I was extremely disappointed with my dealings with Veritas.
This letter, sent to Jason Tasse at Veritas on July 10th, 2011, pretty much sums up the way things went.
Hello, Jason – thank you for your email. I would like to say at the outset that all the communications I have received, from you and others, have been courteous and friendly which I appreciate. Thank you for your offer to talk this through on the phone. However, initially anyway, I am keen to get my take on the situation down in writing – that way I can get things organised in a logical way in order to make the points I need to. If you subsequently feel that it would be beneficial for me to discuss any of the issues on the phone, with you or anyone else, please let me know and we can arrange this.
The answers in your email certainly go some way to answering some of the issues raised, but saying sorry if I felt I was misled does not explain how the branding issue slipped through the net when it should have been blatantly obvious to everyone that I was expecting this to be a Veritas product. Also, saying that you will ensure that this doesn’t happen again is fair enough, but it doesn’t actually help me much. I made the mistake of assuming a certain level of courtesy and reciprocation which, without being too specific during the early stages, I think anyone would have done in my situation. You certainly have frustrated and misled this particular customer/partner – I came to Veritas in good faith, on the advice of several trusted [and eminent] colleagues/friends, and was justified in expecting a great deal more.
It is certainly interesting to hear the details of the time taken to develop this jig for manufacture. But you are dead right that someone should have been absolutely clear and up front with me about the practical implications of my giving over this idea to you – most particularly branding issues, expected timeframe, ‘standard’ financial arrangements and any other relevant information. If they had, I wouldn’t have touched it – I already had a perfectly rational and costed plan for this jig and I could have had it made and marketed for half the cost, a year before you did. Which would have meant I could have sold a great many in Australia last year when I was teaching there. But I effectively forfeited that, and other marketing possibilities, in favour of the distribution, cachet and reputation of the ‘Veritas’ brand. This was a big decision on my part, one which seemingly has been given scant appreciation by the various people I have been dealing with.
I have received the jigs since I sent my email to Wally and I am basically happy with the way they’ve turned out. But their arrival has brought up some additional issues which I will deal with below.
But firstly, how could the fact that I was assuming that this would be a Veritas product have been missed by everyone?! No common sense reading of our communications could have led anyone to any other conclusion. Many of the emails between us have had in the subject field ‘Veritas prototype’! This, incidentally, was first used not by me, but by Terry Saunders. Is it any wonder that I had no doubt that this would be a Veritas product?!
Perhaps you think that I am putting too much importance on the branding issue. Veritas is perceived as a unique and innovative company famous for producing a range of specialist woodwork-related jigs and tools – and woodworkers working at the finer end of things look to Veritas for exactly this sort of product. I have consulted many people about this and without exception the feeling is that this jig perfectly fits the general perception of what a ‘Veritas’ product should be. Whatever your own internal rationale, surely the public perception of what is and isn’t a Veritas product is more important than who designed it!
And surely it is to everyone’s benefit to acknowedge outside influence – you might all be very good at inventing/designing, but surely you are not so arrogant that you believe that you can come up with the best solution every single time without the input of craftspeople working in specialist fields? Why would it be considered detrimental for you to have to ‘admit’ [and presumably this is the issue] that an outside entity [designer, maker, whatever] had a hand in the production of this or that item? The acknowledging of such input should be welcomed and would certainly enrich your knowledge/credibility base – not, as you seem to believe, dilute it! And in any case, who is this distinction supposed to be serving/benefitting?!
On December 9th last year I said the following in an email to Steve Oszmian:
” … my name to be associated with the product. I’m sure I’m not alone in this sort of situation in feeling a bit possessive about ‘my’ product. And part of the value of having products out there in the marketplace [as with the smartHinge] is their association with me as it keeps my name current. And as I have for the past five years or so been promoting the teaching side of the business over and above the commissioned box making side of things, this is a very important element to me.”
On receiving Steve’s response stating that “Our standard policy is not to give public credit on product that originated from submissions/ideas given to us by customers” but nevertheless kindly offering me the opportunity to put my case, I wrote the following:
“I do realise that this is against your established policy, but I’m at a loss to understand why. It seems to me that such associations with specialist craftspeople would be beneficial to all concerned. You would be seen as collaborating with well-known specialists out there actually DOING it – and it would do good to the craftspeople who have the ideas by way of an association with a well known and respected brand. I can’t see that there is any negative element/outcome of this for anyone concerned, neither does it cost anyone anything.
Perhaps the policy has been there for ever and changing it has never really been considered, these things happen in big organisations. I’m certainly not arguing that mine is a special case, just that in general it would seem to serve everyone concerned.
It would seem to me that for UK sales that the association with me would be a definite benefit – I have a fairly high profile over here, particularly at the moment due to the new smartHinges that I’m promoting.”
On Feb 16th 2011 in an email from Steve Oszmian, I received a draft piece of text for a catalogue entry which included the phrase ” … Working with Andrew Crawford, a box maker from the UK, we made a jig … “ I suggested a slight amendment to: “Working with UK-based box maker Andrew Crawford we have developed a jig …” I chose to accept this compromise [“working with” rather than actually being credited as the designer] as I considered, on balance, that the potential benefits of having my name associated with a Veritas procuct were sufficient. Further, I reasonably took this text to be a template on which I assumed that all subsequent publicity and other material appertaining to this jig would be based.
So, one way and another I made it abundantly clear that I wanted my name to be connected with this product. As it turns out, with this jig NOT being a Veritas product, and therefore presumably free of the requirement that it be designed by you, you are free to admit that it was designed by someone else. Consequently I have to say I find the decision to exclude any mention of my name, let alone the fact that I designed this jig, from the literature supplied with it, completely unacceptable. I am the designer of this – how can not mentioning that be considered fair and appropriate?!
Further, I asked in my email to Wally: “Are there any instructions included? There certainly should be, but if there are I have not been consulted.” The answer was: “I believe the jig comes with instructions, you may also view instructions from our website, follow the link below and scroll down to instr.” The point of my question, the fact that I was not consulted, is simply ignored. So – on the subject of the instructions I will try again, with a more direct question: Why were the instructions for this jig [which I developed] compiled, printed and ultimately supplied with the jig without it occurring to anyone that it might be a good idea to check them with me first? I completely understand the problems that have led to my developing this and have had a great deal of experience of using it over the last year and a half since I arrived at the final version. I have taught many woodworkers, both experienced and inexperienced, and ALL have had problems with this small but crucial procedure. THAT is why I developed it.
Even if for no practical reason, and there are plenty as I would certainly have advocated supplying fuller instructions, surely common courtesy dictates that checking with me would have been the correct course!
I also feel that when someone is spending almost £50 [$80] on a small specialist tool they are entitled to expect more in the way of included material than they are currently getting. When sending out my smartHinges, [costing less] customers get a full two page set of clear instructions, advice and other information, including a plan of the setup needed to install the hinges. Also there is a link to a much more in-depth set of instructions and I plan to have a feedback page. Consequently I am currently working on a webpage for this jig with a far fuller set of instructions, advice and so on, to which I will direct all who purchase the jig from me.
Whilst the exclusion of any reference to me in the included material seems mean-spirited and self-serving [and that is certainly a justifiable perception if deliberate] I acknowledge that it is more likely the result of thoughtlessness, lack of communication, too many people being involved, or some other minor failing that is common in big organisations. But even that is unacceptable in view of the importance I have clearly attached to this.
With regard to the promotion of this, will it be offered in all the usual places that the Veritas range, and the corner chisel, is offered? The Brimarc catalogue, for instance, and Axminster? And is it your intention that I be credited as the designer? In UK I believe that connecting this jig with my name will be a benefit. If you persist with your policy not to associate your products with specialists in this or that field then I believe you are limiting potential sales. And remember, mine is NOT being offered as a Veritas product – so, as I’ve mentioned before, you are presumably free to admit that it was designed by someone else.
Incidentally, the fact that the original corner chisel on which this jig is based is on the Veritas site, and the new jig is on the Lee Valley site, with no connection made between them, will make no sense to anyone and is simply self-defeating.
Also, this product was almost impossible to find on the Lee Valley site – and I know it’s there! It’s in the new products category, of course, but presumably that will only last for a short time. Then you have to look in the speciality chisels category, but would anyone be looking there for this? The only other way to track it down is to know enough to try the “Project Supplies” category, then be persistent enough to go on to the “More project topics” category. Then, after seeing that there is nothing listed under the “Box Making Decoration” category, you need to be able to pick out that there is an “Inlay and Veneering” link under the “Miscellaneous Supplies” sub-heading.
I realise that you have a lot of products to categorise on this site, so all the more reason to put this jig where it belongs, and where people might actually find it – alongside the corner chisel on the Veritas site. This was never going to be a huge seller, but it is surely in everyone’s interest to promote it as positively as possible …
Is there any mileage in offering the jig without the chisel to customers who already own the chisel? – it would certainly make sense.
I am an established and widely respected craftsman working in a specialist area and an association with me would surely help this product sell, certainly in UK. I will certainy be doing everything I can to promote this jig, and particularly my own direct sales. Consequently, and in line with Wally Wilson’s email last week which states ‘You are welcome to make use of your media contacts’ I have contacted all the relevant UK woodwork magazines, making it clear that, although manufactured by Veritas, I am the designer – and asking that they also make this clear in their reviews/coverage. Derek Jones has already done just this in his … and reviews will appear in Furniture & Cabinetmaking and all other magazines in due course. I will also be in touch with my contacts at the various US magazines.
I am not in woodwork for financial reward – this is one of those professions [like music, my other profession!] that is high skill, low return. If a high financial return was my only criterion I would not be working with wood. And I certainly wasn’t expecting to earn my fortune from this product, but I WAS expecting a fair deal from an established and respected company. I effectively made the decision to trade financial gain for a wider distribution and recognition – but now, if the status quo persists, I will have neither. Consequently what I request is the following:
• A link to be made to this new jig from the corner chisel page on the Veritas site
• My name [and website details] to be included, along with the fact that I am the jig’s designer, in all material that is sent out with the jig
• The jig to be supplied with expanded instructions/advice compiled by me *
• My name [and website details] to be included, along with the fact that I am the jig’s designer, in all material, catalogue entries and website listings appertaining to this jig. This should also include material submitted to third party retailers such as Brimarc and Axminster.
*I realise that the material that is sent out with the jigs will have already been packed in the first batch of 100 that you have ready for sale. I propose this for subsequent batches.
All this should just have happened as a matter of course as a courtesy to me and it’s a crying shame that I’m having to request this now in such blatant terms – and there is no question that these are reasonable requests in the circumstances. The fact is that a VERY small input from you would go a long way to help me to recoup some of what I could have earned had I developed/marketed this myself – without any cost or implication for you.
Overall I am disappointed with the outcome of this – any common-sense appraisal of the communications between us must conclude that I was expecting a far greater return in terms of the branding and recognition of my input. I certainly expected more from a company of your reputation and calibre and am left feeling as though my ‘product’ has been developed and processed for sale, with no thought to benefit me beyond the meagre terms of the contract. I resent the time I have spent writing this trying to secure some sort of fairplay – is it really too much to ask that someone, somewhere might appreciate what is being offered and pro-actively offer something equally valuable in return, rather than doing the absolute minimum by default? I have effectively signed away my rights to this design – surely I am morally entitled to at least SOME recognition? I will certainly never repeat this – I have a number of related ideas that I want to develop, but I will not be approaching you, or anyone else.
This is a long communication, my apologies – but I hope the length and obvious trouble I’ve gone to when there are many pressing things waiting for my attention will indicate how strongly I feel about the issues I’ve raised. Please feel free to copy this to whoever you feel appropriate – in the course of my dealings with your company I have communicated with:
I await any responses – and perhaps we could now discuss this on the phone.
Thank you for your attention.