Vistaprint pilloried for BLM poster mix-up

Jo Francis
Monday, June 29, 2020

Vistaprint founder Robert Keane has issued a personal apology after a customer who ordered Black Lives Matter posters also received All Lives Matter prints in their delivery, resulting in a social media backlash against the web-to-print giant.

Sania Chandrani with the offending poster
Sania Chandrani with the offending poster

Image: Sania Chandrani/WSB-TV

The custom-designed poster had been created for a Black Lives Matter fundraiser organised by Sania Chandrani and Jessica Noel, who are based in Atlanta, in the US. Noel designed the poster, pictured below. 

However, when the posters were delivered, the package also contained All Lives Matter posters.

Chandrani posted about the experience on social media and the outcry that followed included many responses from people saying they would boycott Vistaprint as a result.

Some of the people commenting questioned whether the firm should print All Lives Matter material at all. 

Vistaprint founder Robert Keane, who is chairman and CEO of £2.75bn (£2.23bn) turnover parent group Cimpress, wrote a personal apology that is currently posted on the main Vistaprint Twitter and Instagram accounts.

Keane pinned the blame on a job collation error, rather than it being the act of a rogue employee.

He said: “As founder and CEO of Vistaprint, I personally offer my heartfelt apology to Ms Chandrani for the pain and disappointment we have caused. As we posted on June 4, racism is intolerable. Black Lives Matter. This isn’t a debate. This is a fundamental truth.

“We launched an investigation as soon as we heard from her and confirmed that this was an error in an automated system that combined two different customer orders and not the act of an individual team member. While we understand that mistakes happen when printing millions of items each week, this mistake is inexcusable. It was our fault and we take full responsibility. We are performing a full evaluation of our manufacturing and software systems to avoid awful mistakes like this from happening again.”

Keane said that had reached out personally to the two women in order to apologise directly, and to find out how Vistaprint could help their fundraising efforts.

“I and the Vistaprint team are committed to putting forth every effort to earn back the trust of Ms Chandrani, Ms Noel and all our customers,” he concluded.

However, in an interview with WSB-TV in Atlanta, Noel said she was unconvinced by the explanation: “It feels like an intentional attack, and a way to undercut the message of this piece," she said. 

The furore has echoes of a previous issue in 2018, when a gay couple received religious pamphlets about temptation and sin instead of their wedding stationery.

Vistaprint’s then-CEO Trynka Shineman said the two jobs had been printed simultaneously and the wrong shipping label had been applied to the packaging.

The couple sued Vistaprint but the lawsuit was dropped after the parties reached an agreement.

Separately, Cimpress has provided a trading update ahead of its year-end results, which will be filed in July.

In April bookings at its combined ‘upload and print’ operations slumped by 57% compared to 2019, but in May there were signs of improvement as the figure reduced to 40%.

“Although we expect a lengthy and possibly non-linear recovery from the effects of the pandemic, Cimpress’ recent revenue and profit trends have been more favorable than we expected,” Keane said in a statement.

“Many of our businesses have produced and/or donated face shields and masks to hospitals and frontline workers, and our largest business, Vistaprint, is donating 10% of replaceable filter mask revenues to aid small businesses and communities which are impacted by the pandemic.”

Keane said Vistaprint has already donated $1m (£800,000) to the Save Small Business Fund it co-founded with the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation as well as $500,000 to civil rights organisation NAACP.

Cimpress shares were down nearly 4% at $78.11 at the end of last week (52 week high: $145.09 low: $40.80).


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