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Ella’s Lead (& Collar Mania) – Why I Won’t Shop There

There are few things in life that I hate more than people who try to ride on the shirttails of others. It’s not good for business when you have earned a reputation, through word of mouth (the most powerful form of advertising in small business), and through your own actions, as a company without scruples, and when you have been accused, on several occasions, of design theft.

As a consumer, I tend to be brand loyal. When I find a brand that produces an outstanding product, and has excellent customer service, and repeat business is received with fanfare every single time, that is the kind of thing that brings me and my money back to your door. I’ve had a long term consumer relationship with Paco Collars, spanning over 6 years. Until 2 years ago, I ran an upscale boutique for large and giant breed dogs and even retailed Paco Collars to the public. Now, perhaps I’m spoiled by the absolutely amazing way they treat me and my dogs, as if we were part of a large family, rather than just a customer, but in all honesty, I can’t imagine buying leather collars anywhere else. They are, in my opinion, and one that is shared by many, simply the best.

Several months ago, Journey was in need of a sturdy puppy collar and I wouldn’t trust anything else on my service dog in training, so I contacted Paco Collars about a collar for him to wear while he grew and trained. After several emails back and forth, I finally settled on a completely custom design – a PBRC, in 1.25″ width, brown leather, silver hardware, and instead of the large flat studs, I wanted to change things up a bit and use gorgeous bone spots as the focal point. I placed my order in August 2011. Click on the images below to view larger.

Original order placed, dated Aug 26, 2011

Customizing the collar with bone spots, dated Sep 1, 2011

Confirmation from Paco Collars, dated Sep 1, 2011

So with that, I sat back and anxiously awaited the arrival of Journey’s puppy collar. When it arrived on Sep 13, 2011, it was everything I had imagined it would be and so much more.

Custom PBRC with bone spots, Sep 13, 2011

It looked fantastic on him! Those bone spots really pop against his coat.

Journey, custom PBRC, Sep 27, 2011

Imagine my shock and horror, after loving this collar that was customized for my dog for months, when I discovered this:

Screen Shot Ella's Lead FB page, dated March 7, 2012

I don’t know about you… but to me, that bears an uncanny resemblance to my collar. So much so, in fact, that it looks like an exact copy (albeit in brass and made from what appear to be inferior materials). While I realize that there are only so many different ways to design collars, and only so many unique materials out there, this company has a history of copying other people’s designs – see here and here. Such actions would lead one to believe that the designers who work at Ella’s Lead have the creative talent God promised a doorknob. Copying other people’s work is tacky at best, illegal infringement at worst. Now, since I did not actually design the collar in question, I merely requested very specific customizations that appear to be copied in the design above, there’s not a whole lot I can do legally about it, but I can share my thoughts about it, and am doing so here.

Screen Shot 2012-03-09 at 11.40.44 PM

In the above image, Rebecca clearly claims credit for creating the design of this collar. yet my dog was wearing this design for over 5 months before she created her version of it. Things that make you go hmmm….

But it gets worse. Much worse.

On February 14, 2012, Paco Collars hosted one of their semi-regular Sample Sales on their Facebook page. I love the sample sales – tons of great deals to be had, and it’s fun to chat with other Paco Collars fans while the suspense builds as to what collars will be included in the sale, plus the first-come-first-served style of the sale leads to frantic rushes to the phone, so there’s the adrenaline factor involved.

During the course of the sale, several other Paco fans and I decided to form an unofficial fan club (which ironically, what started out as a half joke has blossomed into an officially authorized fan club). Ideas started to flow about what our ideal collars would look like, sales of gently used collars between members emerged, the energy and camaraderie was, and is, amazing.

On February, 17, 2012, one of the PCANSA admins posted this:

Screen Shot 2012-03-09 at 10.42.31 PM

About a week later, a photo was posted of Samatha’s collar on the Paco Collars FB page and one of our members responded:

Screen Shot 2012-03-10 at 5.16.25 PM

Cranberry and bone spots seems to be a recurring theme with the PCANSA members (myself included). Three days later:

Screen Shot 2012-03-09 at 10.40.53 PM

4 days later… this was posted on the Ella’s Lead FB page:

Screen Shot 2012-03-09 at 11.40.17 PM

Hmm, the preview image is kinda small. Let’s take a better look at that new collar they released a mere 4 days after we at PCANSA had a discussion about bone and cranberry spots, in groups of 3 in a row, separated by studs (rivets) and repeating around the collar…

Screen Shot 2012-03-09 at 11.40.28 PM

Oh. Hmm. That bears an uncanny resemblance to the idea that was brainstormed on our fan club page. But of course, it could be just coincidence that the exact layout we specified was used in this design just 4 days later.

Screen Shot 2012-03-10 at 5.22.51 PM

I don’t believe in coincidences. Do you?

And it doesn’t end there, folks.

Not only do their designs appear to be copies of other collar maker’s designs, or ideas stolen directly from our Facebook page, there also seems to be a distinct lack of quality control and customer service leaves a lot to be desired. You can read more about that at Chihuahuas Are Not Sheep. Originally, that review was posted on a dog forum. It was an honest review by a dissatisfied customer. The thread quickly turned nasty when Ella’s Lead resorted to threats:

Screen shot 2011-08-20 at 3.54.44 PM

And when another person replied with their experiences with Rebecca, the owner of the company, well… see for yourself.

Screen shot 2011-08-20 at 3.56.22 PM

Screen shot 2011-08-20

Now, I don’t know about you – but I for sure would not appreciate being treated like that by a company simply because I was dissatisfied with their product, and posted and honest review online. Threats? Insults? Being called a liar? That’s good customer service?

People have asked me why I unabashedly refuse to have anything to do with this company, why I won’t vote on their photo contests on the Ella’s Lead Facebook page, and there you have it folks. On face value, it would seem that Ella’s Lead copies other people’s hard work, steals ideas and designs from others, provides an inferior product, and has deplorable customer service skills. I’m not here to tell you not to buy from them – you’re free to do whatever you want with your money. I’m posting this as my own personal reasons for not ever giving them a dime of my hard earned cash. You, of course, are free to make up your own mind.

*Disclaimer: All images used in this post were either screenshots taken by me personally, or by someone else and permission was granted in writing to use said images. Screenshots of the Facebook pages and forum posts were made on publicly viewable pages. The content of this post is the opinion of the poster, and anything stated as fact has been verified with evidence as outlined in this post.

Update: It would seem there is more than one shady collar company out there. The anonymous nastygram left below by ohpuhleeze turned out to be not so anonymous after all…

Screen Shot 2012-03-11 at 11.28.20 AM

Note the IP address…

Pay attention to that email address…

Tie it all together with a bow:

Address blacked out for privacy :)

And that, along with my comment below, would be why I will never place another order with Collar Mania. Companies that react violently to negative reviews or comments don’t do themselves any favors.

Update: Collar Mania has refunded me for the collar I purchased last year as agreed in the comments below. That particular matter is now resolved and closed.

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22 Responses to Ella’s Lead (& Collar Mania) – Why I Won’t Shop There

  1. Dee March 10, 2012 at 5:18 pm #

    Wow. That is just really mind blowing.

  2. Jen March 10, 2012 at 5:33 pm #

    I have never delt with Ella Collars but I base my collar buying on word of mouth and experience. There is nothing like a collar coming apart along a busy road or in a group with people and dogs. I will have to stick with my Leather Paco’s, 2 Hounds, and Nolan Spencer.

    Also, anyone has a right to unfriend anyone they want. They do not need a reason. Shame on those who bash others for their chioces on Facebook of all places. If you cannot take the heat get off the porch.

  3. ohpuhleeze March 10, 2012 at 5:52 pm #

    Will this campaign never stop. The writer of this blog is so far up Ana Poe’s ass on a daily basis it is not even funny . I have seen about 5 different collar makers that have similar designs to this one, did they all copy Paco Collars, well they must have because she is the only one with any original and creative ideas, just ask her. She is smart however, she never publicly bad mouths competition, instead she finds mindless drones like this one to do her work and just pushes the buttons behind the scenes. Just because you wrote this does not make it true and I hope most people take the time to investigate the truth, and that is that Ana Poe is a bully and cannot stand ANY competition because her products are not the “best quality” but they are the most expensive and as some have found not worth the money.

  4. Nicki Simonson March 10, 2012 at 5:54 pm #

    I posted on PCANSAs website regarding letting the consumers know that the EL designs are being ripped off… and was IMMEDIATELY reported to FB for inappropriate conduct.

    To EL (who no doubt will be reading this fantastic blog post):
    1) Please explain how this is inappropriate conduct.
    2) Why were you stalking our page, if not to steal designs?

  5. NamasteDogs March 10, 2012 at 5:59 pm #

    The writer of this blog is woman enough to publish her name. I assure you, Ana Poe had nothing at all to do with this post and is unaware of the post, as far as I know, because I did not disclose my intentions to write it.

  6. gill campbell March 10, 2012 at 6:09 pm #

    From the images I have seen and the testimony of people who have bought these products they are poor quality copies of the amazing Paco collars. If you want something that lookd like a Paco, feels like a Paco and has the guarantee of a Paco then buy a Paco rather than these inferior copies.

  7. Lindsay March 10, 2012 at 6:21 pm #

    Wow this company gives small buisnesses a bad name. Dana thank you for posting this.
    I cant believe how they treat people! Holy heck!

  8. Debbie Leighton March 10, 2012 at 6:25 pm #

    Keyboard bullying at it’s finest. Instead of posting under some annonymous name, try using your real name.

    Now back to the subject…..After putting my hands on a paco collar I can testify to the fact that their collars are amazing and I will be honored to own one or two in the near future.

  9. Jessie March 10, 2012 at 6:44 pm #

    I’m the owner of Chihuahuas are not Sheep and one of the people who have had a TERRIBLE experience with Ella’s Lead. They copy designs, make poor quality products, and bully their customers.

    I support Paco Collars because the product speaks for itself. I KNOW my collars will last a lifetime, and if anything DOES happen to them, they are backed by a lifetime guarantee.

  10. Mayhem March 10, 2012 at 7:45 pm #

    As a friend of the poster, and someone who has no personal experience with either company, I will say that I don’t think she’s a drone. I’ve never been pressured to purchase a Paco by her or others who belong to PCANSA. I also have enough good common sense to search other leather collar makers pages to ensure that the design I’m working on with MY collar maker is original, as original can be using the same hardware. So far I haven’t seen one like it. ;) I don’t make collars and it’s still something I put an emphasis on. Also, my collar maker may get inspiration from Paco or others, but will not copy their design. Some companies have left a bad taste in my mouth before I even think of working with them. Remember, how you treat others is exceptionally important, unless you have a niche corner of some market, which I have yet to see of a leather collar maker.

  11. Star March 10, 2012 at 8:14 pm #

    Thanks for posting this. Someone was telling me when I got Voltaire a new martingale collar that they were getting their collar from EL. They suggested it to me, but I didn’t look any farther into it because I’m not really a leath collar type person. Then I saw all of this unfold (and you can’t deny the time signatures, and everything being talked about in a public space) and thought “Wow! Really?”

    I don’t know why people have to be that way in this world, it only shines a poor light on themselves and themselves only. Its a shame.

    Word of mouth IS powerful, and if you don’t want people to think of you as a terrible person, try not being a terrible person. *shrug*

  12. S March 10, 2012 at 9:17 pm #

    I had read the first postings back when the first issue was posted about. By that time, I already had two products from Paco that I was very pleased with. Later, I also read the issues that followed Jessie’s review of the small dog collars. What struck me, more even than the quality of the collars, was their reaction. Very, very unprofessional. I can’t say I’ve ever seen a company respond that way to a criticism of their product. (and I know every company gets a few..you cannot please everyone all the time) I had not planned on getting a collar from them, but was thinking of a leash. Their behavior, however, soured me on that idea. I’m also not a fan of the way their product is portrayed in their postings..every posting seems to toot their own horn, if you will. Being proud of your product is one thing, hanging a halo above it is another altogether.

    My dogs have Paco collars because I find the quality to be superb. I don’t have a lot of spare cash to buy a ton, so I want them to have nice looking, good quality collars that will last. I have never been disappointed with the products OR the customer service. That is what keeps me returning.

    What I have noticed, though, is the behavior of both EL and SOME (not all, of course) of their customers. I have read plenty of people saying they won’t pay PC prices for a collar. And that is fine..no one should feel guilty for setting a limit on what they can spend. I, for example, will never pay over 8,000 for a car ;) I have never seen PC customers (or anyone with the company itself) storm in and berate them. Yet, some EL customers (or even the company owners themselves) call PC customers drones, or, as seen above, even more colorful things. It’s very off putting.

    .

  13. Jen March 10, 2012 at 11:25 pm #

    I just wanted to post that when I needed a collar fixed by PC because of wear and tear they not only fixed it to look like new, they got it back to me in less then a week and were very friendly on the phone and in e-mails. I only ever saw pleases and thank yous. When the time comes for Morgan’s big boy collar they will be making it. Never once did I hear anything negative towards me.

  14. Samm March 11, 2012 at 1:44 am #

    Very well said Dana! As one of the co-founders of PCANSA I take great offense to this. It is a sad, sad day when people who are supposed to be in the business of creativity have none. I am glad that social media is a way for people to communicate and share their thoughts and ideas, but seriously, use your own brain and not that of people who will never buy your product, not only because you use inferior products, but because your customer service is lacking to put it nicely.

  15. NamasteDogs March 11, 2012 at 10:21 am #

    Sigh. Of course. I should have known. Yet another unprofessional collar maker out there. Thanks Lisa, of Collar Mania, for your feedback on my post and your feelings about Paco Collars and Ana Poe personally. Next time, woman up and use your real name if you want to discuss things here.

    For the record, my one and only Collar Mania order turned out to be a sad experience as well. I have a collar that I ordered that arrived in the wrong width, wrong color lining and wrong size. My dog can’t wear it and I can’t return it because a) Ella’s Lead is now making those collars instead of you, b) it’s embroidered with Journey’s name and to that end, I also can’t sell it.

  16. Jessie March 11, 2012 at 4:07 pm #

    Does anyone else see the irony in “Ohpuhleeze” calling Dana a “mindless drone” for Paco when she’s being a “mindless drone” for Ella’s Lead?

    This just amazes me!

  17. Lizzi March 12, 2012 at 1:07 am #

    Hey you could sell that collar to other dogs named Journey. ;)
    Actually I know at least one other! heh

  18. L March 12, 2012 at 5:36 am #

    I have seen many Collar Mania and Ella’s Lead Collars in person because a former co-worker of mine had them for her dogs. The last one I saw in person was a very sad X-Dog rip off.
    I am personally not impressed with the look or quality of either of them. I guess I am a bit of a collar snob. My dogs for the most part, only wear Paco Collars and Aroo Studio Collars (with few exceptions).

  19. Lisa-Collar Mania March 13, 2012 at 6:16 am #

    Dana I wanted to apologize for my above post this weekend. It is not my typical style and perhaps it was too much pain medication from my broken tooth this weekend that caused me to react so harshly to this. While I do understand the gang up mentality when things sometimes “seem” a certain way I also see the other side of this exact subject. I know Rebecca and Ben fairly well and believe them not to be the people these things are written about. I do know that Rebecca and Ana had an issue with one collar in particular when Rebecca first started which they discussed and I understood was resolved..that was awhile ago however. There have been rumblings here and there from other people about Ana having a problem with something here and there but she has not contacted Rebecca as far as I know to discuss any issues, just it seems put negative things out in the dog world.

    The last time this happened a woman I am not going to name said she created a collar or a picture of a vintage collar that was from “a life’s work of research” kept it in some un password protected photo site out on the internet and Rebecca having I guess nothing better to do searched, found it and then created a collar. No proof was ever shown about this just some claims on a dog forum by someone who did not like her. Subsequently the person that claimed this disappeared I “think” for health reasons is the rumor, left customers without any warning or products they paid for. I know a few of her customers who at this time have never heard from her nor have their money or product. The reason I bring this up is that all this person had to do was make up this ludicris story and everyone just jumped on the bandwagon and assumed it has to be true and yet the other who made the claims has turned out the be the person who’s business practices are shady. I do know that there were a group of people behind that vendetta and were a force behind the gang up on Rebecca at that time and Rebecca knows who they are..and this situation had a very similar feeling when I read it..perhaps I am wrong, perhaps not.

    Knowing that people have said this before about Rebecca I do not understand why any one would think that her goal in life is to sit and copy Paco Collars designs so she could go through this yet again…what on earth would she have to gain from it..a few collar sales..hardly seems worth it to me. I also know first hand how easy it is to make very similar designs. I myself did it on purpose 5 years ago when I started not knowing anything about copyrights or even respecting others work…but I learned quickly when I heard from Ana. I then went on to make 2 more collars , that I felt looked nothing like not would they ever be confused for being Paco collars ( colored leathers slightly different patterns), but they had designs similar enough that Ana felt otherwise . I then sold off all my materials/spots that looked like hers and made mine otherwise at a loss to my business so I did not have to always be looking over my shoulder and started making my leather collars differently. I had not made the second 2 collars on purpose to look like hers, but they did I guess in her mind anyway..so I do know how easy it is to do especially when you are talking about basically 8-10 inches of space and the same commercially available materials.

    Anyway..I suppose you have every right to think what you do but that does not mean it is true. As far as I know you never contacted Ben or Rebecca and asked them if they copied it or used it as inspiration you just decided it was true because how is it possible that her spot pattern look so similar to your collar but as I have experienced it is actually very easy to do I have even found another collar maker with a similar design….so did they also steal this idea as well ? Most likely no they are all using the same commercially available materials and there is only a finite amount of ways to put those on a strip of leather so this issue will keep coming up as long as people keep using the same materials and making leather dog collars. Blogs and accusations like this do hurt peoples lives, livlihoods and families and reputations and when the people posting these things do not contact the parties involved but just decide to be judge, jury and executioner in the court of public opinion it bothers me and I would ask that you step back and put yourself in their shoes.

    In terms of your collar from me that was quite a long time ago I do believe I told you I would replace it but never heard back from you..I can look for the emails if you like and if you wish to pursue a refund you can email me

  20. NamasteDogs March 13, 2012 at 8:40 am #

    Lisa,

    Thank you for your comments.

    I’d like to make one thing clear – this post was neither spurred by Ana or Paco Collars nor was it endorsed by them in any way. This was just me, expressing my own feelings and opinions, and stating the reasons that I personally would not be giving my business to Ella’s Lead. You’ll also note that I did not say that people shouldn’t shop there – to each his own.

    As far as the collar I got from you – if you will recall, I ordered when you announced that due to health reasons you would no longer be working with leather. When the collar arrived and I noticed the sizing, width and lining color discrepancies, you’re right, you offered to replace it, however since you were no longer making those collars, you indicated that Ella’s Lead would remake that collar – something that was unacceptable to me. A refund was never offered. That said, I stand by my original comments in that I do not want the collar remade by Ella’s Lead, I would however welcome a refund in the amount of $53.95 which is the sale price I paid. You can PayPal it to namastedogs@me.com and I will consider that matter closed.

    In all fairness, I’m not angry or upset about the collar you made me. More sad that it ended up not being quite what I had wanted after being so excited about it (although the outer leather color is exactly what I wanted, the embroidery is impeccable and the custom design is also gorgeous – credit where credit is due, it is a lovely collar) and sad that I don’t have any way to get another one without resorting to doing business with another company. And mostly sad that my dog isn’t out there flashing that thing around, it’s too pretty to sit in a drawer… but if it’s too wide and too big, he can’t exactly wear it either.

    Thank you.

  21. Heidi June 9, 2012 at 6:40 am #

    thank you so much for posting this. I was torn between ordering from paco and ellas lead and to be honest, after reading this blog you helped me make my decision. I will be ordering a paco collar. I emailed ellas lead about a custom design and never received a reply. Plus they don’t have a contact phone number which makes me think they might be a very small operation. Then when I googled them I came across sites like this one and it pretty much sealed my decision. Thanks so much for sharing your experience.

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