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Makers And Markets


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The business of making new concertinas and -- to a lesser extent -- of repairing old ones suffers from a massive demand-vs.-supply imbalance. If it were governed entirely by a "market" philosophy, makers like Dipper and Suttner would never take orders, but simply make instruments for which they saw a demand, then auction each off to the highest bidder when it was completed. If that were the case, I suspect that many (most?) of the new instruments would command substantially higher prices than the current buyers are paying, and all but the richest of us wouldn't have a snowball's chance in a bonfire (this is a "family" site :)) of getting one. (In fact, one very rich collector could conceivably corner the market and put them all on a shelf to never be played.)

 

But the makers' personal philosophies include values other than top-dollar. Another philosophy/practice is "first come-first served", but not everyone agrees that that's ideal, either. A common practice in politics and many businesses (though often denied) is "whoever pays me the most under the table". I don't believe any of the well-known concertina makers work that way, and I certainly hope not. But there are other motiviations and priorities, many of them difficult or impossible to specify precisely.

 

So what criteria would you use for setting priorities?

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"The customer is always right" is a cliche that holds much truth. But it is not the whole or only truth.

I contend that for the "the customer is always right" to be true, a necessary corollary is that, "If someone is obviously wrong, then they should not be accorded the status of 'customer'."

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I could certainly see a variation of that system working very well and from what I have seen and heard of the modern makers, I believe they are scrupulous and sensible enough to operate it to everyone's benefit.

 

All the makers would have to do is to ration their supply to one concertina of a given type per purchaser. I realise this may lead to some purchasing by proxy but those doing so would soon become known, particularly if the makers shared details.

 

Of course the system of taking orders would have to be ended which could make a few folks unhappy.

 

I expect that prices would go up, but I don't feel this is unfair given the time and skill which goes into the construction of the instruments and at least the people to benefit would be the ones who deserved it most. Perhaps this would enable them to take on extra assistants and increase output which would in the end satisfy all of us.

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The business of making new concertinas and -- to a lesser extent -- of repairing old ones suffers from a massive demand-vs.-supply imbalance.  If it were governed entirely by a "market" philosophy, makers like Dipper and Suttner would never take orders, but simply make instruments for which they saw a demand, then auction each off to the highest bidder when it was completed.

Lucien Freud has just sold his latest painting at auction to an anonymous buyer for £3.8million. It is a life-size nude of Kate Moss, looking like she is lying on a meat-slab, as is his style. She "sat" (ie sprawled naked for hours) for him an extraordinary number of times, something like 50 to 100. The painting shows her in the early stages of pregnancy.

Unbelievably, neither Ms Moss, nor any admirer, had actually commissioned this portrait. If I remember it right she was not even paid as a model, but "sat" merely for the honour of being painted by such an eminent painter.

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It is at the point of order taking where I disagree with the certain makers business methods.If a manufacturer was so overloaded with work that he could not even give a realistic delivery time,then he should offer to put that person on a waiting list,with the understanding that the purchaser informs them of any address changes or change of mind etc.If that person agrees to go on the waiting list with no time limit, then all is understood.No money should change hands at this point.

When the manufacturer reaches the point where the product ordered is near to start date ,it is then an invoice should go to the purchaser for either a deposit or

the total purchase value of the item being purchased,with a reasonably accurate delivery date,based on known facts.The purchaser can then happily part with their money with full knowledge of when to expect their goods.

The current system of a deposit with order,or the total with order is where all the problems or arguments are arising. A manufacturer holding on to someones money for years is firstly getting the benifit of interest in their bank account and also where manufacturing costs increase then current orders are more economical to make than those ordered at the cheaper price many years before.I am not suggesting this is the case but economically it would make sense.

If these simple and normal business transactions were adopted then I do not think anyone could post the type of accusations that we have seen recently and last year.

Al

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The current system of a deposit with order,or the total with order is where all the problems or arguments are arising. A manufacturer holding on to someones money for years is firstly getting the benifit of interest in their bank account and also where manufacturing costs increase then current orders are more economical to make than those ordered at the cheaper price many years before.I am not suggesting this is the case but economically it would make sense.
Well, that's one way to look at it. Another is that most makers aren't "manufacturers" but just people, and non-business people at that. If one views anyone who makes things - particularly one-man-shows/shops (artists, carpenters, mechanics, architects) - as a "business concern", the problem may be in one's unreasonable expectation that they conform with standard "business" practices and acumen.

 

I'm not saying that a one-man-show can't be good at businesship, but in reality most people don't have the skills or knowledge to do it. Also, they don't have the support (the finances, the place, lifestyle, paperwork infrastructure, etc.) to do it. The reality is that they can get sick, or their helper quits, or their car dies, or their aged mother moves in with them... and they have to make do. Which usually means using deposit money to make ends meet. There is no bank interest benefit.

 

Then comes trying to get back to ground zero.... So they do the work that gets the quickest money - repairs - and to keep their friends and best customers happy (or at least pacified), bump them up to the top of the list - and putting off earlier orders.... No, it's not nice, but it's also reality. Of course good communication about the situation would be ideal, but a lot of people aren't great communicators.

 

Many people here on concertina.net are pretty understanding and compassionate about concertina makers - but we are the exception. Still, even we.... how often do you (all of you, I'm not singling Alan out), pay the "guinea" for something? Not in the "class-acceptance" way, but in the "appreciation" way? How much richer would our (concertina) world be if we seriously supported our craftspeople? With understanding, compassion, funds, materials and tools, information.... how about "Happy Boxing Day" cards? :) <_<

 

If these simple and normal business transactions were adopted then I do not think anyone could post the type of accusations that we have seen recently and last year.
If those people were more understanding they probably wouldn't have posted such, or at least the tenor of the posts would have been substantially different.
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Hello All,

 

From someone who has been, is, and will continue to be on "the waiting list," I think conversation is the best consolation for those frustrated by the waiting. Greg said something similar in another thread.

 

Acceptance of the fact that even "being on a waiting list is actually a privilege" is the best perspective, I think.

 

Through the years, I have been on no fewer than a dozen waititng lists for mandolins and concertinas. Not a single one has been delivered "on time." But each has been truly extraordinary when I have received it. Exceptional craftsmanship takes time and there are innumerable variables that can cause delays. The wait, in each and every case, has always been worth it.

 

I am thrilled that I am even on the lists of the "elite" makers. It gives me instruments to look forward to - instruments that I would likely not be able to acquire on the resale market - and time to save the money to pay for them.

 

Each builder seems to have his/her own cueing system that works for him/her. Why should anyone but the builder determine this?

 

As for limiting instruments to "one per," the mandolin market has demonstrated that this practice does not work as the new owner - rather than the builder - simply proffers the instrument to the highest (earlier implied, "wealthiest") buyer and pockets the profits rather than the builder receiving the "current" competitive value of the instrument. There have been exhaustive rants about this in the mandolin community. Ergo, "rich collectors" (aka, the "enemy" of the player, it seems - in both the mandolin and concertina communities) do not need proxies.

 

After getting caught in this shuffle, the generally-regarded top three mandolin builders in the world now do just what was earlier suggested. They build only a limited number of instruments as they determine, according to their own specifications and tastes and interests at the moment, and make it available when it is completed - one at a time. They are now receiving more than three times the market-adjusted value for their mandolins than they were selling for when they had waiting lists just a few years ago.

 

The market will take care of itself - depending on demand and capacity. Waiting lists will continue to grow and prices will increase. And somewhere amidst all that, we can only hope that an equitable balance is reached for all involved.

 

I would simply suggest that "if one is not prepared to wait, don't get on a waiting list" and "the only guarantee a waiting list affords is the guarantee of a wait - usually of indeterminable duration." It certainly doesn't guarantee one the "right" to an instrument nor does it assure delivery at any time certain.

 

Be Well,

 

Dan

 

Edited for syntax

Edited by Dan Stener
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Personally I think this whole process is really simple.

 

The maker (who every he or she may be) should set the correct expectations with the customer and meet them, no more no less.

 

 

Dave G.

 

p.s. I'm making no judgement on the expectations other than they are met.

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Dan, I take your point about the privilege of being on a superb makers waiting list

and I was careful not even to mention concertina manufacturers during my discussion only to draw a parrallel at the end.I was making the point that I did not think one should pay money to get on a list.Once money is paid then the supplier of whatever has an obligation to the customer to deliver within an agreed time,not have an open ended agreement.Also if no money changes hand then no claim can be made to the manufacturers time.All people in business should work within the strict guidlines of businesss and most do,if just to keep on the right side of the Tax Man.

My discussion is not about the fantastic craftsmen that make concertinas but the order taking process.

Al

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Personally I think this whole process is really simple.

The maker should set the correct expectations with the customer and meet them, no more no less.

Hmm. While we're at it, let's all have peace and harmony here on earth. :ph34r: Unfortunately, reality intrudes.

 

No maker can "set 'expectations'." At best, (s)he can specify terms. Only the customer can control what the customer "expects". The customer might still expect more than what he himself has agreed to, even in a signed contract.

 

Rich Morse, himself a maker who I believe manages to follow "business practices" more closely than any of the other concertina makers, has noted some of the many difficulties a maker can run into, in spite of all the good intentions in the world.

 

I'm used to saying that there are two skills that our society expects every person to be expert at without any training or prior experience. The first is making love, and the second is raising children. Some of the comments here suggest to me that I need to add a third skill to this list: "Running a 'business'."

 

Many a budding craftsperson learns the "business" end of their trade in the only way available to them, by trial and error. Some of those "errors" may be impossible to repair, but they may continue to try, anyway. Customers who are waiting on such a situation may or may not consider themselves luckier than someone left in the lurch when their maker dies, or goes bankrupt, or otherwise closes down completely with orders unfilled.

 

Certainly it's wrong to place all the responsibility on the maker. To be fair, shouldn't we expect the customer to be as flawless at evaluating a tradesman's business competence as we're expecting the tradesman to be at displaying such competence?

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Al,

 

Your comments prompted me to think a bit more about the waiting lists that I've been on and am on.

 

I actually don't recall anyone taking any money from me as a deposit for any mandolin or concertina. Without exception, I recall the nominal sums that I have paid to builders to be for reservations - my name on a list - and not necessarily an exact position in a chronological queue.

 

I've simply regarded this as a "pay-to-play" reservation fee and nothing more.

 

Consider a reservation fee for a hotel room - my personal favorite. They take a credit card number, tell you that YOU must cancel not later than a specified period in advance of your first night's lodging or they will charge your card. Then they take down all of your preferences and then proceed to tell you that they cannot guarantee you any of your preferences or any specific room or bedding type or room location. You will get what is, hopefully, available - in essence, before anyone without a reservation. And what about advance non-refundable reservation fees for music festivals. Anyone you know have a change in their plans and not make it to the hotel or the music festival.

 

So, while I agree that paying a deposit for an instrument is "betting on the come," I do believe there is a reasonable place for a reservation fee.

 

Perhaps this is just symantics or splitting hairs, but reservation fees are replete in our lives and normative in business practice where payment for services are "at risk."

 

Reservation fees are just that - a fee paid for preferable consideration at a later date. It typically guarantees little or nothing in substance. As for waiting lists, I repeat, the only guarantee that they afford is the assurance of a wait.

 

Be Well,

 

Dan

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I don't know what you want to call it, but I did pay £200 to maker "M" when I described to him the instrument I'd like him to make for me in May 2002. I got the impression it was in order to prove my genuine intent to buy the "special" I've requested.

Samantha

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Dan if no money is changing hands for going on a waiting list then the purchaser has no comeback at all on the maker,however some members on this site have paid up front the whole asking price and surely they are jusified in their complaints.

Al

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Dan if no money is changing hands for going on a waiting list then the purchaser has no comeback at all on the maker,however some members on this site have paid up front the whole asking price and surely they are jusified in their complaints.

They would be justified, but so far they aren't complaining in this public forum. Which is good, because we have neither the responsibility nor the authority to do anything about it.

 

I feel that I should emphasize that when "makers' " practices are criticized here, it's not necessarily that same maker who was named and complained about in a couple of other threads. In particular, I haven't heard him accused of taking full price without making prompt delivery.

 

For that matter, are any of the makers currently taking full price in advance for new instruments? A problem caused by poor practice a decade or more ago is still a problem if it still hasn't been resolved, but if the tradesman has realized what got him into trouble and has changed his business practice so that he's longer creating fresh problems, that's a distinction I think should be recognized.

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I can understand someone wanting to pay a larger sum when ordering a concertina, but I would be happier if they just paid the asked-for deposit. I know, it may not make sense from a financial perspective, but an instrument paid for in full when ordered makes me a debtor. I then owe a fairly large sum of money to that person until the debt is paid. A "deposit" gets someone on the list and is a fairly small amount of money. If someone cancels the order they, naturally, would want their money back. Returning $2000+ may be difficult to do. Bank interest? What's that?

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