Please excuse this post at the outset if you find it too long. I have debated for over a year on whether to make this information public, and want to ensure that I get both the facts, and my intention in telling it, clear.
The reason for the long debate with myself is because I have always wanted the energy surrounding Queen B to be positive. I want every interaction that someone has with Queen B to leave them feeling happier, more inspired, calmer and more focused. All those good things.
What changed my mind was a succession of conversations over the past few months, culminating in a conversation on Friday with a lady who was comparing our companies and working out whose candles to stock. She told me that she had had a conversation for over an hour with the guy who runs this other company and that amongst other things, he had told her that our candles were toxic, that burning them caused birth defects and that they contained petro-chemicals.
To be honest, I felt completely powerless. It was only serendipity that I found out about the conversation... I had called her to assist her with something else. She was actually quite apologetic when she raised the issue because she didn't want to upset me and said that the only reason she told me was because it was on the basis of that conversation that she decided not to purchase our candles. Having spoken to me she realised how she'd been misled.
She said that he was a "bully".
I had never thought of myself as a victim of bullying. I am 6ft tall. I am strong and robust. I am quite direct and opinionated. And yet, both directly and indirectly, this bully has lied, cheated and abused again and again over the years until I was so terrified of him that I was doing nothing about the lies he was telling.
I am still concerned to be honest, but I will no longer stand for his bullying...
I apologise in advance if you feel this post is 'negative'. If you have ever been bullied, I hope this post inspires you to do something about it.
Prior to my starting Queen B, the only real option if you wanted to burn beeswax candles was to buy candles from this company in Northern NSW. All of their candles at the time were mixed with macadamia nut oil. It would be interesting to know why he thought this was OK whilst at the same time attacking other candles containing oils (be that essential, soy or palm) as being toxic to burn. His candles were made with macadamia nut oil until Queen B entered the market.
I decided that with Queen B we would raise the bar. We would only ever make candles that were 100% pure beeswax. No blending. No oils. No scenting or fragrancing. No soy, palm or paraffin. And certainly no macadamia nut oil. We set a new industry standard.
With an extensive range of rolled pillars already, I set about doing my wick testing for Queen B tealights. Intermittently I would get emails or calls from him telling me that he "owned the industry". He "created the market for beeswax candles". I was "picking crumbs off the masters table" etc. I started trying to ignore his emails and focused on the task at hand. In reality they shook me every time.
When we launched our pure beeswax tealights, one of the first companies to come knocking was our existing customer, Macro Wholefoods. Macro had stocked his blended beeswax tealights for almost 10 years and now that there was a pure option available they wanted them. This man became so verbally abusive to the buyer at Macro that she refused to deal with him. I am told that he then progressed to abusing the owner of Macro, Pierce Cody - both over the phone and on email. Eventually Macro refused to take his calls and set up their email system to reject his emails. You can only imagine the abuse that I was copping at the same time.
The Defamation Begins
What I found realised was that each time Queen B achieved something great that should really have him picking up his act, I would be contacted by other people telling me of a variety of wild accusations that he was making.
Shortly after Macro de-ranged his product, I got a call from one of my retailers who was very concerned because they had received a call from this guy telling them that my candles were toxic and could kill babies etc etc and that if they didn't remove them from their shelves immediately they could be held liable. Can you imagine? I was completely in shock. Thankfully the retailer knew me well enough to at least question the information and to call me to alert me. They told me that he had sent through some "research" which supposedly showed something with a high level of some chemical... only problem being that it didn't show the name of the laboratory and didn't say what it was testing, let alone specify that it was testing a Queen B candle.
I worried about our retailers that didn't know me or didn't have the time to go about actively questioning and pulling apart bogus information. I immediately removed my list of retailers from our website. I have had over a dozen retailers tell me over the years that he has contacted them with this info. To this day I don't know how many of our retailers have never reordered because of the claims he has made. I felt completely powerless to do anything (short of taking him to court for misleading and deceptive conduct or suing him for defamation both of which would divert my funds and attention from what I wanted to achieve).
I hoped he would just go away and lift his game. But bullies never do.
Sadly (for both me and for consumers) he is still peddling these lies on his website despite the ACCC declaring them to be false.
Resorting to Misleading and Deceptive Conduct?
Next thing I know he has changed his website so that his tealights which were previously advertised as 5-6 hour tealights (which I had never seen burn for 6 hours) were now advertised as 8 - 9 hour tealights. I was told this by a customer who had bought some and was complaining to me about how beeswax tealights don't burn for that long. She gave me a box. To find out more of what happened you can read my post on Beeswax Tealights - We put Queen B and the Others to the Test. Suffice it to say that in over 20 tests, his tealights never burned for longer than 5.5 hours.
You would think he would realise the game was up and he'd fix his website. But no. Having received dozens of emails from customers thanking me for exposing him and his substandard candles and telling me stories of similar experiences, I received 3 emails in quick succession, all under different names giving different email addresses, abusing me sullying the name of a 'good man'. Given I hadn't mentioned his name I was surprised. My web guy called me and told me they were all from the same IP address (ie the same person). He had been arrogant enough in one of the emails to pretend to be a famous Byron Bay hotelier. So, I 'replied' to the email giving the hotelier my side of the story and the hotelier called me, aghast. He had never sent the email. Reading it he immediately said "I know who has done this" and named the bully and said he was going to call him and ban him from his hotel. I asked him not to as I didn't want to provoke him. I believe he ignored me and banned him anyway.
You've got to be kidding
Next thing I know, the ACCC are ordering candles through my website. I call the guy who placed the order. After initially denying it, he confesses to me that they're investigating our candles based on a complaint received from one of my competitors. UNbelievable. Now he is misleading a government department too. What a joke. All the while, he is calling our retailers telling them that Queen B candles are being "investigated" by the ACCC... which strictly speaking is true, and yet outrageously misleading given the facts.
I co-operate fully with the ACCC. They do their testing and a full enquiry. They speak to my suppliers. They do a thorough investigation. As I had told them we would be from the first phone call, we are completely clear. For those of you who are interested, you can read the ACCC letter to Queen B here. Yes I agree the wording is pathetic given what they had just put me through. Lawyers!
Another win for the good guys... although I thought the ACCC could have used much stronger language about his baseless allegations and the complete waste of taxpayers money and my time.
Undeterred, he Publishes his Lies Online to an Unsuspecting Public
I had hoped that after that he'd go away. However, suddenly I noticed we were getting a sharp spike in calls asking me about what paint we use on Queen B candles. Adding 2 and 2 together, I go to his website and there it is, on the home page...
Is there no limit to the lengths this guy will go to?
In fact, his website is full of lies and misinformation... from his claims about using only certified organic Australian beeswax, to his claims to have been "the original" since 1975 (on another page he says 1992)... indeed even his claim that he made the original beeswax tealight. Given beeswax candles have been made for centuries, it would be fair to question his claim of being "the original", let alone when his candles were macadamia nut oil & beeswax blended tealight candles.
While he claims to have "a long standing relationship with bees", this man is no friend of bees. Indeed he told the woman in Melbourne that he doesn't even have a single hive. Interestingly, I volunteer each year on the honey stand at the Royal Easter Show and have been told by several local beekeepers that he was known for stealing bee sites (ie putting his bees on a site he had no permission to use to the detriment of the beekeeper who had permission to use the site). This is first hand information.
Sadly, I have been told anecdotally that he has done this all before. There are several victims in his past... some of whom I know, many of whom I am sure I don't.
Trying to Sort it Out Without Going Public
Once the ACCC investigation had concluded and he continued to publish what was now established as lies, I made my own complaint to the ACCC. You can read the Queen B letter to ACCC here. I was advised that due to funding they can't take up every matter and I would be better off (and likely successful) if I sued him under s.52 of the Trade Practices Act for misleading and deceptive conduct and/or defamation. I, however, don't want to waste my very limited funds on that and given the ACCC have already ruled on his baseless claims, I think it is appropriate that they discipline him.
So, there it is. That's the story.
I am standing up to the industry bully. In doing so, I feel as if I am being even more authentic. I have always sought to be 'real'... well, this is part of my reality. Yes, I have the most divine job on earth and I passionately love what I do, BUT it isn't all a bunch of roses.
A doctor friend tells me he has all the hallmark traits of a sociopath, so I guess I'm a little wary of what happens next.
If you have personally been mislead by his claims insofar as they relate to Queen B, and/or found that the burn times he advertises for his candles are misleading, feel free to lodge a complaint with ACCC or you can send your information through to me and I will compile a dossier for them. You can also complain to the Department of Fair Trading. Or you can post a comment below.
If you haven't been mislead and you simply enjoy burning Queen B candles, this is just a little insight into one of the challenges that I have faced over the past 8 years!
Phew. That took a little longer than I had thought. Now it is out there. If he continues to bully, I will continue to publish. I am having my very own "Casey" moment and fighting back. Please be reassured that by sharing this story, I share the burden and free up more space and energy for beauty to continue flowing in and out of Queen B the business. I am very careful not to make any candles or do have anything to do with the candles when my energy is affected by this bully.
While he takes pride on his website claiming that only he is capable of churning out hundreds of thousands of candles a year, I am delighted to reassure you that every Queen B tealight is individually hand-poured from an enamel teapot with love and conscious intention.
I am gobsmacked that in this day and age, and particularly in an industry which as beautiful as making beeswax candles, that this behaviour is countenanced.
Breathe in the love and out with the negativity now friends... sticks and stones and all that. His words may rattle. His words may mislead. His words may deceive. His words may defame. But, with friends, family, candle lovers, supporters and customers like you, they can never really harm me.
Queen B beeswax candles are made with 100% pure Australian beeswax a pure cotton wick and copious amounts of hand made love. We stock beautiful and stylish candle holders, personalised candles, votive candles and pillar candles that nourish the human spirit and our environment.