Neiman Marcus vs. The Budget Fashionista

Neiman Marcus is threatening to sue me….

See, I can talk about Neiman Marcus and can even use photos from their online site, but only IF I suggest that you ONLY shop at Neiman Marcus in the post. It’s okay to use their pictures, if I turn my blog into free advertising space for the store.

Even though writing about this will probably put me on the sh*t list of not only Neiman Marcus, but other stores as well, I think it’s important to let shoppers know how the game is played. And it doesn’t only affect the blog, but my book as well. For example, some stores wouldn’t sell my book, even though people in the companies in question bought the book, because it mentions other stores.  One company, whose evilness we all know and love, even had the nerve to say if I removed a competitor from the book they would “consider carrying it in their stores.” Needless to say, the competitor stayed and the book just went to its second printing without being carried by the store (thanks to my fellow bloggers, who help me promote the book via a blogroots marketing effort)

What this all boils down to is the difference between a blog and a magazine. Blogs, although this is changing, are run by people with no corporate bosses to worry about.  On this other hand, magazines, are run by people who do have corporate bosses, which is why they’re afraid to criticize stores like Neiman Marcus for fear they’ll pull their advertising dollars and make their corporate bosses angry. That is why, for the most part, advertisers control the content you see in magazines. I know for a fact that there would be a hurricane in hell before “Needless Mark-up” would advertise on my site, so why not suggest alternatives to the store?

However, there is a bright side to this… at least the folks at Neiman Marcus read the blog, and I heard they have internet access in jail.

Read a copy of the email from Neiman Marcus’s attorney…..

To whom it may concern:
It has come to our attention that your website,, is using one or more images from  Please see the link below, which contains a photo, copyright Neiman Marcus.
Please cease using this photo immediately, and Neiman Marcus will not take further action with respect to this infringement.  In the future, kindly contact (omitted name) online for advance permission to use images from the website.  Her email address is: Please be aware that permission will not be granted for the use of images where your blog suggests other websites to buy merchandise.
Please acknowledge your agreement with this notice as soon as possible.

Note: I did remove the picture

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  1. Wendy says

    You’re rght about the big fish in the pond noticing you!  And that’s a feather in your cap.

    But I don’t think it as much reflects the difference between a blog and a magazine as much as it is about (electronic) copyright infringement, which is a really important issue.

    Among other things Neiman’s hired a model, paid photographer and probably a makeup artist, probably rented a location, and undoubtedly has contracts with them stating that NM owns rights to the photograph.  They may also have agreements in place with the manufacturers of the products they sell about how they may be photographed and used.  NM financed the picture with the express purpose of selling the product.

    Intellectual property laws also protect authors like yourself from plagiarism.  It’s a double edged sword.

  2. Jaye says

    I guess it was never a problem when you have used them as a resource to purchase other products on your site…how completely silly of them…if they had not mad such a funk..they would have saved themselves the now almost sure look of pie in the face.

  3. Emily says

    They have copyrights on their photos, of course you can’t use them at your own discretion! It isn’t an evil corporate “game,” you can’t just take someone’s property and use it how you choose. And anyone who isn’t aware of corporate influence needs to wake up – corporations are not altruistic, it is their legal obligation to maximize the bottom line.

  4. A.F. says

    That sounds awful. Sorry you had to go through such crap and threats from Neiman Marcus.

    Yours is one of my favorite sites. As a fellow budget shopper and woman of color (I’m South Asian), I’m really glad that both your blog and your site are doing well. It has some of the best tips and news about budget shopping that I’ve ever seen.

    I sure hope one day you’ll be featured on Oprah! ^_^ (And many more t.v. shows too)

  5. lori says

    although i 100% support and LOVE your site, as a corporate web designer (for a phone company), i do understand copyright laws a bit. the pics would be considered “stealing” if you lifted them from the site. it would be no different than using a picture from without buying it first.

    i think what needless-mark-up did was low. they should have approached you in a nicer way. then again, it’s also how their salespeople act if you look like you don’t have millions to spend. i assume it’s the nm mantra. “budget” just isn’t in their vocabulary.

    i love this site and read it daily. you have so much great info. screw nm – we have the budget fashionista!

    btw – with the loss of “budget living (which i’m still waiting for my subscription money back), why not start your own magazine? i’ll work for you!!

  6. Jeanine Guidry says

    You go girl! I love your site, and I love the book, and what the Needless Mark Up people are doing is ridiculous!

  7. says

    Unbelieveable.  Blogs are about conversation.  You cannot censor conversation- but corporate biz does not get that.  They are heading for an uphill battle.  Keep us posted- we’ll rally anyone you need to help!

  8. Barb says

    Congratulations!!! When people threaten to sue you in America, many times that is a sign of success. We support you, no Neiman shopping for us.

  9. says

    Whoa, mega bullshit. I featured the post on Coutorture and reposted it on Almost Girl. New media is here to stay so certain players might just want to get used to it.

  10. Lauren says

    This is very short-sided thinking by NM. Most bloggers that post pics of items provde a link thereby increasing the potential for sales. I wonder if NM is suing those who bring them sales with no commission as well. Additionally, NM has an affiliate program. Are they also saying that nobody can be an affiliate of NM if they also mention items from other stores or are an affilate of say Bluefly as well? Fight the good fight, er the man. Another reason to leave corporate America.

  11. marisela says

    Hey, I love your website, but I don’t think the letter indicates you can only talk about about them if you are recommending them…it just says you can’t use a copyrighted image without permision, and he’s giving you the heads up they won’t likely give you permission if you are recomending other stores…to me this is obvious and makes total sense, hey, they’re a business…they exist for their market and we’re not it (we’re smarter than that!), but that makes them no evil.
    Sorry to disagree with your comment 😛

  12. emily says

    GAH! THis is really scary, since I use pictures from online stores all the time in my blog. So I can’t use pictures from a store’s website if I’m also suggesting products from another store? I’m really confused.

  13. Reesy says

    I’m a little confused…and have to say I agree with Neiman Marcus…its business but the initial issue is the use of their photo without permission and that is a big no no. That is the fastest way to get a ticket straight to court. It’s stealing….no offense and all……

    And it would not be in their best interest to give permission only to have the money go to another store.

  14. says

    Thanks for the informative post. I’m sure it wasn’t easy to have to give all of that information, but you did a great service to your readers.

  15. says

    This is quite ridiculous!  We bloggers are free to recommend shopping alternatives to our readers.  How dare Neiman’s try to rob you of that right.  Not to mention that over the 1/2 the population can’t afford the needless markup that they dish out.  I say keep doing what you’re doing and to hell with corporate america.

    On the bright side, at least they’re reading your blog and that says alot :).

  16. laranta says

    Good for you for sticking to your guns.  Why should these jerks have so much power?  Why should they be able to tell us that shopping at only certain stores will guarantee that we’re more beautiful, more hip, more stylish than the next person who gets their skinny jeans at Conway and their black pointy-toed flats at Payless?  I love the stuff they carry at Barney’s and Bergdorf.  Can I afford it?  Hell no.  So thanks for offering an alternative and not being bullied by a bunch of corporate lawyers.

  17. says

    Thanks for the support everyone!

    Now, let me say that I have absolutely no problem with Neiman Marcus insisting that I ask them for permission to use their pics… I understand their corporate obligations, etc..

    But I do have a problem that they insist (and they do) that I can only use their pictures if I only write about them. For example in the post in question, I write about the trend in general terms and suggest budget alternative, link the picture back to the Neiman Marcus site, as well as direct readers tohead to Neiman Marcus to learn more about how to wear the trend. What more could they want? Plus they had no problem with me writing about their Last Call Sale.

    Also if they were smart they would encourage the useo f their pictures but with clauses that state the pictures must link back to their site and given credit. It’s total free pr for them.

    I guess it’s just frustrating because as bloggers start to become bigger and more influential, we have to deal with the same Bullsh*t as our magazine and newspaper colleagues.

  18. says

    Girl I am so with you. See they don’t understand that they really can’t control bloggers…magazines maybe, but blogger opinion, NO. We have no corporate influence, push or pressure. I’m sure they thought they could bully you or scare you.

    So glad I am poor to begin with and can never step foot into that ridiculous store.

    I’m your cheerleader. :)


  19. leanne says

    who needs needles mark up(NM)a punch of snoots,that starts with their sales stuff.I got treated different when i had my diamond on,versus when i came in sweats,no more shopping there for me.Keep up the good work

  20. sarah k says

    I get where NM is coming from but they should have tried to work with you, instead of against you. It’s like this corporate folks just don’t get the concept of blogs and why blogs like yours are popular and so successful. They need to take a class on blogs..

  21. lala says

    Continue to do your thang.. They’re problaby just concerned because you are pretty influential (your book is my BIBLE) and they’re afriad that you’ll expose them

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