A woman who ordered a custom hoodie through an online printing company says she was "outraged and embarrassed" when the garment arrived with an apparent misprint on the front.
Netta Dobbins, a Nashville native living in New York City, told In The Know she recently used Printful, a platform allowing users to create and sell their own "custom design products" online, to make a hoodie representing a project of hers called "Secret Black Girl Meeting."
The event series, which Dobbins started in July, "creates a safe space for Black women to come together and discuss issues within our community, network and have fun," she explained. "The hoodies were a part of the fall merchandise collection and designed to create more community among my audience."
Dobbins, the cofounder and CEO of Mimconnect, a professional networking platform and career resource for people of color, received her much-anticipated order on Tuesday. However, instead of a peach-colored cropped hoodie bearing the words "Secret Black Girl Meeting" on the back and "Member" on the front, as was requested, she was instead delivered a hoodie that bore an X-rated message.
In large, prominent lettering across the front of the garment, the words "I love big black c***" were printed. The back of the hoodie appeared as requested, leading Dobbins to feel the print was "a direct attack on the brand and community" she was creating.
"The back of the hoodie still said 'Secret Black Girl Meeting' so that made me believe it was 100 percent a malicious act," she explained.
Dobbins, who had used Printful in the past to promote her projects, described the customizing process as "typically pretty easy," not leaving much room for interpretation.
"You design the file yourself, then upload it, and place it where you'd like it to show up on the shirt," she explained. "They also show you comps of the shirt before you purchase it so that you can confirm this is exactly what you'd like."
Though she had seen the mockups of her product and had worked with the company before, Dobbins said, she realized something was "off" as soon as she opened up the package containing the hoodie.
"The sweatshirt was balled up in the packaging," she said, clarifying that the company typically folds products "correctly," as a retail store would, with the design facing upward.
"As I started opening it, the first word I saw was 'c***' and I immediately knew something was wrong," Dobbins added. "After opening it completely, I was outraged and embarrassed."
Since Printful allows "drop shipping" — where items are printed to order and shipped directly from the manufacturer — and does not require order minimums, Dobbins was, thankfully, not required to place a bulk order for the hoodie.
However, she did say another woman was able to purchase the same hoodie through Printful before the printing error was realized.
"I've been trying to get in contact with her to ensure that she didn't run into the same issue," Dobbins said.
The upset customer has been in contact with Printful's customer service team, which has since processed her a full refund and issued an apology.
In an email obtained by In The Know, Printful customer support senior associate Sintija Kviese characterized Dobbin's experience as "extremely unpleasant" and offered a further explanation on what may have caused the offending hoodie to be created in the first place.
"Our print operators have no control over the designs that are being printed," Kviese wrote. "They see the design on the screen and the machine automatically applies the design onto the shirt. Our print operators also don't see any additional customer information, they don't check your store or products etc."
"As each print is printed separately (due to the fact that after printing the item needs to dry off before it can be printed again) it actually means that your shirt was printed 2 times - one for the front print, then dried and then printed again to cover the back," she continued. "This is why it would be possible that only one print is mixed while the other one is correct."
"Regarding the design itself, it is indeed a design from another user and is not created by our staff," she added. "Unfortunately, in this case, the mixup has been very inappropriate and I fully understand how you could feel offended by receiving this order."
Kviese also offered to send Dobbins a replacement hoodie with the correct design, on top of her refund.
"We greatly appreciate all our customers and it would be devastating for us to see you leave the company due to this mistake on our end," she ended her message.
Still, Dobbins says she doesn't believe the two messages could have been paired together on accident, adding she hopes the incident will prompt Printful to revise its process.
"I'm firm in my belief that this was a malicious attack, so while they're doing their job, and what I've assumed they've been told to do in training, it's still unsatisfactory for me," she said. "Something like this should have never happened, and they need to implement a review process so that nothing this heinous happens again."
In a statement, Edward Zarins, community manager at Printful, told In The Know the company is "thoroughly investigating how the mistake happened" to ensure nothing like it will recur.
"We have apologized to our customer directly and publicly and would like to express that we are sorry that we misprinted a customer's order with an explicit print file," he added. "We do believe that mistakes like these are unacceptable and take full responsibility. Accordingly, we are ready to take disciplinary action for this case and look into how to improve our training and quality control process."