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9.29.2012

I was FOLKed.

March, 2014
Due to many currently developing circumstances,
I would like to clarify my PAST involvement 

with FOLK Magazine and Ben Ashby.

* NOTE: I am back-dating this post so that it does not go out in my RSS feed. *
The post was written March 11, 2014 
but will appear on my blog dated September 29, 2012, which was when I resigned from FOLK.

My Personal Experience:
Prior to the September 2011 release of the first issue of FOLK Magazine,
my business was photographed at an event for inclusion in the issue.
Ben Ashby contacted me after seeing the photos and what I did,
and asked me to be a contributing writer.

From September of 2011 to September of 2012,
I was a contributing freelance writer to FOLK Magazine.
My regular column shared my own original content for seasonal decor,
and several feature articles about small businesses were also contributed by me.
I also created many graphics for use by FOLK Magazine online (FB and blog).

In May, 2012, I traveled to Springfield, Ohio
to manage a mini-show of 20 vendors in the FOLKbarn,
a pop-up show located in a barn at the larger Springfield Antique Show.
I booked the vendors, and took care of them during the show.
Ben Ashby was the one who had set this event up with the Springfield show management,
and he alone managed the FOLKstore - a 'general store'-type pop-up shop, located in the same barn.
The only involvement I had with the FOLKstore was to assist in creating product displays,
along with the display of a vintage truck located at the entrance to FOLKbarn.
I did not have anything to do with procuring the products or giveaways during or after the show.
This was my one-time involvement with a FOLK event.

I was a freelance writer / contributor, not an employee of the magazine, for one year.
[There were no employees, just the owner/publisher Ben Ashby and his partner, Heath Stiltner.
All other contributors were freelancers. All 'staff' members were unpaid volunteers.]
All of my content during that time for the print magazine, and occasional blog posts to promote the print magazine, was submitted freely on my part  - with the written promise and understanding 
that when the magazine was 'in the black', contributors would begin to receive payment.

The last two freelance feature articles I submitted -
those featuring ReStitched USA and Down Home Country Antiques -
were published in the fall and holiday issues in 2012.
Both issues were released more than a month after schedules indicated, 
which negatively impacted the businesses featured.

I tendered my contributor's resignation in September of 2012.

Since that time, much information has come to light publicly in regard to 
the actions, choices, conduct and activity (both personal and 'professional') 
of Ben Ashby and FOLK Magazine. 
I feel it is my responsibility to speak out about what I know.

At the time of my involvement with the startup FOLK Magazine, 
I was proud to contribute to a publication with the mission 
to shine a light on the small businesses, craftspeople, vendors, small towns and farms of America.

As time went by, it became clear to me that that mission was secondary to making money,
and subsequently that the editor/publisher WAS making money - 
but was not paying contributors, as promised.

Nor was he paying the printer of the magazines.

Nor was he delivering magazines to the subscribers, retailers, and wholesalers 
who had paid for them.
Subscribers received no magazines to read, even though they had paid for them. 
Gift Subscriptions were not delivered.
Retailers had no magazines to sell in their shops - even though they had paid for them.

Then he began NOT printing the magazine, which left advertisers in the red:
no print magazine, no ad, no viewers/shoppers - yet they paid for the ad space.
Excuses given were that the local Post Office 'lost' entire shipments of one issue,
and that the local print shop caught on fire, and needed time to rebuild before printing another issue.

Issues were routinely delivered over one month past the promoted publish date.
When he hastily created digital versions of the magazine, 
he claimed that the exposure provided therein
was what his contributors and advertisers and subscribers had actually paid for.

Meanwhile, Ben Ashby and Heath Stiltner were traveling around the country to events 
and 'shooting stories' and having 'business meetings' - on other people's money.
Ben was giving away free print copies of FOLK Magazine at those events - 
copies that had already been paid for by subscribers and retailers. 
When caught, he deleted photos and posts on the FOLK facebook page 
that showed him giving out the magazine, and denied he had done so.

In addition, Ben rebuffed the efforts by respected persons in the publishing industry
who stepped in to mentor, assist, teach, and train him so that the magazine could solve problems and be successful. He refused their offers for help - and bragged about it, at least to me personally.

The Facts:
*There are THOUSANDS of people who have purchased ad space, magazines, subscriptions, and products
from Ben Ashby DBA FOLK Magazine (not a licensed business until Fall, 2013).
The vast majority of them never received the product that they paid for,
and have failed to receive a response from Ben or a refund of their money.

*HUNDREDS of bloggers, photographers, writers, and businesses 
contributed to and promoted FOLK Magazine with the promise of payment.
The overwhelming majority of them never received a dime.

*The entire HOMETALK blogging community was promised payment 
for promoting FOLK on their own blogs, and providing content to the magazine -  
and most of them have not received a dime in return for their work.

*Celebrities and recognized personalities in publishing, television, and business
have been used by Ben Ashby to promote FOLK Magazine
most prominently The Beekman 1802 Boys, Matthew Mead, Jo Packham of Where Women Create,
Kim Leggett of City Farmhouse, and Jen O'Connor of Earth Angels Studios.
He even attempted to use Martha Stewart's name and reputation to promote himself,
after he stood near her at an event and had someone snap a photo of them 'together'.

These names, businesses (stores, magazines and events) have been leveraged by Ben Ashby and Heath Stiltner
to promote FOLK Magazine and sell more products. 
[As of March, 2014, they are STILL being used to do so, 
in emails being sent to the subscriber database - which was previously reported by Ben Ashby as 'lost'.]
Of those mentioned above, only the Beekman 1802 Boys have made a public statement
denouncing their previous support of FOLK Magazine and Ben Ashby.

* In an apparent reversal of previous statements by Ben Ashby,
past issues of FOLK Magazine DO exist in print -
but are not being sent to the subscribers and retailers who purchased them previously.
As of March 1, 2014,
those now-available copies are currently being promoted
via Instagram as 'Free with Paid Shipping',
and sent to the new fan base that has been generated via Twitter and Instagram.
Several issues are also listed for sale on the FOLK website - for $99.00 per copy!
All of those copies are pre-sold, to customers who never received them.

 My Opinion:
These actions and practices engaged in by Ben Ashby and Heath Stiltner, FOLK Magazine,
and also as 'Dirty Dukes' men's underwear online and now 'Dear Journal' print Wedding publication,
are illegal, misleading, and fraudulent.
The primary basis of business transactions and publicity WAS facebook, 
but has now moved to Twitter and Instagram to gain new fans and unsuspecting customers.

This method of duping customers will continue unless those who have been affected by it
stand up, speak out, warn others, and file complaints with the proper authorities.
Without action, it will continue.

By his own admission online and in promotional emails, 
Ben Ashby has hundreds of thousands of 'international' subscribers, retailers, wholesalers, and vendors
who have paid him for subscriptions and copies of FOLK Magazine AND for products from vendors.

If he is lying about how many customers he has, that is fraudulent marketing and advertising.
If he is NOT lying about the numbers, he has raked in far more money than he is admitting -

and is lying about not having the funds to continue printing the magazine for his paid customers.

My Thoughts:
I met many talented, ETHICAL people through my involvement at the beginning of FOLK Magazine, 
and still call many of them friends and professional contacts.
They are good people who contributed to what began as a good cause.

The fact that 'the business of FOLK' quickly spiraled into a fiscal and public relations nightmare 
was distressing to everyone involved - and yet our offers to assist with the recurrent problems 
(including changing processes to meet deadlines for print/publish dates, database control, pre-press proofing & editing, email and social media communications, order fulfillment, and customer service) 
were refused and rebuffed by editor Ben Ashby.  He wanted total control.

When his control slipped, however, and unprofessional situations came to public light, 
he lost no time in throwing volunteers and contributors under the bus and blaming them for the mess.
It is unconscionable and unprofessional behavior, and no contributor (or FRIEND) deserved it.
Just as no customer deserved to hand over their money and get nothing for it.

Ben Ashby has made many claims that others made decisions and took actions unknown by him.
Yet on multiple occasions, he himself stated privately and publicly that FOLK was 
HIS magazine, HIS 'FOLK empire', HIS claim to fame.
Nothing has ever happened within the 'inner workings' of FOLK Magazine
that was not handled or approved or directed by Ben Ashby. 
No one else had any authority, and Ben had access to EVERY area of the business.
He was fully aware of everything that went on, 
and he directed the actions and words of his 'staff' to make excuses to customers and the public.
  
Ben Ashby alone is responsible for his choices, actions, and behavior
that negatively affected the contributors, promoters, subscribers, wholesalers, retailers, vendors,  
and many others that supported and promoted FOLK Magazine.
.
It is time to hold him accountable for that responsibility.

If you have been the victim of fraudulent actions by Ben Ashby, 
as a customer of FOLK Magazine or any of his other 'businesses',
you can find more information about how to file a complaint 
against Ben Ashby and FOLK Magazine
on the FOLK Subscribers page on Facebook.
**That page is NOT ASSOCIATED with the magazine, Ben, Heath, or any official person with FOLK.**

Update May, 2016: that facebook page has been closed.
However, information now appears on the 

'Boycott FOLK Magazine' account on Instagram.

It was set up by private citizens to collect information and
so that customers, subscribers, wholesalers, retailers, vendors, advertisers, et al
could voice their concern, opinions, and experiences with Ben and FOLK
and not have their comments deleted - 
which happens whenever someone posts them on the official FOLK Magazine facebook page.
(Yes, Ben hides and deletes negative comments and ANY questions about subscription/purchase fulfillment that are posted on the FOLK fb and IG pages.)

You can read MANY statements of fraud against Ben Ashby and FOLK Magazine 
by other individuals and businesses on that page.

* and NO, I did not set up that fb page or IG account. But I support it. *

Please remember: Even if all YOU lost was a $5.00 subscription fee,
There are THOUSANDS of people who lost 'just five dollars'.
That adds up to a LOT of money.
And there are HUNDREDS of people who lost much more 
in advertising, wholesale purchases, and product purchases 
from FOLK Magazine and Ben Ashby.
By standing up and speaking out and filing a report,
you are helping ALL of the victims of these crimes get justice.
You are helping the legal system find and STOP Ben Ashby from continuing these scams.

My Advice:
Before you have any business dealings with FOLK Magazine or Ben Ashby or Heath Stiltner,
please do your due diligence and learn what their past behavior has been.
It's a good indicator of their future behavior - unless they are stopped. Legally.

Please, get the word out about FOLK Fraud!
Share the link to the FOLK Subscribers page: click here to copy link 

and the link to the Boycott FOLK Magazine Instagram page: click here to copy link

It's not important that a lot of people read this post or hear MY voice,

but to get the truth from many sources out there, so that more people are not scammed.... 
 which is now known as being 'FOLKed'.

2016: HE IS STILL AT IT.
please go to the Kentucky Better Business Bureau Page and write a review.


Thank You.
~ Deb

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