There’s some trouble brewing at Cults, one of the larger repositories of printable 3D models.
The site, based in France, has been around since 2013, and today boasts thousands of interesting 3D models. Along the way they monetized their site by allowing designers to charge for their designs, a common practice among independent repositories that are not subsidized by larger entities.
The way this works is that Cults accepts the payment, and clips off 20% — five percent for their payment processor, a typical amount, and 15% for themselves to operate the site. This leaves a commission of 80% of the original payment for the designers. Commission payments of this type are accumulated until a threshold amount is reached, whereupon payout occurs. That’s a very common practice because smaller amounts would not be worth handling due to the costs of processing.
This approach has worked well, but recently one Cults user encountered a problem that seems to have resulted in a major controversy among some Cults users.
In a massive Reddit thread, contributor Bigbore_279, Richard Ferran, claims he did not receive payment from Cults. They explain:
“I have been selling on Cults 3d for a little over a year. In that time I have had zero issues. Every month, I request a payout that is usually around $60-$70 USD. A few weeks ago, I put in a payout request and realized it didn’t hit my PayPal account. I then went to my profile to check my payout status and saw the message in the first picture. I then checked my email and spam and didn’t see any messages. I then sent them an email at the address provided.”
Ferran continued to reach out to Cults through quite a number of means, but apparently received no reply from Cults. Ferran resorted to public tweets, which resulted in Cults blocking them.
Cults posted they had responded to Ferran, but Ferran insists no messages were received on any platform, even after checking spam and trash folders.
Somewhere along the line Cults posted evidence of their communications with Ferran in an attempt to clarify things, but accidentally included some of Ferran’s personal information. While this information was subsequently retracted, it set Cults users on Reddit users on fire. While much of the speculation being posted is clearly wrong, it has nevertheless made a large number of people very upset with Cults.
Reading through the thread lists many responders saying they intend on pulling their 3D content from the site and moving elsewhere, and the anger is tangible. There are even reports that Cults has removed the “Delete Account” feature, but this is certainly not true, as I saw it myself during the preparation for this story:
Regardless, it seems a chunk of their community is quite agitated over the issue. Even today, as I write this, there are still questions related to this matter being publicly directed to Cults via their online platforms.
What’s really going on here? In spite of the tremendous anger of the users, I suspect this is a case of a pathologically bad combination of miscommunication and poor customer service.
Unfortunately for Cults, it seems to have resulted in an exodus of some designers from their platform. The site is quite large, however, and it’s entirely unclear whether the users incited by this affair are substantial to Cults’ business operations.
On the other hand, if the controversy grows, Cults may have a bigger problem on its hands.