Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Story of the Failed iPad Cases

Today I'm going to open up and share something that I really wish I didn't have to share. But I think I do, no, I know I do. This is an overdue post, and I apologize for that, but it’s been the most difficult post I’ve ever had to write to date. It’s also long – and while I tried and tried to edit and scale back, I just felt that I needed to share this story in its entirety. So here goes the story of the iPad cases.

One of the highlights in 2012 was when I launched my line of iPad covers. I found a vendor at the 2012 National Stationery Show with the nicest covers I had ever seen and I knew immediately I wanted to work with them to launch a line for Believe Notes. I poured my heart and soul into all of the designs, and was thrilled to have them represent Believe Notes. They first hit my Etsy shop in late August, my mom purchased the first one (thanks mom!) and then friends, family and customers followed. Everybody loved the covers – they were gorgeous. My mom loved her case so much that she even bought a second one, so that she could switch things up depending on her mood.

But then, in October, after using my own case for only few months, I noticed it was starting to split down the spine. I reached out to my vendor immediately to let her know what happened. She replaced the case, swore nothing like that had ever happened before, and we moved on. Then, a week later, my mother called to tell me her case was splitting down the spine. She had only been using hers for about two months. Again, I emailed my vendor with the bad news and she replaced the case. I was reassured that my experience was rare, and encouraged to continue selling the cases.

Regardless of the reassurance, I knew in my gut that I couldn’t continue to sell the cases until I was positive the issue was a fluke. So, only a few months after their launch, I removed the iPad and Kindle cases from my Etsy shop. When I pulled the cases from the shop, I had only experienced the two issues – mine and my mothers. I was optimistic that the rest of the cases I had sold would be fine. I told myself that I would continue to use my new case and that if it lasted more than six months, I would be in the clear and able to sell them again. I mean, I was getting dozens of emails, blog hits and editorials for these cases – they were going to be featured in an upcoming magazine editorial, they were going to be HUGE. For sure, this had to be a fluke.

And then a coworker of mine, who only had her case for three months, came cautiously to my desk at work to let me know her case split too. Then my mother told me her second case split, and then the emails from customers started creeping in.

Once again, I reached out to my vendor – but this time, she changed her story. She told me that the cases were “art” cases and not meant for daily use, and that they should really be treated as if they were coffee table books. She told me that the cases wouldn’t really stand up to being used every day, and that going to and from a coffee shop would be too much “wear and tear” for the case.

WHAT?! These cases are marketed as being durable, waterproof and made with “the same materials as race cars”.

I was outraged, heartbroken and guilt ridden. The guilty feeling was the hardest part for me – I felt like I was misleading my customers without ever knowing it. I sold them products that were bad quality. I was heartbroken.

Part of me wanted to scream at my vendor, and part of me wanted to just close down the shop and crawl up in a corner. However, I felt, that to my customers, I was responsible for making the situation right. I swore to myself that I would politely push back to my vendor in a professional manner, which I did, several times. After a week or so with no return email, I got an email from a somebody else at the company explaining that my original contact person was no longer with the company. OK, now what?

The new person was sweet, and expressed concern about my abnormally high fail rate. She said they’ve typically seen a steady 5% fail rate with all of their resellers, and she seemed genuinely baffled as to why my rate was so much higher. I was told that the cases had a six month vendor warranty, and that she’d replace all of the cases that were failing.

I don't know what other business owners would have done, but I knew I needed to reach out to all of my customers that purchased the cases to see if they were having issues. After a lot of thought, and sleepless nights, I sent an email to every person that purchased a case from me to let them know what was going on. With a heavy heart, I pressed “send” and then crossed my fingers that maybe people would write back and say they had no issues at all.
Unfortunately, my gut was right, and within days I had a mailbox filled with images of broken cases.

But then, something I didn’t expect happened. I also had a mailbox filled with words of support and encouragement from my customers that really appreciated my honesty and proactivity in trying to right the wrong. Even though I was so heartbroken about the cases failing, I also felt incredibly empowered and appreciated by the very people that I sold bad items to. It was such a defining moment for me. It was my moment of “I can do this, I should do this, I am meant to do this”.

So here I am, at the end of January, and I am working to replace the last of the cases. At this point I have replaced every single case I sold. That’s right, I had a 100% fail rate. And, in fact, the new case I've had for less than 2 months is already splitting, again. I have learned a ton from this experience, about vendors, about ethics, about being a strong business owner when I’d rather eat a cookie over the sink and cry. But, I'm a better business person for it, and I can only go up from here. I’m working now to try and find a different vendor with a product that better fits my expectations around quality and durability, while still being beautifully designed.

I hope you’ll all stick around and hear more of the lessons learned, and follow me as I try to find a new and improved product. And thank you, thank you, thank you, to all of my customers that have supported me and gotten me through this challenge. You make me a better business owner, and you remind me why I’m working so hard to make this business succeed.


  1. Oh my goodness, I totally feel for you! Please take pride in knowing you handled the situation with class and dignity. If I ordered from a company, I'd want it to be one like yours where things are handled in the right way. Good for you! I had one of my papers malfunction in my shop and I had to do the same exact thing. It's a terrifying experience. ANYWAY, I don't know if you follow Pencil Shavings Studio, but I just ordered an ipad case from her and she uses THIS site for all of her cases: http://www.medgestore.com/ Check it out -- it's SUPER good quality. Maybe you could make something like that work for you as well.

    1. Hi Molly! Ugh I'm sorry you had a paper malfunction :( it's the worst feeling with something you sell breaks. I've looked into M-Edge, along with a few others, and I think I'll probably order a sample from them :) Thanks so much for the suggestion!!


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