Knockoffs

I design, make, and sell tools for a living.  Running the business is the least favorite part for me, and I would gladly turn that task over to someone else if I thought they would count something besides money to measure success.

We can blame China or some other country for the loss of American jobs, but the truth is that what has driven jobs overseas is our own preoccupation with money.  America’s price-shopping robots couldn’t care less where something is made or how long it will last.  Their only concern is price.  What they don’t understand is that businesses will fail if they can’t cover costs.  Price competition quickly morphs into cost competition.  Lower costs mean lower quality.  It’s a vicious cycle that impacts the quality of life for everyone.

Fortunately for woodworkers, America’s cottage-toolmakers are helping save woodworking tools from being bean-counted to death.  It’s not easy.  The bean-counters are always lurking, waiting to strike at anything that promises short-term profit from producing knockoffs abroad.  What was once a successful product can quickly become a liability when the market turns to cheap knockoffs.

The knockoffs can be alluring.  They can look virtually the same, especially in a catalog or on a web site.  A customer of mine called awhile back and said “I have two of your hammers, and they are both broken.”  I immediately said that he should send them to me so that I could repair them and do a quality-control analysis.  When I got them I was relieved to see that they were not made by me.  It turns out that he had purchased Chinese-made versions of my tools from a store that was part of a national chain (you know the one), and, according to my customer, he was told that they were made by Glen-Drake even though my name was not on them.  The similarities were convincing.  The Chinese versions even had the numbers I assigned engraved on the heads.  Maybe the imitators think that those numbers are some kind of a standard for hammers.  Or could it be that they think the numbers might help convince people that the hammers are in fact made by Glen-Drake?

An imitator of one of my tools even used my tool for the front photo on their packaging.  Now that’s just rude.  But here’s the real problem.  Imitators don’t need to be creative.  They don’t need to identify a problem.  They don’t need to design a solution to a problem.  They don’t need to build and test prototypes.  They don’t need to determine and assemble the best materials to deliver a product that will stand the test of time.  All they need to do is send something overseas to be copied, and that’s a callous and insidious form of theft.

If someone walks into my office and steals my wallet, the police will be all over them.  But if they make cheap knockoffs of the tools I make, then I have to hire a lawyer to make them stop, which is about all I can expect.  Then someone else will do it, and I have to go through the whole process again.   Cottage toolmakers can’t afford to pursue the knockoff makers, even if that’s the way we want to spend our lives, and it’s not.  Do the thieves know this?  You bet they do.  Criminal audacity is astounding.

Admittedly, some buyers are simply not informed, but the real problem is that people who knowingly purchase counterfeits don’t consider the long run effects of their actions.  Those long run effects include the demise of the business that designed the original tools.  Every time we buy a counterfeit we are encouraging theft and making it harder and harder for the legitimate developer to continue developing.  When the developer-business fails, all we are left with is a choice between cheap and cheaper.

You can purchase our tools from us or from from one of our dealers.  See a list of our dealers by clicking here.  We do not sell through anyone that also sells knockoffs of our tool designs.  Some of our tools, hammers for example, are only sold directly through us.  And, as you may already know, we participate in many of the Lie-Nielsen tool events around the country.  See a list of our upcoming events by clicking here, and see a list of all of the Lie-Nielsen tool events by clicking here.  Please join us at one of these events to try our tools so you can make informed-buying decisions.  Our guarantee is for the life of our business (double entendre intended).

Stay tuned.

Kevin Glen-Drake