OK I get it. Times is tough. Money is tight. People are scared. There is no hope on the horizon. Bull!
Yes the economy is in a pit and the micro-economics of day to day life in the work-a-day world is difficult to live with at best. It's not like this hasn't happened before though. Not like we haven't dealt with economic crisis after economic crisis and come out smelling like a rose. So let's do it again, shall we.
I work in retail but I also have a small business making seemingly useless stuff to fill shelves with things to dust. I also take on small jobs in woodworking to get by but, this is not the only point of my post today. In the course of a day I see 10 or more small businessmen, contractors, cabinetmakers, woodturners, and wood workers of all like from hobbyists to professionals all with the same story. They are being run out of business by the likes of the IKEAs, Targets, Wallmarts and K-Marts filled with foreign made products that are priced to be nearly disposable. Hey I get that too, buy cheap, keep it for as long as you need it then throw it away and get another one just like it. But there are reasons for buying well made products, keeping them for a while, and contributing to the local economy.
In my recent experience with all these local businessmen I have learned one really valuable lesson. They are willing to work with you in meeting your needs for quality products while matching your budget or stretching it out over a period of time. See they have houses to pay for too. They have kids to feed too. And most importantly, they do amazing work for reasonable prices. You just have to ask!
It may seem like you are taking advantage of them by asking for cheaper alternatives but again remember houses, kids businesses to run. Now here are some points to consider before doing so.
- Buy what you need ONLY
- Shop around for the best price with above mentioned business types
- Be fair. (houses, kids, businesses)
- Put yourself in their shoes for a few minutes ask why they do what they do.
- look at the quality of their work and see if you can find something that good at the big box or discount stores (not likely)
So here is MY scenario that brought me into the blogosphere again. I set up my little table full of bowls and boxes in an ART WALK on the fourth Friday of every month. I have to pay for the space and an annual fee to participate. I have a large variety of large and small items that generally serve some purpose but are not essential to daily existence. I stand at my booth and greet everyone who approaches, whether enthusiastically or sheepishly. I am willing to answer any questions, talk about the process that goes into making these things of limited purpose, and give the potential customer to pick up and examine the work. What has happened since January 2009 though is repeated every time I set up. People approach, ooo and aaaah over the work and then compliment my skill as a craftsman. Then just as they seem to be settling on a piece that they really want, they walk away. They don't look at the price, don't try to find a bargain, don't try to even negotiate. They just boogie. OK no harm, no foul, just tryin to pay for a hobby here but if I had a nickel... you get the picture.
So here is a friend's scenario that brought me into the blogosphere again. He has a small cabinet shop in the area. He has kids, a mortgage payment to make, equipment to maintain and is freaking very skilled at his craft. He drives out to homes of people who contact him and does bids on jobs. He competes with less skilled craftsmen and is usually underbid by them because they have the same daily worries to deal with. The problem is that the lower bidders are doing shabby work and the good craftsman is later called to fix the problem of the schlock. OK that's business. I get it. But the crappier craftsman hire unskilled illegals and produce junk and take forever to produce it and install it in a crappy manner but they were cheap! Oh and the kicker is that the better craftsman is called in more often than not to fix the job he originally bid on that went to the schlock. Think people, think!
So what's better about craftsman one? He does a good job, for a reasonable price and is willing to work with the customer to meet their budget. If people want Maple cabinets but have the budget for melamine cabinets he does what he can to meet them in the middle. "How about maple lowers, melamine uppers with a maple face frame and doors." If he skins the uppers with Maple veneer they are still well built, still look like Maple and are done within the budget. HMMMMMM just took a few minutes to negotiate.
So what's your part in all of this? Stop going to the big box store! Start going to the internet and looking for local guys who build things or stop by a woodworking store (not a Home Depot) and ask who they recommend. There may be a guy working there who can fill the order or they may "know a guy". They may also have classes to teach you how to do things yourself. HMMMM there is a concept.
If you are a craftsman, work with the customer. Keep your house, feed your kids, swallow a little pride and match the economic reality of the day. Use less expensive materials and learn to make them look expensive. Do what it takes to keep working and for crap's sake quit hiring illegal aliens. Hire a kid to clean the shop, pay him or her minimum wage and teach them a craft because they are not getting it in school. You see they closed the woodshops, metal shops and art studios first and bought more computers for the kids to learn what they have no aptitude for.
But for Crap's sake stop buying Chinese made crap! Think before you buy! Save up for something that you like or need and buy it right! or Learn to do something for your self and contribute to the economy by buying quality stuff you need to do the job.
Now if you are stuck on what is quality stuff then ask your Grandfather, your Dad or Mom, look at old furniture that has stood up to the test of time and see what kept it together. Open doors and drawers, see how they were constructed. Look for seams where components of the product meet and see if there are any gaps. Pick the wood that is right for your area. Moisture makes wood Move. Expansion and contraction, stretching and warping, shrinkage etc. Again the internet will provide some info but woodworkers in your area know what stuff does in their area and make good recommendations if they are worth their weight in sawdust. Ask if the woodworker if they prefer a certain material and why. Ask to see their most recent work and do the same examination of joints and seams. Hell get involved in your own purchase.
There are hundreds of craftsmen out there. In your local area. Available over the phone. Worth seeking out. Put down the computer, turn off the TV, get in the car or on the bike and seek them out. You will be contributing to the local economy, building the tax base in your city and state, keeping someone deserving in business, getting a better long term deal and maybe just maybe being happy with what you buy for more than a year. Oh and you may just enjoy the process of working with someone skilled to get the best product for your budget!