I would like, if I may, to take you on a strange journey, one that begins with The Ruggist going on record and saying that Lissa Wyman of rugnews.com deserves the praise and adulation of everyone in the World of Rugs who believes in, as is said, “fighting the good fight” for her recent editorial titled: A Disgrace in High Point Auction of Oriental Rugs, the full text of which can be read by following the link to the Rug News website, and then ends with, as is often the case, The Ruggist offending someone.
Reading not only Ms. Wyman’s words, but also those of the anonymous and otherwise commenters to her story inspired me to: 1) Make sure that more people know about her editorial, and B) Add my own take on the situation. Why? Because I love sticking my nose into things where some argue it might not belong.
This is the image that accompanies Ms. Wyman’s editorial, and although I don’t know her personally I would swear we must be kindred spirits. Whom other than The Ruggist would make a public comment such as: “First, the shoddiness of the advertising and the shabby building housing the auction…”? We now know the answer!
We also know that Ms. Wyman is brave for taking on what is the ugly unwashed underbelly of the World of Rugs and that her remarks, as is evidenced by the comments posted to her editorial, have certainly hit a nerve, none more so that with a self described “retired old man” in the form of Steve Lackey. But first, I’d like to highlight this passage from the editorial:
“I didn’t bother going to the auction because I’ve been to enough similar events to know it would make my skin crawl. But I can almost bet that the no one there had any idea about the provenance of any of the rugs at that auction. I can also bet that the colors were drab and muddy and the patterns had gone out of style somewhere back in the 80’s.” – Lissa Wyman
This is journalism gold, and although the return of 1980’s styling and colouration is at hand, the point made could not be any more on the mark.
Oy! The Comments.
Before I get off on a tangent here I want to say that everyone reading this should read the entire Rug News editorial and also all the comments posted to it. The discussion brings up many valid points, and those of Mr. Lackey tend to best address the main issues therein. His poignant comments regarding importers assuming too many leases and showrooms, thus driving up overhead, and by extension prices should ring home with everyone in the industry. Why must there be a showroom in Atlanta, Highpoint, New York and Las Vegas? Furthermore he is correct that “Buyers aren’t stupid (or at least shouldn’t be) and if the auction’s rugs are not worthy, they won’t be bought.”, but in defense of Ms. Wyman’s point, I will argue that consumers (as a mass mob) are, err, stupid is too strong a word, are “easily influenced by negative perceptions and media reports and tend to purchase (as a whole) in an uneducated manner” to say in a very nuanced fashion. Our industry suffers from the misdeeds committed by its unscrupulous members (yes I am obviously biased against this type of auction/sale as well) and for those of us, to restate, fighting the good fight, we should endeavor to self-regulate, as Mr. Lackey is again correct that “We don’t need a nanny state where the government tells the rug industry how to conduct their business.” Amen to that!
Mr. Lackey continues in his comment: “If anybody should be outraged it is the consumer for the way they have been treated by the rug industry. It is hard to feel sorry for the vendors/retailers that engage in price-fixing and collusion in order to screw the consumer and maintain their margins. Yeah, I know they like to call it MAP and claim it is ethical and legal, but come on: “A rose by any other name …..” How dare vendors try to dictate to retailers how they should run their businesses, what prices to charge and what kind of advertising they are permitted to do.”
Say what? He wants the government to allow people to sell cheap (as an expression of price and quality), disgusting, outmoded, unserviceable, rugs at whatever low price they see fit, and stay out of managing the rug business, yet within the same paragraph bemoans that fact that (and this is a presumption of his intent) vendors who make and sell, quality, stylish, long wearing, rugs at a variety of price points (low to ultra high) can and often do dictate to retailers how they run their business. Which one does he, and indeed do we want? Governmentally regulated prices or industry “regulated” prices. I am not certain if Mr. Lackey is aware but there is no claim of legality. Minimum Advertised Price (MAP as he calls it) is legal in most circumstances, at least within the Untied States. The United States Supreme Court, in a ruling viewed as exceptionally pro-business, removed the 1911 flat ban on pricing agreements in a 2007 ruling, covered very well here in the New York Times.
“How dare vendors…?” he asks. They dare because they can. They dare because it is an agreement. Don’t like it? Don’t agree to it. If I (vendor), as a maker of awesome (or obscure as they were recently called. I think it was meant as an insult, but I take it as a compliment.) rugs, premised on quality, authenticity, and reputation, want to sell my wares to you (retailer), with conditions on their resale, you, as the retailer are free to choose to or not to agree to this. Want to sell my rugs? Agree to it. Don’t want to? Don’t agree to it. Likewise, the supposedly outraged consumer, is free to buy a rug from either the me/you channel, or from those purportedly unscrupulous rug auctions. If the consumer is indeed outraged, their spending habits should fix the problem.
By keeping the government out of price regulation, we as an industry must accept this type of sale with its downward price spiral and unflattering image problem (the bad), with the MAPS, preserved margins, and exclusive image (the good) practiced by those of us “fighting the good fight”. Profit, to quote a former colleague and former friend, is not a bad word, and unfortunately for Mr. Lackey you can’t have your cake and eat it too.
And another comment!
This one comes to us from anonymous, who writes: “Steve, what exactly is an “Avid Rug Hobbyist”? Obviously you don’t have a real paying job, since you have so much time on your hands to sit down and write all of the garbage that you seem ot think of. Grow up already, and find a real job so that you can leave the Rug Industry alone! We are an industry that is struggling with many issues, we surely don’t need crass comments from someone like you. If you have nothing nice to say, keep your mouth shut!”
Oh Mr, or Ms Anonymous. Let me educate you about a few things that might help you address some of the (rug) issues you are struggling with. Mr. Lackey has already grown up and indeed does not have a paying job. His website says he’s retired, and if you’d bothered to research that you would have known that as I do. Being retired does give him, presumably a lot of free time, unless of course he golfs, in which case he spends it all being frustrated. What is an “Avid Rug Hobbyist”? it might just have been your next customer whom you’ve now offended. Opinions, whether you agree with them or not, from within the industry or, more importantly from consumers are never “garbage” and referring to them as such is a tool of a weak mind. Crass comments cause real dialog, which will lead to real solutions to the issues the rug industry faces, and dictating that someone “keeps their mouth shut” and only say nice things, reminds of of a very rude phone call I received when I first started writing The Ruggist. When you resort to insult as opposed to debate, you’ve already lost. Finally Mr. Anonymous, exactly from whom should we hear crass comments?
Do not interpret my endorsement of Lissa Wyman’s editorial, nor my obviously biased and negative opinion of this type of rug sale/auction as a carte blanche dismissal of discounted rug sales. Moving inventory is a necessity, but as with all things it is in execution. As previously discussed, many companies do it the right way, while topically and obviously many do not.
Ms. Wyman is right to say that “…no one there had any idea about the provenance of any of the rugs at that auction.” and for the buyer (dealer or consumer) it comes down to what they are comfortable with. By analogy, do want to buy a stolen (I’m not implying the rugs are stolen, just illustrating a lack of provenance) used Yugo from a car dealer who wont be there next week, or do you want to buy a brand new VW from the Autostadt? I prefer the later, but we still need ways to move the former.
Love it or hate it, this is the crazy world we call rugs. Austin Craley of Momeni sums it up well “…an anonymous responder telling him [Mr. Lackey] that if he has “nothing nice to say, keep your mouth shut” unfortunately is not going to help make our industry stronger. Debating differing viewpoints on the other hand will.”
The Ruggist, that is me, Michael A.C. Christie, tips his hat and salutes Lissa Wyman, Steve Lackey, Austin Craley and everyone else who has “actually grow[n] a pair” and speaks their mind and attaches their name to their opinions liked or otherwise.
As always, thank you for reading. Be sure to join us next time as we name the names of the people who emailed or rang telling people like me to shut my mouth.