La Jolla company sued for alleged fraud
by BLAKE BUNCH
Published - 01/13/18 - 10:06 AM | 4468 views | 2 2 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The simple rope bracelets made a major splash. / PINTEREST
The simple rope bracelets made a major splash. / PINTEREST
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In Spanish, “pura vida” means “pure life.” In Costa Rican (Tico) Spanish, the word takes on a myriad of fluid definitions. The saying idealizes a simplistic, whole existence, and a humility before nature, as well as countless other ethereal tenets.

When one company in La Jolla, Pura Vida Bracelets, began to sell simple rope-and-charm bracelets from their headquarters on Prospect Street that donned the name, many in the surf-steeped community understood the connotation.

The name inherently implies that they could be involved (in some fashion) with promoting the laid-back Central American way of life.

Pura Vida was founded after two friends, Griffin Thall and Paul Goodman, returned from a college graduation trip to Costa Rica with 400 bracelets purchased from two local artisans that were, ‘living in poverty,” according to their website. They slept with their family in a single cramped room with three beds.”

The bracelets sold out quickly at a local boutique, after which Thall and Goodman figured they had a good thing going: capitalize on a slogan (which many in Costa Rica do), and give back to the artisans.

Pretty soon, a choice group of A-list celebrities, like Ellen Degeneres, David Beckham, Robert Downey, Jr. and Rihanna were sporting the bracelets. Talk about a successful marketing campaign. Seemingly overnight, the business started to bring in $9 million in revenue.

A recent lawsuit has aimed to challenge the business’ credibility, however.

The San Diego Reader recently reported that a former director of supplies for Pura Vida, Shannon Eagle, filed a lawsuit against the company for fraud in August of 2017.

The lawsuit alleges that shortly after Eagle was hired, she discovered that the bracelets were actually produced in El Salvador, not in Costa Rica, like the name, business model, and general marketing plan insinuated. Furthermore, the artisans who may or may not have been compensated are not those insisted upon by the company.

Eagle is not the only one to file suit, however. In December of 2017, several customers who purchased the bracelets from the La Jolla storefront are seeking a refund, as well as punitive damages, and have joined her suit.

"Pura Vida is, and has always been, a philanthropically-led company,” said a representative of Pura Vida, who asked to remain anonymous. “We value each and every one of our artisans, regardless of where they call home and will continue to connect their skill and talent with our customers and fans. The claims made in this lawsuit are patently false and Pura Vida will vigorously fight them.”

If further attention is directed to their website, it points out that the company has been more than open about their transition to include artisans from other countries than Costa Rica.

In a “We’ve expanded” section, it states: “Today, we are happy to announce that our artisan community has expanded from Costa Rica to El Salvador, India, and more. Our 200-plus artisans can depend on steady income in positive working environments...”

Whether or not any of these claims were fraudulent is now left for the courts to decide.
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Gloria Schmidt
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January 16, 2018
I have been wearing Pura Vida bracekets for years. (The first time I saw one was on Robert Downey Jr. and I really had to have one.) I did my research and found Pura Vida. The bracelets are durable and attractive. What interested me more was that with the sales of the bracelets the people of Costa Rica would bring economic benifits.

I have purchased Puda Vida bracelets for years. If my opinion is of any value, it doesn't matter which country produces the products as long as the quality is good and durable. It is also important that each one gets equal treatment. Good luck.
PBDemocraticClub
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January 18, 2018
"It doesn't matter which country produces the products as long as the quality is good and durable."

What is missing the point here is that "pura vida" is basically the national slogan of Costa Rica. It can be used for goodbye, you're welcome, even hello sometimes. There is no way that anybody who knows anything about Costa Rica (or Central America for that matter) wouldn't associate pura vida with Costa Rica. Those kinds of bracelets too are pretty darn braided into the fabric of that country.

Marketing yourself as "pura vida," having your mission be to sell an extension of the Costa Rican lifestyle, and then to have those bracelets made in India (or China, or wherever else) is nothing more than a commercial appropriation of a phrase and feeling that really should belong to Ticos and nobody else. I'm personally glad that this lawsuit is taking place.
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