Vistaprint’s explanation for sending a gay couple anti-gay propaganda doesn’t add up

"We have never been more disappointed to let a customer down."

Last month, a gay couple from Australia sued Vistaprint for sending them anti-gay propaganda instead of the programs for their wedding in Pennsylvania. The company has now explained that the mistake was a simple mix up and are working with the couple to rectify the error by making donations to various LGBTQ organizations.

In a statement posted Tuesday, CEO Trynka Shineman and founder Robert Keane reiterated “how sorry we are for the pain this caused” Andrew Borg and Stephen Heasley. “We would never intentionally cause any of our customers or partners harm, and we have never been more disappointed to let a customer down.”

According to their internal investigation, what happened was “an unintentional order mix up at one of our third-party partners, not a targeted act by an employee or partner.” An unspecified client had ordered the religious propaganda pamphlets and the two boxes were “unfortunately mislabeled.” They insist that “this incidence was due to human error, and was without malicious intent or even knowledge that it had occurred.”

Though such errors happen “in a minute fraction of customer orders,” they are taking responsibility for it by working with the couple to support the LGBTQ community. Borg and Heasley added in a statement, “We’ve accepted Vistaprint’s apology, and will work with them to select U.S. and Australian-based organizations that they will be making donations to in order to further achieve this mission.”


One of the organizations Vistaprint will support is GLSEN, which supports LGBTQ students in grades K-12, including creating “an engagement program” that Vistprint’s leadership and Pride group will spearhead. Vistaprint is also forming a diversity program to dialogue with employees and will conduct an internal policy review with a goal of meeting the expectations set forth in the Human Rights’ Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index.

What’s conspicuous about the resolution is how little information is provided about the origin of the anti-gay brochures. In fact, the statement goes out of its way to claim that the religious propaganda was not hate speech:

We would also like to clarify that the content our customers received in error was not hate speech, as it has been characterized. It was a flyer for a religious program, with no references that single out any group or organization.

But the explanation provides no context to prove this point. For example, it never reveals who ordered the pamphlets. Hypothetically, if it were truly a “mix up,” then the client who ordered the pamphlets would have instead received the couple’s wedding programs. If this was the case, Vistaprint’s explanation could have recounted the other client’s reactions when receiving the wrong order as well, and that transparency would have made the whole story more believable.

Even if the pamphlets did not specifically reference homosexuality, they were hardly benign. They spoke of Satan’s three types of temptation, “Lust of the Flesh,” “Lust of the Eyes,” and “Pride of Life,” encouraging the reader to understand the temptations of sin “if you desire to change the way you live.” Identical language is used in various forms of ex-gay reparative therapy and anti-gay advocacy, which is why Heasley and Borg were “emotionally devastated” to have received them.

CREDIT: Complaint
CREDIT: Complaint

The case now seems to be closed, but unanswered questions remain.