Thursday, June 07, 2007

Ethics and the Needlework Industry (originally posted on CraftGossip 6/5/07)

Linn Skinner has an interesting post on her blog about what needlework designers get paid for teaching. Be forewarned, though, if you're a needlework instructor but Linn doesn't think you're in her rank (and I agree: few are), you may well be offended.

Anyway, the reason I mention her post is because I find it very strange: Her description of how a needlework instructor's fees are handled for a consumer show, of which the National Counted Cross Stitch Show is an example, is not at all in agreement with what she said just a few short weeks ago in writing to Butch Phillips and me when I was the Show Director for the NCCSS.

In fact, her post seems purposely directed as a personal attack on Maggie Pringlemeir in response to Maggie's comments about how poorly her own contract negotations with Rockome Gardens were handled by Butch Phillips.

As an aside, Maggie's contract with Rockome was not necessarily going to be the same as Linn's, nor was that any of Linn's business. Individual interests are the point of contract negotiation. Maggie had needs she stated upfront which had to be met before she could or would sign a contract with Rockome, and as Butch Phillips never bothered to contact her, a contract was never signed. The verbal promises Butch directed me to make on his behalf to Maggie will never be tested because Maggie chose to listen to and trust me, instead of trying to "shoot the messenger" as so many others have. Maggie recognized that since Butch had already renegged on every promise he'd made to me, he couldn't be trusted to keep any of those he'd made to her, and ESPECIALLY since he hadn't even bothered to make them directly to her HIMSELF but had instead used me as his surrogate.

Back to Linn ... What she said then was this:
Rockome gets instructors at a discount rate.

I will be teaching in Kansas City the weekend after Rockome and my usual fees prevail there. I am compensated for air travel, shuttles to and from all airports, lodging and meals, kit costs and $100.00 per student for a 6 hour session. I do not pay for use of a facility and I require a minimum of 12 students for a booking.

At Rockome I will be teaching 7 hours per day on two days, provide a kit at my expense ($35.00 wholesale cost), pay for my own travel, lodging and meal expenses and will be paid $75.00 leaving me a very small profit. I have agreed to teach the class with no minimum as to attendees.

I accept this as a marketing expense and hope to make up the difference with sales in my booth.

So, which is it? Is the NCCSS getting needlework instructors at a discount or not? Why has Linn's explanation of how these fees are handled at a consumer show changed so dramatically in such a short period of time? Is Linn grinding an axe of her own, or are there other people at work on other issues behind the scenes at the NCCSS? Or both?

There is a far bigger discussion these questions should lead us to ... a discussion about why so many people say needlework, and cross stitch in particular, is "not doing well" right now. I have plenty of my own thoughts on that larger discussion, as I expect you do also. I would love to hear your thoughts ... and I'm even going to give you a chance to post them before I post my own. :) Let's get some discussion going here.

I think these types of questions and their answers are very relevant to the needlework industry -- and very important to its future. There are people watching how all of this plays out who are just as disappointed and heartbroken as I am at the lack of honesty and ethics in this industry. We have known about it for a long time, and we have chosen to overlook it, but that choice is no longer possible. Today more than ever before, people want to spend their money with people and organizations whose overall ethics (and agenda) they agree with, believe in, and support. And there are certainly enough choices today and enough opportunities, especially with the Internet, that customers can not only find an agreeable choice, but also do the necessary research to determine which of the available choices is the option that best matches their own requirements.

The world has been changing around the needlework industry for a long time now, and in my opinion, it's long past time that the needlework industry get with the program, clean up its act, and stop treating its customers like we're stupid -- because we most definitely are NOT stupid.

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