August 30, 2012)
Today I’m going to tell you a story. It started out as a bit of a drama, and has since turned into one of my favorite comedies. I hope you like it.
Several years ago I became friends with a lady who was dating a good friend of my husband’s. They would come out to our arena to rope frequently, and I got to know her pretty well over a few month period of time.
This was during the beginning of the “bling” craze, and we were one of the only tack companies to venture into this territory at the time. We had introduced the Crystal Concho several years before, and it was rapidly gaining in popularity, though still somewhat audacious for the majority of people and certainly not knocked-off by a bazillion different companies like it is today.
One day, she innocently asked me if I would show her how to make crystal conchos so that she could make her sister a headstall for Christmas. I was happy to pass along my suppliers contact information for conchos and crystals, and even met with her to show her how it was done. We continued to remain friends, and she even brought the headstall over when she finished it to show me.
Fast forward about 6 months.
I walk into our local tack store, and while browsing notice a small section of headstalls and breast collars with crystal conchos that looked all too familiar. Today, it would be unusual NOT to see crystal tack in your local tack store, but remember at this time the bling trend was just beginning, so it definitely caught my attention. Being as we were friends with the store’s owner, I asked who had made the tack and he happily passed along the number of the lady, who was apparently now dating one of the store’s employees. He also passed along the lady’s name, which was coincidentally the same first name as my “friend”. Hmmm….
What do I do with this information? Can you guess? Of course I did!
So… being as I wasn’t 100% positive this was the same person (and in denial that someone would be so brazen), I politely listened to her sales pitch on the phone about all the different products she could put her conchos on. About how she had been making them for “years”, was just getting ready to launch a website, etc…
At this point I was sure who she was, so when she stopped to take a breath, I told her who I was.
I am proud to say I didn’t break down and have a stereotypical crazy-woman moment and tell her what I really thought of the situation (like I wanted to). I candidly told her how I felt like she had manipulated and deceived me, that I considered her a friend and was disturbed to find out she had done this. My dispassionate response must have startled her, as she instantly tried to back-peddle and make excuses, re-assuring me that she could explain. So I listened, for about 5 minutes as she rambled on about how “lonely” she was, how she valued our friendship and was going to stop doing it immediately. Right.
Fast forward another 6 months.
My daughter was going into Kindergarten and her teacher came out to do a home visit before school started. She asked what I did for work, and when I told her she told me about another student in class whose mother did something just like it.
You have got to be kidding me! Nope, not kidding. Same person.
And when our school’s fundraising auction came around, I even had to donate money so my “friend” could create crystal conchos for items to be auctioned off for the school. Yep, that was a fun check to write.
Now at this point all I could do was laugh about it. I mean what else do you do?
In hindsight I was pretty naive, and while I try to not be too jaded regarding people knocking off our ideas and designs, it is just a fact of life in this business. In fact, I’ve come to expect it at this point. It doesn’t make it right, and sometimes it does still bother me, but you can’t make people have character or integrity and I decided a long time ago that instead of worrying about the people trying to follow us, it’s much more productive to spend energy staying ahead of them. We joke around in the shop whenever we unveil a new product, wondering how long it will take before we start seeing copy-cats. It usually doesn’t take long.
One of my favorite quotes is this: “Imitation is the ultimate form of flattery”.
We are flattered alot around here!
Until next time ~ Jess