What the What????

I  belong to a YahooGroups for machine quilters. The following email was posted this morning –

“A new quilt shop opened in my area about a year ago. Prior to the opening the owner emailed another shop owner and LIED telling her she was opening a quilt shop in another State (Florida) when in fact it was across town. She wanted a lot of information about opening a new shop.  Since the opening, many new ideas have popped up at her shop that I’m sure were copied from not only this shop, but others. This owner has also asked for the names and phone numbers of other shops class instructors. The latest thing (that I know of) is that she has copied word for word from my long arm quilting website without my permission. I have had this information in my website and/or brochure for years. The only thing that has changed over the years is my prices. I know copying should be a form of flattery, but this is extremely UNPROFESSIONAL behavior and she is winning no friends, trust or respect with other shop owners. I am not a shop owner, but do not appreciate my work being copied. If she can’t come up with her own ideas, she needs to find another business. There—I’ve said it. Done.”

Ever since I read this email, I have been fighting with myself NOT to respond to it, but, as you can see, I have lost that battle.

After reading the above email, I have determined there are three things that the writer is angry about.

Item #1 – that a new shop has opened up in her town and that the new shop owners are “copying” what is working for other shop owners. Let’s assume that the new shop really was going to open in a different state, but things changed and they opened locally.

Item #2 –  that the new shop has been asking for information about (I am assuming) independent quilting/piecing instructors, and

Item #3 – that the new shop has copied some things from the writer’s brochure or website. I am also assuming that the writer is a longarm quilter and quilting for customers.

I am giving fair warning! I TOTALLY DISAGREE with everything this person wrote in their email. If you agree with the writer, you can exit out of this blog right now.

Item #1, about the shop owners copying ideas, information, etc., from other quilt shops – That is what businesses do! I belong to a marketing group and subscribe to several marketing / business websites, etc. One of the sayings of almost every business group I belong to is “if you find a business, or person, who is successful, copy what they are doing!

Nearly all businesses watch what other businesses like them are doing and copy each other! Do you thing McDonalds doesn’t look at what Burger King, Wendys, etc., are doing and then copy them?

Look at Starbucks. They started the coffee house trend. How many other coffee houses do you know of? Tully’s? Caribou Coffee? Many other regional coffee houses / coffee companies have sprung up, all with the same “footprint” that Starbucks has. Also look at the individual “Mom and Pop” style coffee stands that are on corners all around – well, at least here in the Pacific Northwest! With the mindset of the email writer, there would be only ONE coffee house – Starbucks!

Does that mean that years ago, when websites were starting to be popular, that a quilt shop couldn’t have a website because another quilt shop had one! No way! And today with FaceBook, Twitter and other social media – because another quilt shop or business has a presence on social media, you can’t!

I could go on and on with all sorts of examples.

FWIW – Martigale publishing is a great resource for quilt shop owners. Yes, they are selling their books and they want quilt shops to be successful – so the quilt shop can continue to sell their books. They have a website www.martingalewholesale.com dedicated to giving shop owners FREE information on how to promote and sell books and other quilting supplies. I get their emails – even though I don’t own a shop I can find useful information.

Copying business ideas from other businesses is a sign of a good (and probably successful) business owner!

Item #2 – about getting information about teachers. For many years, before I became a professional machine quilter, I taught piecing classes at just about every quilt shop in my area. Most quilt teachers are “independent contractors” and are NOT exclusive to any one shop.

Maybe there are a few teachers out there that ONLY teach at one shop, and maybe they may have a contract that says they can ONLY teach at one shop. But I would be willing to bet that most of these teachers would jump at a chance to teach at another quilt shop (assuming it fits into their schedule, etc.) I know I would – and I did!

Again, just because one shop offers classes, does that mean another shop can’t??

Item #3 – copying your information.

Let’s face it, there is only a few ways that one can write about quilting for customers! If you look at almost any machine quilter’s brochure or website, it will say pretty much the same thing. Unless you have something totally different or exclusive about your brochure or website, you can’t PROVE they copied it from you. In fact, they might have copied the information from someone else’s brochure or website – which is just like yours – and that person can say YOU copied from them!

When you start a business – any business – and you put “stuff” out there, whether on brochures, websites, social media, etc., IT WILL GET COPIED! When you are a quilter and you put photos of your work online, whether it is your website, a blog, FaceBook, etc., others will copy it. It doesn’t matter if it is the piecing or the quilting, if you put photos or descriptions of you work “out there,” someone, someplace, will either copy it or be inspired to create a (new) version or variation of your work. If this didn’t happen, we would all be making only one or two kinds of quilts!

In my un-humble opinion, the ONLY way to avoid this is to NEVER post, NEVER publish, or NEVER tell anyone, ANYTHING about what you do! And as humans, who are social creatures, this is almost impossible to do.

And now, I am going to put on my (very big) big girl, flame proof panties (or a whole suit) and go put a customer quilt on my machine and quilt it!

Whether you agree with me or not, please feel free to leave a comment.

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About Cindy Roth
Mother of 3, Grandmother of 11 and quilting forever!

28 Responses to What the What????

  1. Cathy Hale says:

    I agree with you Cindy! If I remember correctly, Japan became a major player in retail by taking the inventive ideas of America and fine tuning them into even better products that were produced more efficiently at a lower price.

  2. loretta rogers says:

    Cindy,

    Just cool it a little bit!! I am almost 85 years old. I have seen on several occasions a copy cat get busted as I would say by being a copy cat leaching on some one else’s business experience because they did not know how to run their own. This is a “insecure wanta be”. If I were you I would not hesitate to tell this busy body that knows nothing to read this.

    “I see that it appears either you or someone working for you have copied from my website. Did you know that this may be called copyright infringement? Please do not copy from my website or knowledge in the future and I prefer you remove what you have posted using my website.”

    Well Cindy you get the idea. This dumb bunny doesn’t knows she can’t cut the mustard and she will fail with every move she makes mainly because she does not know how to run the business. She will stumble and fall wasting money every way she turns and will surely be stuck with things she can not sell.

    Cindy, you have worked very hard with your business and what you offer is very good. DO NOT LOOSE ANY MORE SLEEP over this admirer. She wants what you have without working for it. You are a very good at helping all of us who quilt. Anybody you know can go on her website and watch what she tries.

    Now please read this “Copyright Law – Quilting” if you have not already:

    http://.tabberone.com/Trademarks/CopyrightLaw/Quilting/Quilting.shtml

    See you at MQS next year. Have you had time to look at the light fixture at Lowes? Loretta Rogers OP+

  3. J@DTD says:

    I see both sides of the issue in many ways, but I totally agree that if you don’t want someone to take inspiration or downright copy what you put out there, then don’t put it out there. It’s the only way to guarantee that it won’t be copied. I don’t agree with copying exactly, but it is the reality sometimes. Since becoming a hermit and never showing or telling anything usually isn’t a practical solution for those that are trying to make a living in this industry where showing what you do, what you offer, or telling people things is integral, then you have to go into “business” knowing that you will have competitors, knowing that not all of them will be “nice”, and sometimes they will beat you to the punch.

    It’s business, not camp!

    No one said it would be fair. You can only do the best you can, try to stay one step ahead and operate in a way that allows you to be at peace with yourself. That doesn’t mean you have to be a push over. It just means choose your battles wisely.

  4. Roslyn says:

    I think that much of what you say is valid i get ideas from others all the time and use them for jumping off points to develop my own with my flair, personality and skills. However copying word for word feels like cheating to me there is always a way to tweak it make it your own. The other point made about deception is offensive to me, If you cannot be honest it tells me you are planning to do something morally repugnant.
    Perhaps that may account for the writer’s angry outburst that’s the part that would disgust me personally.

  5. Susan says:

    Copying word for word is wrong. But my issue is, did the person writing this angry tirade have first hand knowledge of the alleged transgressions, or was it hearsay? EVERYONE needs to think twice before posting damaging comments, whether based on facts or not. Vent in private.
    And thank you to Andrea for posting the TED video on copyright and the fashion industry-very informative.

  6. Jenn Reeve says:

    I agree with most of your points Cindy, with the exception of the attitude towards copying what is or should be protected work. Just because it DOES happen all the time on the internet, does not make it OK or anything to be ignored. I did read your reply to one commenter where you clarified that you appropriately looked and did not see anything that in your opinion “should” have protected, but I still wonder what makes anyone other than a lawyer specializing in intellectual property protection able to accurately answer this. Regardless, if the original poster feels that strongly about that particular issue, she’s free to confront the store owner directly (whereas once an image hits google… bye bye accurate source crediting).

    That being said… to me this seems to boil down to the weird “territories” and loyalties that quilt shops and quilters seem to often hold tight to. Perhaps the new shop owner didn’t go about collecting her information in the most polite way possible, but breaking news ladies and gents… even though we deal in soft and warm materials, every LQS, online shop, professional quilter, etc., etc., etc., is there to make money, and some individuals are going to go about doing so in ways that not everyone approves of (and in some cases, ways that NO ONE approves of). I agree with an earlier comment that it sounds like the original poster was put off or offended by one action, which then colored the rest of her interactions and information.

    Cindy where I actually disagree with you the most is before you even start your rebuttal. You wrote: “I am giving fair warning! I TOTALLY DISAGREE with everything this person wrote in their email. If you agree with the writer, you can exit out of this blog right now.” One of the reasons I follow your blog is because of the (previously seeming) freedom to express differing views without being attacked. If I agree with any point the original poster made, and therefore disagree with you, should I not follow your blog any longer? I thought the (ideal) purpose of blogs like this was to create “safe” environments for actual discussion and questions. That statement just seemed to be at odds with what I’ve felt from your previous posts.

    As always though, thanks for taking the time to post!

  7. Glenna says:

    You make good points some of which I wondered about as I read. Some things are just not worth the toll it takes to stress over them.

  8. Carol Rickson says:

    Thank you Cindy, for putting that out there!! It is so very true. I do not own a shop, but love to see quilts at quilt shows, to see quilt designs that I might use. I love to look at blogs to see what others are doing and get so many idea and instructions on how to learn to be a better quilter. I collect giraffes and I praise you for “sticking your neck out there!! “LOL

    Carol Rickson
    Lancaster, PA

  9. I totally agree with you Cindy. Having belonged to Business Networking International for a non-quilting related family business, I learned a ton of marketing strategies from many other types of businesses – website builders, attorneys, chiropractors, pet fence installers, and another twenty plus different businesses. Not every idea is a fit for quilting and sewing businesses, but marketing is marketing and the ideas can be altered to our target market. There is very little that is uniquely original, but it does take time and thought to make it work for our specific market, client base, and type of product or service we are offering. Using similar ideas to promote a business is OK, but I feel copying word for word is not. Make it original and unique for your own business.

  10. gsmwhite says:

    We all gain from successful shops, more fabric choices, more classes, more information means more people will try quilting and fall in love with it. No one shop can do it all. Quilters will travel for miles to find a good shop so more the merrier.

  11. Pam Schenck says:

    I belong to the same group that the original post was in and sat on the fence for a long time. There were things I agreed with and things I didn’t. That being said, competition is healthy as I recently opened a humble quilt shop to complement my quilting business. The quilt shop owner 25 miles away was furious with me. Her business WAS for sale at the time, I WAS her friend. She is mostly upset that I didn’t call her and tell her what my plans were. Now she has fully restocked her store pulled it off the market PLUS she has decided to purchase a longarm and pulled everyone’s business cards and start quilting I was informed. One part of me got my feathers all puffed, the other part told the “informer” it makes good business sense and how can I be upset about that. All it means is that both of us had better do a good job for our customers and provide quality service. I hope someday we can be friends again and work together with our stores and talents for shop hops and such. I tell everyone that stops in my shop about hers, maybe someday she will return the favor.

  12. Judy Bosten says:

    Very well thought out and written response. When read without the anger of the first post, your response is the logical and proper response. We are human and we share and copy from others. When someone brings a new dish to a potluck, do we not ask for the recipe and go home and make it?

    Thanks Cindy
    Judy Bosten
    Muscatine, Iowa

  13. Ann Lilley says:

    I think the trigger for the animosity was the underhanded way the shop owner got her info. Would the already established shop owner freely share her practices and hard won experiences if she knew it was to benefit a direct competitor? Not likely.
    And unfortunately once you know of someone’s bad behaviour you tend to see all of their behaviour in that light.
    Recruiting teachers may or not be ok depending on local custom.
    Copying some one else’s brochure verbatim is perhaps illegal but most definitely a lazy shortcut.
    I think there are several underlying issues here – a sense of community and how we treat each other fairly and a business owners need to protect themselves from competition.
    Ann Lilley

  14. Ann Kovalchick says:

    I agree, you have very good points. I don’t like word for word copying I think that is wrong and shows a lack of imagination and consideration for the original writer.
    Ann in Virginia

  15. juls2x says:

    I truly liked another opinion. The rrwriter gave arguments that I could see that it was personal and some how felt injured I was feeling this too. But getting your thoughts and experience helped me understand how we can look at things and see them negatively. Then when you see it from another perspective it doesn’t seem negative at all. Thanks for biting the bulletmand commenting.
    Julie

  16. J in AK says:

    Reinventing the wheel wastes time; nothing new under the sun; imitation is the sincerest form of flattery; blah blah blah. Go where you want, follow whomever you choose, but that darn negativity is sooo contagious.

  17. I agree with you wholeheartedly, Cindy. The permissions page on my own website gives my permission for everything, and while I know it wasn’t necessary for me to write the page up because people could copy me whether I give my permission or not, I thought it would save me some emails. 😉

    It drives me crazy when I go to blogs that give tutorials on some quilting ideas, and then go on to claim all kinds of intellectual property rights and “for personal use only” disclaimers. Did you invent swirls? Or feathers? Or feathers with swirls? No. Just stop it. Quilting has been around so long, that like you said, none of us would be able to quilt a thing if copying or re-interpreting was not part of the game.

    It actually reminds me of this video I watched some time ago, that I think gives a really good perspective that’s applicable to our quilting world:

  18. Cathy Smith says:

    I wondered how all the information that was supposedly lied about was accessed. However, one point that I disagree with Cindy on is the teaching of the classes: it is my experience that in our area of NC, quilt shop owners do put in their contracts that the teachers may not teach the same classes at, not only other shops, but not even at their bees or guilds. That is not to say they couldn’t teach other classes other places. As far as using what others have done at other successful shops, why try to re-invent the wheel? Although offering things that are different will probably draw in different customers instead of “taking” them from other shops,

  19. randy fox says:

    I agree with you, Cindy. Well said.

  20. Linda says:

    I agree with the original post in some ways. Copying the written word, whether it’s on a web site or in a book or in a pattern or elsewhere, is plagiarism and possibly a copyright violation, depending on what is copied. Writing the same thing in your own words is fine. But this person copied word for word. Why didn’t she first ask permission? Possibly because she thought that it would be denied.

    If you put something on the internet or in a book, chances are that someone will copy it at some point. However that doesn’t mean that you have given your permission, or that they aren’t breaking the law by doing so.

    I think the writer of the original post was not so much concerned that the new business owner was using the same techniques as the other businesses, but that she used deception to get information from them. That’s just not a nice thing to do, and will probably hurt her business in the long run.

    • Cindy Roth says:

      I do not approve of copying word for word written piecing instructions or other copyrighted types of creative information. The information on the website (I did a quick internet search and found a website that could belong to the email writer) contains NOTHING that would be considered propitiatory or unique. The only “different” information is her personal info.

      • Linda says:

        It doesn’t have to be proprietary (I think that’s the word you meant) or unique. Plagiarism is copying someone else, period. It’s a sleazy thing to do without permission and attribution. The original email writer probably spent hours writing whatever it was that was copied. Those were her words, and no one else has the right to claim them, legally or morally.

  21. Ragna Rogero says:

    I agree with everything you are sayingBUT when it comes to copying verbage word for word from your written writings, instructions or thoughts that is crossing the line. Got my big girl bikinis on too LOL

    • J@DTD says:

      I agree. Copying verbatim is wrong and the lazy way to go. I also think that as adults we can choose to think for ourselves and people will see what has been copied and make their own choice of where to spend their money.

  22. I totally agree. I teach at multiple shops as well as rent a community building in my town to teach my own AccuQuilt classes (since I don’t want to promote AccuQuilt in the shops because I am a retailer and want them to order from me).
    I think if the writer doesn’t like the shop or the shop owner then she doesn’t have to go there, BUT why post that on a machine quilting site? It has absolutely nothing to do with machine quilting. (I didn’t even read the message when posted there, I just deleted it.)

  23. Linda Vopat says:

    Very good, logical points, Cindy. I agree with you.

  24. Margaret Landon says:

    I agree, let’s all play nice…..it’s a much better part of our business plans! Thanks Cindy.
    Margaret
    The Quilt Parlor,
    North Tonawanda, NY

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