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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Sun 11 Nov, 2007 7:41 pm    Post subject: Seeking advice on dealing with a maker         Reply with quote

I have a situation I'd love advice on that involves a maker. The background: back in January I contacted them about an issue with an item. This was not an issue of the initial quality of the item (ie. not a manufacturer's defect). I was told the best fix was to replace a part. I sent the item back and it was received by the maker in late January. The part requires the involvement of a third-party supplier (this is pretty common, as most makers needs steel suppliers, foundries, etc. to feed them parts).

Between then and now, there have been issues. At least once, the part came in from the supplier and was deemed sub-standard. Then the supplier encountered issues and probably won't be able to continue supplying them. That triggered a search for a new supplier that has not yielded any results that I'm aware of.

Deadlines have, of course, been missed (many times) and 10 months later, I have no idea when the item will come back to me. There have been times I've wanted to cut my losses and just get the item back. However, the maker tried to fix the original part, and it's now in a much different state than it was when they got it. It wouldn't look right to put it back on that way.

I have no doubt the maker is attempting to solve the situation on their end. I also don't think they're trying to screw me in any way. They respond pretty promptly to email, though they don't proactively communicate with me to keep me abreast of the situation. None of this changes the facts, though: I don't have the item back and don't feel I have many options.

So, what do I do? That's the question.

Before people are tempted to post that I should be happy that the maker is taking the time to "get it right," please know that I don't subscribe to the often-espoused theory that quality and timeliness are mutually exclusive (ie. both can't be present at the same time). After all, a business's goal should always be to deliver both. In my opinion, far too many buyers give makers a carte blanche because of that ridiculous theory. This endless cutting of slack has resulted in the marketplace we see now: missed deadlines and broken promises are the norm and people put up with it and have come to expect it. The makers end up with all the power because consumers have effectively ceded it to them.

Also, I'm not looking for people to say, "I've been in _________'s queue for 4 years now, so you should just be patient as it could be worse." If I'd been told that it would take 10 months or longer, this post would not exist. I've never been given a deadline that's been more than a month or so away at the time of the communication. If someone sets an expectation, they shouldn't be surprised if people want to hold them to it.

Please also note that I'm not going to divulge the maker/company name (publicly or privately) and I'm not looking to bash them. I like their products and think they're nice people. I simply want advice on what to do because this business transaction isn't going smoothly.

Am I within my rights to demand a mutually agreeable timetable for delivery and the imposition of some kind of financial compensation (reduction in the cost of the project) if deadlines aren't met? Is it too late to do that at this stage? What is the maker's obligation to humor me and honor such an agreement anyway?

I don't know what to do and am frustrated enough to consider selling the item when I get it back as I have developed no attachment to it; the maker has had the item in their possession longer than I ever had it in mine... I kind of have a bad taste in my mouth.

Happy

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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Sun 11 Nov, 2007 8:39 pm    Post subject: Re: Seeking advice on dealing with a maker         Reply with quote

Chad Arnow wrote:
Please also note that I'm not going to divulge the maker/company name (publicly or privately) and I'm not looking to bash them. I like their products and think they're nice people. I simply want advice on what to do because this business transaction isn't going smoothly.

Am I within my rights to demand a mutually agreeable timetable for delivery and the imposition of some kind of financial compensation (reduction in the cost of the project) if deadlines aren't met? Is it too late to do that at this stage? What is the maker's obligation to humor me and honor such an agreement anyway?

I don't know what to do and am frustrated enough to consider selling the item when I get it back as I have developed no attachment to it; the maker has had the item in their possession longer than I ever had it in mine... I kind of have a bad taste in my mouth.


I'm of two minds myself about this sort of thing: On a case by case basis, when I have full confidence that the maker is trying his best and as you said " I like their products and think they're nice people ", I tend to give the maker a great deal of slack. On the other hand the fact that NOT honouring deadlines and commitments seems to the " abnormal norm " there seems that too many makers are not very good at predicting their work flow and are too quick or optimistic about the expectations they convey.

As you may sense in the above I'm still inclined to be understanding of a delay or even multiple delays due to some technical difficulty or just plain bad luck if a custom project is not progressing as originally expected.

Pro-active communications from the maker is also important and I appreciate it a lot more when they volunteer information about problems and I don't have to chase after them. Now any hint of B.S. is something else ! Oh, and how much money was paid up front make a difference: If no deposit was charged it's easier to be patient than if a large deposit was paid or worse paid in total in advance. ( Yes, I'm willing to take that chance once in a while with " trusted " vendors ).

O.K.: At this point a " voice " communication is what is needed because e-mails are just too subject to misunderstanding.
They may read more anger than you intend or more patience than you intend. I would have a long talk and try to set a drop dead " DEADLINE ". 1) Figure out a generous and realistic deadline. 2) Establish expectations if that deadline is missed: Full refund ? Partial refund? Exchange for another product of equal value ? 3) Listen to what they might propose as an alternate solution.

I assume that they are aware that you do like them and have already given them a lot of slack so they should be willing to discuss the above and actually be open, to any fair to both parties solution: If they are not ? Well, in that case you would have every right to be angry or at least completely write then off as being reliable/honourable makers.

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Angus Trim




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PostPosted: Sun 11 Nov, 2007 8:45 pm    Post subject: Re: Seeking advice on dealing with a maker         Reply with quote

Chad Arnow wrote:
The part requires the involvement of a third-party supplier (this is pretty common, as most makers needs steel suppliers, foundries, etc. to feed them parts).

Between then and now, there have been issues. At least once, the part came in from the supplier and was deemed sub-standard. Then the supplier encountered issues and probably won't be able to continue supplying them. That triggered a search for a new supplier that has not yielded any results that I'm aware of.



Hi Chad

I don't have any advice for you, however, I do want to mention something from a manufacturer's standpoint. Not to make excuses, just to give an idea of the headache involved........

Third party suppliers involved really make a mess out of things sometimes. This is not what could be considered a profitable business, so when you're stuck between a customer and a supplier, its not always possible to pull things from said supplier, and take it elsewhere. So, you're stuck, have an understandably upset customer, and a very difficult situation in trying to take care of the problem.........

Your vendor is probably trying to do all he can to rectify it....... and it ain't happenin'.

Maybe your vendor has something else in stock that you'll take instead? Just a thought...........

swords are fun
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Robin Smith




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PostPosted: Sun 11 Nov, 2007 10:05 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Given that it is a supplier problem, and that the original item has been modified, what option do they really have? The only thing I can suggest is that you need to ask yourself, given that they cannot supply the part, you should figure out what else you want to see done and insist that they follow through. However, I don't see how they can make good on something they do not have the supplier for...
That said, I tend to give people a lot of slack if I feel they are honestly trying to rectify the situation. I know that poop happens, and sometimes despite your best efforts, you can't always make the situation right. Which is why I try to go easy on them if I feel they are trying. If they are just jerking around though, I usually cut my losses post haste...

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Jonathan Blair




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PostPosted: Mon 12 Nov, 2007 4:21 am    Post subject: Re: Seeking advice on dealing with a maker         Reply with quote

I assume that this is a reputable vendor? One who wants the customer to be happy? I'd let them know that at this point you'd prefer either an equal exchange or total refund. That's if it were me.

Quote:
Please also note that I'm not going to divulge the maker/company name (publicly or privately) and I'm not looking to bash them. I like their products and think they're nice people. I simply want advice on what to do because this business transaction isn't going smoothly.

I know you feel strongly about this, but in our "buyer beware" culture, it's not a bad thing to let people know that a vendor is having difficulties, so that potential buyers can weigh this against their wish to purchase. It's not bashing to say that this or that company, while making a good faith effort to make things right, hasn't been able to deliver the promised goods. I think we are all adult enough to realize that a vendor might have a problem once in a while. It may lead others to prioritize their purchases such as to avoid the problem product until such time as the problem is fixed, which hopefully the vendor would be working on with all dispatch. I know I'd hate to enter into a purchase with a company only to experience a significant problem, especially if someone else I knew had experienced the same problem and hadn't warned me about it. Just a thought.

"Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword." - The Lord Jesus Christ, from The Gospel According to Saint Matthew, chapter x, verse 34, Authorized Version of 1611
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PostPosted: Mon 12 Nov, 2007 4:40 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Chad,

I feel for your frustration. I had an item in the last year or two that was promised in about 3 months, and took over 10 to deliver. Not as frustrating as your situation, but I would like to just say to makers and manufacturers out there - if you can give us better, more realistic delivery time projections, I think that everyone will be happier. Sound like this case had problems which could not be anticipated, so I'm wondering how much better projections could have been made.

For this case specifically, I think that I would either write of off in my head - "when it gets here, I will be pleasantly surprised", or ask for something specific to be done (examples already above).

Gordon
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Peter Bosman




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PostPosted: Mon 12 Nov, 2007 4:49 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Cutting down to the bare bone:

One professional party sells something to another party, the customer.
The customer has the obligation to meet the seller's terms.
The seller must deliver, provide the expected service and all entrepeneurial risk is his.

Even if like in this case the customer is extremely comprehensive and the problem causd by circumstances completely beyond conroll of the seller than that is his entrepeneurial risk. Period.

Two choices:
1. solve it
2. deliver other good or devolve the money
with pround excuses for the delay for the hassle and for the non-result.

However you want or are prepaired to look at it there are rights and obligations. The entrepeneur has the most obligations which is a result of his entrepeneurial risk for which he is rewarded by a profit margin.

peter
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Jean-Carle Hudon




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PostPosted: Mon 12 Nov, 2007 5:41 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I agree with Mr Bosman's summary, the best you can hope for in contractual terms, when the maker is unable to produce the promised goods, is the annulment of the contract, which entails restitution of moneys advanced and the piece you provided in its original condition. However this is often not what the buyer is looking for, either because of the relationship with the maker and the probability of future contracts and other such considerations , which may vary according to the personalities we are dealing with. Sometimes I would even counsel dropping the matter altogether when it became clear that more time and money would be spent pursuing the matter than could ever be hoped for as a final result ( the ''cut your losses'' school of thought), which Chad did touch upon when he mentionned getting the piece back and selling as is. The real problem I see in dealing with artisan type ''entrepreneurs'' is that the profit margin mentionned by Mr Bosman is often so small and the work so time consuming that you do not have a maker with deep pockets, so you leave him be either for humane considerations, or because you don't want to lose more time and money in a futile attempt at recovering your losses.
In either case you do end up supporting the loss. I have found that niche markets such as ours respond to other mechanisms much better, as artisans depend heavily on word of mouth and references given by satisfied customers. There is no need to ''bash'' the maker, but a reminder that your unhappiness with the situation will be conveyed in a fair manner, such as Chad has done already by mentionning the problem with the third party supplier, can help to move the discussions along. At that juncture the maker can either tell you to go fly a kite as there is nothing he can do about it (because of the unavailability of proper supplies) or offer a substitute product or some other form of compensation. Again, this depends very much on the personalities involved, the degree of financial independance of the maker (hope of future contracts) and the absence of readily available legal recourse because of expense involved or simple reticence to make use of such.
I did wonder about the supplier's vulnerability in the presentation made. It seems that the maker accepts the view that there is nothing he can do about the supplier's inability to live up to his end of the contract. Why is this ? Bankruptcy, no longer involved in the field, or refusal to do business with the maker for the money offered? In an important contract, that's where the investigation would lead because, as Mr Bosman pointed out, the maker who claimed to have the necessary supplies at his disposal to fulfill the contract is ultimately responsible for this, except in such cases where the buyer has indicated that this special supplier needs to be used for this particular contract and the supplier refuses to do so, then the responsability would rest with the buyer who failed to secure the supplier's involvment with the project.
Best of luck with this.

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Raymond Deancona





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PostPosted: Mon 12 Nov, 2007 7:03 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Chad,
I've been in similar situations, and currently have a VERY similar situation with a dealer. This is what I have done in the past. Make a reasonable timetable with definite goals and deadlines. IF nothing is forthcoming, or there are delays then I think it is not unreasonable to ask for your money back, despite the fact that your problem has been "being worked on". There are enough artisans and machine shops and comptetent gunsmiths in this country that ANY part can be recreated, expecially within a 10 month+ window. I would ask for full refund plus shipping costs if the next deadline passes with no result.
Ray
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Jeffrey McClain




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PostPosted: Mon 12 Nov, 2007 7:03 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I have to agree with Chad , there is way to much lenacey and unexceptable business practice's going on that would not be tolerated anywhere else, that have become the norm amoungst artist / makers in this particular industry.
I personally have not had any problems with the makers who have links on these forums, but knifemakers/swordmakers else where, I could take up an entire websight on that.
I actually do ask makers now on high end projects to sign a contract with the terms spelled out, if they will not sign, then I cancel the order. This is a standard practice when it comes to custom gun makers and maybe it should become a practice of this industry, contracts are legal binding ,it help's to keep people honest on sides of the agreement.
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PostPosted: Mon 12 Nov, 2007 7:29 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I don't like to buy anything unless I can get it within a reasonable time. That's just me.
I'd say get the item back and go from there or get a refund. If this can not be done quickly, then I'd start legal processes if the amount warrants it. i.e. $1000 or more.

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Justin King
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PostPosted: Mon 12 Nov, 2007 8:13 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Another "not an excuse" comment-if the item in question is hard to find/produce and not widely availible then there is probably little the maker can do about it, other than sink untold hours into searching for a supplier with no promise of results, or try to make it themselves, which may not be possible. I will assume that you aren't his only customer at the moment so at some point he has to focus on the other work that will pay the bills this month.
This being the case your best option is to be assertive and clear with the maker about your needs, try to provide some options that may be mutually acceptable, and do so without causing any resentment on either side.
I think perhaps the worst thing a customer can do at this point (I am and have been on both sides of this kind of issue) is to begin speculating about why or when or whose fault-if you have a question, ask it. If you are uncomfortable asking it, it likely isn't appropriate, at least yet. If you are angry or frustrated this is natural enough but every time I have communicated while I felt resentful to the other party I have regretted it. I have also learned that my patience tends to run out just a little too soon, situations like this often seem to resolve themselves, just after I say something I shouldn't have. A little faith and patience is sometimes the difference between a wise man and a fool, at least in my experience.
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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Mon 12 Nov, 2007 8:29 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dear Manufacturer:

As you know, I'm a great admirer of your work and I think you did fine work on this piece. Unfortunately, the quest to repair a single technical problem has left me deeply frustrated with the process in general and disenchanted with this piece in particular. I know that all this is the result of multiple problems, none of which were in your control. I know you're as tired of worrying about this as I am. So I'd like to end this process now and propose a solution that demonstrates good faith on all parts: Rather than ask for a cash refund for this piece, I would ask you to allow credit toward the purchase of ...................
That allows me to continue to invest in your work and allows you to continue to invest in a loyal customer. It also gives you the chance to solve the original problem without the pressures of a waiting customer. Then, when it's fixed, you'll be free to sell that piece, recouping your investment and creating another happy customer.

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Nathan Robinson
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PostPosted: Mon 12 Nov, 2007 11:54 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mr. Bosman has summarized the situation clearly. His very matter-of-fact approach is the way it is.

As a service-provider myself, working in a very different industry, I often have to subcontract work to other vendors, freelancers, and hired hands. Over the last decade, there have been instances of disappointment from the work provided by these contractors. The responsibility to find a solution was on my shoulders, not my clients.

In these situations, my clients contracted with me, not my sub-contractors. It was my choice to choose these contractors and in making that choice I also took on the responsibility of dealing with them and handling any issues that they should cause. Such is the risk of using outside contracted labor.

When problems arose, I either had to find another means to provide the service or work out a deal with my client to compensate for the problem. This is standard practice. Giving the client proactive communication and legitimate solutions--not open-ended and non-specific--is appropriate. Leaving them hanging or causing them to initiate communication is not.

Mr. Flynt's sample letter is just about perfect and the approach that I'd suggest.

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Glen A Cleeton




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PostPosted: Mon 12 Nov, 2007 12:30 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Without knowing if the source might have something as substitute for value, I would go straight for a full refund. it is their problem, ancillary supply issues or not. That is not your problem. If the source you are dealing with is so close to margin they can't offer an immediate and full refund, maybe a payment program could be arranged but I would simply ask for what was shelled out for the item and any extra shipping involved. if they sold the item once, they can sell it again, or eat the loss.

Just my take on it. Good luck on however you approach resolution. I've always just found it easier to ask for a refund than to go for substitution. it has not kept me from using the same resource again unless there is a history of such events.

GC
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Michael S. Rivet





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PostPosted: Mon 12 Nov, 2007 12:44 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Are comparisons with other industries really valid? Most of the makers I deal with (with a very few exceptions) are individual craftspeople making products one-by-one by hand. As a business model, it's almost a throwback to a previous era. Very different from the types of businesses I interact with at work. It's far less tolerant of hiccups in the process, such as vendor problems, the weather, sub-par materials or even a sneeze in the wrong place. My attitude when dealing with someone in that kind of a business is, essentially, "things take how long they take." If you're not willing to wait it out and want to bail, that's fine. I doubt most makers will have a hard time with that. But pounding on the table and demanding your rights as a consumer doesn't really help anyone when dealing with a craftsperson using a "pre-consumer-economy" model of production.
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Tony Brass





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PostPosted: Mon 12 Nov, 2007 2:42 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hey Chad,

Only the manufacturer knows how to gain access to a satisfactory part. Because of the lengthy delay, I would suggest to the manufacturer to provide you wth THEIR detailed plan for obtaining this part. They should provide you with a list of suppliers that they are working with, with contact individuals and phone numbers. They should provide you with every bit of knwledge they have abpout how they plan to come up with this elusive part. Then you can determine if there is a meaningful possibility that the part will actually materialize. (Or are they just delaying giving you the bad news). This will give you the power to call the suppliers, and askk them for the part. (the squeeky wheel theory).

If the manufacturer cannot articulate their plan, then they have not provided you with the item you wanted. Now it is refund time, not manufacturer credit time, unless there is another item by the manufacturer that you really want. You gave them money, they gave you nothing, therefore they should return the money. If they can say, your part WILL be here on this date, and this is why we know this to be true - Cool. If not, you should be able to move on, as should they.

PITFALL - the manufacturer say, well what we sold you was nearly good enough, and you are just being persnickity. If they say that - well PM me and we can deal with it. But from what you say about the munufaturer, they are not the type. I agree 10 unexpected months is way too long.

Good luck.
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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Mon 12 Nov, 2007 4:39 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for the thoughts, folks. Several people have suggested asking for a refund or exchange. I don't think this will do any good in this situation. The item was purchased second hand and damage/wear and tear from the original owner prompted me to send it back to have the part replaced. The only money involved is what I'll owe at the completion of the fix, not the original purchase price I paid the previous owner.

All I could ask for in credit is the value of the part in question, right? I don't know that I can ask for the value of the weapon in credit or exchange value in all fairness, especially since it wasn't a manufacturing defect that compromised the weapon.

I could see asking for a reduction in the costs for replacing the part and reassembling things, though.

Others have suggested getting the item back. Again, I can't do that. The part needing replacement is in worse shape now than how I sent it in, since they tried to fix it before ordering the replacement. So the weapon would be in worse shape overall than before. Its condition would be unacceptable to me and selling it in that state would just reduce its resale value. Neither helps. Worried

Happy

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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Mon 12 Nov, 2007 4:44 pm    Post subject: Re: Seeking advice on dealing with a maker         Reply with quote

Jonathan Blair wrote:
I know you feel strongly about this, but in our "buyer beware" culture, it's not a bad thing to let people know that a vendor is having difficulties, so that potential buyers can weigh this against their wish to purchase.


Jonathan,
As I said, that's not going to happen. Happy This supply issue only affects a very, very small portion on their product line because of the material involved.

Happy

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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Mon 12 Nov, 2007 4:48 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Michael S. Rivet wrote:
Are comparisons with other industries really valid? Most of the makers I deal with (with a very few exceptions) are individual craftspeople making products one-by-one by hand. As a business model, it's almost a throwback to a previous era. Very different from the types of businesses I interact with at work. It's far less tolerant of hiccups in the process, such as vendor problems, the weather, sub-par materials or even a sneeze in the wrong place. My attitude when dealing with someone in that kind of a business is, essentially, "things take how long they take." If you're not willing to wait it out and want to bail, that's fine. I doubt most makers will have a hard time with that. But pounding on the table and demanding your rights as a consumer doesn't really help anyone when dealing with a craftsperson using a "pre-consumer-economy" model of production.


Michael,
Obviously, you're entitled to your opinion, though I don't agree with it. Whether it's a throwback business model or not, it is a business. Money is involved. Expectations need to be set and met.

Being a throwback business model shouldn't change those expectations. In previous eras, people still held people accountable.

And no tables have been pounded here. Happy

Happy

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