HSN has stopped selling jewelry from Bajalia International Group after allegations that the firm, which gives work to women in countries like India, has been stiffing them.
The home shopping network made the decision, and CEO Mindy Grossman explained it at length, after the Tampa Bay Times did a devastating story about Bajalia and its founder and owner, Debbie Farah. The investigative piece alleges that Farah owes jewelry craftswomen, her vendors and her employees’ money, and that she made a practice of not paying them.
The Times did a great job on the story. We suggest you read it.
Farah’s pitch for Bajalia was that she was giving jobs to women in developing nations, and that these workers were toiling in safe, non-exploitive environments. But the lengthy piece sniffed out a number of not-so-happy campers who are waiting to be paid by Farah, who lives in a five-bedroom home in Florida.
For example, the Times interviewed Jenny McGee, who runs a nonprofit, the Starfish Project, that finds jobs for victims of human trafficking in Asia. They are owed $20,000 from Farah, McGee alleges.
“Vendors say they have repeatedly sought payment from Farah, only to be ignored or berated by phone or email,” The Times wrote. “One vendor hired a collections agency, but others say they had to eat their losses because there’s little international vendors can do to force payment from an American company.”
Or how about the woman in Afghanistan who had 50 workers crafting necklaces and bracelets, a $70,000 order for Bajalia, in 2014. They are still waiting to get paid, according to the Times.
Perhaps Farah doesn’t have the money to pay her bills because she bought a Lexus SUV, was prancing around in designer clothes, and was attending society events in Orlando.
This woman who has won many awards, making Newsweek’s the “150 Women Who Shake the World” list, “has a troubled financial history that includes felony charges for writing worthless checks, a bankruptcy and at least two home foreclosures,” the Times reported.
Here is Bajalia’s business model, apparently. It pays women $8 to $20 to make necklaces and bracelets with gemstones such as lapis. Bajalia, in turn, hawks the pieces for $300 or more on HSN.
The network, which started selling the Bajalia line in 2011, has pulled the jewelry off its website. A few days after the Times story appeared, Grossman wrote a letter to the paper where she said HSN was dedicated “to ethical practices.”
“When we learned of these claims, we removed all Bajalia jewelry from our websites and programming and put a hold on all product sales,” she wrote.
“We also initiated an internal review. The issues raised in the recent Tampa Bay Times article will now be included in that review, and we have asked Bajalia to provide us a full accounting of all products sold on HSN and status of payment to those vendors. We will review this information to ensure that anyone who had done business with HSN was treated properly and take appropriate steps if they have not.”