KlearGear Apparently Healthier Than Ever, Announces Plans To Start F**cking Customers Through Amazon Fulfillment

from the the-fakest-of-paper-trails dept

In what may come as a surprise to no one, KlearGear's parent "company," Descoteaux Boutiques, has decided to rid itself of the toxic online retailer. But it's not because of horrible policies, nonexistent customer service or the $300,000 judgement against it. It's because KlearGear is so hot right now. (h/t to Techdirt reader Jeff Cohen.)

PARIS, Aug. 28, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- International giftware developer, distributor and retailer Descoteaux Boutiques (DBS) has completed negotiations for the sale of its remaining retail holdings Gift World and Kleargear at 5.3 times projected 2014 EBITDA.

DBS began divesting its retail assets in 2011 after reacquiring outstanding shares of stock from its largest creditors, exporter Shenzhen Technology Gifts and North American fulfillment contractor Chenal Brands, exchanged in a minority debt-for-equity swap with six creditors under a conciliation procedure in 2006. The sale of these final properties is expected to close within 90 days, during the final phase of DBS' restructuring.
Three brick-and-mortar Gift World shops located in France and the United Kingdom are not included in the deal and will cease operations in January 2015.
Earnings at 5.3 times projection, eh? Makes you wonder what the projection was. And as for "Gift World," these brick-and-mortar retail shops should be easily closed seeing as they don't seem to exist anywhere but in this press release.

KlearGear has apparently shrugged off the damage to its reputation and has big plans for the future.
Gadget and geek culture merchant Kleargear.com (http://www.kleargear.com), whose calendar 2014 revenue year-to-date has climbed 92% above the same period in 2013, will complete the transition of its North American fulfillment operations to Amazon Fulfillment in October when its contract with Chenal expires.

"We believe this move will help improve order fulfillment speed during the holiday shopping season by more than 30%," said CEO Christophe Monette. "Our transition to Amazon's wider, more robust fulfillment network will help us remain competitive and accommodate Kleargear's remarkable growth rate which accelerated in 2013 and has already exceeded our current year forecast."
Considering KlearGear's fulfillment speed has hovered near zero for most of its existence, a 30% boost isn't promising much. I consider this statement by the non-existent CEO to be about as worthless as anything else the company has claimed. I don't see KlearGear working with Amazon at any point ever, but if it does, it may soon find that the online giant has a very low tolerance for lousy retailers with abysmal customer service practices and policies.

There's more but it hardly matters. Supposedly employee displacement will be minimal. Descoteaux Boutiques credits its "North American outsourcing" for this, but my educated guess is that there aren't really any employees to displace.

A new phone number appears at the bottom of the press release [(646) 810-9268] which traces back to New York City, but it's as useless as any other phone number the company has provided. Callers are greeted with an opening spiel in French before being spoken to in English. Callers inquiring about Descoteaux's retail holdings (Gift World, KlearGear) are asked to press "1." Doing so results in the message "Invalid selection. Please try again."

The same goes for every other number on the keypad, except for 8, which dumps you into the company's directory (where no selection of numbers/letters will put you in touch with a person) and 9, which replays the message you just heard. After 3 or 4 invalid selections, the phone system says "Bye" and disconnects the call.

Callers are also invited to remain on the line for the next available operator, but after five seconds or so the call is disconnected with another recorded "Bye."

No company or person named in the press release (other than Lee Gersten) has much of an internet footprint, if they have anything at all. Any websites that exist are nearly static. Descoteaux Boutiques' site carries nothing but useless contact info and a link to this press release. (The link to the French version of the release doesn't work.)

Chenal Brands' retail holdings are fronted by this site.


Three of the four links on the page (About Us, Clients, Contact Us) link to this very page. "Expertise" leads to this set of hilarious claims.


And every bullet point links to… the same page you're already on.

Also of interest: KlearGear's former parent "company" Descoteaux Boutiques finally got around to registering a KlearGear trademark in April. The USPTO granted it in the first week of August. In the application, Descoteaux is listed as the owner of the mark with its supposed address in France, but lists a US zip code of 75013. This doesn't link back to any of KlearGear's other "addresses" (Michigan, Delaware, San Antonio, Texas) but instead to a Dallas, TX suburb -- probably the result of picking five digits at random rather than indicative of any physical presence. Update: As multiple comments point out, the postal code does appear to be a valid French postal code, rather than a US one.

No buyer is named in the press release and there's not a single claim in it that can be verified. The only conceivable reason this press release even exists is as a piss-poor effort to publicly distance Descoteaux from KlearGear. It's instant deniability. Descoteaux can't answer any questions about KlearGear because it "sold" it. It also distances it from J. Lee Gersten, the only principal in the debacle who seems to have any sort of a paper trail. ("In connection with the asset sale, DBS' head of North American retail operations, J. Lee Gersten, has left the company effective immediately.")

The story probably isn't over yet, but it looks like Descoteaux's already trying to write the ending… or at least, tear several pages out of the back.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Sep 2nd, 2014 @ 7:56pm

    And the courts triumph yet again. /s

    $300K judgement against them, and they just shrug it off, completely ignoring the court and acting like nothing's changed. It's almost enough to cause Prenda inspired deja vu...

    Good thing the court system treats people and companies the same, means the next time someone is ordered to pay a couple hundred grand(likely due to a copyright based case) they can just ignore it and the judge won't be able to do anything more than shrug his/her shoulder with a 'Well, what can you do?'

    I mean, surely if a company can get away with it without repercussions, a person can too, right? /s

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 2nd, 2014 @ 9:32pm

    Sounds like now is the perfect time for a Kleargear IPO!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 2nd, 2014 @ 9:43pm

    I guess that's one way to protect your trademark: summarily destroy it yourself before you even register it so that no one would even want to consider infringing on it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
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    MinchinWeb (profile), Sep 2nd, 2014 @ 10:20pm

    Zip Code

    The zip code of 75013 is consistent with the rest of Descoteaux's address...but in Paris, France. France also uses five digit long postal (or zip) codes.

    Restated, the address on the trademark application is in France and includes a French postal code.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 2nd, 2014 @ 10:25pm

    Some more Houdini magic writing on paper. No matter how dressed a sow's ear is still a sow's ear and a scam company is still a scam company.

    As long as the yoyo behind all this keeps dancing on the internet, sooner or later that screw up will happen, leading the trail right back to the scammer. Let us hope the wait is short.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 2nd, 2014 @ 10:38pm

    This is a clear case of more money than sense.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
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    Sally, Sep 2nd, 2014 @ 10:56pm

    BS

    It's all BS folks, courtesy of William Bermender. There's no sale, no fancy stock swap, and probably no fancy French company (with a fabricated zip code), just one guy waving a lot of smoke and mirrors. It sounds good to sane folks, because sane folks are used to hearing logical truthful statements from other sane folks. Problem is, sanity isn't in this equation.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
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    Roger Strong (profile), Sep 2nd, 2014 @ 11:21pm

    Huh.

    KlearGear / Descoteaux Boutiques / Chenal Brands / Gift World shops / Lee Gersten / Christophe Monette / Margaux Banet appear to be using the same organizational chart and communications management software as Prenda Law / Steele, Hansmeier PLLP / Anti-Piracy Law Group / AF Holdings / John Steele / Paul Hansmeier / Paul Duffy / Anthony Saltmarsh.

     

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  9.  
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    David Markland (profile), Sep 2nd, 2014 @ 11:28pm

    Re: BS

    I'm with Sally, and think all roads lead back to Will Bermender.

    Has anyone checked the meta data on the emails KlearGear, etc., have sent, to see if they actually come from a French IP... and if not, indicate a consistent location from where they are coming from?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 3rd, 2014 @ 3:16am

    Ever think the TRUE point of the US letting crap like Kleargear leave scot-free is so later they can say "AH but if we had then we could go after them in Europe/Russia/Other third-world country....."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 3rd, 2014 @ 3:16am

    Re:

    **edit:

    If we had - insert name of 4 letter based totalitarian "for the children" treaty here"...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
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    Hegesippe Espace (profile), Sep 3rd, 2014 @ 4:35am

    As stated before, 75013 is indeed a valid zip code for Paris, France. Their address is valid, the building exists. They may even have some kind of an office in there. Just try Street View at this address : "118-120 Rue de Paris, 75013, Paris, France", it looks like a bunch of companies together in the same building (I may bet on the fact their name is not written in plain sight but instead well hidden).

    What seems strange to me is the fact that even their company seems to have no existence whatsoever anywhere on the internet, except for their webpage, and of course the huge amount of reports on the legal case against them. I just checked on the website of the Registre du Commerce et des Sociétés, they even seem to have no existence there ! Plus most of the names I was able to search gave no relevant results. Furthermore, "Gift World" is registered as a foreign company there, for wholesale only, so it may not be the true name of their brick-and-mortar shops.

    Their sites are hosted in the USA, the Kleargear company is registered in the USA, but somehow the liable company is French, with seemingly no existence except through a bunch of people with no significant digital existence. If this is not a desperate attempt to avoid lawsuits by masquerading...

    I just read the statement in French on the dboutiques.fr website (which works at the moment, by the way, it is else available in the source code of the home page). It seems to be a quite accurate translation of a mix of legal and management languages, which is quite clunky when you are issuing a statement to your customers. Furthermore when have a lawsuit against you, it is mostly a bad thing to do to say your revenue have grown nearly 100%. However, "brick-and-mortar shops" have been translated to "magasins pierres d'assise", which conveys no meaning in popular French (but may be a part of legal stuff somehow, I never heard/read it in 20+ years. "pierre d'assise" is not really a thing you hear everyday, but can convey the meaning of a fundamental construction block, either literally or not). So it seems either is was written in English then translated (from a French company, as is comes from "Descoteaux Boutiques SARL"), or they have some issues with the French language in the first place.

    This business sure seems legit as can be. What is sure is it can't be solved by mere humans like us who believes in logic and delivered geek toys.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 3rd, 2014 @ 4:41am

    Probably a tax dodge.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    jackn, Sep 3rd, 2014 @ 5:55am

    Response to: Anonymous Coward on Sep 3rd, 2014 @ 4:41am

    Really read the article.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 3rd, 2014 @ 7:10am

    Does Amazon work with just everybody? Not knowing what Amazon's policies are, my question relates to whether they background check companies who want to 'join the family', so to speak. (As in - is a company a credible, credit-worthy busines, and if not, Amazon can decline to have a company use its services.)

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 3rd, 2014 @ 7:41am

    I wonder how many other companies the unknown operator has set up under different names and fictitious parent companies.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
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    Jen Palmer, Sep 3rd, 2014 @ 8:47am

    guys, this is awesome. please keep up with the digging on their info. we (the palmers) appreciate it!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
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    kP (profile), Sep 3rd, 2014 @ 9:44am

    5.3 times projected 2014 EBITDA.

    5.3 times $0 = $0

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
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    Whoever, Sep 3rd, 2014 @ 10:38am

    Amazon?

    If Amazon is now fulfilling the purchase orders, it will have to hold stock on behalf of KlearGear. Could that judgement be turned into an order to seize KlearGear's property in Amazon's warehouses?

    Also, if the nature of the products being sold is misrepresented, I predict that Amazon will quickly drop them.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
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    ysth (profile), Sep 3rd, 2014 @ 10:39am

    Careful there...

    Be careful there, your attempt at hacking their phone system probably violates the CFAA.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
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    ysth (profile), Sep 3rd, 2014 @ 10:39am

    Re: Careful there...

    (I just wish I was joking)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
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    Chris Maresca (profile), Sep 3rd, 2014 @ 1:11pm

    Looks like Chenal Brands == KlearGear

    According to whois - chenals.com is registered to Megan Tolcher, who is apparently KlearGear's 'Director of Merchandising' (according to this article http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2404869,00.asp)

    Interestingly, there is an address in Grandville, Michigan attached to the Whois record, which is for a mail forwarding service... And it's the same address KlearGear has been using.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
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    Hegesippe Espace (profile), Sep 3rd, 2014 @ 4:45pm

    Re: Looks like Chenal Brands == KlearGear

    Funnny thing, I played a little with whois tools since I saw your comment.
    Said Megan Tolcher appears to be associated with a bunch of other domain names. However, from the ones I reversed from her @chenalco.com adddress, none seems to be of use, except those linked to chenals.com. Some are linked to a default "this domain is not is use" webpage, other don't.
    What is fun though is that :
    http://www.webstats7.net/kleargear.com
    I pastebin'd the whois found at the bottom of it, in case they update it, which appears to be the previous one. And here we find again Megan Tolcher, this time with a descoteauxboutique email : http://pastebin.com/gbUHQutd
    So, Chenal == KlearGear == Descoteaux ?

    What we have is that some French company, Descoteaux Boutique SARL , seems to have poped into existence (despite the Descoteaux Boutique name being in use before, at least 2013/11, when the dboutiques.fr domain was registered) a little while ago (near April 2014, when the whois was last updated), for the sole purpose of clearing KlearGear (which is really just Megan Tolcher, again ?) from any possible liability.

    I checked the comments on some of the other posts regarding this particular case, and I am indeed not the first to have searched though the RCS for Descoteaux Boutiques without success. It was done, back in May '14. According to their page about being registered to the RSC, InfoGreffe say that no company (French company, that is) can exist without being registered (emporte présomption de l'existence de la personnalité juridique des sociétés), thus having a SIRET number (part of having a SIRET says a French company, then viewed as a moral and legal being (can be sued and is liable), can receive payements). (This is according to my recent reading about the matter and the few law classes I had a few years ago, which were basic stuff. French law can be a strange and not so logic thing)
    If they created the SARL for the sole purpose of avoiding the lawsuit, the registration should have been effective by now, however, it seems not to be.

    Chenal's website is indeed a joke. It cannot be viewed as a professional website. First, it is clear that it was "created" from a template (I did not bother to try and find the source). The very same GIF for pages load can be found on multiple websites with the same load method (use of browser history manipulation), with the same JS files loaded, and the same comment at the bottom of the page (-- coded by Cleric --). You can of course find more links on this website, by figuring out how the pages are named, which seems to be bogus pages, never filled. From an SEO point of view, their site have a value of null. It is laughable by any available means. (Please note it is note a complaint against websites created from templates, but there is a clever way, and a Chenal's way. While the site may appear good enough for what it stands for, it is a shame from an IT point of view. No company claiming to be so top notch on IT matters should EVER have a site THIS BAD : if they can't manage a simple static site, they cannot manage an e-commerce site AT ALL).

    My views on this after a little more research ?
    KlearGear is not even a real company, but acting on behalf of ???(1), while it shields off any legal matter by using a bunch of bogus companies / humans.
    And their are now sheilding themselves even more by selling themselves to ???(2) (possible linked to Shenzhen Technology Gifts ? I am not able to find any company named like so, but it appears that is should be Chinese), in order to drop the court ruling, which they claim should have been filed against Descoteaux. Moving the company under yet another country "protection" would appear to be a quite good idea for them, and a way better move that remaining under USA laws only, and destroying the Descoteaux company ("these final properties", "the final phase", that seems lethal to me) will nail the coffin of the previously refered to court ruling.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
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    BS Simon (profile), Sep 3rd, 2014 @ 6:58pm

    I saw Kleargear in the wild!

    I was visiting some family and we were watching Jeopardy. In the credits they gave kleargear.com a photo credit. I just about fell off the couch.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    identicon
    Isaac Carter, Sep 4th, 2014 @ 8:35am

    Re:

    Hey, this is awesome! With Amazon holding merchandise and taking payments for KlearGear in North America you guys have a way to get at your money from them!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
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    Zeugma_fr (profile), Sep 5th, 2014 @ 4:50am

    Re: Re: Looks like Chenal Brands == KlearGear

    Lorem Ipsum... (http://www.chenals.com/index3.html)

    Oups, sorry, I wanted to say "Ite missa est." But my latin is like Kleargear french...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
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    Zeugma_fr (profile), Sep 5th, 2014 @ 4:55am

    Contact page on Chenal website

    it exists !!! there: http://www.chenals.com/index4.html
    But on my french keyboard, there is a strange behaviour: every keypress is catched then translated to a qwerty keypress... not nice... :)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
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    Hegesippe Espace (profile), Sep 5th, 2014 @ 5:18am

    Re: Contact page on Chenal website

    In case you ever wonder where in the world are going those emails, here you go : support at template-help.com.

    So, no use to try and contact them from here.

    But on my french keyboard, there is a strange behaviour: every keypress is catched then translated to a qwerty keypress... not nice... :)


    I think you may have a bug / undocumented feature on your browser. Nothing I read on the JS code is doing that, and Chrome is not doing this. Just stop using IE. Like, really. (or a strange illogical feature being a pain in the ... well, most of the body, could it be Safari ?).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
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    David Markland (profile), Sep 6th, 2014 @ 5:25pm

    An actual address

    Hoping to contact Tim Cushing or another writer seriously digging deep on this story -- I think I have traced Will Bermender down to a physical address. I don't want to post publicly, so if anyone could use this to help put this guy out of business (and behind bars) email me directly.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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