"The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off" Gloria Steinem
Two customers came into the shop and spent an hour looking at every pattern in the store. Not to buy, to copy. Once they found "the one", they wanted to get the feel for the size before they went home and copied it off the internet. I was listening to their comments and I gathered from their conversation that between them and one another partner in crime, they'd recently copied at least seven of my designs. One of the three was on her third copy of a particularly fetching pattern, hooking one each for every child and was now considering doing the same for the grand kids. I'm not some ostrich with my head in the sand, I know people are copying my designs, but how many grey cells do you have to lose before you say it in front of me like it’s perfectly natural to pass them around like a free for all?
So I stomped upstairs, sat at the computer and wrote down my thoughts. Hoping for a bit of release from the lump expanding in my throat. My fingers were like bolts of lightning, hitting the keys with contempt as I poured out my heart and anger all over the screen. Let me tell you, it was scathing! When I finished I felt as if I'd run a marathon. I was exhausted!
I read what I'd written and something said, don't post, step back, wait five minutes until the boil turns to a simmer. Don’t be too hasty as people don’t want to hear anything negative about rug hooking. So I walked away from the keyboard like a smoldering gun and managed to get on with the rest of my day.
You are probably wondering what I said to those women? Well, I'd like to say I kicked them out and asked them never to return...but surprisingly I said nothing and I'll tell you why. I can read people and these weren't women to educate or mess with. They may have been seniors and I could have taken them both with one hand behind my back, but they had a collective chip on their shoulder that I wouldn't have been able to knock off. The one bickered over paying the price for a $2.50 scrap of burlap and the other one accused me of trying to rip her off when she asked for a yard of linen and I said it was $32.95. She eyed me suspiciously and said, "How come my friend was just in and she only paid $16.00?" It was said like I was some kind of crook, making up prices as I went along. I told her that it was probably burlap, not linen. She didn't apologize for her sharp tone, just said a begrudged "oh" and then hummed and hawed over paying the price for linen. Her friend said, "Linen ain't rough, ya know ya hate burlap." So she handed over her credit card and we completed the sale and she grabbed up the bag haughtily as if the entire experience offended her.
I could tell my little copyright speech would have gone in one ear and out the other, not making an ounce of impact and I also sensed I might have come out at the shitty end of the stick. They had an edge like the world was out to get them and they were ready to come out guns a blazing if someone crossed their path. And they both acted like they could cut the head off a chicken without blinking and I was out numbered...... I think their last names might have been Hatfield and McCoy?
Anyway, I’ve been complaining for years I don’t make enough money to pay myself a salary. The business has overhead and employees to support so there was never anything leftover for me. So I can't help thinking.....if I had all the money for the patterns that have been copied from the website or duplicated and passed around off legitimately purchased ones, I might have been able to financially compensate myself for all the hard work I do. And maybe my husband wouldn’t have to bail me out at year end because I’m in the red again. My accountant says, I always cry when I get my taxes done even though I don't have to pay in....well I would give anything to pay a crap load of taxes to the government…it would mean I'm making profit!!!!.
The rug hooking business might look glamorous and pardon my bias, my shop is beautiful beyond words, but in thirteen years it hasn't afforded me any kind of monetary gain. It’s a craft business in a small population based area, not a large center with unlimited people crossing the threshold. If I wanted to work 24 hours a day and do everything myself maybe I could draw a pay cheque but I can’t physically do it all so I work for the occasional slap on the back and please know I'm not bitching about this, it is what it is and I love my shop and what I do!
Anyway, this is the scaled down version, edited until unrecognizable from the initial, internal explosion. I couldn’t let the incident go by without ranting a bit but I tamed it for those who still believe the glass is half full. I'm in retail so I'm on the slightly jaded side of things after thirteen years in business witnessing curl your toes moments......maybe I'll slip a story out every now and then just to be scandalous but not mentioned any names to protect the guilty and least deserving. I always tell it like it is and can’t stop now and even though I get upset when something happens I still like to make it into a humorous story because that's the way I compartmentalize stress. Isn't that how most comedians get their shtick?
So I would like to take this opportunity to appeal to anyone who has done this, plans to do this or knows someone who does this....please, please, please…if you are copying my patterns or anyone's for that matter, please stop! The shops can only survive in this business if they are supported. Every pattern copied is a shovel of dirt on their company's grave. To those of you who come by patterns legitimately, every rug hooking shop and designer salutes you!
And then low and behold, a gentlemen emailed me the other day to ask what I would charge if they copied some elements of one of my designs and incorporated their changes. I almost fell off my chair!!! This was the first time anyone in thirteen years had asked the question. I was floored and didn't respond for two days because I had to get my head around his complete and utter honesty. We chatted and settled on an arrangement, and then believe it or not, two days later someone else contacted me with a similar question. Maybe being on Facebook and writing these blogs is making me more of person than a faceless retailer.......maybe in this case familiarity breeds respect.