I had a customer in last week and what she said has been going round and round my small brain for the whole weekend so I've decided to air my thoughts and see what reaction comes in.
So, customer comes in wanting a tea cosy pattern. The only one we had, not in a book, was for the Cornish Organic Loopy Sheep - so she saw the actual tea cosy (on tea pot) in the shop and said, yes, that would do fine. Did she want some wool to knit it? No, she already had some at home. Fine - got the pattern out of the drawer and told her how much it was. "How much?" was the response. I repeated the amount. "For a photocopy" she said. No, I said, the pattern was typed up by me (as I designed it, although I didn't tell her this) and printed at the local printers. "Well, how much do you charge for other patterns" she asked. The same amount, I replied. "Well, no wonder this business is going down-hill" she said, paid, took her pattern and left.
I have to assume she meant the wool business as a whole and not my shop but there are a number of issues here which have been bothering me.
Firstly, what an incredibly rude way to talk to a shop assistant (I'm not sure she realised I'm the owner). Marie has a theory that the moment you get behind a counter you cease to be a real person and customers, therefore, can say what they like about anything in the shop and you are blind, deaf and completely insensitive. Clearly, this is the minority of customers - most are lovely, charming, understanding and appreciate the help you give but some - well - what can I say?
Secondly, though, the full implication was that the pattern (being only 2 sides of A4) was obviously simple to design and, therefore, wasn't worth paying for - which leads us on to the whole question of the de-valuing of skills. All the genres of knitting, needlecraft, dressmaking, cake making, card making, flower arranging etc (mostly female skill areas you will notice) are covered by this de-valuing of their worth although we all know they are real skills and should be valued and appreciated. I could, of course, have said to the customer - "well, if you're not prepared to pay for it you could always go and design your own tea cosy" and seen what the reaction was. I could have said, "do you have any idea how many hours it took to design that tea cosy", but I didn't. I could have said (but didn't) "we don't make money out of patterns, we make money out of the wool we sell and you're not buying any". I could have said any of a number of things but I didn't and I rather regret it now.
And it's not just individual sheet patterns which I just happen to have designed. I have no idea how many times we've been asked why pattern books cost so much (£7.00 for 10-12 patterns on average) - I think that's excellent value. Can't we just photocopy one pattern for them (I won't tell if you won't) - ever heard of copyright laws? If someone is reasonable I'll explain the massive costs that all companies incur in the designing and knitting of garments. Can you begin to imagine how much it costs to design, knit, test and re-test patterns, photograph and print pattern books? I know how much it costs to commission one pattern and, believe me, you have to sell a heck of a lot of patterns to get your money back!
I was discussing this with a friend on Saturday who is an artist. He was telling me about a gallery owner who sells his work. She had a customer come in who was a dentist (for the sake of argument). He liked a painting (a large watercolour) but he wasn't prepared to pay the price they were asking. He wanted to do a deal. The gallery owner (who I'd very much like to meet) asked him if he did deals on his dental work as she had a bridge which required a bit of work ........ he walked out, furious. So, why did he value his worth as a dentist above the artist's worth? Same scenario, different skill.