I Am...

  • ... analytical.
  • ... brave.
  • ... complex.
  • ... determined.
  • ... enigmatic.
  • ... frank.
  • ... geeky.
  • ... honorable.
  • ... inquisitive.
  • ... jovial.
  • ... knightly.
  • ... loyal.
  • ... moderate.
  • ... nerdy.
  • ... observant.
  • ... psychoanalytical.
  • ... quiet.
  • ... respected.
  • ... stubborn.
  • ... tech-savvy.
  • ... unyielding.
  • ... vigilant.
  • ... whimsical.
  • ... X.
  • ... youthful.
  • ... z.

Perspectives

Introduction

Tragedy. Grief. Despair. These all seem to come in massive waves that threaten to cause a rift in the minds of many Americans, pushing us further toward a mindset that asks what has become of the world in which we live. Often we take it a step further, asking if there is any hope of a brighter, happier future any longer. It is easy to get caught up in the tales of horror, of sorrow, and of sheer frustration born of seeing long-winded, naive or uninformed diatribes concerning any conceivable topic and feel that these are the darkest of times. The world is not that simple, though, and in becoming so focused on darkness we lose sight of all the stars that threaten to break through the black veil of night.

We live in a society that is, without the slightest doubt, of our own design. We have allowed things to happen or not happen. We have chosen to speak out on matters of lesser import, and leave those massive concerns for other people. In essence, we continue to sow the seeds of discord, of blame, and of outright stupidity, and expect that what we reap is something different.

We look at others and see differences and flaws and belittle them, instead of celebrating the differences that provide us with unique perspectives and ideas. We mock or laugh at those who do not see things from our point of view, instead of taking a moment to try to understand why our views differ. We look at others and judge them, instead of accepting them into our world and finding common ground. We shun those who do not meet our standards, instead of accepting them as fellow men and women of a world that shapes us all differently.

Regardless of one's faith, religious views, political ideas, standards, thoughts, or feelings, we are all human. We are all walking upon the Earth and trying to survive through the uncertainty that life brings. In the midst of it all, we are all also making horrible choices as often as we make decent ones.

Extrospective

This week alone has illustrated the above poignantly, but the focus should not be on any single incident or time frame. All throughout the history of the United States these concepts have been illustrated time and again, and yet we still stand complacently by while various members of our society become overly vocal. We watch as events unfold and express our concerns, our thoughts, our feelings... all the while turning inward to manage our own lives and neglecting to act on our concerns, thoughts, and desires for bettering our community, area, state, or nation.

It only takes a simple act of compassion, of reaching out, to profoundly impact a life, and yet we often just walk on by the socially awkward coworker without a word, or fail to muster up the courage to walk up to the gorgeous blonde and just say hello. All too often we get trapped in the stereotypes of the nation, and avert our eyes or path from that Muslim ahead instead of smiling and saying good day. Even worse, we fall prey to the vileness that permeates many of our societal peers, turning uncertainty and a lack of understanding into outward signs of bigotry, hate, fear, and misplaced anger.

Even in light of all that is wrong with our society, there are those who try to stand up and be heard. To be counted among the people who say they will not be silenced and will not stop trying to make a difference. We look at them with contempt, believing them to be fanatics of some sort or another because they choose to act. In short, we even do what we can to make those acts of kindness, the spreading of something good, out to be just another fad or to have an ulterior motive.

We take it even further at times, and resort to irrational arguments and name calling in an attempt to make someone appear to be unintelligent, all because they stood up for an ideal. On the flip side of that, though, all too often those people who stand up for an ideal are the ones who fall prey to the same issues already outlined above, just from the opposing perspective.

Introspective

I spent many years exploring the darkest depths of internal suffering and disillusionment with the world. I looked at things objectively and analytically, and when I felt that that perspective failed I turned to examining my life through the senses and emotions. Neither approach works independently of the other, yet both are necessary in order to effectively change. I examined religious beliefs, practices, and philosophies in an attempt to make sense of everything around me, and I explored the sciences when I felt that religion fell short.

In the end, none of the above are perfect explanations. We must believe in something, whether it is simply in the idea of hope or in the comfort of a deity, whether in the explanation of things through scientific discovery and observation or the objective analysis of the world much like one would examine a puzzle, it is faith in something that drives us forward. For some it is simply confidence and belief in their ability to touch the lives of others, for some it is a complete and unwavering faith in God, and for still others it is any of a massive range of other reasons. This is the beauty of our humanity, and the underlying difficulty with finding agreement among those with differing views. Regardless of what we believe in, or choose to place our faith in, we should all be able to agree on bringing change to the world in which we live.

I place my faith in God, yet that does not mean I feel I should blindly say that God will take care of everything. My life here is still my responsibility, and my actions and inaction, my thoughts and opinions, my feelings and desires, and the path I choose to walk in this world are all things for which I must accept accountability. I have been fortunate enough to understand that life is not only what we make of it, but what we allow others to make of it. My faith, in short, is not a crutch upon which I hope that things will work out, or upon which I can lean and say "please provide for me," but is instead the reason that I know that I have the strength to face this world and make a difference.

I mentioned, briefly, my struggles with trying to understand this world and my examinations of the darkest time of my life. Eventually I saw myself through the lens of an objective bystander, and realized that it was not who I wanted to be. I made the decision to change, and to crawl back from the depths of despair and become the person I am today. Knowing the power of choice, of belief in oneself, and of the strength inherent in us if we simply choose to believe in something, I want to challenge each of you: choose to make a difference in the life of another person.

Conclusion

I chose to write this piece without citing examples or sources for a reason. We tend to look only at the issues cited and debate the nuances around those examples, rather than focusing on the overarching issue. Further, we look into our perception of the facts presented instead of looking at the ideals examined, which only leads to further clouding the issues and creating semantic debates. It is with these ideas in mind that I challenge us all to do our part in bringing about change in our area, be it the community, the region, the state, the nation, or even the world. No focus is too small or too large unless we allow it to keep us from trying.

My goal with this post is to illuminate the things that we must focus on in order to change things, and to realize that change does not mean perfect agreement or harmony among so many varied social and cultural backgrounds.

Scam - The Wedding Paper

Scam: The Wedding Papers (a.k.a Exposures Photography, Nicole Price, Located in Arkansas)

My wife and I originally contacted Nicole Price, operating as The Wedding Papers / Exposures Photography, through Etsy in order to have our invitations done for our wedding. This is the full outline of that saga, including an archive of all of the emails sent and received, as well as pictures of the product that was received. At this point we are out a significant sum of money, and although we could go to small claims court (and with the evidence I am certain we would win), it is simply not worth it to us to invest more money and inordinate amounts of time and stress to take it any further. Instead, I’ve decided to put everything here, and hope that you all will help me spread the word and try to ensure that no one else falls prey to this scammer.

In retrospect, we should have known better than to proceed. However, my wife was pleased with the look of the original samples, and we would be able to use a design she created for a relatively decent price. In the end, this was a hard lesson learned.

For those who want to read through all of the emails, in their entirety, please feel free to view the archive located here (note that there are a number of files there, and I would recommend viewing the PDF outline located here. For everyone else, here is the summary:

From January 15, 2012, until March 24, 2012 we exchanged conversations, both through the Etsy storefront that Nicole had set up (that suddenly vanished after we received the invitations) and through email, that discussed what we wanted and what the costs/fees/etc. would include. We requested a sample, which was supposedly sent on three different occasions, and finally received said sample on the 24th of March.

On March 24, 2012, we made the mistake of agreeing to a contract to have the invitations printed, and sent a check for the full amount to Nicole after being informed that there would be a 15% premium attached to take a credit card transaction (this is the point where we should have stopped and decided to have the invitations done elsewhere).

We were originally informed that it would take between five and seven days from the time the contract was received until the time the invitations were mailed. After not seeing the invitations or receiving any updates, we emailed Nicole asking about the status of the invitations and expressing our concern about them arriving in time. We then made our second mistake, which was agreeing to pay to expedite the order.

Finally, on April 21, 2012, the invitations arrived. What we received was not only incorrect based on what we ordered, but was also unusable. You can see the sample gallery of what we received here. At this point, we had to devise and implement a backup plan, as there was no way we could have the invitations reprinted and out to our guests in time, with the wedding barely a month away. We chose to go to OfficeMax, purchase a printer, and do the invitations on our own that weekend.

Through the month of May we did not pursue the issue further, other than my attempts to contact an attorney in the Arkansas area and see what recourse we might have. Finally, in June, I made contact with an attorney and had a demand letter drafted. That demand letter, and Nicole’s response, are copied here in their entirety (aside from redacting contact information for the attorney’s office):

July 2, 2012

Nicole Price
D/B/A The Wedding Paper
362 Shiloh Road
McRae, AR 72102

CERTIFIED MAIL: 7011 1570 0003 7386 2768
RETURN RECEIPT/RESTRICTED DELIVERY

Re: Jesse and Emily Hart

Dear Ms. Price:

Please know that our firm represents Jesse and Emily Hart. Our clients have informed us that in return for their full and timely payment for wedding invitations, the products you provided were unacceptable as some were damaged, some were not the specified size, and some were not delivered at all.

Difficulties with the Harts’ order include, but are not limited to:

  • The invitations were warped and completely unusable;
  • The invitations were not packaged with tissue paper between each invitation as promised which resulted in ink rubbing off on the back of the card above rendering them illegible;
  • The response cards were of random sizes with single sided-printing, not double-sided and postcard size as ordered;
  • The invitations were white instead of natural color as ordered;
  • They did not receive the custom stamp as ordered;
  • They did not receive envelopes they were charged for.

The product you provided to the Harts was completely unusable. Many of the cards were illegible. The improper sizes prevented my clients from sending them though the U.S. mail as postcards. Additionally, due to the inexcusable delays in delivery, the Harts were not even aware of the poor quality of your products until a late date. This resulted in their inability to order decent products from another company and, as a result, they were forced to create their own invitations.

A person’s wedding is one of the most important events in his or her life. It is a special time to share with friends and family. Because of its great personal significance, everything must be perfect. Shoddy goods and service are unacceptable under any circumstances. This is even truer when one’s nuptials are at issue. Your inability and unwillingness to follow the terms of your agreement with the Harts caused them a great deal of stress and anxiety.

Please know that my clients are demanding $1,200.00, a full refund of all monies paid to you. Unless this office is in receipt of a check in that amount or other satisfactory arrangements made for payment of that sum through this office by July 30, 2012, know that we will institute appropriate legal action against you and/or your business as appropriate. In the event that suit is instituted we will also seek attorney’s fees and costs. Know that upon entry of judgment we are prepared to put process of a writ of garnishment and/or a writ of execution in the hands of the sheriff’s department.

Neither the Harts nor this office desire to pursue this course of action, however, this will be our only notice before the institution of suit unless payment is forthcoming.

Yours truly,

<Redacted>

cc: Mr. and Mrs. Jesse Hart

The response received to the demand letter was as follows:

From: Nicole at Exposures [mailto:expdweddingpaper@gmail.com]
Sent: Tuesday, July 03, 2012 6:18 PM
To: <Redacted>
Subject: RE: Jesse and Emily Hart

Dear <Redacted>:

My name is Nicole Price. I am the owner and sole operator of The Wedding Paper. I am writing in regards to your notice about the Hart couple's wedding invitations.

Emily contacted me as a last minute plan to purchase wedding invitations. I mailed a paper sample with heat embossing done exactly the way we were discussing her wedding invitations to be. We discussed and outlined her contract to be as attached. It was weeks before Emily and Jesse's wedding before Emily submitted payment for her invitations. I will address each of your/her concerns individually:

1. Warped: When the invitations left my possession they were in perfect usable condition. I was never notified of any problems regarding the invitations. While I understand that uncountable damages can occur during transit, had I been notified of a problem, it could be have rectified immediately. Even though Emily was offered and declined damage insurance, I understand the nature of wedding invitations and would have been happy to work out a resolution with her. However, nothing was ever communicated to me regarding an issue.

2. The invitations were packaged with hand-torn bright orange tissue paper, just as agreed between Emily and I. My assistant, Kim, hand placed every piece of tissue. I inspected her work and did not see any missing pieces. The only ink used was a heat binder, so there is no possible way that it was rubbing onto another page. However, as explained to emily prior to her purchase, with heat embossing done by hand, there would be minor transfer that could not be avoided, just as it was on the paper sample sent to her before she placed her order. If she felt that would be a problem, I encouraged her to think about an alternate print plan, or even looking for another printer who does computerized embossing.

3. All enclosure cards are 3.5 by 5. That is wedding industry standard. Nothing larger or smaller was requested, nor paid for. As they are cut by hand, not laser, sizes can vary only slightly. This was also explained to Emily prior to her purchase. I have designed and created wedding invitations for years and have had many happy brides. The size variation of enclosure cards has never been questioned as it is extremely minor. Double-sided printing was discussed and never purchased. Emily contacted me about this specifically. I informed her that double sided printing had not been purchased, but I would be happy to do it if she decided to purchase it. She never made question of it again.

4. Emily chose the paper and chose not to receive a paper sample of it. It is titled "soft white". She was explained that "natural" was not an option in the weight she purchased, but that "soft white" was simply a difference in title, not color. Due to her time restraints, she chose to go with the "soft white", not to be confused with "white", "bright white", "pearl white" or "white" (research can be done to determine the different variations of white and ivory. Emily received the exact paper she chose, in the exact color she chose.

5. The custom stamp was shipped shortly after the invitations. It was returned to me a week later undelivered. I don't claim to know what goes on behind the scenes of the post office, but I emailed Emily, explaining the situation asking to confirm her address. I still have not received a response.

I agree that the hand embossing was not appealing. However, it is EXACTLY what Emily requested, received in person as a sample (at no cost or obligation!) and was warned about. The post cards were completely standard for mailing. (Please research minimum mailing size. It is 3.5 by 5, the standard RSVP size). The Hart's delays were due to their own procrastination in completing their contract. They were explained the time frame for everything multiple times. It is not my responsibility to time manage clients' weddings. If they were aware of the time frame in comparison to their remaining time, I was happy to provide them with the service they wished to receive.

I understand the nature of weddings. I work with brides around the world. It is not my tastes or judgement that matters, simply what the bride chooses to purchase. Emily was full aware of what she was purchasing. She held it in her hands a short time before her purchase.

I am declining a request for refund due to the fact that it is now NINE MONTHS after the beginning of her contract. I would have been happy to assist Josh and Emily in resolving this issue had I been contacted about it. Being contacted nine months later, with nothing to back this claim, leaves me no choice but to decline. Please proceed your legal actions as you choose.

Nicole Price

The Wedding Paper

There are a number of things wrong with her response, which you can easily verify from the emails and pictures linked in the first part of this post. I’m going to break it down here, in summary, though, for ease of following:

  1. At no point in any of the conversation chain was damage insurance offered, recommended, or suggested.
  2. There was one piece of tissue paper, that was not orange in color, between two random invitations. You can see from the pictures how they were packaged and that ink did rub off, even though Nicole states that is impossible, and the transference of some of the ink to other invitations would have been avoided had they been packaged as indicated.
  3. You can see from the pictures that the enclosure cards are not the correct size, as indicated. In the email chain is was repeatedly expressed that double-sided printing was what we wanted, and the last communication we received about it was when Nicole stated she would check her records and get back to us.
  4. You can see from the email chain that there was never any indication that “natural” was not an option in the paper ordered.
  5. We never received notification that an attempt was made to deliver the stamp. While I could not attest to whether Nicole sent it or not, the fact that she has our correct address (otherwise the sample and invitations would not have made it to us) indicates that this is a complete fabrication.
  6. Other notes: Nicole indicated she shipped the invitations on the 16th of April, but the stamp from the postal service shows that they were not sent until the 19th of April. Nicole also indicated that the cost for expedited shipping was significantly high, but the postage was less than $20 through the USPS.

As you can see, we can easily verify that Nicole is not providing accurate information. Further, in her response to the demand letter, she indicates that we started this process nine months ago (the contract is here if you would like to look at it). I’m struggling to figure out how we could have even been discussing the invitations for nine months, much less having the contract begin nine months ago... Even if we go back to the initial conversations, instead of when the contract was sent and signed, we’re only talking about January 15th to July 5th (today). The accurate time frame would be March 24, 2012 to July 5, 2012 at most. I am forced to assume that even basic math eludes Nicole at this point.

Oh, and suddenly my name appears to be Josh by the time we reach the end of her response...

We've decided we do not want to deal with having this drag out any further, but we would like to try to get this out to as many people as possible and warn them about dealing with Nicole Price. We'd appreciate you guys spreading the word. The other names she operates under, based on our experience, are "The Wedding Paper(s)" and "Exposures Photography."