DO NOT SELL WITH HOUZZ
Update on the below issues, as of 3/23:
According to their Legal Team, they will have all 48,353 occurrences of our pirated branding text removed by 3/26. If not, we will continue pursuing through our attorney and the Attorney General's office re: Anti-Trust/Sherman Act/Fair Competition laws.
This is a serious issue:
Houzz TODAY cancelled an order without our approval for three made-to-order pillows and logged it as "approved by seller." We said NO...we DO NOT APPROVE - as the Houzz policy says customer orders must be cancelled within a short period and we are a month ahead of the made-to-order fulfillment date - and yet they cancelled anyway (costing us hundreds of $) and their "seller service" blatantly lied for their own records. This is just the last issue for us.
We contacted all of the customers for our outstanding orders and told them we will not fulfill any orders through HOUZZ now or in the future. It will be interesting to see if Houzz charges their credit cards - when we are fulfilling the orders for free through our dot com.
We have been on Houzz since February ONLY to fulfill our made-to-order customer orders. These take weeks or we would have been gone long, long ago. However, we had no products as being active for sale for the entire period. It has been hell to go back on the site each day, knowing how much they are screwing us.
I'm ready to go to the mattresses on this. I'm ready...my lawyer is ready...I'm ready. They are unscrupulous, shady, disregarding of whose neck they step on for "sales." Shady, shady, shady. Shadiest I've ever seen in 24 years. SHADY. They barked up the wrong tree on this one.
3/8: The Houzz "Legal Team" wants us to specify "which pages" our stolen text is on. We're still at "zero" after ten weeks, jumping through hoops. So here it is:
The "About Cyan Design" text, 48,000+ occurrences of our stolen non-product text: http://www.houzz.com/photos/products/query/%22About-Cyan-Design%22
48,000 occurrences. Forty-eight THOUSAND.
It is your right as a business to report these types of issues to the Federal Trade Commission, as part of the "Fair Competition" portion and other areas of the Anti-Trust laws of the United States. See pages re: the Sherman Act, FTC Anti-Trust, etc.
You can contact your State Attorney General, who handles such matters for individual businesses within their state. Our Attorney General has paid attention and is looking into the matter through the Federal Trade Commission - due to lack of movement or response by Houzz.
3/7/17: STILL NO RESPONSE FROM HOUZZ. Of course not. Were any of us expecting a peep? Not even a "customer support" call.
Here's the thing: As a decent businessperson, one assumes that others are decent and would only do decent things. One assumes that the Houzz "blanket ownership" of your text would include only product info, not branding information.
Don't assume anything. Houzz will own your business, your SEO, your branding content that is unrelated to products. Yes, kiddies...they will even own your SEO-generated customers because they all divert to Houzz when your text is used. This means your store traffic on your dot com comes to a full stop.
For us, we can simply smile over the fact that the "Chez Roulez" brand name is cross marketed accidentally in our branding text (FineMod Imports products) they have taken. So it is appearing on competitor pages for some product lines. Maybe that is our little coup in this insane situation.
Use the app fully and completely at YOUR OWN RISK. I suggest if you want to be troubled by the on-boarding nightmare that exists with Houzz, don't use the app. Use the spreadsheet upload method and hold on for a months-long bumpy ride.
Unfortunately, we are leaving Shopify over this.
Without remedy or response from anyone involved, we are handling this our own way and have made some final decisions. All I can say here is that you would be in denial to read these reviews and think your course will be better. Please be careful, guard your assets and do not engage in this relationship via the app.
This venue is apparently the only voice you are permitted in this relationship.
...and another customer refund despite our item already shipping to the customer because they can't figure out "custom made" and the delivery method. They agreed to refund before speaking with us...leaving a garbled message from someone who clearly does not like their job.
This is a nightmare. I don't expect to awaken anytime soon. They are a nightmare.
6 weeks and Houzz has not fixed this...all correspondences totally ignored.
3 days since they sent their last stalling email of no help.
Yet they require response to their customers by sellers (like us) WITHIN 24 hours.
Do not use their app until this is updated positively. We have not sold a single item for the brands they are pirating content for since we started with them. They have stolen all of this business from our dot com using our own text. None of our own sales since late Nov or early Dec.
BEWARE: THEIR "POLICIES" AUTHORIZE THEM TO CLAIM AND OWN "PERPETUALLY" (forever) ALL OF YOUR CONTENT. We are pursuing this through the Federal Trade Commission, via our Attorney General, as this creates unfair competition under the FTC's Anti-trust laws and "Fair Competition" of the Sherman Act.
They take it and suck your SEO life right out of you - leaving you no recourse. They have literally stolen all of ours, down to 7 visitors to our dot com each day, after we've been in business over a year.
It has taken months to have products correctly listed. I am spending a ton of time answering customer questions - which is great for customer interaction. But when the issue is, "Why does it say 'wood' when the product looks like metal?" it becomes a real headache. The problem is in the Houzz data feed.
Users beware of one major issue I've been working to correct for well over a month: If the "system" prefers your content from Shopify products over competitors' content, your actual content from each of your products (for us, almost 4000) will soon be advertising for your competitors. The data system takes one product description and uses it as the preferred one for every listing of that UPC item.
Now, if you just upload manufacturers' blurbs and go with that, no big deal. But if you painstakingly and with much cost work very hard to provide fuller text for your items on your store as part of your brand experience, Houzz takes that costly text you believe is under your ownership and will use it for competition to sell your products. They literally pirate your brand experience on behalf of your competitors. This is insanity to me.
This is a MAJOR problem for us. How does Google look at this? So much for our year's investment in brand bios, product details, etc. I've worked since January to get anyone to listen to me about this at Houzz. Not a peep in response, until I basically was told to email their legal department.
Their shoddy "customer service" for your customers, theft of your dot com traffic, pirating of original text for their use (non-product) and lack of contact avenues for you - the person making them 15% on everything you sell IS NOT WORTH IT.
Our first customer order was approx $2000. Awesome. However, refund required. Appears the customer took a tack hammer to a mirrored cabinet, so "oopsie," need to return, no questions asked, "Eat it Chez Roulez."
Cancellations occur with no reason after we have already started production or ordered from the manufacturer. Also, customer credit cards may not work after you have had items constructed or readied for shipment, but you are out those costs because you don't know about the credit card problem until it is time to ship.
It is so painful to have these things happen when you are a small establishment working every day to sustain growth. We literally went far backwards the first month. Then, with the 15% commission, profitability for time and energy spent, on top of the above problems, may not pan out. Sellers have almost no rights, just as with Amazon and other large channels. They say you accept the return and refund, regardless of the circumstances.
For us, the return was an item that had very questionable damage (customer inflicted?). Our policy is that you immediately refuse a large item if you receive it damaged. But using Houzz, "no questions asked," even if the customer has banged it up staircases, bumped it on thresholds, etc. Our item was so fragile that we couldn't even have it returned to us, because the customer packing would not protect it. So we had to let the customer keep/dispose of the $2000 cabinet...plus we ate the cost and shipping.
There are many things being lost in the system here. I was formerly at the head of a $28mil eCom retailer and had a voice. As a small "guy," I have zero real voice with these problems at Houzz. You won't either.
I see the content "grab" as a real problem. I am not paying for, nor investing in, content development for all of Houzz retailers to benefit from it. I don't understand how they can do this and not see it as a problem. It's befuddling.
So I would definitely say beware. I can't herniate content, product and money for very long.
Note, also that I think they stop sending you orders if you complain about something or get what they may consider "demanding." They also stop email flow to your customers, even despite the "24 hour answer by" rule...are they trying to cause customer complaints on your reviews??
After the broken cabinet issue, it seems we were put on some sort of sales hold. That's all I can fathom. Great customer flow...then the broken cabinet issue, complaint...no orders, no orders, no orders two weeks (Feb 7 to Feb 21, so two weeks exactly)...then a burst of orders again. So this makes you feel held hostage when making a rightful complaint or claim, like my content issue. Meanwhile...while you are in a penalty box...your competitors are continuing to sell using YOUR lovely, painstakingly written content.
Just go in with your eyes wide open and expectations to lose a little in the beginning, at least. Maybe, hopefully, it gets better. But we are only at month three. I'm exhausted, but still trying.
Also...careful what you wish for and what you sell. You might want to reconsider selling fragile and expensive things. Learn from my issue and lesson.
And just for context: I've been in digital marketing since 1993, the very beginnings of the web. And yet, this is only the second review I've ever left. I'm conscientious about what I say and where, about a brand. I really just want this entity to realize that policies and data management ways/means are great, but not if they aren't working in a win-win. You can't parasite off the little guy.
Hopefully I won't be penalized for my truths. If they fix it all and stop hurting us more than they are helping, I will definitely come back and update this. It's on you, Houzz. It's all on you. Prove this wrong.
The problem here is the algorithm:
There is a primary feed of product descriptions that descriptions for all of the same product upcs are pulled from. That one feed (algorithm, actually) propagates all companies' representations of the same product.
All they have to do to fix this is:
1) remove MY content as the "primary" for the brands' upcs by adjusting the algorithm
2) use someone else's content (perhaps the brands themselves????) as the primary for all of these brands' upcs
3) take the four blurbs I provided and make sure they are not still on their site
That's all it takes!!!! Literally could be fixed in minutes.
If they wanted to do this the hard way, they could just search my phraseology on Google....then clean up every single one of tens of thousands of pages with my content on it. But I think the quick process above, to simply take 20 minutes and remove my blurbs in the algorithm as the primary feed HOUZZ-wide would be easier, right??? (I did file a complaint with Google, too)
I am so put out. Here's what will happen: They will either stop my sales again like they did from Feb 7 to Feb 21, or they will shut me down completely...meanwhile pirating all of my pages' content.
I have been so patient, in trying to get this done. I'm so very disappointed in HOUZZ' handling. So disappointed. They pirated a full year's progress from us.
Search anywhere on the web basically for Fine Mod Imports, Cyan Design, Zuo Modern or DV Kap...you will find Houzz front and center. And click on the products...what you read is all Chez Roulez where it says "About Cyan Design," "About Zuo Modern," "About Fine Mod Imports," or "About DV Kap." And yet, Chez Roulez is not top in the search results...they sell our competitors FIRST.
Here is an example: https://www.houzz.com/photos/29106053/Peacock-Feather-Vase-contemporary-vases
Some company called MyLightingSource has our text displayed for About Cyan Design. This is WRONG on so many levels.
----------------Updating with screenshots---------------------
Screenshots at: https://www.chezroulez.com/pages/houzz-problems
Screenshot 1 is how they lifted NON-PRODUCT text from our website that does NOT describe products AT ALL...and they now have it for every one of 50 or more brands selling thousands of items. If you look up a Cyan Design product (or some of our other brands), you will find OUR branding text. This has destroyed our SEO...the very reason why we wrote it for our own websites, in the first place.
Sellers, BEWARE of this practice. It will bankrupt you!!
Screenshot 2 shows how - not only are they taking our text, but buyers cannot find us on the site and we are not even listed as selling the products they use our text for.
I will keep updating...please learn from my issues.
While you're on the site, please read our Brand Story to see just why this is such a giant issue and why I refuse to accept it:
I am really afraid that me standing up for my rights on this will mean cancellation of our account with Houzz. I don't think that will look good for anyone involved, as I am continuing even today - despite clear reason to be upset - to manage customer questions, orders and other interactions.
I think Houzz needs to take a long look at the app they have produced, who it is good for and how they are opening liabilities for themselves. You cannot grow any business - any - on the backs of those who help you grow. I know, as I am the person "called in" to fix companies that have hit the skids, i.e. that bankrupt one I took to $28 mil in revenue in nine months, so they could profit in a sale.
I'm so completely disappointed that they require you to respond to customers with "24 hours" or you are negatively impacted (seller score)...so working with them means you have to work weekends. But THEY...not a peep since Friday after IGNORING me blatantly on the subject for six weeks and I likely won't hear anything for days more.
I have spoken with experts in these matters this weekend regarding whether Houzz is acting unscrupulously in this. It appears to all that they are. It would be one thing if it was "product information" that they were taking, as per their "Terms and Conditions" of owning your content in perpetuity (AWFUL - watch what you agree to). But this is not a fight over product data. It is Chez Roulez voice and branding content.
I am glad they like my writing. So hire me to write for you. Don't steal from me. Everyone else I write for pays me.
So their lack of prompt response is another example of how poorly they are working within their own expectations for their retailers. In other words, they do not take care of their "own," like you have to ("or else").
Clearly Houzz has not thought this app through and rushed to market. Clearly they are not quick to perform fixes. Clearly you will not receive the service you are expected to deliver.
But what I'm waiting for is to see Houzz ride in like "heros," admit this is a problem, fix it for me and everyone else, and not hold it against the livelihood of the "little guy" in the end.
I have spent four years in victimization, federal investigations and litigation type hell handling a criminal aggressor. So I am surprised I have any fire left in me. But I am not going to just roll over on this. If I am penalized for the reality of this situation - it is no mirage - then I think that should speak volumes for every little guy who stands up and says, "Wait a second...you can't take, take, take..."
I urge anyone considering the app to step back and wait. I urge it with every hope I had for my business. If I hadn't had any knowledge of this field and was new to eCommerce...I would have been completely eaten alive and not known what hit me.
If they do penalize me and rake me over coals...learn from me. I'm willing to take one for the small team. If they fix it, great. But they need to hire new people to do things right. Clearly they have the wrong people at the wrong points of "ownership" on this, from marketing to IT to retailer service.
They literally hold your earnings and survival hostage...because they pirate off the channel you would fall back on, the one you own. Tick tock...herniating money every single day.
I'm sorry this chronicle has been so long. But the fight has been 9 weeks longer.
Please note: We have a 5-star rating on Houzz and 94% order fulfillment, with only two "out of stocks." We take our customer relationships very seriously. VERY SERIOUSLY.
Houzz does not give a flying crap about retailers.