The Knot’s parent company is scrambling to reassure its mom-and-pop advertisers after The Post’s bombshell report on allegations that the popular wedding site swindles its clients — but two furious small business owners labeled the desperate outreach as “damage control.”
The Knot Worldwide’s ad sales practices face unprecedented scrutiny over accusations the company has been ripping off local vendors for years with alleged shady tactics that include providing fake or spam customer leads, failing to deliver on contract terms that promised top ad-search result rankings and locking vendors into deals that are difficult to exit.
Last week, company CEO Tim Chi sent rattled vendors a message denying the The Knot had committed any wrongdoing and outlined steps it would take to maintain their trust.
The Aug. 3 memo, titled “Our Commitment to You,” cited “recent media coverage” about The Knot, according to screenshots obtained by The Post.
“We know there is always more work to do, and that topics such as lead quality, search results and support/account management are top of mind for many,” Chi said. “It’s our priority to continuously create a better experience for you, and you can expect to hear from us on these topics and more in the near future.”
Chi rejected the allegations by former employees and current advertisers, declaring “unequivocally” that The Knot Worldwide does not “tolerate any fraudulent or unethical practices on our platform and in our company.”
Chi’s attempt to placate vendors fell flat with many longtime advertisers.
One Austin, Texas-based small business owner who has advertised on the platform described Chi’s memo as “baloney.”
“I felt like it was a little too late. I’ve had awful experiences with them since day one, which is over 4 years,” the vendor told The Post. “His attempt at damage control isn’t going to work for me.”
The vendor, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to fear of retaliation, claimed they received useless leads during an initial 12-month ad deal with The Knot — a claim previously detailed by vendors and countless online reviews on sites like TrustPilot and the Better Business Bureau.
When the vendor tried to exit the deal after the first year, The Knot allegedly kept charging their credit card at a higher rate than previously agreed.
It took two years of disputing the charges with American Express and dealing with The Knot’s sales team before the firm finally stopped sending bills, the vendor said.
A second Midwest-based vendor who received the CEO’s message said they felt the company was merely “attempting to save face.”
The vendor said their business had received “zero valuable leads” during its time as a paid advertiser.
“I found the message to be a well-crafted PR response that did little to speak directly to the actual accusations, but moreso acted as if the allegations were based on old experiences and as if these strong-arm tactics aren’t still going on current day,” added the second vendor, who also wished to remain anonymous.
When reached for comment, a spokesperson for The Knot Worldwide said: “We firmly believe the perspectives of our vendor community strengthen our business. We often connect with vendors, through email and in-person events, to share recent updates, address our goals, and underscore our commitment to them.”
“As Tim mentioned in this email, we hold the trust of partners in the highest regard. We know there is always more work to do and it’s our priority to continuously create a better experience for vendors,” the spokesperson added.
Chi said The Knot was “making investments” to bolster its widely-criticized account support experience which he claimed had “improved customer support response time by 63% in the past few months.”
He added that the company was adding tools to “WeddingPro” — the internal term for its vendor platform and noted recently unveiled plans to implement a “customer advisory board” where vendors could provide direct feedback.
Chi said The Knot will begin providing “business updates once per quarter” to local advertisers that will purportedly provide “line of sight into what we’re working on to improve vendor experience and ensure our priorities reflect yours.”
The company’s alleged deceptive treatment of advertisers was just part of the sweeping allegations made by former Knot employees and current vendors.
Four ex-workers said former executives at The Knot oversaw a toxic workplace and aggressively silenced those who tried to raise alarms internally.
The former employees said The Knot also lied to major corporate advertisers, such as Macy’s and David’s Bridal, while charging them for ads as if they could be targeted at specific customers — such as brides searching for dresses in a particular market — even though it knew it lacked the inventory to meet the agreed-upon terms.
The ex-employees also alleged that junior-level media strategists were pressured to bypass an internal compliance system and re-slot ads to appear in different, lower-visibility parts of the website.
The sources said The Knot’s shady dealings continued after the nearly $1 billion sale of the company in 2018 in a deal brokered by buyout giant Permira and Spectrum Equity.
As part of that deal The Knot merged with WeddingWire and became The Knot Worldwide.
Three of the former employees — Jennifer Davidson, Rachel LaFera and Cindy Elley — confirmed they had formally reported their concerns with the specific allegations about the sales practices and workplace environment outside of the company to federal authorities.
The CEO’s message to clients surfaced on the same day that Forbes published a separate report, which reiterated The Post’s findings and detailed some new revelations, including that at least one corporate ad client, Justin Alexander, had “asked The Knot for an audit of the last six years of its advertising.”
“Many say The Knot has devolved into a dog-eat-dog, money-at-all-costs business that defies the feel-good nature of wedding celebrations and pressures staff to cross ethical lines,” said Forbes’ report, which also cited interviews with two dozen current and former Knot employees.
In his memo, The Knot CEO described the allegations detailed in reports by The Post and, later, by Forbes, as “out of date, inaccurate and misleading claims” that were “thoroughly investigated and resolved.”
The company previously denied wrongdoing in a lengthy statement.
“In this case, former employees of XO Group, Inc., which operated The Knot, relayed their concerns to leadership before parting ways with the company years ago. Their concerns were taken seriously then, as they are taken seriously now,” a spokesperson for The Knot Worldwide said in a statement last month.
“The senior leadership team who were alerted to these concerns and worked at XO Group Inc. prior to the merger with WeddingWire, Inc. in 2018 are not a part of The Knot Worldwide today. At the time, an external law firm was engaged to conduct a thorough investigation into the complaints made by the former employees.”
“The investigation found that XO Group accurately reported financial performance in all material respects, and any claims of widespread misconduct were unfounded. XO Group also cooperated with federal regulators who did not pursue enforcement action based on these allegations,” the statement added.
Source by [New York Post]