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Raymond Deancona





Joined: 04 Mar 2004

Posts: 429

PostPosted: Wed 08 May, 2013 7:40 am    Post subject: Expectations and Communication         Reply with quote

Expectations and Communication

This is a short article on the power of expectation and communication in the arms and armor business. I am NOT going to name names. What I am going to do is recount frustration level and lack of customer service.

But first a brief over view of who I am. I have been collecting arms and armor, as well as selling same for over 30 years.

My first sword I bought with my own allowance money at the age of 12. It was an Indian made saber: all brass hilt, etched blade, velvet covered wood scabbard. I beat the living daylights out of this blade, and it kept coming back for more.

My first "real" sword I purchased from Wolfgang the Rhinelander, almost 30 years ago, through a re-enactment society. I still have the sword.

I have bought from, and sold pretty much every US maker.

So, that said, what I am going to relate are my most recent experiences, and the highs and lows of each.

Last August/September I placed an order with a custom maker for 2 items. Payment was made in full, and a delivery date of December 2012 was agreed upon. This was agreed upon by both me the customer, and the maker.

At the beginning of December I contacted the maker to get a status update. I was told one part of the order was finished, but the second part (a seax) would not be ready until February, I was told this was due to backlog. Needless to say I was disappointed, but I agreed to the delay, and also to have both pieces shipped together.

Now, I know things come up, natural and business or health related. However, when communication is one way, initiated solely by the customer, or ceases altogether at the makerís end, the customer tends to worry if they will ever see the items at all.

First week of February came, no communication from the maker, so I emailed. The sheath was the only thing that needed to be done and the order would be shipped end of February. Now, I was a bit angry about this - I had to initiate the email when the delivery date came and went, and then was promised a new delivery date with over 2 weeks to make a fold over belt sheath. I asked to be emailed when the package was sent, so I could look out for it.

Needless to say February came and went. No package.

I wrote again in March. No response. I wrote at the end of March, and got a lame email about the weather, and continuing snow.

I wrote in April, again asking for status updates, and an email when the package was sent. No response.

I wrote again May first. No response, but May 6, a package showed up.

Usually when a brown box is sitting on my porch, with my name on it I am elated. That was not how I felt. Quite frankly, if I thought for one minute I could send these pieces back for a full refund I would do so.

The box sat unopened for hours.
Again, this is not my usual reaction to getting arms or armor in the mail.

Usually, I open the box with great anticipation at the door step. Not this box.

The constant delivery date changes, the lack of communication, and disregard for my wishes (being notified when the package would be shipped) left a bad impression. I could have cared less what was in the box.

Now, the workmanship is quite good, but I am not going to order through this maker again, as the frustration level and poor customer service has completely turned me off of this particular maker. If the makerís mission was to create a disgruntled, angry customer, then mission accomplished.

In the meantime, I commissioned a semi custom piece with a totally different firm at the end of February. They promised 5 weeks from receipt of funds to delivery. They got it to me with a few days to spare.

My point is this: if the maker isn't willing to invest in a bit of customer service, the business cannot survive on good quality products if everything else is a bad experience.

This is not a new situation for me, and I am positive many other members of the forum will recount other similar stories.

When expectations are agreed upon by both the customer and maker, it becomes the maker's responsibility to notify the customer of any and all changes, along with the reasons why expectations on the customer side will not be met!

This is basic business practice. This is basic customer service. It's also basic courtesy.

Backlog should not be an excuse (unless catastrophic health issues are to blame). Get a calendar. Makers should know how long it takes to make their products.

Another point: If you as the maker know there is a reason that will prevent delivery at the specified time, communicate that to the customers affected.

Donít over promise and under deliver.

As the customer I want to know the actual circumstances involved. I think I can speak for all custom order buyers when I say, be up front with us at the beginning of a project. If the project will take 8 months or 2 years, say so. I know I am okay with a long wait time IF I was told up front about the time projected.

Only take a down payment to cover production costs. (Unless I as the customer would rather pay it all up front.) Having all my money on a project, with no communication or no set delivery date or ever changing delivery date is beyond frustrating.

If a custom maker doesn't want to invest any time into building the business with actual customer service, then DO NOT GO INTO BUSINESS! Instead, go work for someone else as their hired smith. You own a business, learn GOOD customer service.

But we as buyers are not entirely blameless: For some unfathomable reason, we as arms and armor buyers/collectors justify the delays, lack of communication and poor customer service when we get the ordered piece into our hot little hands. We instantly forget the weeks or months of frustrating silence.

Putting up with this level of "business" should not be an option. We paid the money, we shouldn't have to take the chances!

For my part, I don't order again from a maker that fails at any part of the transaction, and Customer Service is part of the transaction.

We as a body (arms and armor collectors) need to do a better job of detailing our good and bad experiences with makers. This transparency will, I hope improve the business practices entirely, both on the maker and customer side.

I said I would not name any names, but I will name a consistently excellent maker with great customer service: ML Knives out of New York (http://www.mlknives.com/).

I have been dealing with Matt for over 10 years. When I place a custom order I get immediate email confirming the order, with all details pertaining to the order, and a good estimate of delivery time based on final payment.

When the project begins, I get emailed pictures of the work in process. I get an email when the piece ships.

Because of this good line of communication, and excellent workmanship, I order 1 or 2 pieces from him a year.

We, as the buyers have to start policing the industry WE sustain. Call out the bad business practices. Praise the excellent makers and retailers. Do all this on a public forum so the entire community knows who to deal with, and who to avoid. This, I believe will make the entire industry a better place in which to do business for both buyers and sellers.
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P. Schontzler




Location: WA, USA
Joined: 15 Apr 2013

Posts: 99

PostPosted: Wed 08 May, 2013 10:04 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think the high tolerance of poor customer services is due to the already-long wait time for custom pieces. If you are willing to wait 12 months for a custom piece you already have a high tolerance for delaying your reward.
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Guy Bayes




Location: United States
Joined: 07 Oct 2012

Posts: 64

PostPosted: Wed 08 May, 2013 11:00 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Supply chain variation is always going to be a % of total time

So a 6 week wait +- 10% (4 days) is just as accurate a forecast as a 12 month wait +- 10% (36 days)

In this case the vendor missed by 300% which means there is something broken with their estimation process or they lied.
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William Swiger




Location: Reston, VA
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PostPosted: Wed 08 May, 2013 11:02 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I have a good number of custom swords by a few different makers. My experience with the makers I do business with have rated from excellent with a few purchases to slightly below average from an agreed upon completion time. I know things happen that can be beyond the control of the smith. I also know this to be the case for some of my projects coming in way behind schedule. I have also received a sword that I did not even want to handle for a few weeks as I was upset about a few things with the maker.

One point I would like to put out, there are a limited number of really good smiths who make custom swords for a reasonable price. I think many people who are affected by delays on projects for whatever reason and/or not receiving good communications would be reluctant to post a negative or bring the subject up in a forum as they are getting good products at a reasonable cost and may wish to utilize the smith again in the future. There is a limited pool of makers who might fit your budget, and final product expectations.

All that being said, if a maker cannot handle the management of the business, work for someone else, only sell items you make without custom orders or have someone manage your business operations.
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Matthew G.M. Korenkiewicz




Location: Michigan, USA
Joined: 08 Mar 2004
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PostPosted: Wed 08 May, 2013 1:25 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

... I haven't been collecting as long as many here. And I've only these last five or so years
began dealing with custom sword makers.

... My experiences have probably been like many here, from excellent to poor, sometimes
with the same maker. I've learned valuable lessons about business practices and customer
service in this little " niche " market ...

... For good or bad, I adopt this mindset : My downpayment for a project is gone once I mail
or transfer the funds, period. As good as stolen. Yep, I said it, and have had it happen. Expect
little or nothing in return. Not pictures, not delivery dates, not answers to questions, not details
no matter what is promised. And especially NOT discounts or rebates when the ONLY thing
stopping your project from getting to you is the maker's lack of being able to gauge either his
time, his effort, the workload, or all of the above and then some.Try to remain positive, and
patient as a saint and try NOT to read too much between the lines of often uninformative
" positive " replies to emails or calls.

... And do alot of talking to yourself, or if you walk your best friend ? Him or Her too. That's
not as crazy as it seems.
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P. Schontzler




Location: WA, USA
Joined: 15 Apr 2013

Posts: 99

PostPosted: Wed 08 May, 2013 1:37 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Matthew G.M. Korenkiewicz wrote:
... I haven't been collecting as long as many here. And I've only these last five or so years
began dealing with custom sword makers.

... My experiences have probably been like many here, from excellent to poor, sometimes
with the same maker. I've learned valuable lessons about business practices and customer
service in this little " niche " market ...

... For good or bad, I adopt this mindset : My downpayment for a project is gone once I mail
or transfer the funds, period. As good as stolen. Yep, I said it, and have had it happen. Expect
little or nothing in return. Not pictures, not delivery dates, not answers to questions, not details
no matter what is promised. And especially NOT discounts or rebates when the ONLY thing
stopping your project from getting to you is the maker's lack of being able to gauge either his
time, his effort, the workload, or all of the above and then some.Try to remain positive, and
patient as a saint and try NOT to read too much between the lines of often uninformative
" positive " replies to emails or calls.

... And do alot of talking to yourself, or if you walk your best friend ? Him or Her too. That's
not as crazy as it seems.


Is that type of lowered expectations that allows some sword makers to get away with such poor customer service.
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Alan Schiff
Industry Professional



Location: Las Vegas
Joined: 06 Oct 2008

Posts: 231

PostPosted: Wed 08 May, 2013 1:46 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I completely agree with what Raymond and William said. If you can't handle operating the business properly, work for someone else or change the business model.

One thing that I have seen time and again from makers in this industry is that they use down payments on custom work to pay for production costs. Down payments can be a good way to mitigate the inherent risk in making a custom piece, helping to ensure that either the customer pays for the finished piece, as they are already out some money, or by giving the maker some compensation for his efforts.

The problem is using the down payment to pay for production costs. This is a poor business model. What if the customer wants a refund and you can't give it to them because the money has already been spent? I've seen this multiple times in the 7 years I've been collecting. If someone opens a retail store, they must already have product to sell. A restaurant cannot use the money from their first customer to buy the food needed to make the meal. The same is true for pretty much any business. There are startup costs involved with ANY business. When starting the business, you must put up money before you even start producing, to buy materials, equipment, etc. Then, when someone places an order, the money from that order goes to pay for the materials for the next order, plus labor costs, etc. Basically, each order pays for the costs of the next order. This is the way that most retail and manufacturing businesses operate, and that is the model which makers in this industry should also follow.

Customer service is definitely something that many makers lack. While I can understand not necessarily remembering to send emails at random stages during the production process, there are certain times where communication is key, such as when the product is finished and ready to be shipped. In addition, if you receive communication from a customer, respond in a timely manner. Many of us are willing to put up with delays if there is a good reason, but we need to know what's going on. When the order is initiated and agreed upon by the buyer and seller, a contract is enacted by which the buyer agrees to pay for an item, and the maker agrees to produce that item according to the details entailed in the order. If something changes, the contract must be changed and therefore communication needs to be initiated.

As expressed in Matthew's post, we all too often allow too much leeway to makers because there just aren't enough of them to breed healthy competition. With only a few makers available, we have to put up with their schtick in order to get the custom pieces we desire. However, this is not healthy for the industry. Poorly-run businesses need to be left by the wayside, and it's our job as consumers to not allow this type of behavior to continue. If you have problems with a maker, let people know so that we can be informed and not patronize that business. When only the good businesses are left, it creates an industry norm which would then be followed by subsequent businesses if they wish to actively compete in the industry.
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Michael Pikula
Industry Professional



Location: Madison, WI
Joined: 07 Jun 2008

Posts: 411

PostPosted: Wed 08 May, 2013 2:38 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sigh.... Another disheartening experience and thread which will ultimately deter perspective patrons to production companies. Ya, sure, there are shady people out there, and there are also craftsman who pour everything into every project, so if you had a bad experience please specify who and what so that someone who finds this thread doesn't bundle the entire custom sword making community under one umbrella. Maybe I'm starting to be guilty of not providing weekly updates and photos of progress like I have when I first started, but I have been pushing myself technically and have had more scraped blades and parts in the past 2 years than I care to admit; so much so that I am not able to support myself with this art. I like to think that I have done right by ever patron who has supported me and my work, and haven't heard anything to the contrary. Being an artisan swordsmith is hard enough on the finances, soul, and health without being grouped with those who don't care about the craft and are excreting product and not giving their patrons the respect that they deserve.

Quote:
... For good or bad, I adopt this mindset : My downpayment for a project is gone once I mail
or transfer the funds, period. As good as stolen. Yep, I said it, and have had it happen. Expect
little or nothing in return. Not pictures, not delivery dates, not answers to questions, not details
no matter what is promised. And especially NOT discounts or rebates when the ONLY thing
stopping your project from getting to you is the maker's lack of being able to gauge either his
time, his effort, the workload, or all of the above and then some.Try to remain positive, and
patient as a saint and try NOT to read too much between the lines of often uninformative
" positive " replies to emails or calls.

This is down right unacceptable. The worst karma you can accumulate is stealing from an artists, only equal to posing as an artist and stealing.
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Matthew G.M. Korenkiewicz




Location: Michigan, USA
Joined: 08 Mar 2004
Reading list: 3 books

Posts: 854

PostPosted: Wed 08 May, 2013 2:40 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

P. Schontzler wrote:
Its that type of lowered expectations that allows some sword makers to
get away with such poor customer service.


Maybe so, PS. I'm sure my mindset isn't for everyone. But it puts me in a place where being
disappointed doesn't come as too severe a blow.

Frankly, ( mind you, without ever having made a sword or scabbard ) I still don't think " pretty
dam good customer service " is difficult. Answer emails in a timely fashion. Answer direct
questions. Provide pics IF promised. Etc Etc. You and I might think that's SOP, so what's the
problem, right ? Maybe it's not part of whoever's work-ethic ... maybe his computer sucks ...
maybe he just doesn't get it ... maybe because the guy makes a helluva product, you cut him
as much slack as you possibly can ... right to the point where you're talking to your dog. B-)

Quote:
Poorly-run businesses need to be left by the wayside, and it's our job as consumers to
not allow this type of behavior to continue. If you have problems with a maker, let people know
so that we can be informed and not patronize that business. When only the good businesses
are left, it creates an industry norm which would then be followed by subsequent businesses
if they wish to actively compete in the industry.


Believe this or not, AS, years ago and elsewhere, I actually had a maker suggest my " public forum
comments " could put me on a " black list " and his fellow makers would have nothing to do with
me. Furthermore, I'd get booted out of the forum, which DID happen ... Now, he may have been
bluffing about the black list ... but would that really surprise anyone ?

Honestly, I'm all for holding people responsible for their actions, or lack there of. But it almost
seems, especially in THIS particular market / business, naming names and calling people out
gets you only so far. Inevitably, haven't we seen some forumites pillaried by their brothers and
sisters here for not keeping their dilemma a private affair ? And if things get a little ... ugly ... you
know the mods will act.

I think Raymond did a masterful job getting something off his chest, and believe me, I've been
there.

As may be usual, the final way to handle a situation like this is to never go back to that particular
person. Thus hitting him where it hurts the most, in his wallet. And if someone PMs you privately
for an opinion about so and so ? Be truthful, informative, and fair. As much as it might hurt, you
have to try and remember so-and-so may have just as many perfectly content customers that
will disagree with you ....
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Harry Marinakis




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PostPosted: Wed 08 May, 2013 4:08 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Expectations and communication need to be managed in every aspect of life, not just business.

Everyone has expectations for everything, everyday.
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William Swiger




Location: Reston, VA
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PostPosted: Wed 08 May, 2013 9:19 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I would like to add that I have been very satisfied with every custom sword I have contracted out to custom makers. I would highly recommend people wanting to go with a custom sword to not hesitate to go that route. Do your homework and have realistic expectations. I am not talking about ordering production swords that can be bought in advance but creations of functional sword art that are one of a kind and treasured items in your collection.

All makers I have dealt with are great at their craft and that is where doing your homework comes into play. I know in this hobby, we need to support these guys as much as possible.

A very small number of my commissions were late and a little more info from the maker would have been appreciated but that has been the exception and not the rule. Again, do your research before jumping into an agreement for a custom item. Same rule that you apply to any big purchase should apply to a custom sword purchase.
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Jeremy V. Krause




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PostPosted: Thu 09 May, 2013 5:39 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I have done business with A&A, Albion, Patrick Barta, Leo Todeschini, Michael Pikula, James Austin, and Petr Florianek and have have received good customer service from all of these makers. When something has come up, I am generally informed.

I don't really due business with makers with little history. I would rather wait and see how other customers find their work and service.
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Leo Todeschini
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PostPosted: Thu 09 May, 2013 5:43 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Raymond clearly had a bad experience and whether the piece is good or bad, the taste left is bad and so ultimately the piece is bad too; perhaps not for the next owner, but for Raymond it is. That is a shame.

I am going to weigh in on the side of the custom makers. I am not going to excuse bad service or bad practice and as has been pointed out, it is not acceptable. However I will explain my business model, motivations, attempted practice and the reality of life, which I suspect is not so different to many others out there.

I hate working for money I have already spent so I usually ask for a 10% deposit, this is just enough that it gives the customer pause to think whether he really wants to place the order or not and leaves enough for me to have a nice target to work toward as I sweat away. When the piece is complete and approved then I ask for the 90% balance. No deposit is just not a viable option for custom work. I know of no industry where you can order a piece that is difficult or nearly impossible to sell to another individual/organisation in a timely manner and not pay a deposit.

If the customer walks away before the commission and I have had no outlay I will return the deposit. If I have had outlay for materials etc then I will keep the deposit (that after all is the point) but will generally offer that it can be put toward a piece in the future. If the piece is particularly unusual then I will ask for a larger deposit, generally 20%. This is simply because if I do make the piece and they decide not to proceed then I will have to sell it on, with difficulty.

This system works for me because I am known for keeping items in stock and I attend fairs, both of which give me an outlet for stock pieces that I have and custom orders that have not completed or more often than not, pieces for which i have got a request wrong during manufacture and have to remake.

If a maker does not have a ready outlet for his goods that are not custom ordered, then getting left with a piece can be expensive. In this case a larger deposit is sensible practice in my eyes. Don't forget that placing a custom order is a two way street. You must trust the maker to make and the maker must trust the customer to pay. This is where the research comes in.

2 years ago I made a knife for a long standing customer from a drawing. Once the piece was made he did not like it as he had interpreted the sketch differently to me and so some details were different from what he had envisaged. We put the deposit toward another piece and I am left holding the incorrect. This is a 14th posh Condottiorie dagger and that has a very small market and it has stayed unsold for 2 years and I doubt I will get even half of what it is worth, but this hardly ever happens and when it does I am saddled with a piece I have to sell and usually do, but if I take a hit on this it really is just another business expense and so gets added to the list of expenses - in reality no big deal. In return for this he is still a good customer of mine and hope it stays that way, not a big cost when spread over the year.

This model works for me as a maker and seller, but if a maker does wholly personal work that would be hard to sell on or they do not have a ready outlet for pieces that the customer does not want for whatever reason, I think they are justified in asking for higher deposits. As I said, you have to trust them and they have to trust you. If you don't trust them to deliver, then don't send them your money. In this instance delivery means a whole package of aspects that may or may not include customer service, depending on your needs.

I love making these pieces and daily I count myself lucky that I love my work. I often wake up early thinking about work or how to tackle a piece and so on. I love my work. Shall I say it again? I actually do fine financially and this is not some sob story - i am not on the rocks, but I will not die a rich man making this stuff and I doubt many makers will. People are fine spending $120/ mending their car, but find me a maker who gets this. This means that I too take other work sometimes; I used to work in TV and sometimes jobs still find me that are well enough paid to get me out of my workshop and as a self employed man keeping your fingers in as many pies as possible is security and the reality of life.

I would love to spend all my time making historical artefacts and cruising in my Ferrari ( I wish), but a nice cheque for my mortgage means I do prostitute myself to the media circus from time to time. I try to build this into my schedule but still...last year I took on an 8 week job, and TV is like the Mafia, once you have said yes, you have said yes. The 8 weeks turned into 15 and they changed the dates, so that I thought I had 7 weeks to tie up loose ends and before the week was out this had changed into 2 days. This example is particular to me, but I bet other makers have their own issues like this.

I wrote to my customers and explained and offered a deposit refund and only one asked for this - thank you every body. Just as this was all getting back to normal my workshop flooded for 3 months. I still worked through it all in rubber boots, but it did slow me down some.

I am sure you are all reading this saying 'yeah yeah, heard it all before'. Some of my pieces were late, some were not. But this causes knock on effects with pieces that require preliminary work like sculpting or casting etc, so the troubles bubble through next couple of months beyond the delay time. As a one man band, when every single job to do has to be done by you this can make it hard to catch up and you just have to be an eternal optimist.

So I have established that I want a Ferrari and that I am an optimist and I think pretty much every maker has to be that or they would have found another job. So when I take on a custom commission half the time I have not made that piece before so I am am not totally sure how to tackle all the elements, but I want the work and I usually want to make the piece; there is nothing like something interesting to get the juices flowing. So I price it as if I have made 10 before. This is a great way to collect skills (I spent yesterday learning repousse for an upcoming commission), but less good for paying the mortgage off. If I price it as if I have made 10 before then I have to at least try to make it in a time that reflects this. Often as not this is not the case and so my schedule may slip a little.

I am more aware of this than I used to be, so I leave gaps; for instance I have no work scheduled for August, so I will be able to catch up a little. But this is a struggle to maintain this discipline. Your heart says 'if you book work into August, you can bill in August' your mind says ' I will bill in August because items that may have slipped will come through then'.

This following part i suspect applies to many, many custom makers. I am no MBA graduate as you can tell and I try to maintain good contact with my customers and I am no fool either and know that good customer service is a pillar of good business - full stop. But, and here is the big but. Service is a skill and requirement like any other in business. In my business, I need to have good service, but along with this is good of the following; skills, practical knowledge, historical knowledge, tools, premises, materials contacts, process contacts, record keeping, research, self motivation, marketing, shipping, web design and Lord knows what else.

So I have to be good at all these things to maintain a good business and all of this I have to do on my own, I have to develop all of the areas just to try to stay ahead. Oh, and i also have to make things! Is it any wonder that sometimes my communication or timescales may not be perfect? Allied to this, as I have said I love my job and I would be lying if I said that I love every aspect ; I doubt wrapping and shipping floats many people's boats for example, but I genuinely do enjoying discussing projects with customers, I find it interesting and I learn so much from you guys, but ultimately I love to make. So at the end of my day, after I have put the kids to bed and after i have finished making bow strings, sewing leather, answering emails etc I try to keep everyone informed, but sometimes this slips and the next morning when perhaps I think about the mail I forgot to do last night, I am already at it in the workshop and another day passes. Sometimes I am guilty of this.

Please don't read this as me defending bad service or bad communication; as a purchaser, personally I generally don't mind time issues as long as I am kept informed, whether it is a custom piece or a delayed train -just talk to me! But I am trying explain how complicated and unpredicatble things can be for small organisations making bespoke items. Don't forget that the number of people who makes this stuff is mainly limited because it is not straightforward to make and not straightforward, carries baggage with it.

I have laid it out bare as I see it from the makers point of view and I hope that airing my troubles does not cause me to get 'blacklisted' as in reality I strongly suspect most independent makers suffer from much of what I have written about.

Should you air your complaints in public? Yes, go for it. It will benefit those good makers with a strong reputation and run their business well and for those who have some issues, if they take heed, it will make them stronger, those that do not listen maybe will weaken. The down right sketchy will get highlighted to the consumers. But please talk to the maker first about your issues. My father in law has a great saying; "there are three sides to every story; your version, my version and the truth"

As a maker if I read that Joe Bloggs/John Doe has had a bad experience because of xxxxxxx then if he comes to me then I will make damn sure that this experience is not repeated and in likelihood he will be well satisfied and I suspect most makers would be the same. I have had two clients who I will never work for again, both were unhinged but complaining is rational and that I can respect. Air your complaints, ultimately it can only be for the good, just be reasonable and balanced about how you do it.

Tod

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Sean Flynt
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myArmoury Team

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PostPosted: Thu 09 May, 2013 12:24 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It would be great if some custom industry leaders would adopt a universal code of business outlining the practices and responsibilities of both makers and clients. It wouldn't be legally binding, but if customers see it on the sites of some manufacturers but not others, there might be a certain amount of economic pressure on those who are unwilling or unable to adopt the code. This is an ancient problem--thus, the guilds.
-Sean

"Everywhere I have searched for peace and nowhere found it, except in a corner with a book"- Thomas a Kempis (d. 1471)
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Jean Thibodeau




Location: Montreal,Quebec,Canada
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PostPosted: Thu 09 May, 2013 12:46 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Firstly Leo I agree with all of the points in your post and to keep it to essentials, this quote from you says it all for me:

Quote:
LEO: "Please don't read this as me defending bad service or bad communication; as a purchaser, personally I generally don't mind time issues as long as I am kept informed, whether it is a custom piece or a delayed train -just talk to me!"


This is where I find the line between acceptable and excusable delays and problems is crossed when not only communication is not proactive from the maker, when there is an issue, but when one can't even get replies to questions way after reasonable delays have been crossed: Basically the maker(s) is hiding from his customers and hoping to catch up by some miracle by accepting new commissions when they can't even organize themselves to finish previous commissions.

A lot of these are sad cases of being disorganized and getting so much behind that they have no hope of ever catching up: For one they face an impossible to meet work load and second if they do only try to fill their old commissions they would have zero new cash flow to even pay for groceries much less the materials they can't afford to buy to do the work !

To balance this out almost all of my commissions from good makers have been good experiences, some delays didn't bother me when the communication was good, and the reasons for delays where credible.

Reading Leo's whole post it is a well balanced one where I better understand the idea of a " reasonable " 10% to 20% deposit and the risks on the side of the maker. It's also human nature that working for money already received and spent is a lot more difficult to be motivated than if one is working for " future " money.

I also have to second Jeremy's post about good custom experience with many of these same makers:
Quote:
JEREMY V. KRAUSE: "I have done business with A&A, Albion, Patrick Barta, Leo Todeschini, Michael Pikula, James Austin, and Petr Florianek and have have received good customer service from all of these makers. When something has come up, I am generally informed."

You can easily give up your freedom. You have to fight hard to get it back!
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Alan Schiff
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PostPosted: Fri 10 May, 2013 1:16 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I agree with what Leo and Jean stated. Like I said in my previous post, most of us are, I believe, willing to accept delays and, in fact, often expect some sort of delay in the production process. Producing custom pieces can be tricky in the details, so delays can be expected to some extent. But again, the key here is that the customer should be informed. As I also said, I understand that the maker may be too busy to remember to contact the customer proactively, but there's no reason to ignore the customer if they contact the maker.

As an example, the very first custom order I ever placed ended up shipping almost a year after the initial delivery date, due to a number of reasons. However, I was not unhappy with the experience because I received replies to every email I sent. There were never more than two weeks in which I didn't receive an update, and the maker was very friendly and forthcoming when replying.
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Walter Stockwell




Location: Campbell , CA
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PostPosted: Fri 10 May, 2013 11:29 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It is important to post both positive and negative reviews. Positive reviews encourage good makers and help them build their business. Negative reviews help correct bad situations, or if a maker/craftsman has gone off the deep end, help prevent future victims. I've been victimized by a craftsman who it turned out had ripped of people for more than a year, and more than $20K in cash and material. But no one wanted to be negative because that "hurt the community". BS. It hurts the community when criminals are allowed to take advantage of forums to find more victims. It hurts the community when potential enthusiasts are driven away by bad experiences. It hurts the community when my $1K I could have spent with someone else is stolen by a thief.
Walter
www.stockwellknives.com
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Kel Rekuta




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PostPosted: Sat 11 May, 2013 10:01 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well written, Tod. I think you deserve that Ferrari but we simply don't live in a world where that can happen by working with our hands.
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G.L. Williamson





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PostPosted: Sat 11 May, 2013 4:18 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I grew up exposed to the custom--as well as stocking/production--side of things in a few industries, starting essentially from birth...Since before I was born, my father has been a writer and collector in the knife/sword, firearm and optics fields (hence why I got into it, too, "a bit"), so dealing with the good/bad/ugly from both a consumer perspective and "fly on the wall" listening to the makers' end of things was interesting, to say the least. I've heard the reasons for delays (reasonable and unreasonable ones), poor customer service and poor quality control from complaining makers/companies, as well as experienced these issues directly as a purchaser of such items. On the other end of the spectrum, I've heard about and personally experienced fantastic quality and service, and have discussed with people how some can be so good while others are so "bad".

What I've learned from seeing both sides of all this, such as I reasonably could (not being the end all/be all of experts on it all, of course), is when you deal with humans enough eventually somebody is likely to get something wrong/mess up/be rude/misunderstand/et al. In short, it's a "human thing"; it happens in every industry, and there's just no easy solution for all of it, considering the nature of our species and society. It's pretty rare--and greatly appreciated by me--to find someone who consistently (within reason) offers both good service and product, and I include in this category those who react appropriately when mistakes do happen. Far too often, for my taste, a consumer ends up dealing with the far less rare variety of maker/company, who not only put out bad product but somehow manage to feel righteous in acting upset when the consumer is unhappy with the resulting pile of canine excrement. Obviously, mixed in with all situations are the consumer him/herself who simply doesn't know how to act.

The only counter we can realistically expect to the "bad" sort of examples (for both maker and consumer) is to do research, be mature, give everything your genuine best, own up to your mistakes if/when you make them, communicate, etc., though this somewhat depends on both parties involved in a sale. Yes, that bit is stating the absolute obvious, but the very fact this topic comes up so often suggests some people need to be reminded of it all (people in general, I mean). Sad though it may read to some, the likelihood of having a good experience in about any dealing with makers of anything are notably (in my experience) lesser than having a bad one. The unfortunate fact is most people have little business being in business...The awesome fact is there still exist some VERY good people putting out great items, though these are obviously more difficult to find at times when wading through the pool of "bad" ones. That wading trip, it seems to me, can be greatly assisted by consumers publicly posting objective reviews on their experience with a given maker/company--overall, not just with the end product--hopefully, waiting to do so until *after* they've allowed the maker/company to fix any problems. This helps the good get better, and the bad get taught a lesson, ideally. This would help every industry more than hurt it, which should go without saying.

To add a quicky example of one of my own recent dealings...

I recently purchased an item--from a maker with whom I'd dealt previously as well as read lots of reviews on--which upon arrival had enough quality control issues it (in my opinion) should never have left the shop. Instead of spouting off on the internet immediately about my displeasure, I contacted the maker. The maker offered an apology and some reasons it might have happened, and asked what he/they could do to make me happy. Thanks to good communication on both ends, an experience which otherwise might have gone rather badly has thus far worked out well.

I won't yet mention the name of this maker, as we're still in the midst of wrapping up the resolution (in this case, getting a replacement item)...Obviously, I didn't want something to arrive with which I wasn't happy, and I don't like having to wait for a replacement, but stuff happens. In the end, it seems I'll have what I want, and will then be able to announce to the internet a review of my interaction with the maker/company. That review will be based on the overall experience (customer service, quality, etc.), rather than just fan boy-like happiness at getting a nice item itself. I hope that review will help drive more business to a company providing not only generally fine items, but also a company who admit their mistakes (when they do happen) and appropriately address the customer service side of the transaction. If all goes as well as it seems it likely will at this point, that maker/company has no reason to fear such comments could ever hurt their business or our beloved industry, and instead should help. Afterall, buyers have little use for a total lack of reviews, or only incomplete fluff reviews which stroke the ego of makers and fan boys alike.

That's my eleventy-billion cents worth, anyway. ;-)

_________
l'audace...
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Leo Todeschini
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PostPosted: Sun 12 May, 2013 6:59 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There does appear to be a resigned acceptance of projects running late in this community and that is not really what I was defending. If anything, that aspect of my rant was trying to highlight why it can happen, not defend it as such.

We should all strive to communicate well and deliver in a timely manner and I am not trying to be holier than thou, by any means. Most of my projects are on time, some run late, for the myriad reasons I outlined, but that does not mean that I should not strive to do better.

Timeliness is one aspect (of many) in running a business and in honesty it should really be expected that most projects are delivered on time, not that most are late. You should consider tolerating lateness because of the complex and involved nature of the work and perhaps because most of us tend to be craftsmen before businessmen, but that is different to placidly accepting lateness as the norm.

Tod

Still holding out for the Ferrari!

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