I messaged her immediately and she said her PayPal account was having an issue and she was going to use her "sister's" account. I gave her my PayPal email address and got the payment, so everything seemed good I sent the dress to her. The USPS tracking number shows that she received the dress on March 8th.
Alas! What a sad and tragic fate has befallen one of the prettiest dresses I've ever had in my shop!
I transferred the money to my bank account, and then a few days later I saw that it had been reversed OUT OF my bank account and was put "under review" by PayPal. I immediately wrote Toni and she said she'd look into it. After a week under review PayPal decided to refund the money back to the buyer. I called them and they said her account was flagged by her bank as "suspicious" and that's why the payment was reversed. The woman at PayPal also said that this was highly unusual, and that another weird thing about the whole situation was that for some reason this one transaction out of over a thousand on my account didn't include sellers' insurance, and she had no idea why.
I had continued to send Toni friendly messages (on both of her accounts) and emails, trying to figure out what was going on. Finally I realized that this was an intentional scam. I started reaching out to other sellers and buyers and Gunne Sax fans and slowly but surely the puzzle pieces started to fall into place. I happened to be at the right place at the right time, and to have the social connections and mystery-solving set of mind, to be the person to finally call this seller out for her unethical and bizarre business practices. Which are as follows...
1. Weird & Distasteful Photos
Let's start with her smallest crimes and work up to the biggest. Or let's start with her nippleiest crimes and move up to the outright stealing. These are actual photos taken from actual listings she has posted in her actual shop right now:
Okay so this has nothing to do with the fraud, but I would be remiss to write a post about this lady without highlighting her tasteless photos. Some, as you can see, are horribly executed mammary-centric self portraits with the annoying date on the bottom right, while others hang on what appears to be some sort of weird sex fetish mannequin. The really funny thing about this is that Gunnies are notoriously small-busted dresses, and she has to undo the corset on all of these in order to make them fit. Whenever she can, she makes her default photo as pornographic as possible. Perhaps she's trying to distract us from her evil scheme by throwing some big ol' titties in our face. Nice try.
2. Stealing Images
Moving onto the theft, of which she dabbles in at least two kinds. The first is stealing other peoples' images to use in her shop.
This photo was taken from Old Age Vintage. You can tell by the sizing that it was taken from someone else (without bothering to click on it to make it bigger first). Her whole shop is a hodge-podge of different sized photos with different backgrounds and different models.
I took this screen shot last night after accidentally coming upon this page while searching for "velvet Gunne Sax". She is using the exact same image (actually all five of them) as a listing from another shop that has the same item for sale. She stole it from Allison at Rags and Feathers Vintage. Here is the dress in Allison's shop, and here it is in Toni's.
This image was taken from Elizabeth at Golden Owl Vintage.
This photo was taken from American Archive. I have checked with all of the sellers whose images are shown here, and none of them were contacted by Toni for permission to use their photos.
I am unsure of the origins of the following images, and ask you to please let me know if you recognize which shops any of them are from. Some of these (like the two shots above) were taken from her shop on Ruby Lane called Hippie Haven, which a friend directed me to earlier today. It seems that Toni has multiple venues through which she sells (it appears she was recently banished from eBay, though I don't as of yet have undeniable proof of this) and this fact, coupled with her multiple Etsy and PayPal accounts, belies her strategy to spread her fraudulent activities over multiple sites in the hopes that no one will figure her out. (As sellers we all know that presenting a consistent branding strategy to the world over multiple venues is a smart business move; the fact that she tries to mask her shops under different names and logos speaks volumes).
Her profile on Ruby Lane states "We carefully research and photograph every item". Not the only outright lie from her you'll be reading about in this post.
3. Horrible Customer Service
You can start to get a sense for how she works her scam by looking at her feedback and her Sold folder on Etsy. Many of her transactions are legit; if they were all fraudulent she'd be a much easier target for removal. From what I can piece together she buys Gunnies from other sellers (always asking for a discount and sometimes doing what she did with me- paying with a shifty PayPal account and knowing the money will be reversed back to her and then refusing to make the payment again), then lists the item in her shop, often using images stolen from either that seller or someone else (some of the shops I got in touch with had sold the dress used in her listings to her, some hadn't and she just had the exact same dress and used the best image she could find). When she makes a sale she sometimes ships the dress out to the buyer right away, sometimes waits a month and a half to get around to it, and sometimes ships the wrong item all together.
Now, from looking at her Sold section, I am willing to bet that she also profits from not shipping out sold dresses at all and then re-listing them to sell again and make double the profit. None of her feedback suggests this outright, but the fact that she has the exact same listing listed twice (presumably being re-listed after it sold the first time) for two separate dresses is very suspicious (the white dress pictured above from Old Age has sold twice, and the blue dress from an unknown source has sold once and it's now listed again). Two of the four pieces of negative feedback have no commentary, so who knows what happened there. Perhaps her probable banishment from eBay last fall was due to the fact that someone else already figured this all out (she started selling on Etsy in November and on Ruby Lane just last month).
4. Stealing Merchandise/Fraud/Outright Lying
I finally did get a message back from Toni, just last night. Here is a screen shot of our conversation (sorry they're warped so strangely):
Oh Toni. Apparently she thought she could get away with this embarrassing lie because it was sent from her gunnesaxlady account (her shop account), while the purchase was made from her gunnesaxgal/toni guy account. Here is what she sent me after she made the purchase from me three weeks ago without paying and I asked her what was up:
I had sent my question about payment to her gunnesaxlady shop account, and she chose to write me back from her personal, secret account. Now I know why. She thought she was covering up any traces of her shop persona and her buying/scamming persona being related. (It's interesting too to note that she even changed her name from "toni guy" to just "toni" during the course of our conversation.) However, I have proof that gunnesaxgal and gunnesaxlady are indeed the same person with the same name and the same address:
So here is the official order (note that I still have not checked the "paid with other" box, because I still have not received her payment), and here is an email Toni sent me from her gunnesaxlady shop account back in December when we decided to trade dresses:
As you can see I got all fancy and learned how to erase parts of these images in order to hide her mailing address as well as my email address for privacy's sake. I've chosen to leave her email visible though so that you can know not to do business with her if she ever tries to pay you in PayPal using it. Her "sister's" email address is email@example.com, so avoid doing business with that account as well. I have reported both of these accounts and the whole story to PayPal and they take matters like this quite seriously, so most likely no one will ever encounter these particular emails again.
The Moral of the Story
Is don't try and screw over your brothers and sisters of the world, and if you do, don't be an idiot about it. Toni probably figured that no one would ever put forth the time and effort to patch her scheme together. I so badly want to yell out here in my strongest self-righteous-prairie-dress-wearing-moral-policewoman-mama voice "Well lady, you MESSED WITH THE WRONG WOMAN!" (Yes I am having my moontime right now and yes I did just eat an entire bar of Coffee Crunch Dark Chocolate while writing this post).
I share this with you all in order to A) perhaps gather more feedback and hear more stories about Toni and her Multiple Online Personality Theft, Lies, and Fraud Disorder and B) to warn others about her and her sketchy business practices. I encourage you to share this post. The more folks find out what is going on here, the better chance we have of stopping this whole mess and preventing it from happening in the future when she signs up with yet another website to try and hawk her stolen wares (and then never ship them out to the people who buy them).
I have already reported her to Etsy, Ruby Lane, and PayPal. If any of the stolen images are yours, please contact whichever site is featuring them to let them know. And if you have any stories of your own that support what I am saying here, please send them along to the relevant websites as well. This woman needs to be shut down as soon as possible.
As a fellow seller said to me, "How could she do this to you!? How could she do this to the Gunnies!?"