An Oregon yarn store, Blue Moon Fiber Arts, came up with a great business idea — a sock-knitting club. Pay $210 online, and the store would send you several kits over the course of the year to knit socks with. The “Rockin’ Sock Club” offered great product and was a big success, and the orders rolled in.
But the bank that handled the yarn store’s credit card purchases smelled something fishy. People buying sock yarn by the bushel?
Bank officials held a meeting to discuss the issue and decided that the sock club was really a scam, not a legitimate business undertaking. Without investigating the legitimacy of the club in any way (the most cursory examination would have revealed hundreds of perfectly happy exisiting members and a waiting list to join the 2007 club), it shut down acceptance of sock-club monies online and demanded that the yarn shop refund everyone’s money.
I recognize that the calendrical structure of the club — with several hundred new purchases being rung up in early January, as people joined for the calendar year — must have looked really fishy. I don’t fault the bank for its concern there.
But to shut down operations without any research at all? I can’t help but believe that this decision may well be discriminatory, and not so much against knitters as against women business owners. Because I think that it’s very likely that to these bank officials, middle-aged yarnshop-owning women are just not people who could come up with wildly successful business ideas. The fact that Blue Moon had around 600 members in a relatively expensive sock club, all putting their charges through in January, meant not smashing business success, but that Blue Moon was running some kind of scam. A sock-scam! Can you imagine being a small business and having to refund hundreds of $210 purchases made in good faith? Can you imagine having to refund the purchases on your bank’s demand, without even being given a chance to prove the legitmacy of your very lucrative idea’s success?
What was this bank thinking?
I read about this remarkable occurrence in the blog of a Canadian knit-blogger and published knitting-book author (and satisfied two-year member of the Blue Moon sock-knitting club!) whose sister asks a very telling question: would this have happened if the store-owner was a man? I ask, Would it have happened if Blue Moon wasn’t selling a product primarily used by women?
If you’re a knitter or buying an expensive gift for a knitter anytime soon, please consider supporting Blue Moon’s sock club — back in action with a brand-new bank: