A horror at Sistina Art

Hi,

Photo by Mal

If you ever tried to frame your works at Sistina Art in Gzira (the shop is located in Malta), we say don’t. We don’t like to complain or do a black marketing here but we feel justified to give an honest warning to other artists. We have framed the paintings there once and there were troubles (dirty backgrounds or no backgrounds at all, unclean glass etc). But we wanted to keep the same style of frames so we returned. It was a BIG MISTAKE.

Photo by Mal

We paid 85 euro for three paintings in advance: new frames, new back of the painting and in one case new background and a glass. They were to be done in 2 weeks time. We have asked a friend to pick them up for us and he didn’t pay enough attention. So we had a bit of shock when we have seen the job: frames had colours coming off at the edges and cracks in various places. Backs weren’t changed; they had just ripped the old tape and placed new one not bothering to even cover it properly. Glass hasn’t been replaced and background was damaged. They haven’t even changed the frame on one image.

Photo by Mal

Mal came back to argue. We couldn’t talk to the manager as she was not there, we were refused to be given her work related mobile, shop seller told us they had hundreds of customers and we were the only ones to complain.

Photo by Mal

The same day Mal was called by the shop owner and again had to ague. She told us that we were in no position to complain because we were the only customers who were disappointed by their service (which wasn’t truth – over the years we have learned about dozens of customers who have been mistreated) . We were also told that we had no manners. Shop owner however agreed that the changes would be made at no extra cost and the paintings will be done by August 24, (2010).

Photo by Mal

Photo by Mal

As agreed on 24th of August 2010, we arrived at the shop only to be told that the paintings weren’t done. The sales girl called the owner of the shop, who informed us over the phone that she didn’t even know when the paintings would be ready. We were told to wait for their call with no deadline at all. Mal excused herself but mentioned that we have been lied to and that the whole affair cost us a lot of nerves and time. As a reply the shop owner called us ignorant and ill mannered, and even asked which country we were from. We were told to take the paintings and that no refund will be offered to us because “we didn’t deserve it”. It was also pointed out to me that we were no customer to Sistina. Again, this happened in front of other people who were present in the shop. Over the years we have also learned that a common policy at Sistina was to refuse selling to people of colour or overcharging tourists for materials. Several people complained of overhearing racial or even sexist slur.

Photo by Mal

Well we may be harsh at times but we do come from a country where job is being done when the service is being paid for. Photos attached to this entry are to show you what kind of work Sistina Art did. We will be filing a complaint at the Customers Right Bureau. We also provide a link if anybody of you out there had a dubious pleasure of framing your works at Sistina Art:

http://www.eccnetmalta.gov.mt/by-law?l=1

If their service was a music we’d have to rate it lower than any Def Leppard albums. And that says a lot.

Photo by Mal

Next time we will post something more positive.

Very disappointed

Mal and Rita

[Edit: 07/11/2012]

We thought we need to update this post a bit to let you know what have (or rather what haven’t) changed on the case. It’s been two years and we still have no refund. Customers Rights Bureau didn’t help much (they said they were to charge us a fee of 20 EUR to receive a refund of 100 EUR from Sistina), so we dropped the claim. It’s highly unfair that one has to pay extra to have their case being investigated. That is why business like Sistina Shop continues to operate and abuse other artists. If you scroll down to the comments section, you will see a note from yet another customer treated in the same manner. We are not alone. To add insult to injury, in March this year, we have been tracked on Facebook by Sistina owner – Louise La Rosa. She sent us friend requests to see how our profiles looked like and if we have been mentioning her. It is the same person who told us that we didn’t deserve the refund because we were foreigners. Some people have no shame.

Since the case remained unresolved, we recently joined Malta Complaints Directory – a Facebook page that deals with cases of unfair business and they have been kind enough to feature us. Please see the screenshots below.

Screenshot of our case being featured on Malta Complaints Directory on Facebook

Another screenshot

Our complaint was filed via a Facebook page that is no longer functional. The address was:

https://www.facebook.com/MaltaComplaints

There is however a different group that deals with the same issues:

 https://www.facebook.com/pages/Complaints-Malta/232612106865717

We received some tips from other artists (Thank you Maria Colette!) about places that we may check to have the pieces redone.

A little heartbreaking that we have to turn to this but we believe this is the only way to actually stop the abuse of artists and unfair trade practices by Sistina. To let and warn people.

M+R

[Edit: 01/07/2014]

Can’t believe that this blog has been filed four years ago! It still proves to be attentively read. Just few days ago, Sistina Art came up in online conversation and it spiked a lot of interest in our blog.

After four years we have given up on pursuing to get a refund. It is not worth the hassle and time to receive 120 EUR back. What makes us sad is the fact that the owners of the business still continue the old ways, in a new establishment. You see, Sistina Art relegated the arts and crafts section to the outskirts of Sliema now, out of the way where it is hard to find. We wonder if it has anything to do with their terrible opinion – and if we mean terrible just ask Uncle Google what locals have to say about the shop. Our blog will be the most kind of testimonies. The main establishment on Gzira Strand have been transformed into a wine and organic foods boutique location. It does look amazing, we sometimes pass from there on our way from work and the shop is an eye candy. But the policy of bad service persists, so we hear. Doesn’t it just make you angry?

We were thinking of making a bit of update to this blog, but no so much about Sistina anymore. They will most likely never change their ways anyway, no matter the amount of characters in this post.

What we would like to know is how often artists are left with butchered paintings and no refunds. If you have other horror stories, please get in touch, we would like to hear about them. Please get in touch at VanadianAvenue@yahoo.com

Thanks in advance,
Mal&Rita

[Edit: 24/08/2015]

It happens once in a while and we can`t stop wondering each time how come one person can pull the same tick time after time for years and still be allowed to run a business. It`s been full FIVE YEARS since our stint with Sistina Art – what a sad anniversary – and this is what have happened.

On August 18th 2015, we have noticed a huge spike in stats. Usually we will have 40-50 readers a day, if your readers flock in in their hundreds, you know something went viral. Usually a lot of attention is great news for bloggers. But this time around I told Rita I had a bad feeling about it. Boy, was I right.

The spiking stats

The spiking stats

Soon enough, additionally to hundreds of people reading the blog, we began to receive notifications and links. They made us aware that a person who happened to be a client of Sistina Art went to a Facebook group named Are you being served? and made a lengthy complaint against the shop. I went to look for the group (was not even a member ) to see what Sistina Art managed to do this time. They seem to outdo themselves each time they mistreat a customer and it`s always rude, crude and downright ugly. But this time even I was shocked.

A person named Peter who was a client of Sistina for twenty years forgot to collect one of his prints. The print was supposed to be framed and was paid in full. Customer came back to the shop several times around to have other works framed and was never approached that something was left behind. Then one day, the shop owner Louise la Rosa called him about the print. Customer was abroad. When he returned and came to the shop to get the print, he learned that it was thrown away. Shop owner was hiding in the back of the shop and when finally was found out and called to talk face to face – she was not just rude. She was disrespectful and aggressive. What is mortifying about this recent incident is that we are talking about an older gentleman in his 60s who also describes himself as vulnerable. How on earth any shop owner can be aggressive and combative towards an elderly customer? Because having a dead client with a heart attack is such a great PR I suppose?

You can read the entire story on the screenshots. Including outrageous remarks from Louise la Rosa made on Facebook. Just be careful, it really boils your blood. Now you know, dear readers why he had such a spike in stats. Nearly 500 people liked the topic and it had like 150 replies.

Complaint on Are you being served?

Complaint on Are you being served?

Over the years we have learned that we were not the only ones who were mistreated and denied a refund. Here is a screenshot left on our blog in 2011 with a comment from a woman named Ann. Her friends tried to frame six paintings in the shop. One year later only two were done. Peter in his correspondence also mentions a girl name Angela, whose Graduation certificate was also thrown away and torn to pieces, instead of being framed.

Blog comments

Blog comments

Here is what infuriates us – all the framing jobs are usually paid in advance and if the work is not delivered the customer is at loss. We wonder if any refunds are in place or were those people treated just like us? Four incidents with the same pattern in the last 5 years, how many we don’t know about?

I want to do something right now. Some things were not posted on the original blog but we will post them now. Just to show you dear readers that we are not lying or accusing Sistina Art. Back in 2010 we have tried every possible route to receive our money back. In case you don’t remember – we were told by Louise La Rosa that we didn’t deserve a refund, she also made enquiries about us being foreigners and our nationality. There is a name for it: racism.

Originally we paid 84 EUR for frames and 17 EUR for additional materials (passpartou/background). These are the screenshots from my old Bank of Valletta account with the reference numbers visible for each transaction. This is very important.

Payment for frames #1

Payment for frames #1

Payment for frames #2

Payment for frames #2

After we have been denied the refund for a service that was never delivered, I went to consult a lawyer . This is the correspondence that followed. I have left some details like my surname out of it. In the correspondence Louise La Rosa bluntly denied being paid! Yes, you read it right, she went to the lengths of stating she never received the funds or could not locate them. Having the proof of payment and reference numbers for each transaction.

Email conversation with lawyer

Email conversation with lawyer

You can also see that in the correspondence I was told that the damage to the paintings was done during transport from the shop. Please scroll up to the beginning of the blog and see the images of the paintings. Such was their job, not the transport.

To add insult to injury – in the beginning I was looking to have a refund of 100 EUR. Only in the coming years I have learned that the person who picked up our paintings from Sistina was asked to pay additional 20 EUR of outstanding balance. For what? I was never explained that!

In 2012, when Facebook became popular in Malta, Louise La Rosa tracked me down on social media and sent me a friend request. You cannot see her original message anymore – but you can surely read mine.

tracking down on social media

tracking down on social media

Rita and I acted on the lawyer`s advise and went to file a complaint in the Customer`s Bureau but we would have to pay additionally just to have our complaint heard (with no guarantee that we would receive a refund) . So we gave up. We also had described our case in one Facebook page as to warn others about our incident.

All in vain – people still lose money and unethical business is still mistreating customers. That is not right.

I am not holding my breath but there is something I want to call Louise La Rosa out for. Let`s see what will be the response.

Mrs La Rosa – the recent incident with your shop shows clearly that you have a very bad way with your customers. And it`s been happening for years. Many and many people are now aware of it. But you can turn it around. Please refund my money for the service you have never provided – 120 EUR (I will return the 20 euro to the person who picked up paintings for us), refund or look into each incident that has been reported or mentioned on social media. Issue apologies to your customers for what went wrong (remember we were your customers for years on end too!) It will show that you are interested in both retaining good standing with your customers and your reputation. It will show you that you are a serious seller and business owner. The ball is in your court Mrs La Rosa. Sincerely, your former customer.

If I get any response I`ll let you know dear readers.

For now its over and out
Malicia