Today’s Catch: Volkswagen!

Caveat Emptor is nearly impossible today because of the complexity of global manufacturing. We try to vet our artisan and found that the best way to do so is by meeting them face to face often over the years.

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Volkswagen was recently exposed for having its cake and eating it too.

In Italy we say: “occhio non vede, cuore non duole”, which, loosely translated, means: “what you don’t know won’t hurt your feelings”.

It often seems to me that this is the road-map that business follows to profits. Some say: “that is the way the world works,” but I believe that there are plenty of people in business who do not sell their soul to profits and are still able to “make” it. In some cases, they do extremely well because they have figured out how to provide something that people really want.

Caveat Emptor (let the buyer beware) said the Romans, so this must have been a problem for some time. With globalization came an opportunity to operate under a cloak of mystery. So how is the buyer going to be able to beware? How do we know whether the label is true or not? Should I not buy the $3 t-shirt because it was probably made by kids who sleep on the factory floor? Does the Mazda in my garage that gets good gas mileage have software installed that achieves good gas mileage by blowing past emissions standards? The answer is common: “we don’t know! And we can’t possibly know.”

Thankfully someone exposed Volkswagen.

In my line of business cheaper imitations abound. We try to warn and educate customers by posting on our web site about cheaper imitations:

  • Hidden cost resulting from lack of durability not included.
  • Hidden cost of using lower quality materials not included.
  • Hidden cost of poorer craftsmanship not included.
  • Hidden cost of using underpaid workers not included.
  • Hidden cost of the environmental impact of manufacturing products in less-regulated countries not included.
  • Hidden cost of using production methods that are harmful to humans and the environment not included.
  • Hidden cost of losing generations-old traditions in craftsmanship not included.
  • Hidden cost of contributing to the use-and-dispose culture not included.

We really try to vet our artisans. I found that the best method is to ask the right questions and let time verify the answers. There is a lot you can learn from people over the years. That’s why we now take a long time before adding a new artisan. There has been a situation where we later realized that what appeared authentic actually was not, and we dropped those products. So we learn from our mistakes.

My question to you is: where do you stand on this issue? Are we crazy to want to tell our customers exactly who it is that made what we offer and how?

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