[This post was originally written in 2010, but is continually updated as EdenFantasys
perpetrates more and more unethical deeds. Everything is dated for clarity.]
EdenFantasys is a huge presence in the world of online sex shops. But ubiquity does not equal goodness, and behind the glossy (and nauseating pink and green) exterior, there lies an unethical group of people who have broken the law in order to push EdenFantasys to the top, and a “community” that rewards sugarcoating and shuns criticism.
It’s easy to overlook all the bullshit that EdenFantasys has pulled. I know this because I did it myself. I knew that EF had burned several bloggers circa 2008, but I stayed because EF has great selection, awesome searching features, and an active forum1. I stayed because I enjoyed reading reviews, both the awesome ones and the terrible ones. And, selfishly, I stayed because I figured they couldn’t do anything to me. I didn’t work for them, so it wasn’t like they could fire me or deprive me of money.
But then they banned me. And I felt so stupid for staying as long as I did. Really, really stupid. I mean, I think we can all agree that they banned me with only a paltry amount of respect — with a cold, terse email and a slanderous forum post. But what EF did to me really isn’t that bad compared to what they’ve done to others. For years.
Jump to a section:
- All your links are belong to EdenFantasys
- Why pay employees and affiliates when you can treat them like shit? (updated 06/07/13)
- The atmosphere and the silencing of naysayers (updated 06/07/13)
- Sending out used sex toys (updated 07/09/13)
- Mass-firings and “the end of Eden” (updated 02/11/14)
- Pointspocalypse and mass exodus (updated 06/24/13)
- Privacy violations and cyberbullying (updated 06/25/13)
- How to escape
All your links are belong to EdenFantasys
Maymay wrote one of the most epic, damning, thorough posts in the history of the internet when he discovered that EdenFantasys has been fucking EVERYONE over with intricate, deceptive linking tricks. And, um, holy fuck, this is huge:
EdenFantasys has invested a staggering amount of time and money to develop and implement a technology platform that actively denies others the courtesy of link reciprocity, a courtesy on which the ethical Internet is based. Taking willful and self-serving advantage of those not technically savvy is a form of inexcusable oppression . . .
For non-human visitors, including automated search engine indexing programs such as Googlebot, the “link” remains non-functional, making the article a search engine’s dead-end or “orphan” page whose only functional links are those whose destination is EdenFantasys’s own web presence. This makes EdenFantasys’ website(s) a self-referential black hole that provides no reciprocity for contributors who author content, nor for any website ostensibly “linked” to from article content. At the same time, EdenFantasys editors actively solicit inbound links from individuals and organizations through “link exchanges” and incentive programs such as “awards” and “free” sex toys . . .
. . . They’re trying remarkably hard to make certain that all roads lead to EdenFantasys, but none lead outside of it; no matter what the “link,” search engines see it as stemming from and leading to EdenFantasys.
. . . EdenFantasys also actively performs link-stuffing through its syndicated content “relationships,” underhandedly creating an outsourced and distributed link-farm, just like a spammer . . . Articles published at SexIs Magazine are syndicated in full to other large hub sites, such as AlterNet.org . . . we can see that this content was republished on AlterNet.org shortly after original publication through EdenFantasys’ website . . . However, a closer look at the HTML code of the republication shows that each and every link contained within the article points to the same destination: the same article published on SexIs Magazine . . .
. . . This is no mistake on the part of EdenFantasys, nor is it a one-off occurrence. The amount of work necessary to implement the elaborate system I’ve described is also not even remotely feasible for a rogue programmer to accomplish, far less accomplish covertly. No, this is the result of a calculated and decidedly underhanded strategy . . .
. . . here is unmistakable evidence that EdenFantasys is doing literally everything it can not only to bolster its own web presence at the cost of others’, but to hide this fact from its understandably non-tech-savvy contributors.
Yes, some EF programmer spent hours and hours — if not days, and quite possibly weeks — concocting a code that would artifically make EF look like bigshots on Google while simultaneously fucking everyone else over. There is a reason that people buy paid links on popular sites (see those “sex toys” links in my sidebar?) — because merely having the link on a popular site helps the linked site’s pagerank. EF is denying their writers this tiny courtesy; any link on EF to an off-site review does nothing for its writer, since Google sees the link as one to EF. Bottom line: EF is saying “FUCK YOU” to everyone who provides content for them. This is not an exaggeration; shit like this is considered unethical by Google itself.
This is even more terrifying when you consider how many people EF has roped into “link exchanges” with them. Link exchanges that benefit only EF. Nice.
But never fear, EF’s lead programmer can explain it all to our tiny brains: “In most cases modern search engines do not understand the dynamic information, although it would be highly beneficial for us if they did, since they are missing a lot of information.” Are you fucking serious? Yes, let’s wait for the INTERNET to catch up to your HIGHLY ADVANCED and NOT AT ALL SUSPICIOUS linking tactics. Right.
EF’s “explanation” confirms that they think we are morons who will simply take them at their word. We are not technologically ignorant. We live on the damn internet. We have a “view source” option just like everyone else, and when we view others sites’ sources, we see code that makes sense. For example, here is Babeland’s off-site linking technique, taken from an entry in their blog:
<a href="http://www.sugarbutch.net/2010/05/review-jimmyjane-massage-stone/" target="_blank">The JimmyJane Contour M Massage Stone</a>
And then EF’s version of “linking.” This is the “link” on EF that goes to Sundae’s off-site review of the Vixen Mustang:
<span ID="EFLink_72651_3e29de">Read the entire review</span>
EFLink. I shit you not. This is hysterical. This is unforgivable.
And EF knows it’s unforgivable. Why? Because they’re trying to continue doing it. If they actually cared about the community’s concern, they’d be fixing that shit right away. Instead, they have force-fed us a lie-filled “explanation” and muzzled the community from having a response. Now, anyone who dares to post something intelligent about this in the EF forums gets locked out of their account or has their post deleted. One blogger has said nothing about this hoopla, yet was still locked out. An entire thread was deleted, responses were deleted, and the relevant threads are now closed to new comments, effectively burying them among innocuous other threads and polls.
This treatment of their so-called “community” is condescending, malicious, and very telling. EF clearly wants to prevent people from knowing about this. They want this to go away ASAP so they can go on their merry way without changing a thing. Any bullshit EF or their people spew about community, accountability, and transparency is just that — bullshit. EF is not a community; it’s a fucking joke.
(Oh, and as if hijacking every link on their site wasn’t enough, they also link-spam on others’ blogs. Nice.)
Why pay employees and affiliates when you can treat them like shit?
EF has proven, year after year, that they have little respect for their employees. They treat them terribly, fire them without warning, refuse to pay them, and then spout bullshit to cover it all up. They have been doing this consistently since at least 2007, with a recent rash of firings taking place in 2012 and again in 2013.
Essin’ Em wrote a blog post detailing the injustices she saw perpetrated first-hand on EF employees circa 2007-2010. Click the links within the quote for more info about certain situations.
AAG had to take them to court to try and get the remainder of her pay which they denied her, and then they screwed her over by sending an expensive lawyer to the midwest to try and prove that she had to sue the company rather than the owner, and do it in NJ. I promise that cost them a lot more than the $1200 they owed her, but they did it. AAG STILL hasn’t gotten her last 2 weeks of pay.
They tried to get out of paying me hundreds in affiliate money, claiming they had shut my account months earlier. When I sent them screen shots taken that day of my open account with money in it, they had their current affiliate manager sending me a strongly worded hurtful letter, accusing me of slander and libel. Everything I said could be backed up by other employees, and I told them this. I got paid.
. . . That Toy Chick had to get multiple people involved to get her back pay. A woman from the government helping out TTC recused herself from TTC’s case because the owner (Fred Petrenko) was so vile and misogynistic to her.
Sarah Sloane left her full time position. I don’t know why, but I know Sarah and I know she is very dedicated to any job she does, so I’m going to assume (not say, but assume) that she fell victim to Fred’s common “I say one thing, in writing, and you do it, and I change my mind, and get angry at you” ploy, or to the “I’m not going to pay you what you’ve earned” schtick . . .
Matthew, so I hear, needed to take emergency time for family. I’m not sure of the details, nor will I share them if I hear them. It doesn’t matter — family emergencies fall in the same category as domestic violence emergencies in my mind. He was fired, just as I was yelled at for taking my friend to the ER and to file a police report (having told the boss I was doing so).
Delilah Douglas was there before I was — she hired me to help her out. She was “let go” randomly one day, about 4 months after I started. Why? Because he thought I was doing a better job and she was being “lazy” by fact checking and editing reviews, articles, etc.
In addition to all of this, I found three additional people who were burned by EF. One woman, who asked to be referred to as J.S., worked at EF doing live chat for a while (she was paid in commissions). Fred offered to sponsor some of her educational classes/events and to provide toys.
Fred gave me a ton of stuff — some samples, some new — which he prepared for me to pick up. When I got there I got whatever I wanted – literally walked around the warehouse with the warehouse manager and took what I wanted off the shelves. I got over $1000 worth of stuff.
Then came another email from Fred with some quite intense promises in it (take a deep breath): free samples for her classes, discounted products, an online interview with her to promote her events, publication of her event schedule, a possible cameraman to shoot specific classes, adding a “shopping functionality” to her website, help with her own website’s development, and payment for her help with the “guide” section of EF. All of this was promised in one email, but J.S. says, “Nothing ever panned out from any of this,” despite many meetings.
J.S. continued to do live chat and earn commissions. Then one day, her account was deleted. After contacting Fred, she received this email back:
The last time I saw you was almost a year ago when you took a box of toys from us.
You were supposed to report back, post some reviews, thank us at least.
Instead you just disappeared and now this.
Sorry but I doubt I can send you the recommendation.
I did report back. I did thank them. I did have multiple meetings with them. I did post reviews and they did have plenty of people buying stuff from me. I asked for verification not a recommendation of any sort. and that was the basically what happened. That was the real reason I was sticking around. For the “hours” of experience I was accruing providing one-on-one sex education around sex toys towards my sex educator certification. They wouldn’t give me a letter when it was all said and done.
Obviously, being treated like shit is quite the pattern at EF. Another former EF employee wrote this to me via email:
. . . while I was off for a couple days to attend a family funeral with my mother, I got some upset emails from Fred about things I’d missed or things he wanted me to be on top of (during that immediate time period). After I got back, the pattern of communication for the rest of my time there was as follows. No contact for a few days, then some angry contact in which he’d tell me how I was fucking up or doing things wrong. No constructive direction. In fact, he didn’t say anything specific to me about what my job should encompass the entire time I was there . . . he asked me to hire another full-time person to take over some of my other duties . . . He told me she’d be the program manager, and didn’t tell me anything specific about what I would be doing, just that he had plans for me. I asked him for more information, got none. I started training her, but after repeatedly being blown off by him I decided he was likely planning on firing me as soon as she was trained, so I quit one morning, on the spot (which was a big deal for me).
. . . essentially, the owner of the company is an unprofessional, unethical, emotionally abusive boss (towards multiple employees).
I think that about sums it up, really.
Added on 12/30/10: Another past EF employee and well-respected blogger, Cecily, has come forward, recounting EF’s treatment of her in 2010.
I regret taking that job last winter working for a company that not only damaged my standing in the blogosphere by association, but also damaged my professional reputation. I regret not immediately quitting the job the first time the owner of the company lost his shit and started screaming at me on the phone . . . I regret, even, trying to maintain a tiny sliver of professionalism and not name the company on social media sites because I’ve watched them suck in other bloggers to rake them through the same horrible experience I had.
I regret all of that, of course, because it eventually led to a near four-month period in which I wasn’t paid anything. A financial set back that still is affecting our family to this day, leading us to have our second Christmas without presents for the adults in our lives, a bankruptcy on file, and us almost losing our house.
Cecily does not name EdenFantasys in her post, but she has given me permission to link and quote her here.
Added on 05/17/13: On May 15th, 2013, six EF administrators were fired en masse, following firings of at least four other staff members in 2012.
Added on 06/07/13: After many years, That Toy Chick has written about her time at EdenFantasys. It’s all worth reading, but a few choice tidbits:
The corporate culture there grew steadily worse. The dating duo of the blowhard, homophobic owner and his snarky girlfriend manager, combined with the “IT” department that consisted of friends and family members from their home country that could barely speak English, left most of the American staff feeling very closed off. I’ll never forget the time I was told, in halting English, not to defrag or run virus scan on sluggish work PCs because “Microsoft was watching” and it was “exactly what they wanted us to do.” The corporate culture, despite being supposedly sex positive, was absolutely terrible to anything beyond heteronormative.
. . . I was called stupid often, I was called an idiot, fat, a moron and a handful of other things in the course of my working there, some face-to-face, others in emails and the like. Abuse was “no big deal” because I was young and needed the job, but in retrospect it turns my stomach what I put up with. Conflicting orders from my boss and manager, goals and projects that changed with the wind, and volatile tempers were only the tip of the iceberg. It was a bipolar experience – one day the boss would be a foreign Santa Claus, clapping everyone on the back, handing out toys and being merry – but the next, it was hate-filled mocking and spitting anger that yanked the rug out from under us. No one every knew what to expect when they came into work, and at least half the staff was on anti-anxiety medication. It wasn’t uncommon for us to share a xanax after a particularly bad “temper” day. I was screamed at, at various points, for making coffee and cleaning snow off of everyone’s cars as a kind gesture on my lunch break. I received a particularly sharp lecture about whistling once – apparently it’s a taboo in their foreign country, and I was told that I was single-handedly going to destroy the company’s finances because I was whistling. I can’t make this up.
A more recent employee replied, “Your post made me cry. I can relate to so very much of it. Nothing has changed. Nothing. ”
That Toy Chick was also denied $186 in affiliate earnings once she quit. The community coordinator promised to pay her — until Fred learned she was trying to get the money. He told her she had gotten all her sales “by cheating,” and thus had forfeited those earnings. Her account was deactivated.
It’s not just employees that EF is fucking over. There’s evidence that they will try to avoid paying affiliates if they think they can get away with it. After blogger Beck was banned for speaking her mind on the forums (more on that in the section below), EF attempted to ignore the affiliate money she was owed until she sent screenshots. Reassuring!
The atmosphere and the silencing of naysayers
Of course, the event that spurred this post originally was that I was permanently banned from EF, for reasons I can only guess. Perhaps one of them was rating a mommy blogger review “not useful at all.” It actually had the line in it, “This surprisingly does such a number on the G-Spot ..Did I Say The G-Spot!!” Yeah, EF seems to be more concerned with showering their affections on “mommy bloggers,” who provide free advertising for them, than quality reviews that don’t make readers’ eyes bleed. And that makes sense — the more links that go to EF, the better they look. Good writing and readable text don’t mean anything.
When I was banned in 2010, EF stated, “this is not something we ever have to do.” Since then, they’ve gone hog wild with the bannings and deactivations, shutting down accounts right and left whenever folks disagree with them or choose to speak out. More on that below, but first — let’s talk about the atmosphere.
Added on 02/22/12: I’m gonna sound like an old grandpa, but things weren’t as bad on EF back when I started there in 2007. Mainly, they were selective about who could review for them. Now, they encourage anyone and everyone to start reviewing, even if those people know nothing about sex toys. As a result, the site is bloated with positive reviews and a strange atmosphere of forced joy. Navigator captured the atmosphere perfectly in her post, “Glitter Puke: Why I left EdenFantasys” (now gone):
Glitter puke is a phrase I just made up to describe the unfailingly positive yet utterly false atmosphere that surrounds the EF site, magazine/blog/thing, forums, and even a lot of the reviews. Everyone’s all cheery and happy and pastel-colors all the time, and yet it seems almost stilted, in a way, like everyone’s being too nice. After a while, you start to realize everyone’s pretty much just regurgitating the same happy bubbly attitude those who are above them have started. Sure, it’s a friendly, welcoming attitude, but it’s empty of anything with substance. I started to notice after a while that positive reviews tended to get more comments than negative ones, and then I noticed that a lot of the reviews weren’t really all that great. I know I’m not much of one to judge, but a lot of the time I just felt like I was reading a product description with a little “you should totally buy this” tacked onto the end. Intrigued, I was not.
Then, I started looking for toys to review. EFs review program, in theory, would work great, as your rank in the community (based on activity and other users’ ranking of your reviews) would determine what price range of toys you could request. I started to get irritated, however, when I noticed stuff made of fucking jelly rubber and cyberskin bullshit show up in my search results even after I had it blacklisted in my material preferences. What the fuck, EF? Do you think I just won’t notice?
. . . Oh, and way to not make the material safety ranking you love so much visible on those toys unless you click the material name and then notice it’s a motherfucking 2. That’s just classy.
. . . Then, there are the little things that bug me about the place: the forum discussions are boring, the magazine is absolute tripe on a bike, and their name violates a basic rule of English, have I mentioned that?
And things have only gotten worse with the inception of the points program, which rewards people for doing simple shit like commenting on reviews. What does this lead to? Comments such as “great review!” and “thanks!”, or the dreaded smiley face, or both. And god forbid you write a negative review; you will probably be judged and told that you don’t know how to use the toy.
Added on 12/07/12: EF is actually a pretty puritanical place. You’d think a place that sells sex toys would know, I don’t know, anything about trans* people, but no — they don’t. Trans* people are not welcome there, and often experience rudeness when they try to speak out in the forums. It is for this reason that a previous contributor has left EF.
Added on 01/04/13: This forum post is precisely why nobody should trust the reviews posted on EdenFantasys. Their reviewers are being told to be — and many are agreeing that they will — even MORE positive than they already were. With stupid and completely illogical “reasoning” from the higher-ups such as this:
Reviews: Reporters vs. Critics . . . some people, for many reasons, veer off of an informative path. Your reviews can be fun and interesting, they can be creative and unique, but it must be helpful to someone considering the purchase of this item. That is the entire point of the review. If the toy is great, explain why it is great. If the toy is not useful, explain why. It is easy to rant and rave, it is easy to make colorful associations, and it is easy to overly obsess on minor details, but please do not lose track of the focus.
Critics need to be entertaining. They need to maintain their viewer / reader base. They need to rant, be funny, and make inflated claims, inserting their personalities into everything they cover. You are not critics – you are all reporters. You need to stick to the facts so that other people can share the same great experiences that you had. That is only fair.
It gets worse as you keep reading. If you visit EF to read the reviews, be careful. There is a lot of incentive for their reviewers to sugarcoat everything.
They cite incessant point system abuses such as forum spam, plagiarism, and errant voting, an atmosphere in which veteran members are chastised if they are not nice enough to new (point farming) members, the suspicious admin response whenever someone mentions EF sending out used toys (detailed in the next section), deletion of any threads that the admin doesn’t like, and the ridiculous forum post above which asks reviewers to sugarcoat their reviews.
After over a year of time in the community, here’s what I can tell you it boils down to. Eden wants to maintain a perfect appearance. They are the stereotypical “ideal” family: flawless on the outside, a dysfunctional mess when you take a closer look. There is a thick air of forced happiness from those that run the site. If you begin to see through the veil and speak up, prepare for the worst. They will adore you while you’re new and still enamored with points and assignments. As the lure of these things fade and you start to notice the peeling walls, they will no longer care for you.
She likens shopping at EF to buying a $10 jelly dildo:
Telling you not to shop at Eden is like telling you not to buy a jelly dildo. I can tell you it’s unsafe, likely to burn your insides, and may even give you cancer. Many (hopefully most) of you will take that information and decide to buy something safer. Some of you, on the other hand, are gonna decide that spending only $10 on a dildo is more important.
I started reviewing for them July 2011. Now, over a year into it. I am leaving. I’m even finding it hard to want to go back to make good on my word with mentoring, assignments, and other tasks I previously agreed to. Why you ask?
Well, there is a long history of well documented stuff about EF. First, most of the blogging world and EF world knows about the public banning of a member. This was before my time on EF. So, when I heard about it; I thought “Well, hopefully EF has grown up by now.” I continued my reviewing for them. Even after reading the post and learning about their unethical linking, but most importantly their unethical practices with employees. Again, I thought to myself “They have changed by now. Such unethical practice can’t maintain a business.”
I was wrong. I was very wrong . . . After everything I’ve decided that EF is not the kind of company I want to represent any longer. Their unethical practices in the past and in the present are why.
Added on 06/07/13: Former EF reviewer Vieux Carre wrote a blog post about why she left (blog now deleted), including some info about trying to run a club there:
In late 2010, the dawn of the clubs came to EF and members were encouraged to bring ideas to the table for clubs. I brought Eden Kink to the table and was accepted. Julia was the manager at the time and sent me the details. I was ecstatic . . . until the demands came rolling in and I began to hate my club. After the first meeting, I received a “that was great, but now you need to do this, this, this, and this.” Keep in mind, I was a full time student and working part time. I was doing this for fun. Granted, I was getting paid in gift cards, but still, it became too demanding. They wanted a full synopsis of what I was going to talk about, wanted hours upon hours of promoting on Twitter and Facebook, which I had to create a separate FB for because I really don’t want that on my personal FB, and attend conferences on Skype. When I brought my concerns to Julia, I was met with “well, if you can’t do it, we’ll find someone else to do it.” Not, “Oh, well, let’s help you out.” I HAD to do a meeting every month. They didn’t take into account that I had exams or papers due. That I was a graduating senior and my ass was riding on not failing a class. Nor did they care. I gave up my club at that point. Why care when no one else cares? Especially the manager. I left the community.
Sending out used sex toys
Added on 12/06/12: Somebody took to Reddit to write about how EF sent them a toy that had clearly been used — or at the very least, tampered with.
I ordered the Zini Seed which was on sale for a black Friday special on the online sex shop, Edensfantasy. Upon receiving it last night and opening it, I thought it was a little strange that the vibrator was packed pretty poorly in it’s box, as it fell out with no effort, but thought nothing of it. As I tried turning it on, I realized it was defective as it only had power when plugged into it’s charger. As I examined it closer to possibly see if I could see what was wrong with it, I realized that it looked a little……used. USED. My stomach dropped. I thought “NO way would a company send someone a used sex toy, no fucking way.”. I reluctantly looked a little closer to it and realized that there was what looked like dried body fluids in the seams of the vibrator!!! As I examined the package it came in, I noticed that it was ripped, and not from me taking it out. I also noticed that on a clear plastic part, where the vibrator sat in in it’s package, it looked like some sort of fluid had been wiped off of it!! Seriously, WHAT THE FUCK?! I am in disgusted disbelief. What kind of company sends someone a fucking USED VIBRATOR?! Thankfully it came broken so I didn’t use the damn thing! It’s bad enough that my hands were all over it trying to figure out why it wouldn’t work!! Ladies, do not ever order from Edensfantansy!!
When EF finally replied, they told the poster to send the toy back and that they’d give a refund. Cool story, bro. As another Redditor said, “Honestly, the fact that they didn’t bend over backwards throwing gift cards at you means they probably don’t actually care that much. I bet they do this whenever they can get away with it.”
Another thing I find disconcerting is the assertion (made several times) by the marketing director for EF, Jaimes Lee, that they use some sort of powder coating on their silicone toys when they store them. Why they use it is unclear because Jaimes keeps talking about how “it’s humid in Atlanta. When [the powder] gets moist, it can look icky.” This also means that they open boxes for the sole purpose of powdering sex toys that don’t even need to be powdered.
This is not the first time I’ve heard of EF sending out used sex toys. There have been various semi-sketchy statements about it on sites like Epinions. And in 2010, blogger AAG was sent an email from a former EF employee:
I worked for Eden Fantasys for approximately eight months.
. . . One day I arrived at the office early. Most people were not in yet, but the product manager was there. She was at the sink washing things. I set my computer up, went back to say hi, and noticed that she was washing dildos. And drying them, and bringing them to the warehouse (directly attached to the office). She said something about returns that hadn’t even been opened. Some companies package their toys in simple plastic bags stapled at the top, which is easy to reproduce. At least one other person can attest to this practice. Enough said.
Is this how they uphold their ridiculous 60-day return policy? Remember, places like Babeland and Good Vibes do not allow “satisfaction returns.” EF does.
Added on 01/02/13: An EF reviewer got in touch with me to reiterate how dubious EF seems about their return policy:
The topic has been brought up on their forums before as well. Eden has stated numerous times that their shipping department and returns department are separate facilities. I told them that if this was the case they should add that info to their FAQ to clear up any misconceptions out there. They refused to do so, basically saying people could trust them or not.
Ever since they refused to officially say they were separate I’ve been very suspicious. My friend who is also on there and I started doing some research. The address they ship from and the address returns go to are the EXACT SAME. Even the suite number is the same. We did a Google map search and it’s just one big warehouse.
I know if I make a forum post calling them out on this they’ll just delete it and ban me.
Added on 01/15/13: Someone left a note for me on Tumblr stating that they got a toy from EF’s Black Friday sale that had scuffed packaging and residue on the dildo itself.
Added on 02/19/13: EF has changed their tune and is now claiming that their returns department is just in a separate area of their warehouse.
Added on 06/26/13: A former EF contributor (she left after the pointspocalypse and privacy violations) emailed me with some photos of some ben wa balls she ordered from EF. At the very least, the box came HEAVILY damaged. At worst, those little white flecks on the inside of the case could be evidence of prior use.
Added on 06/28/13: Another former contributor sent me this photo of a scratched bullet vibe she got from EF:
Added on 07/09/13: Yet another former contributor wrote to me:
I purchased a Wahl from them a while ago and posted in the forums that the box was heavily damaged, the pieces weren’t packed correctly, and the cord wasn’t wrapped up like it should have been and only casually mentioned something about maybe it had been used and got a good lashing from Stormy about that, and my post deleted. They said to take any complaints with orders directly to the support ticket system.
Mass firings and “the end of Eden”
Added on 05/17/13: On May 15th, a forum post from admin Gary announced that he was leaving EF, along with five other important administrative people: Carrie Ann, Emma, Jaimes, Sammi, and Justin. It was understood very quickly that these people were fired, but were being vague and quiet about it due to fear of reprisal from EF.
Suddenly this tweet one of my readers captured a few days prior (and now deleted) made more sense:
Regarding the latest situation, former employee Laurel spoke out:
On the forums, she reiterated:
What’s going on here is 100% damage control and y’all would be wise to be skeptical. The behavior of Eden over the last two years has been the behavior of a company circling the drain, not a company ready to reinvent itself. But what do I know, I only worked here for three years.
This was confirmed when an audio recording of the firing meeting was posted. It has since been removed from YouTube after Fred called his former employees threatening to “come after” them, but an anonymous freelancer was kind enough to transcribe it.
FRED: Hello? Hi guys, hi. Uh, um, okie. It’s um, it’s unbelievable actually, I-I still am shocked, but I don’t know what to do. It’s probably the end of Eden. Uh, we now — uh we got actually — I mean, uh, no — the conversions are so down that for the April that we lost one hundred and fifty thousand dollars.
Uh, which, uh, was actually so expenses over sales, were 150k, and that, uh, is in no way something that we can cover, even if we all disappear. I mean, no — I mean.
So I even don’t know what to do, but uh, it’s essentially the pricing war. The cost came from the product cost that’s been sold at the discount level equal to Amazon’s, and that’s a hundred and fifty thousand loss for the month. In all my history, uh, I never had this loss for the year, let alone the month. And, um, I even don’t know how to sustain all of that.
So the numbers has been ten times verified, and the — uh, eh — it’s no way it’s a mistake or something. So, uh, that — that’s, um, unfortunately the very, very bad news. Then, right now in the process of letting go almost everyone here — it’s Rufina, myself will be left, and some people in warehouse, so — so it’s that bad. Moldova has been notified as well. Uh, I don’t know what to do in Moldova yet, I mean, but it’s actually same — same consequences.
Uh, so, guys I — um, I-I thank you all for the great time we had together, but um, everything has it’s beginning and it’s ending, and that’s probably the ending of EdenFantasys as it is.
Um, so um, hhh — no need to transfer anything to anyone, it’s actually no one here to pick up anything. So, whatever your state of affairs at this moment, uh, don’t make, um any public announcements because we going to probably file some protection for the time being. Um, but um, we’ll see what we’re going to do, I mean I don’t know yet. I just don’t know yet.
Uh, so guys I’m very sorry and I really enjoyed working with you and enjoyed our good years together, uh, but looks like, looks like it’s um — that’s it. Okay.
CARRIE ANN: Fred, um since Kelly is there today, should we submit our final invoices and expect to get PayPal’d today?
FRED: Um, not sure about today, but yes, submit invoices please and it will be paid next week, sometime next week. The invoices will be paid. The invoices will be paid.
CARRIE ANN: Okay.
MAN 1: I don’t really know what to say Fred, but I’m — I am sorry and it’s — it’s definitely been a pleasurable experience getting to work with this company.
FRED: Thank you guys, and I’m sorry myself. (sigh)
CARRIE ANN: It’s heartbreaking — I feel bad on all — I don’t even how to — I feel very bad just having to leave the whole community hanging too, I don’t know —
CARRIE ANN: …what to do with that, they’re going to be so very confused.
FRED: They — they will be, but, uh, I don’t think anything can be done here. I exhausted all of my efforts, I exhausted all of my efforts of raising money for the — for the time being. I’ve been refused, uh, all credit lines, so — because it’s actually has been — the situation has been worsening for quite some time, as you know it of course, but um — that — that’s okay. All banks shut down the doors, all vendors just want their invoices get paid, so that’s where we are right now. Uh, and I exhausted all of my opportunities to get — to get back on track.
Um, I um, I don’t know guys what to say. It’s — really — it’s really fucking unbelievable what is happening. Okay, anyway. I wish you all well guys, I wish you all well and I very thank you for your time and your efforts and for your job and service. Thank you guys.
ALL: Thank you, thank you Fred.
FRED: Okay, bye.
There have been doubts as to whether the video was somehow faked, but the appearance of Fred in this video (around 2:27) should remove all that doubt. I also asked two former EF employees if they could identify the voice. Both said unequivocally yes.
I worked with Fred in the physical EF office for over a year, and I can confirm beyond a shadow of a doubt that the voice in the recording is Fred’s. The particular cadence, pauses and thick accent are both familiar to me from many, many meetings and there’s no way that’s “faked.” Anyone that’s heard more than two words out of his mouth would be able to confirm that’s him.
I’m absolutely sure that is his voice. Not only does it sound the same, but he uses the same phrases and cadence as when I worked with him. He started a conversation the exact same way when [name redacted] and I were there, and he told us we all had to agree to a $1/hr paycut or the company would shut down.
Fred’s statement on the forums contradicted what he said in the video, saying in part:
Unfortunately, some of our EF staff family left very suddenly. I and our entire community appreciate the contributions that these individuals have made throughout their time with EF. Let me assure you that the decision to let these individuals go was not one I took lightly . . .
Some of the posts have suggested that the staffing changes and some supply shortages are due to a dire financial situation. This is wholly untrue. EdenFantasys is financially stable. The changes were made in an effort to better position EF in the market place. I ask for your patience, understanding and continued loyalty.
. . . To clarify more the staff decision: I put certain goals for the team to achieve. EF has 2 very distinctive groups: customers and community. Unfortunately, the level of interactions between the two is minimal and the main goal for the team in the last 2 years or so was to bridge the two, create symbiotic relationships where community promotes EF, helps its customers with the purchase, and customers support community financially. The goal has not been reached and the team is being replaced.
Uh huh… then why are EF suddenly shipping everything — including glass dildos — in shitty bubble envelopes? Why is half their inventory “out of stock”? And why has the entire team been replaced by a single person?
A parody Twitter account has sprung up, too. It’s amazing.
In response to this new development, Adriana has written about “the death of EdenFantasys.”
Fred would have you still believe that everything is just hunky dory, and the only staff member who’s still around is spewing those lies to the community. But it’s more obvious than ever that things are bad. Stock has been dwindling for months. Good luck trying to find anything to spend those gift cards on because vendors don’t want to deal with the company. They’re calling the shots, but Fred’s minions would have you believe that inventory is shrinking to get rid of redundant products. As the truth comes out, it seems like this never was the case.
. . . I think, perhaps, that the methodology to spend money to make money is one that Fred does not understand. Throughout those years, I became increasingly frustrated by this community movement. Sure, some awesome people joined even after the people I have grown used to left, but the blogger outreach and points programs led to a lot of shitty reviews and spam that made the site that much less useful. If you weren’t all overly supportive for the company or even for a freakin’ toy, you weren’t community-minded. Somewhere down the line, EF really became about quantity over quality, as if having people posting and talking about you was enough to drown out the negative and the cold, hard truth. Sadly, for a while, it was.
This should be a lesson to everyone. Treat your community, customers and employees like shit? It won’t work. Spread yourself too thin? And you’ll soon tear. Respond negatively to criticism or suggestions and the people who have a different vantage point will stop talking to you and start speaking up against you. Make enemies in the blogosphere, and people will tell others about what a little shit you’ve been.
. . . how can Fred expect the company to rebound in any way? As it stands, there’s nothing to stick around for. The community, the store are all in dire straights. The staff is gone. EdenFantasys is as good as dead, and if you think otherwise, you probably deserve to go down with the ship.
Added on 02/11/14: The last remaining community-focused employee, Stormy, has now been terminated. She explained on the forums that EF higher-ups asked her to lie about why she was suddenly gone, and she expressed little hope for the direction of at least the community aspect of EF:
I did not quit, I was not technically fired nor laid off…my position simply does not exist anymore. And this is the statement that should speak volumes to you. The lack of participation and support within the community during the transition led to this. I was asked not to state this but instead tell you all that I had moved on to “bigger and better things”. This is not the case — I do not have a new job. I was not looking for a new job. I was looking to increase my hours here from part-time to full-time. Last Friday, the rug was pulled out from under me, full stop. That’s the truth.
. . . The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result and this is the point the community is at.
. . . As far as I know, there will be zero community management and if there is any, it will be bare bones at best.
Pointspocalypse and mass exodus
Added on 06/19/13: Today Fred posted a huge announcement regarding points and purchases (the entire thread has now been deleted, of course, because censorship is EF’s favorite thing). Where previously an entire order could be purchased with points earned from writing reviews and other on-site tasks, now points can only go toward 15% of a purchase. He explained:
The Eden Points Program and Review program was, from the start, designed to encourage participation on the site while earning rewards towards purchases. Over time, abuse became more rampant and harder to control which has ultimately caused the community to suffer a great deal. Supporting the points program left little room to support parties, clubs and outside events such as Eden Gives Back.
. . . It’s time to stop the abuse and focus on quality reviewing and educating our peers on the safest materials and the best uses for the items available to us.
Many are pissed off by this move. They wrote reviews with the expectation of being “paid,” essentially, in points that could be used toward more purchases. Now they’ll have to fork over a bunch of their own cash just to use the points they earned.
More than a few contributors have pointed out that this seems especially shady considering a recent change from 50 (50 cents) to 1000 ($10) points per review, plus Amnesty Week at the beginning of June, during which reviews were rewarded double the points. And oh look, now it’s down to 500 points per review. None of this is suspicious at all, right?!
Contributor Lori summed it up nicely:
I have raked in well over $1000 a month in points. But you encouraged it. Do nudity vids, they look so good. we’ll pay you $450 a week. Really, that was a bad idea. did you not think we were all going to go for it. You dangled the carrot in front of us. Oh it’s review amisty week. i’ll give you 40.00 a day for your reviews. Ok you offer, I’ll take.
It amazes me that you blame us for this. You offered, we took. If you didn’t offer we wouldn’t have done it. So point farming. Is it really point farming when you encourage it. Write for Sexis, i’ll pay you 15.00 you can do xxx amount in one day. Yep, there you offer and I take. Why not. You offered. If you couldn’t afford it, why did you offer it?
From contributor TaiCris:
So, point farming is unethical, but content farming and then retroactively stripping your contributors of 85% of their compensation is fine? Oh.
A few (seriously, just a couple) people have tried to argue that contributors should not be so “greedy” and act so “entitled.” One former EF admin compared people acquiring points to someone raping a scantily-clad woman:
This caused many outraged and well-spoken responses, such as this one from Sarahbear:
This does not necessarily make someone greedy. It makes them a smart consumer. It is no different than people who clip coupons and shop sales. It is not the responsibility of the consumer to try harder not to save money on their purchases because the business owner cannot afford to offer the discounts they are offering. Retailers generally lose money when they offer discounts, but they realize that the returns on that investment will generally be worth it because they will gain loyal customers from it. If a retailer chooses to gamble with their investments and over extend themselves with their sales, that is their fault.
Members are writing joke reviews and leaving en masse over this. It appears to be the last straw for many.
Added on 06/24/13: It took days for Fred to give one fuck about the fallout from the points change. When he finally piped up, it was with a dubious “proposal” offering to “restore points to the honest contributors.” It read, in part (emphasis mine):
You will be asked to submit a reconsideration request. It is optional. If you chose not to participate, your points will remain as they are now.
We review the submission manually and decide whether your points will be restored or completely erased.
All your points (or converted Gift Cards) will be cancelled and removed if company finds that you accumulated 500 points or more by intentionally abusing the system. Abuse will include but not be limited to the following actions:
- publishing a large number of reviews in a short period of time; unless clear proof of the product ownership by the author is established;
- publishing plagiarized reviews, nonsensical reviews (reviews on the products like Gift Cards, Eden Bags, batteries, and other promotional item), vandalized reviews, reviews without substance: this will be deemed point farming;
- reaching regularly daily limits on secondary activities like “liking”, “commenting”, “rating”, etc…; this will be deemed point farming;
- starting and participating in nonsensical forum discussions like “Let’s count up to 5,000″, etc…; making posts reported as spam; this will be deemed point farming;
Yes, this disgusting all-or-nothing proposal actually punishes people for reaching daily limits for point accumulation and insults contributors who write quickly or submit reviews quickly. Fred is blaming contributors for acquiring points from a system that he put in place. He decided what the daily limit was; he is the reason people get points for creating dumb forum discussions; he never stopped reviews on promotional items before; and best of all, he was the one who ignored contributors’ past complaints about point farming (accusing them of not being “welcoming” to new members — ironically, this was one of the reasons I was banned!).
As people called Fred out on the ludicrousness of his “proposal,” he continued to defend himself with insulting nonsense such as:
I personally don’t know anyone who can regularly submit 2 QUALITY reviews per day! Who is this person? A professional toy tester? If these QUALITY reviews were fiction, not a factual observation – than it is abuse of the system and disrespect to the community and customers.
Fred’s post included a poll asking if the proposal was fair. He even said, and I quote: “If the majority will think it is unfair deal – there won’t be a deal” and later, “This is a discussion, not an ultimatum. If the majority thinks – it is unfair, why would I do it anyway? There won’t be THIS deal.”
100% of votes on the poll were “no, this is unfair.” But he didn’t let that stop him! See next section…
Privacy violations and cyberbullying
Added on 06/24/13: (Continued from last section) After completely ignoring contributors’ thoughts on the matter, Fred closed the thread and went along with his plan, asking contributors to submit a form and basically beg for their points to be converted to gift cards (and thus able to be used for 100% of a purchase). Of course, he’ll have the final say in whether someone receives their points or their points are ERASED.
Best of all, the form contains a HIGHLY DISCONCERTING clause that reads: “5. If your request will be denied and you will publicly accuse Company, Company reserves the rights to publicly disclose its findings, including your personal information, to substantiate its decision.”
So he is basically blackmailing people into staying quiet about EF if they want any hope of getting their points.
ImaGodiva warned people not to submit the form:
If something in a contract is not clearly defined, by agreeing to that contract as-is you are potentially agreeing to any possible interpretation of the ambiguous clause.
So take each item that you aren’t sure about, i.e. “publicly accuse” and “personal information,” and UNTIL IT IS MADE CRYSTAL-CLEAR IN WRITING, IN THE CONTRACT that you sign, you must assume it would be interpreted based on the worst case you can think of.
As extreme censorship continues to rule the EF forums, people are being banned from posting in the forums for voicing any sort of dissent or merely pointing out how unethical #5 is. Threads are being shut down left and right.
Update again, same day: Fred is on the forums going OFF THE MOTHERFUCKING RAILS insulting his contributors like a fucking 8-year-old. I’m compiling it all here because it is unbelievable.
Update, next day, June 25, 2013: So I wake up today and Twitter is blowing up because EF CHANGED SEVERAL CONTRIBUTOR PROFILES TO THEIR REAL NAMES AND EVEN REPLACED THE AVATAR ON ONE WITH A REAL PHOTO.
Neither contributor filled out the “point reconsideration form.” For a split second on the forums (until she deleted it — hmm, I wonder why?), EF admin Stormy insisted this was a Facebook issue:
The contributor whose name and photo were changed insists it was not. She is currently talking to lawyer about the situation.
Meanwhile, another contributor’s name was changed to their real one. She has given me permission to include the screenshot here. Note: she was already using a photo of her face as an avatar.
What’s also funny about this screenshot, though, is the wall — completely filled with Stormy replying to threads to bury any dissent on the forums and make the place look active when in actuality, EVERYONE IS GONE.
How to escape
Update, 06/24/13: So many people are leaving EF that I wrote a whole guide to life beyond EF. Yep. Read it.
Many people over the years have permanently and voluntarily left/shunned EF (and then wrote about it). I used to have a whole list of ‘em here, but it got too long. Suffice to say, it is very common for folks to branch out into the great wide internet and leave EF in the dust.
Everyone has their own reason for staying, be it for the toys, the (sometimes) fun community, the gift cards, or the commissions. But I want you to know, there are other options. You can buy from more ethical companies. You can start your own blog and review toys for other companies. And I would be happy to help you do all of this. If you’re starting out as a reviewer, sign up for some affiliate programs and email various companies asking if you can review. Here are a few more resources for you:
- My guide to sex toy reviewing and blogging
- 15 rules for writing a sex toy review that doesn’t royally suck
- Dangerous Lilly’s Sex Blogger Education posts
- That Toy Chick’s How to be a Bitchin’ Blogger
- Kara Sutra’s Building Your Blog, Becoming an Online Affiliate, and Writing a Review
- Mistress Kay’s Sex Blogging Resources
Let me make this loud and clear: EdenFantasys DOES NOT CARE ABOUT YOU. You are nothing more than a tool for them to acquire money and rank. Don’t drink EF’s Flavor Aid any longer. Leave them, boycott them, report them, spread the word. Let’s show them what the community we’ve built on our own can do.
- It didn’t used to be chock full of spam, I promise. [↩]