customer service

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An Open Letter to Lite ‘n Easy

Published January 1, 2014 by sleepydumpling

Dear Lite ‘n Easy,

Firstly, I want to let you know that I am a happy customer.  I have been using Lite ‘n Easy now for the past few months and have not had a single negative experience.   Well, there could be less peas in everything but that’s personal taste!

However, I need to talk to you about the email that you sent this morning.

Look, I know it’s January 1st, and that marketing opportunity is too good to resist.  New year, people are wanting to make changes and face things fresh.  I understand the email going out today.  But what I take issue with are the following assumptions in the email:

  1. That your customers must want to lose weight.
  2. That all of your customers use Lite ‘n Easy as a weight loss aid.
  3. The lack of sensitivity towards any customers who may be using your meal plans to help deal with an eating disorder.
  4. That your customers *have* lost weight while using your service.
  5. That somehow losing weight is going to be one of the things, or enable me to do things “that I love”.

Before I continue on, as a little background, I want to explain why I decided to become a Lite ‘n Easy customer again a few months ago.  Many years ago, when I was still chasing the myth of weight loss, I tried Lite ‘n Easy.  I loved it.  The food was fantastic quality, and there was more of it than I could eat.  I saved money.  I saved time.  But despite loving it, I was miserable.  Why?  Because I didn’t lose any weight.  Actually I lost a little bit at first, but then, like every other time I had tried to lose weight, it crept back on.  I blamed myself.  I blamed you.  I did everything but blame the myth of weight loss.  So I stopped using Lite ‘n Easy, and went back to the severe restriction and purging eating disorder I had been nurturing since I was 13.

Now fast forward to a few months ago.  I have realised that my worth does not lie in my weight (or lack of it).  I have stopped putting my life on hold until I am thin.  I have filled my life with the things that are important, and I’ve been in recovery from my eating disorder for almost 6 years.  I am a fat woman, but I now understand that the size and shape of my body bears no relevance on the quality of my life.

However, one of the problems with living life to the fullest for me is that I’m not very good at eating competently.  I can thank a society that tells women we must be thin to be worthy and 25+ years of a very fraught relationship with food for that.  I’m working hard and playing hard, it’s awesome.  But  I’m not eating enough.  I’m skipping breakfast and finding myself ravenous by lunch, and then at night too tired to eat anything for dinner more than a bit of toast.  I’m struggling with those old eating disorder demons again.  I’m getting more and more run down and my energy levels are disappearing.  Then I see a woman at work eating a Lite ‘n Easy lunch, and I remember how much I liked it, how convenient it was and how it was good for me to have all my daily meals all laid out for me and how much money I saved in the long term.

So I make the decision to start using Lite ‘n Easy again, and I’ve not regretted it at all.  The food is excellent.  There is far more of it than I can eat, so much that over the Christmas week while I am busy socialising, I can just skip a week of Lite ‘n Easy and there are still plenty of meals for me left to cover those times I’m not out socialising.

I get that half of your brief is “Lite”.  I’m not going to tell you to let go of that.  It clearly works for you, though I personally believe that you lose a lot of customers who either don’t lose weight while using your products and services, or who aren’t interested in losing weight.  However it has been your business name for a long time, and has a lot of goodwill attached to it.  I can understand you not wanting to let go of that.  I don’t have a problem with that side of your business if you keep it out of my inbox.

Now, you can see I am very happy with your product and service.  But back to my points above as to why your email was unwelcome and frankly offensive.

  1. I understand that some people still believe in the myth of weight loss.  I understand that is part of your marketing but you keep it pretty low key on your website, so I don’t have to see it when I place my orders.  However, when it arrives in my inbox unsolicited, I am not happy.  I don’t want to see weight loss propaganda.  I can opt out of seeing it until you start pushing it in my inbox.
  2. As I mentioned before, I don’t use Lite ‘n Easy as a weight loss aid.  I use it as a convenience, a money saver, and because I feel healthier and have more energy when I eat a balanced diet.  I am still the same weight as I was when I started a couple of months ago.  I will no doubt be the same weight in a year from now.  That’s OK, I am happy with who I am.  But I don’t like the presumption that I must want to lose weight if I use your product/services.
  3. You can’t know how many of your customers are dealing with eating disorders or are in recovery.  Your product and service is exceptionally good for helping those recovering from eating disorders eat competently.  How about thinking about how you might be able to market your product to help people like myself, rather than sending us material that is deeply triggering.
  4. Never lost an ounce.  Still think your product and service is fantastic.  Not likely to lose an ounce in future.  Still happy to stay your customer.  When I believed in the myth of weight loss, I stopped purchasing your product because I believed it, and I had failed.
  5. I can already do everything that I love.  And those things I can’t do, weight loss isn’t going to help me do them.  In fact, chasing weight loss prevents me from trying.  I’ve done so much more with my life in the past 5 years than I did in all the years I was chasing weight loss.  Consider I started dieting when I was 11.  How many things did I not do because I believed I couldn’t do the things I love unless I was thin?

Where do we go to from here?  Well, I’d like to see you cease sending weight loss propaganda to your customers unsolicited.  That doesn’t mean I think you shouldn’t send marketing – I do know how business works.  But I think you could bring yourself FAR more customers, and keep them, if you let go of the weight loss brief and focus on the things that you do really well at Lite ‘n Easy.  How about these for points to focus on:

  • Busy life?  Let us do the work and bring you delicious, nutritious meals to your door.
  • Do the things you love and let us take care of the meal planning, shopping and food preparation.
  • Eat delicious!  Eat healthy!  Eat variety!  Eat conveniently!
  • Show people your food.  It tastes delicious and looks great.  I mean look at this screen grab from your email – yum!

Screen Shot 2014-01-01 at 12.06.14 PM

  • This sentence from your email is excellent – “You can enjoy all the taste, convenience and health benefits again in 2014.”
  • Show some diverse people (other than white, thin people) enjoying life.  Being active, happy and having fun.  This is aspirational.  This makes me want a product.  Not “look at some thin people, don’t you want to be thin like them?”  Even if I did believe in weight loss, not being represented in marketing is not something that makes me feel good about a product.
  • “Simply Eat Well” – this is a brilliant slogan.  Keep it.  Focus on it.  Use it everywhere.  That’s why I use your product/service – I want to simply eat well.

Screen Shot 2014-01-01 at 12.09.39 PM
To all of you at Lite ‘n Easy – especially the marketing team – you have a great product and your service is excellent.  Don’t ruin it by choosing poor marketing methods.

Yours sincerely

Kath Read

Plus-Size Fashion Companies – Let Me Help You Make Money!

Published October 28, 2012 by sleepydumpling

Alright.  Since many people seem to think that it’s somehow wrong for me to be angry at the unjust way many of we super fat people are treated by the industry that is SUPPOSED to serve us*, I’m offering up my services.

If you have a plus-size fashion/clothing company that caters to people OVER a size 3X (24AU) or you have a plus-size fashion/clothing company that WANTS to cater to people over a size 3X, contact me and let me help you make money.  Let me promote you to my not inconsiderable following both online and in real life and let me help you gather the resources and information you need to make your product a success.

There are a few small guidelines though:

  1. If you don’t cater to my size (4X/26AU) as a minimum, or are actively working to in the very near future, please do not expect me to give you my time and energy.
  2. If you do not ship internationally, please make that clear.  I am not adverse to working with companies that don’t ship to Australia, but I need to be able to make that clear to my audience.
  3. You MUST be willing to revisit both your service, product and/or your marketing.  If you simply toss your hands up and say there is no demand, then you are not trying hard enough.
  4. I will give you honest and frank feedback and help you channel the feedback you get elsewhere to something you can actually use.  I know it is difficult to get any real information from some criticism, but I am expert at working out what the actual issue is and finding real steps to resolve them.  But that will require a commitment from you to actually listen and take negative feedback on board.

Now, my time is precious and valuable, so this is not something I am offering lightly.  I am however offering it for free to those of you who are genuinely willing to work towards improving your products, service and marketing.  I am that committed to improving the fashion/clothing industry for fat women over a size 3X that I am willing to offer up my time and energy for free, within the framework of my regular life.  Please be aware that I do have a full time job and other commitments I will have to work this project around.

If I can also help fat men, that will be an added bonus.  It is not my area of expertise, but I do have resources I can help with and know people I can refer you to.

So, if you want to open your business up to a whole lot of new customers, a mostly untapped market in fact, I’m willing to help you do that.  I want to see you succeed and make money.

And to those of you who are a size 3X and over, please spread the word and stand by to help me make things better for you.  You will also need to put your money where your mouth is when companies DO take up the challenge.  Don’t leave me to do it all on my own!

*How dare we be unhappy at being excluded!  We have options dammit,  yeah a whole four companies!  Many of which don’t ship internationally or actually cater to our size!

How NOT to Market to Fat Customers

Published October 27, 2012 by sleepydumpling

Can you believe it, I’m actually a little bit speechless.  I know, ME, speechless!  That almost never happens right!

But I’ve got a doozy for you folks.  You may have seen a campaign going around the fatosphere and fatshion world calling for support and funding for a Kickstarter loan for a new company called Cabiria Style.  A new “plus-size” startup fashion company, really pushing hard for people to donate to their Kickstarter and promote their new company.  Now I’ve had a busy week, so I saw the tweets and stuff and thought “Cool, I’ll have a look at that later, always good to see new plus-size brands starting up.”   I finally got a chance to have a look today and was disappointed to see that the person behind this company only intends to cater up to size 24US – I take a 28-30-32US depending on the brand.  Happens all the time, gives me the shits, but yeah, I’m used to it.  I saw that someone had asked if they intended to extend their sizes in the future so I retweeted the question and said that it was important:

I made it clear that it isn’t fair to ask me to support or promote a company that excludes me, especially when they promote themselves as an “inclusive” line.  I expected to get the usual line about how “we hope to expand our sizes in the future”.  At least it’s an acknowledgement that they don’t go up to the higher sizes, even if it is a bit of a fob off, right?  I mean, indie designer, baby steps, fair enough.

What I didn’t expect was a whole lot of hostile attitude about how it’s too difficult/expensive to do higher sizes and that our questions as to whether we were included in the sizing were “criticism” of the company/range.  Apparently, simply ASKING if the sizes will be expanded is a “personal attack”.

Oh boy, there is some really fucking entitled bullshit that has come from this woman.  I’ll let the tweets do the talking (she has blocked me because you know, calling her out on shitty marketing and excluding people in an “inclusive” range is such a horrible thing to do – so I have to copy and paste):

@fatheffalump there is an entire section on why to donate if you’re not plus size. Many of the donors are not plus size.

Umm… I’m not plus-size because I’m over a size 24US?  What the fuck am I then?  I’m “too big” to be considered “plus-size” but you still expect me to donate and promote your range?

@fatheffalump I’m making higher quality options than most. Pretty different in another parameter.

This is her response to how she is not doing anything new and different by only doing to size 24US.  What use to me is “higher quality” if you won’t include me in the sizing?  What kind of logic is this?

@fatheffalump if you look at the photos you may notice I shop in the plus section myself, and not everything fits.

This is supposed to justify that NOTHING fucking fits in her range for me or any other person over a size 24US.  So I’m supposed to consider this justification for excluding anyone over a size 24US to the range.

@Fatheffalump The options are to buy the clothes or not. Same as everyone else. Buy this apple.Don’t buy that pear. Options.

What fucking options?  Buy WHAT clothes?  You’re not providing them in my size!  Where the fuck is the logic here?  “Buy this apple, but if you’re a pear, fuck off we don’t cater to you – there, you have options now”.

Look, I know it’s not easy to start up as a company.  I’ve done it myself.  There’s a reason I’m no longer self employed.  But there’s one thing you need to remember.  If you want people to give you their money for your goods or services, you’d better fucking include them.  How difficult is that to comprehend?  If you don’t cater to them (and hey, not every business does, such as life),  DON’T EXPECT THEM TO GIVE YOU MONEY OR PROMOTE YOU!

And if you are a company selling size 12-24, don’t call yourself inclusive, don’t promote to the fatshion/fatosphere and don’t call yourself “plus-size”.  You are an inbetweenie company.  Go market to them.

So I’m doing the opposite of promoting this company.  I am urging you, my somewhat considerable following of thousands of awesome fat people here on Fat Heffalump and on my social media platforms, DO NOT spend your money with Cabiria.  In fact, if you have pledged a donation through Kickstarter – go cancel it.  Never shop with them, ever.  Withdraw your funds whatever size you are and show this person that if they want to be a success, perhaps they should invest in some marketing training before anything else.

Instead, I would like you to go buy some brilliant clothes from the following small companies:

  1. Domino Dollhouse – when DD first started I asked Tracy about catering to larger sizes, she told me she was working on expanding that in the future.  It took a little while, but she did, and she is now doing AWESOME things.  Hat tip to Tracy and Domino Dollhouse.  I hope you’re raking in the $$ Tracy!
  2. LucieLu – they go to 5X and are a really gorgeous quality.
  3. No Xceptions – Up to size 32AU.  Small range, but HOT prices and excellent customer service.  Extra points for being an Aussie company.
  4. Sweetooth Couture – Up to 6X.  Gorgeous.
  5. eShakti – yeah not exactly small and they don’t ship to Australia yet, but hey, they do gorgeous clothes in good quality and have no size limit (costs about $7.50 extra to get custom sizing – less than 8 bucks to get custom sizing – how awesome is that?!)
  6. Cult of California – up to 5x.

Give these companies your money.  Buy their products, promote the crap out of them and let them know they’re doing something right.  If you know any other small companies that do past size 24AU, please leave them in the comments.  Let’s show these companies that they are asking for our money and custom, they do not have the right to demand it.

And if you’re looking to start a plus-size clothing business, here’s a few hot tips for you:

  1. Size 12-24US is not special any more.  Don’t label yourself as unique or inclusive if this is all you do.
  2. Market up to your customers, not down to them.  If you want their custom and their money, treat them as valuable and they will reciprocate.
  3. Stick your neck out.  Don’t start at a 12 or a 1X.  If you can only afford a size range of 3 sizes, how about starting at size 3X and going to 6X and then expanding down later.  After all, it’s a bloody captive market, there’s FAR less competition out there for you if you do that than the 12/1x – 24/3x range.
  4. If you get questions or feedback, answer the questions, be honest and don’t take it personally.  If you turn it into a “You’re picking on me!” when people ask if you’re intending to expand your size range or say that they’re not willing to support a company that doesn’t cater to you, then you’ll lose ALL of your customers, not just the ones you are ignoring.  A simple “We are currently only offering to size 24″ would have been annoying, but fair enough.  “We are currently only offering to size 24, but hope to expand in the future.” would have been lovely.
  5. You are not doing anything new or offering options to someone you do not cater to.  Don’t piss on our legs and tell us it’s raining.

YOU Have the Power to Drive Change

Published January 16, 2012 by sleepydumpling

Reading everyone’s responses to my last post about my meeting with the folks from Target Australia, I get one very clear message from so many of you – that you hope that these changes happen in your country/state/store of choice.  That’s a very good hope, and I hope they do too.  But I think we all need to step it up a bit – just hoping is not good enough.  I think more of us need to speak up, and more often.  After all, you know the old adage – the squeaky wheel gets the grease.

I do appreciate all of your thanks, and I do this for all of us, but collectively we have to put some more cohesive effort into this.  We are customers, we have money to spend, we know what we want, and it’s time we collectively drove the market where we, as the consumers, want it to go.

People often ask me how I’ve managed to get audience with major retailers on the subject of plus-size clothing.  How?  I ask them.  It really is just that – no magic trick, no major talent, no major effort.  We need to ask more often.  We need to ask together.  We need to ask in a clearer manner.

I have worked in some form of customer service for most of the past 25 years.  And the sad truth of it is that most unhappy customers have no idea how to complain constructively.  To be honest, for every decent constructive criticism, there are 20 illegible, unreasonable, hostile, often bullying complaints.  So it’s REALLY hard for many businesses to weed out the genuine constructive feedback to be able to take any action.

This isn’t to say that a lot of businesses really do ignore their customers, particularly we fat customers.  We do get written off in so many instances with either formula responses or just “You’re being too sensitive/asking too much.”  We’ve seen evidence of it right here on the blog where a prominent online store told us we should just “learn to sew” when I raised that I’d like to see their collection go to larger sizes.  Another major Australian plus-size fashion chain patently ignores complaints as if they’ll go away… and sadly they often do.

However, one of the things that drives me absolutely up the wall about plus-size fashion pages on Facebook (or those who have blogs/Twitter) is the amount of whining that happens.  I know how frustrating it is when these companies don’t listen.  But I can’t tell you the number of times I see people complaining about things that if they actually set foot in the store (or checked the website properly), they’d find weren’t even an issue.  My pet hate is people whinging they want sleeves and if they just went into a store, they’d find that at least half the stock is sleeved!  What they really want is NO sleeveless at all, and that’s unfair to those of us who do want sleeveless. (That goes for a whole lot of other things too.)  Or those who complain about something going on sale that they paid full price for last week.  HELLO – that’s the nature of retail, that’s got nothing to do with plus-size stores.  That is just how retail works – you either pick the thing up when it’s full price because you want it, or you take your chances and try to get it on sale.

But those things can also work in our favour.  In a sea of whinging, a reasoned, respectful and clear criticism can stand out amongst the noise.  For example, when 20 comments are “You suck, I want sleeves!!”, a comment saying “I was in your store yesterday, and I noticed that you don’t have any plus-sized corporate wear.  Are you expecting any in the near future?  It’s really hard to dress professionally when no stores offer corporate wear for plus-sizes.” stands RIGHT out.  You give them a clear message as to what you’re looking for and you give them an actual question to answer, and most importantly, you let them know you actually shop in their stores and have looked at what they already offer.

I was asked on the last post how my meeting with Target Australia came about.  It came about because I was in my local Target and was dismayed to see they had considerably reduced their plus-size section, and moved it to an awful location.  I left them a note on their Facebook (you can see it here) and mentioned it around my social networks because I knew other people had the same thoughts.  A few of them commented on it.  A whole lot of other people that I didn’t know also commented on it.  A conversation ensued on the thread, and I was very conscious of trying to keep the feedback constructive.  After a few days, once Target clearly had some time to discuss it with their team, they responded with a contact email for anyone who was interested in talking to them about their wants and needs in plus-size clothing.  I emailed the address and expressed my eagerness to help them get it right, while also reiterating the issues I had and gave them my contact details.  From there, it all happened.

And looking back over my work with Autograph Fashion – almost the same thing happened – it started with their Facebook page and went from there.

You can do this too.  In fact, you need to do it too.  We all do.

Ok I’ll admit, I do have the gift of the gab.  I can write/talk and I’m a quick thinker.  That does work in my favour.  But guess what?  I’m happy to share that, I’m happy to let my fellow fatties use the stuff I do with businesses to build their own constructive feedback.  In fact, I’m even happy to help you with proof reading and stuff if you really want me to.  But here is the basic method that works for me.  Of course, you have to be genuine in your feedback, but you can do that with a method.  Let’s see:

  1. Tell them when and where you encountered the problem.
  2. Tell them exactly what the problem is.
  3. Tell them why it is a problem.
  4. Ask them if they already have any plans in place that will rectify the problem.
  5. Tell them what you need to solve the problem.
  6. If they get anything right, tell them that.
  7. Tell them that you want to continue to be their customer.
  8. Thank them for their time.

Want an example?  Here, I’ll make a potted one up:

Dear Store.  I was in your [location] store on Friday and I was disappointed to see that you have no plus-sized swimwear this season.  I have been looking for a swimsuit and in the past have bought them from your store, but unfortunately could not this time.  Are you planning to get any swimwear in stock in the near future?  I’m really looking for a plus-sized swimsuit in size 26, that has good bust support.  I know I can usually find good quality garments from you, that are reasonably priced, and I was hoping to do so again.   I hope you can help me with this matter, thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Ok that one is more of a request than a complaint, but here, let’s try a complaint:

Dear Store.  I was in your [location] store last week and found that the quality of your plus-sized stock has really dropped since last season.  I have noticed the fabrics are all synthetics, and are very thin and don’t hold their shape.  This means that your garments are now expensive for the quality received, and no longer last or keep their shape.  Will you be continuing to use the manufacturer that you are currently using, or do you have plans to find a better quality one?  I’m really looking for garments in natural fibres that will hold their shape and are constructed well.  Particularly around the neckline and bust.  Last season you had some beautiful dresses that were of a lovely soft cotton blend knit, I bought several of those and wore them a lot.  I would love to see you have more stock like that, and would really bulk up  my wardrobe if you had these kinds of garments.  Particularly as it’s really difficult to find decent plus-size clothing anywhere, it would be fantastic to see good quality clothes in your store.  I hope to see the quality of your stock improve in the near future, and look forward to hearing from you soon on this matter.  Thank you for your time.

I know, it’s wordy.  But when you’re getting complaints like “I hate your clothes!” and “The fabric your clothes are made of sucks!”, a paragraph like the above stands out, and shows that you’re reasonable and are willing to continue being their customer if they solve the problem.  I’ve found that those people who whine the most are usually not giving the business any custom anyway.

That’s the important thing too – when they do make positive changes, and do get it right, spend your money there.  Reward them for getting it right.

But look, the most important thing is that they hear from all of us.  Individually, it’s bloody hard work to make a difference.  But collectively, we CAN and DO change things.  I’m not doing this on my own – it’s a combined effort of every cohesive, constructive criticism that these businesses get and the voting we do with our money.  You have a head start over a lot of people – you are here so you have an internet connection, and you can read.  Those are the first two tools you need!

I urge all of you to take the time to contact and talk to the businesses you want to see change in.  Ask them for what you want.  For those that ignore you, walk away from them completely and give someone else your money, someone who values you as a customer.  Don’t forget to tell everyone who gets it right and who gets it wrong too – word of mouth is valuable marketing currency for businesses too.

We WILL change things.  We already have, we just have more work to do.  Who’s in with me?

Talking to Target Australia

Published January 15, 2012 by sleepydumpling

As I mentioned in my last post, I met with a couple of fabulous folks from Target Australia on Thursday to talk plus-size clothing.  Trudy and Lynn flew up from their Geelong head office and met me at the Myer Centre store and gave me quite a few hours of their time, which to me, is a win right there.  Instead of writing off customer feedback with the cut and paste “Thank you for your feedback, we’re listening and will endeavor to make changes in our stores.” and calling it done, they listened, took it away and thought about it, and decided to take some action.  That will always get my attention as a business that is interested in making their customers genuinely happy.

So we spent some considerable time talking over a coffee about plus-size clothing – from all aspects – from my own personal taste and style, through to the politics of fashion and style, the diversity of needs of plus-size customers, garment construction, fabric quality, price, fitting plus-size bodies, store layout, customer experience, marketing… the list goes on.  We then went down into the store and went through the very small plus-size section, had a look at about half of the straight-size selection (and talked about how no matter your taste, everyone in straight-sizes is catered to, yet plus-sizes have pretty much one or two basic themes) and went through the exercise wear, because I brought up the ridiculous double standards of “Exercise fatty!!” but there being no suitable exercise clothes for anyone over a size 18!

In fact, while we were in the exercise wear, a woman came up to us and asked Trudy and Lynn if they were taking customer feedback, and quite passionately expressed her frustration at not being able to find suitable and practical shorts for exercising in.  She echoed pretty much the same thing I was telling them!

And finally they showed me a bunch of samples and drawings to get an idea of the kind of things that appeal to me and how I felt about the ones they had there.

I also talked to them about the politics and psychology of fashion for fat women, the way that fat women are othered by the media and general culture, and how marketing that suggests we need to hide our bodies or blend into the surroundings at all do not inspire us to spend money – quite the opposite.

All in all, it was over 3 hours and I talked their ears off – but they were both interested and engaged, enthusiastic about making customers happy, asked plenty of intelligent questions and were willing to rethink some of their perspectives about plus-size clothing.  They took copious notes (I’ll be kind and send them some links and dot points – it was a LOT of information!) and assured me that Target Australia will be rethinking their approach to plus-size clothing.

Bear in mind that a company like this plans for up to a year in advance with clothing lines, so it will take time to see any changes come through.

So, I went through all of the responses I got back from you here and on the #targetplus thread on Twitter, and broke them down into 10  key things we want to see (pretty much everything listed fits into these 10 categories in some way):

  1. The same clothes as straight-sizes with comparable prices.
  2. FASHION – on trend styles, colours and prints.
  3. “Young” clothes. Clothes that are aimed at women under 50, and under 30 that aren’t “party wear”.
  4. More bra/underwear/sleepwear options – particularly over size 20 and in large cup sizes, and in pretty/sexy/fashionable styles.
  5. Scaling of garments – an understanding that not all plus-size bodies are shaped the same or the same height and that larger does not mean longer/bigger arm & neck holes.
  6. Plus-sized clothing for all aspects of life – professional, maternity, social, exercise, swimwear and so on.
  7. Natural fabrics.
  8. Structure of garments – eg, underwire in swimwear, straps/necklines to cover plus-sized bras, crotch levels in the appropriate place, necklines that are between choking-mega cleavage and so on.
  9. Plus-sized accessories – tights, boots, belts that are fashionable and fit to the upper sizes.
  10. Basics/classics in plain colours other than black and white – cami’s, cardigans, tank tops, t-shirts, jeans and so on.

For an extra couple of points – many would like to see plus-size cater to size 32AU and let’s not forget all of the above for plus-sized men as well.

On top of that, a few marketing things:

  1. Location in store – not at the back, not behind the shoes, not next to Maternity.  Somewhere that says the store is as proud and welcoming to plus-sized customers as they are everyone else.
  2. Positive marketing – no hide your body messages.
  3. Actually bothering with marketing to plus-sized customers.  Not just a page jammed in the catalogue.
  4. Designer/celebrity ranges.

I will be sending an email to Trudy and Lynn with this information and a bunch of links to show them lots of fatshion and what other businesses are doing right.

One important message I have for you all though, particularly those of you here in Australia since I’ve spoken to Target Australia – if you see positive changes to Target’s plus-size merchandise, buy it.  Put your money where your mouth is.  There is no use complaining if you’re not going to spend your money if they make positive changes.  And be sure to tell other people about them when they get it right.  It’s really important to reward those who make the effort and get it right.

Hopefully this is the beginning of some really positive steps towards improving the plus-size options from Target Australia, and I’ll keep you all posted with anything I hear in the future.

Quick Hit: Requests!

Published January 12, 2012 by sleepydumpling

Just a quickie this morning my dears.

I am meeting with some folk from Target Australia head office this afternoon to talk about plus-sized clothing and specifically their Moda range.

I have asked this question on Twitter and started the #Targetplus hashtag so that I can aggregate the responses into a useful list for the folk at Target.  I thought I would pop it up here for those of you non-tweeps and for anyone that needs a little more than 140 characters.

What would you like to see in plus-sized clothing from a major retailer like Target?

Now, I do ask that you keep your responses short and sweet as I don’t want to overwhelm these folks just yet.  A few dot points would be the best format.

For example, mine are:

  • A range of basics including maternity, underwear, swimwear and exercise wear to at least size 26.
  • The same fashion trends as offered in straight sizes.
  • A prominent, proud, well-presented location in store.
  • More bra options for larger plus-sizes.

Leave your answers in the comments, I’ll compile them up and share them with the folk at Target Australia.

An Afternoon at Autograph

Published November 19, 2011 by sleepydumpling

Sometimes being a bolshy fat activist blogger means I get to do some pretty awesome things.  For anyone who has been reading Fat Heffalump for awhile, you know I’ve had quite a regular blog review relationship with Australian plus-size clothing retailer, Autograph Fashion.  Being the only brick and mortar dedicated plus-size store that actually have clothes that fit me (most only go to 22 or 24 AU) and that I can afford (MySize – $90 for a t-shirt, fuck that!), I am pretty vocal about how they’re doing with serving the mega fatty like myself as far as price, quality and style are concerned.  In the 12 months or so since they first contacted me and asked me to review some of their clothes, I’ve watched a vast improvement in the quality and style of their stock and the look of their stores.  They’ve gone from this to the outfits I’m going to show you below.

I’ve been really, really lucky that they’ve sent me so many pieces for free to review, and I really appreciate that they are working to get it right – and of course, I’m the kind of bolshy fat activist blogger who is going to be honest with them if they don’t.

Earlier this week they contacted me and let me know that some of the marketing folk were going to be here in Brisbane today, and asked me if I would like to come in and meet with them, have a look at the new stock and give them some feedback and discuss how they’re doing with their product and service these days.  HELL YES!

Being on holidays at the moment (back to work Monday, sob!) meant that I had plenty of time to spare and could relax and just enjoy talking with the ladies and trying on clothes and letting them see how they work on someone at the upper end of their range.  I’m a size 26AU in most garments (though often lower sizes in pants/skirts) and therefore definitely at the upper end of their 14-26 range.  I also have a body that is not a traditional shape – no hourglass or pear here… I’ve said before I’m more of a barrel with legs.  We know as fatties ourselves that our bodies are diverse in shape even though we might take the same size garment, so it’s important for the folks from a plus-size clothing company to understand the mechanics of our fitting garments to our diverse bodies.

I did make sure I was wearing a mostly Autograph Fashion outfit today, because I also want them to know that I certainly do buy their clothes – boy do I buy a lot of their clothes!  So this is what I wore:

This dress originally came with a belt, but because I’m round in the middle, it looks better on me unbelted.  The sandals are from Payless Shoes and earrings from Ritual.  I also had an Autograph Fashion bracelet on, but my hand is behind my back so you can’t see it here.

So I met the Autograph ladies and we started out by having a discussion about what I liked about the store and the current stock.  The Myer Centre store looks great at the moment, inviting and as if they’re proud of their stock and their customers.  Compared to a lot of plus-size clothing retailers, who either shove the plus-sizes in the back, or they fill the windows with something other than their clothes on plus-size mannequins (why put something other than your stock in the window??), I like how their stock is highly visible from the front of store, and they have plus-size mannequins right there in the middle of the front of the store, highlighting the plus-sized clothes they sell.  It looks like any other clothing store, just with bigger clothes.  Their stock has some great colours that are bang on trend at the moment, and some really fab on-trend prints and styles too.

We also talked about the stuff that I’m not so fond of.  Shark-bite hemlines anyone?  I HATE those things, though I’m stuck with several in my wardrobe because options are so limited for my size.  They actually don’t have much that makes me go “yuck” at the moment.   I also told them about some horrible things other companies are doing, like cutting off at size 20 or 22, offering only casual clothes, charging exorbitant prices for t-shirts and capri pants ($90 for a t-shirt!!), or the worst practice – having lower quality fabrics for the upper sizes, ie 22 and 24, than those that are 14-20 in the exact same garment.

We also talked about how clothes fit on “everyday” fat bodies, as opposed to their current “face” of Autograph Fashion, plus-size model Fiona Faulkner – who is gorgeous but is a bit of an Amazon – very tall and hourglass with long legs.  That’s not the average Australian plus-size woman’s build, and so we talked about the practicalities of fitting clothes to women with bodies like mine that aren’t shaped like the current cultural beauty ideal.

They also asked me if I could buy clothes from any other plus-size retailer, if they had my size, shipped to Australia and were affordable, who I would buy from.  Dorothy Perkins got my main vote – I love the styles they have but they simply don’t cater to my size and I mentioned that I like Asos Curve but they also cut off before my size as well.

Then we got to the fun stuff.  They let me loose to just try on a whole bunch of stuff and see how it fits, which ones I like and which ones  didn’t work.  I selected a HUGE pile of clothes, I really wanted to get in and put stuff on my mega fatty body and show them how it looks.

And yes, I have photos for you all.

The first one is this print maxi dress that they actually posted on their FaceBook page today and I liked the look of.

I like the super long length and that it has little cap sleeves, which cover my tattoo enough for work.  It’s lovely and cool and the neckline is really pretty.  This one got a total thumbs up from me.

The next one was this glittery lurex stripe maxi.

I liked the look of this one, especially as the fabric was all glittery and sparkly, and the cut and length were great for me, but unfortunately the lurex was kind of itchy and prickly.  I’m sure it would drive me nuts here in the Queensland heat.  It does look cute though.

Another dress next, this time a shorter length one in blue (not available online):

I love this dress.  The intense blue colour, the just-on-the-knee length, the slits down the sleeves and the soft fabric.  Total winner, one of my favourites of the day.

I did try on a few other dresses next, but they didn’t work on me or there wasn’t one in the right size.  This one clung in all the wrong places despite being a gorgeous colour and print, a pretty frilled one (available in red or black, not on the website) that just wasn’t suited to my shape, and a sleeveless one in a gorgeous pewter satiny fabric that gaped all weird around my armpits.

On to a few tops next, and the first I tried on was this black and white sleeveless tunic (not available online):

I absolutely love the starry print on this one, and it was a delicious cool cotton fabric, but there was that damn shark-bite hemline!  However it was softened by the little frill around the bottom (I do love a frill) and there are slits up the sides that make it fall nicely.  I may even go back and buy this one, I love that print so much.

Then there was this one in a taupe with frill neckline and pockets:

I liked it much more on the hanger than on my body.  I think the blue would have been a nicer colour on me too, but they didn’t have one in my size.  It was soft and comfortable, and I LOVE the pockets, but yeah, it just didn’t work for me.  It gaped a bit weird around the armpits, which seems to be a bit of a common theme for some of the garments there.

Those of you who know me know that I love leopard print like only a fat lady can, so it will come as no surprise that I had to try on the sheer leopard print shirt.

This one was my other firm favourite of the day.  I was in love the minute I put it on.  It has a dipped hemline (very on-trend this season) and tiny gold buttons, and cutouts in the sleeves.   It’s quite sheer so I just put it over a plain black tank top.  Gorgeous and floaty and perfect.

I did try a bunch of others that I didn’t take photos of in the tops too.  A cute one with a lace frill in apricot that was really lovely (I may go back and buy it), a watermelon peasant blouse that was lovely but didn’t fit me right, and a ruffly one in the most gorgeous bird print in black birds on midnight blue (not available online) that wasn’t available in my size.  Oh and I also tried on this striped maxi skirt, which is beautiful and soft and cool – yep, might go back and get that one too!

Finally the Autograph ladies brought me a bunch of other things they wanted me to try on just to get a look at how they were on my body.  There was this top which was really quite cute, I may go back and get that one too!  Their new sandals which are a wide foot fitting and super comfortable, and a little denim vest that I absolutely fell in love with but didn’t get a photo of!

But there were also these two dresses, which demonstrate the power of trying things on before you buy, and to get out of your comfort zone.  First there was this black one with cutout detail (not available online) that I totally would have picked out for myself but left on the shelf only because I already have a zillion black dresses.  But looking at it on shelf, it would have been one that I would have bought without trying on because it’s a style that usually suits me.  But when I put it on:

It just didn’t work on me.  It clung, it rode up in the back, and just wasn’t right.  Which is a real shame because I love that cutout detail and it’s a great length too, just below the knee.  It would have been a dress that I’d bought and never wore.

Then they brought me this floral one (not yet available online) that I had looked at and thought was pretty, but totally not me.  I never would have even tried it on, had they not asked me to.

I am so glad I did!  I love it to bits!  It’s so femme and retro (it feels like a vintage piece) and is such a cute length on me.  It was also really useful to show the Autograph folk the dress on a super fat body.

By that time I was quite over trying things on and I was getting hot and sweaty!  But it was lots of fun and we had some really useful conversation about fit, fabric, construction, the politics of fatshion, marketing to fat women and body positivity.  It was interesting to talk about the diverse types of customers they have, from those who are looking for “flattering” clothes that they can feel comfortable wearing, and those of us who are more fat positive and are looking for fashion, fun, colour, and visibility.  It’s hard to make such a diverse group of people happy when there is currently so little available on the market – but women who want to cover their bodies and dress in a “flattering” manner have as much right to choose that and have product available to them, as those of us who want something more fashion forward and visible do.

We also had a good talk about the practicalities of garments for plus-size bodies.  Things like garments needing to cover plus-size bras (which are by default, big and ugly), of lengths of dresses not getting longer as the sizes get bigger (they sadly often do, which means larger sized women who are not taller end up swamped), how necklines work differently with large breasts and chins, the fit over different shaped breasts, hips, arms, bellies and thighs, and the different climates Australia has and what is practical in Melbourne may not be here in Queensland.

Once we’d finished up there, they very kindly gave me the first print maxi dress, the blue shorter dress, the sheer animal print shirt, the floral dress and the denim vest (not pictured) as a thank you for my time and feedback, which has me very chuffed.  I can’t wait to style them myself with my existing wardrobe and do outfit of the day photos with them when I wear them later.

All in all, all of the women from Autograph that I met this afternoon (and the effervescent Michelle and lovely Sue who are my local Autograph ladies) were friendly, genuinely interested in conversation with me about their product, the industry and the politics of fat fashion and were a lot of fun.  Other plus-size fashion retailers could learn a lot from them.

Calling all Super Fatties!

Published August 27, 2011 by sleepydumpling

You know what?  I’ve had enough.  I’ve had enough of supposed plus-size retailers/manufacturers/labels sizing out the upper end of a standard plus-size range.  I’ve had enough of these companies deciding “We’ll make clothes for those of you who are fat… BUT NOT TOO FAT!”  I’m looking at you City Chic, Asos Curve, Dorothy Perkins, Pinup Girl Clothing, Leona Edmiston, Style369, Carmakoma, Forever21, Monsoon…. there are so many more.  Even regular companies that do some plus-size clothing as well as their straight sizes, like Threadless and ThinkGeek cut out before a standard plus-size range.  Don’t get me started on department stores that only go to Size 22 or 24 in most of their labels either.  Department stores!  The very stores that are supposed to cater to everyone!

Sadly, even two of my favourite online stores, who offer some plus-sized pieces, have further limited the upper sizes – We Love Colors and Sick for Cute.

There seems to be this perception that if anyone provides clothing in anything over a size 22, that they are “encouraging obesity”, or that we won’t buy them, because we’re not interested in style, or fashion, or shopping… instead we would rather comfort and cheap prices.  Which is utter bullshit.  Firstly, how can you “encourage obesity” when every aspect of society hates on fat bodies to the point that one cannot shop, or walk down the street, or open a magazine, or read a newspaper article, or many other things without seeing fatness pilloried, vilified and desperate calls to eradicate/cure us as though we are a disease or a plague?  And secondly, the reason we do not spend money on fashionable, stylish clothing is because there fucking is none!  Or what little there is often doesn’t fit us properly, is made of shitty cheap fabrics and constructed poorly so that it falls apart after only a couple of wears!

The other one I’ve heard from retailers is “But we can’t find manufacturers to make it!”  But then you go to the manufacturing companies and ask them, and they say “But the retailers won’t stock them!”  The blame game just keeps getting thrown around like a hot potato on to the next guy.  It’s just bullshit – you only have to see how quickly the upper sizes are snapped  up on those brands that DO cater to them to know that the customers want them, and will pay good money for them.  Every time I go to an online sale for any of the companies who do – Yours, Evans, Autograph, No Exceptions etc… the upper sizes are gone.

Major kudos to those companies who do, the manufacturers and labels and retailers who aren’t afraid to cater towards the full standard range of plus-sizes (which in Australia is currently 14-26) and even more kudos to those who go beyond this range to even larger sizes.  Yours, Evans and No Exceptions are three companies who go up to at least a size 32 in many of their garments.

Now it’s no use complaining about this without doing something about it.  So what are we going to do about it, fabulous super fatties?  Well, to start with, I have put together a Facebook group called Super Sizes.  Because Facebook, love it or hate it, is one place where we can spread the word VERY quickly.  I also need to know how many of you there are out there.  When we work together, our voices get stronger.  The more of us that are visible to the plus-size clothing companies out there, the more they are likely to listen to us.

Now I’ve chosen Super Sizes as the title because I want to gather in those folks who have not yet found fat acceptance, as well as we fab fatties.  And well… we’re Super Sized!

As size 22 Australian seems to be the most common cut off point, that is what I’m focusing on here – the sizes from 22 and upwards.  That’s about a 2x or size 20US, or a size 20UK (by the way, sizing conversions are never consistent – it’s so hard to get accurate information about clothing sizes!)  From a quick poke around the main plus-size companies I can find, this seems to be about the most common cut off point.  We won’t say that sizes smaller than an Australian 22 can’t be involved, but most plus-size clothing companies do cater to these sizes, and I want to REALLY focus on size 24 and beyond, which really miss out on the most brands.

Once I’ve got a group formed, we’ll start working on ideas and strategies to campaign for more fashionable, reasonably priced, reasonable quality options for we super fatties.  We will share those companies that do cater to us, talk about how we can make what we have work, and expose those companies who treat us badly, ignore us or give us pathetic excuses.

So I’m calling all of you Super Fatties to put on your capes (sizes 22 and above!) and get ready to make some change in this world!

Another Fatshion Review!

Published July 24, 2011 by sleepydumpling

Remember my excited post of a couple of weeks ago about the new fashion range from Autograph Fashion?  Well, they sent me a whole swathe of stock from the collection to review!  I am a lucky, lucky fatty.

Unfortunately, my camera has died.  I have a couple of not so great quality photos for you all, but it will give you a general idea.  I hope to get a new camera in a couple of weeks, and I’ll take new OOTD shots then.  But I want to tell you about these new clothes!

So let’s start with the first piece I wore, which was the midnight spot print smock dress.

The first thing I noticed about this whole collection is the vast improvement in quality.  Not only in the fabrics, but in the construction of each garment.  This dress is made of a lovely heavy jersey-style stretch fabric that feels great on, and drapes really well.  I love how comfortable and easy-to-wear this dress is, and it’s nice and warm in this winter weather too.  I kept it simple with a pair of leggings and denim ballet flats, but I also tried it with a wide belt and tights that looked really cute too.

The next dress I wore was the flutter sleeve dress.

What can I say?  I love this dress.  It’s made of a light, fluttery polyester, has pockets (oh how I love pockets!) and the detail is just gorgeous.  From the ruffle cap sleeves, to the ruched belt with gold buckle, to the gold exposed zipper down the back.  I love this dress because it has shape and style and isn’t the usual guff for plus-sizes.  It’s light enough to be summery, but I added tights (We Love Colors in orchid pink) and a jacket (see next pic) and it works for winter too.

This dress also comes in midnight blue, and I want it!

The same day, I wore this jacket:

It just wasn’t me.  It’s a lovely crepe fabric, and is well made, but I just didn’t feel right in it.  I felt like I’d stolen it out of my mother’s closet circa 1987.  Several people told me they liked it on me, but I just couldn’t warm to it at all.  The colour and style are just not my cup of tea, you know?  This one is dry clean only too, which I’m not a fan of.

But then, the following day, I wore this one – the animal print drape dress:

I love this dress so much too!  Now y’all know I love leopard print like only a fat lady can right?  So the fabric alone won me from the first picture I saw.  But when I got it, the style of the dress is so cute I fell heartily in love.  It has a kind of wrap/draping across the skirt that just gives it a really lovely fall, and of course, pockets win brownie points in any garment for me.  I also love that this dress doesn’t have the usual surplice neckline (in fact, none of this collection does!) and has darts to give shape to the bust.  It’s made of a soft, stretch fabric that has enough weight to hang just right, without being clingy or pulling at all.  I got so many compliments for this dress the day that I wore it.

They also sent me some other garments, but sadly my camera died and I didn’t get to photograph them on me.  But just to tell you about them, I have:

Mesh print tank top

This one was a winner when I wore it to work.  Everyone liked it.  I teamed it with some plain black dress pants and a black cardigan, and black pointy-toed shoes.  It’s a kind of swing-top style and is lined, so it hangs beautifully.  Comfy and cute.

Lace ruffle top

I liked the look of this one in the catalogue, but was disappointed to find that the lace and ruffles were only on the front.  The back is just black tank top.  That said, it is well made and the ruffles and lace are really cute.  I wore it with a black long sleeve top underneath (it’s winter here) and black leggings.

Black jeans (no photo sorry)

These jeans have changed my opinion on jeans.  I stopped being a jeans wearer when I found some self esteem, because the only jeans I could find before were baggy and shapeless and didn’t fit my body properly.  I tried these on and was instantly converted.  They fit.  Perfectly.  They fit my belly, my butt, my waist, my thighs, my legs.  And when I say fit, I don’t mean they go on over those parts of my body, but they actually FIT my body.  I can sit, kneel, squat and bend in them without them scooching down, or riding up, or pinching.  They are really good jeans people!

Midnight blue sparkle tunic

I wore this one with the jeans.  I love a bit of sparkle.  Another one that is well made, the sequins stitched really well.  It’s just a plain sleeveless tunic, but worn with all black just gives a bit of glamour to simple garment.  This one also comes in black too.  I took the tie belt off it though, it just didn’t sit right on me with it.

I’ve also got a very cute white denim jacket on lay-by that I should pick up in a week or so.  It’s just a plain, classic cut white denim jacket, but of a good quality denim and made really well.

All in all I still think Autograph are doing great things with their current ranges – they’ve also got a new corporate collection, and plenty of casual things for weekend wear or anyone who works at home or in a casual environment.

Keep up the good work Autograph, bring us MORE please!

*Disclaimer* Autograph Fashion sent me these clothes for free in exchange for reviewing, however all opinions are honest and my own.

Clothes! (I’m Excited!)

Published July 3, 2011 by sleepydumpling

It is a rare thing that plus-size fashion promos make me really excited.  Don’t get me wrong, I love clothes, and every now and then I find something that I really love, but it’s not very often that I see a whole story and just go “I love it!”

But I got a sneak peek earlier this week at the lookbook of the newly released July range from Autograph Fashion and almost all of the collection was something that I would wear, and several pieces were really appealing.  I asked the crew at Autograph to send me some images so that I can share them with you all, because I think we’re seeing something quite significant with this collection.

So let’s take a look!

My favourite piece from the whole collection is this animal print dress:

Now I love me some animal print like only a fat lady can, but there are a lot of things I love about this dress.  Firstly… pockets!  Darting at the bustline, pleating and draping along the skirt (a bit hard to see in this photo).  I love the black, white and silvery grey too – I can see it with a jewel colour cardigan and tights, or fishnets and heels.  I can’t wait to get my hands on this one.

Then there is this midnight spot dress:

I love a lot of things about this one too.  The smocking, the indigo colour and the generous gathering.  I think it will look amazing over black leggings or tights, and I am going to find a black belt so I can wear it like this too.  And the people who feel they need sleeves are catered to with this one too.  I love that it’s a different take on spots as well.

How about this snake print skirt:

More animal print (yay!) and I love tulip wrap skirts, they hang so well on many different shaped bodies.  Not too long either – I find they look frumpy on me if they go past the knee.  I am really loving the black, white, indigo and silver of this range too.  I can keep it as is for a wintry look, or jazz it up with more colour.

Another favourite of this range for me is this shoulder top:

Love the cutouts, love the studs, love the drape over the bodice!  I’d wear this one with the snake print skirt.  This is a style that you NEVER see in plus-size fashion, it’s so refreshing to have something that’s different.

Ok, I know that a lot of you love sequins, so check out this tunic:

I confess, I love some sequins myself.  I’d love to see this one in red too, but the black is lovely.  I like the length too.

For another black dress, we have this one:

I love the ruffles on this.  I do love ruffles.  The ruched belt with this one is really cute too, and it’s a great length.  Another one I would wear with bright accessories (but you could leave it monochrome if that’s more your style).

Now this one is listed as a block print tunic:

But you know what?  It’s the white jacket I’m in love with in this shot.  I bought their denim jacket a couple of months ago and wear the hell out of it, and this one is even cuter.  The tunic is nice too, but that jacket… love it!

Next is the satin placket top:

 

There’s that indigo colour again that is really hot this season, and I love that this one is another new style that I’ve not seen repeated everywhere in plus sizes.  It looks like a spring and summer top, but with one of the jackets, leggings or a long sleeved top underneath, it works for winter too.  I’m a big fan of sheer fabrics as well.

And then we have the lace print tunic and drape cardi:

 

 

These two are a bit more traditional of plus-size clothes, and I have something similar to both already.  I still like the silvery-grey with black and white though.

So there you have the bulk of the collection.  You know what I love about this collection?  There are none of the usual fat-lady tropes that show up in SO much of the plus-size clothing we see.  No surplice necklines.  No shark-bite/handkerchief hems.  No “embellished” pants or bustlines.  Not even a baby-doll/empire waist!  Now I happen to personally like surplice necklines and empire waists, but I don’t want EVERY garment I own to have them.

It’s great to see a collection that is modern and fashionable, that is aimed at women with careers and adult social lives.  That’s been the biggest gap in the plus-size market in Australia (though the whole market is a gap in itself still) – clothes that women can wear to work, and to the kind of social life that is outside of nightclubs.

Now I know this collection is not going to be to everyone’s taste (no collection is – we’d all be boring if we liked the exact same things), but I do think it shows that Autograph Fashion are trying to bring in something more fashionable and on-trend, while still providing clothing that will fit a plus-size body with practicality (every garment here will cover my giant ugly “rack of doom” bras that I have no other option but wear!)  In the face of other brands completely ignoring their customers (I am looking at you City Chic, you can keep ignoring us but it’s only going to do you damage in the long run) or cutting the larger sizes out altogether (I’m still here City Chic, and I’ve still got money to spend on clothes, at size 26.)

I’m really looking forward to seeing these garments “in the flesh” so to speak, and I hope that Autograph continue to work towards fashion forward ranges that cover the entire size range (14-26).

To see the collection and prices – click here.

*Disclaimer: I am not paid by Autograph and these are my genuine opinions on this range and Autograph’s customer service.
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