KnifeMaker / Machinist / Evil Genius
Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider
- Feb 13, 2007
While I have a lot of respect from you (Nathan). I have not seen a good track record for Knife makers asking for a full-price (unless you are Busse).
There may be a language barrier issue so I'll confirm you're talking about taking full payment in a pre-order.
I agree it's a terrible practice and people shouldn't do it. Worse, by normalizing it, I'm making the practice more mainstream. Knife makers should not take people's money in advance because all-too-often they misjudge their profitability and run out of money before fulfilling their obligations or unexpected issues arise causing them to fail while holding other people's money. It happens so often it almost seems inevitable, like a running gag. I think the only reasons I haven't run into problems is because we are a machine shop and this is an established incorporated job shop where we take orders all the time and managing production operations is (and has been for a long time) my job. I guess it's one of those situations where I say "trust me, I know what I'm doing" although the truth is I could get hit by a bus tomorrow.
I only do it because it's the least bad option. For years our sales would frequently sell out in 10-20 seconds and people were frustrated with trying to buy our work and wanted pre-orders. But we were busy making knives and did not have time to manage wait lists. People don't understand how time consuming lists are. And custom orders. You get people making 20 emails about one knife. And changing their order and you have to keep up with all of it. Or disappearing. It's not as much of a problem for small hobby makers but it doesn't scale up and we identified it as a major issue that I just wasn't capable of accommodating. The only way I'm able to do a list and pre-orders is taking full payment in advance and making the order with no after-the-fact changes. We'd be sunk doing it otherwise. And you may think "just take a deposit" but that doubles (at a minimum) the time and transactions involved in dealing with orders and, at least for us, makes it impossible and non-profitable. So why would I do that when I could just make knives and sell them on Fridays?
So it's a situation where I agree with you that it's a bad practice. And I would strongly discourage other makers from doing it. But I don't want to do pre-orders and the only way I'm ever going to do them is if it's full payment, in advance, with no changes. I've tried lists and deposits in the past and I'm never doing that again. People who are able to do it have a different kind of infrastructure than we have. And frequently that infrastructure is reflected in their price. Our focus on value and bang-for-the-buck high performance doesn't leave large margins where we can fit in a crew of people to spend all day answering emails. It's just me and Jo doing that and we're very busy in the shop. I've looked at other alternatives and, at least for now, this is it.