Mama Always Told Me Not To Talk To Strangers

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Forum topic by closetguy posted 08-08-2011 02:05 AM 2218 views 0 times favorited 18 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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744 posts in 4096 days

08-08-2011 02:05 AM

You don’t get to my age without having picked up a few wounds in the back from being too good-natured. I guess I just trust people a little too much and occasionally, when I’m not looking, here comes another knife in the back.

I first started making these dovetailed post office box banks about 10 years ago for my wife to give as gifts. It wasn’t until a little over a year ago that I started getting serious about the banks and put them in my Etsy store and selling them at shows. They have been a big hit and I have sold a boat load of them. I didn’t invent these banks, and I didn’t invent dovetails or box joints, but I seldom saw these banks made any way other than butt or mitre joint. I figured as soon as I started selling on Etsy that there would be a gaggle of “me too” copies since no one was yet making this style (or selling this style on Etsy). It didn’t take long before someone listed a few made with half blind joints, but they were using the cheesy cheap coin slots so I didn’t consider it much competition. It’s been surprising to me that there hasn’t been a flood of them on Etsy, which is good for me and helped me to build a brand around that style.

A fellow LJ emailed me last month asking for information on building the banks. Of course, being the type of person I am, I sent a detailed email back on how to build them. Over the course of a few weeks I answered many emails from him on how to mount the doors, size of screws to use, cleaning, the nuances of working with brass versus bronze versus zinc, hardware sources, etc. All the things I have learned through trial and error or mistakes were laid bare. I didn’t ask, but I assumed he was making them for gifts or to sell at shows. He even asked for a picture of the back, which I didn’t have, but I took the time to make one and sent to him. I always adhere to the LJ creed to help others when they ask.

So guess what? Last week, he started listing his boxes, which look just like mine, on Etsy. The sad part is he made a comment in one of his emails to me that my prices were too low for these boxes. I guess it wasn’t enough to short cut his venture by taking advantage of my good nature and experience, but he felt the need to price them the same also. He is buying the doors off Ebay, so he is already paying three times what I pay for my doors. I wish he had stated in his first email “Hey Closet Guy. Can you help me out so I can build bank boxes just like yours and compete against you on Etsy? I don’t have the initiative to figure it out on my own.” Yep, my response would have been a little different.

I always knew there would eventually be more people listing this style of box on Etsy, especially when they saw how many I have sold in a short period of time. I just never thought it would be from someone I helped. No, I’m not pissed, just a little disappointed.

-- I don't make mistakes, only design

18 replies so far

View KayBee's profile


1083 posts in 3450 days

#1 posted 08-08-2011 02:22 AM

Ouch! I don’t know what we should do. Start a lynch mob because it’s a fellow LJ. Tell him he should give you a percent of his sales to pay for instruction. Maybe just laugh because he’s not making as much money.

You’re always been a decent guy and helped everyone with advice on the business side especially. I’ve always been apperceptive of it.

-- Karen - a little bit of stupid goes a long way

View sandhill's profile


2128 posts in 4128 days

#2 posted 08-08-2011 03:14 AM

Yea as a matter of fact I seem to remember seeing some references and dialog you had with a few people here. Contact etsy and tell them you will pull out if they let him continue is all I can suggest. Over the years you have helped me as well but I would never consider setting up a booth at one of your shows or a store on etsy selling the same items. You know “Imitation is the highest form of flattery” I am sure you can lower your price and drive him off etsy but I have a feeling he or she will soon be gone any way.

View terry603's profile


320 posts in 3117 days

#3 posted 08-08-2011 03:20 AM

agreed that is just not right

-- may not always be right,but,never in doubt.

View ShaneA's profile


7053 posts in 2802 days

#4 posted 08-08-2011 03:22 AM

Did the guy know you sold them on etsy? If so, I would consider that poor judgement on his part, and maybe if they use some better judgement (by some miracle) they will stop and only sell locally. Probably be dissapointed, just as you stated.

View rance's profile


4266 posts in 3364 days

#5 posted 08-08-2011 03:30 AM

I’d be disappointed too. Have you approached them about the issue?

As you stated, the box joints and DT’s are widely rampant on these cute little banks. I think there is plenty of room for variety and customizations to make them his own. But after helping him out with all the other little details, I’d think they’d have a little common courtesy.

I was in a very similar situation with another LJer. I helped him with some things and in return, he allowed me to make and sell his item but we agreed that I’d not sell them on a website or sell the plans. I’ve also admired other’s work and contacted them about building their pieces as the focus point of a class. Some have graciously granted permission, some I never received a reply.

I guess common courtesy is not as common as it used to be.

-- Backer boards, stop blocks, build oversized, and never buy a hand plane--

View PurpLev's profile


8547 posts in 3852 days

#6 posted 08-08-2011 03:31 AM

that is really low… I feel your pain.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View degoose's profile


7245 posts in 3558 days

#7 posted 08-08-2011 03:34 AM

All I can say is that you have been helpful to so many, including me… I am sad that someone who you have helped so much would consider doing such a thing… Morally reprehensible…

-- Don't drink and use power tools @

View Built2Last's profile


234 posts in 3681 days

#8 posted 08-08-2011 03:49 AM

“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” In my years of building outdoor furniture I’ve had this happen to me more times than I cared for and I always had to remind myself of the preceding quote…

View BobTheFish's profile


361 posts in 2756 days

#9 posted 08-08-2011 04:04 AM

s#!t happens.

be happy you’re able to get a better profit, and maybe start working on something a little different. Or modify and don’t tell him how you’ve done it.

I don’t mean to be, well, mean about it, but there’s little you can really do.

I’m not exactly the type to get too upset when someone copies me. I have a million ideas that I can go to if something becomes old or dated (or copied). I can say its never happened to me, but at the same time, I’ve been more than willing to give any of my ideas away.

I’m sorry it happened though.

View Bearpaw's profile


257 posts in 3924 days

#10 posted 08-08-2011 04:04 AM

I have tried to ask permission and most of the times it was given. I give credit to someone’s design when used and do not compete on their street corner. I have tried to give help and tips. This way everyone can get along to have fun, expand their knowledge, talent and maybe make a little money to support their hobby. Just watch whose tail you step on for it may be your own.

-- "When we build, let us think we build forever." John Ruskin

View SSMDad's profile


395 posts in 2800 days

#11 posted 08-08-2011 04:29 AM

It’s sad and very disheartening when a person takes advantage of another’s good nature. Sorry to hear you had to experience this. It’s happened to me many times in the past and I always just ask myself WTH did you help them for. I never seem to learn though.

Hope people can see through him and go with the originals.

-- Chris ~~Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past."

View Gary's profile


9386 posts in 3637 days

#12 posted 08-08-2011 06:39 AM

It’s such a shame but, some people have absolutley no moral fiber, no scruples, no respect for others and likely feel no shame at all for what they have done.

-- Gary, DeKalb Texas only 4 miles from the mill

View Puzzleman's profile


417 posts in 3148 days

#13 posted 08-08-2011 08:29 PM

My suggestion is to continue to beat him at his game. Keep your pricing to where he can’t compete. Market yours as “The Original”. Also market as “Don’t accept copies, buy from the original”.

I agree that copying exactly is crap. The least he could have done was buy one of yours and copy it by himself in his shop. At least you would have made some money off of him.

Another idea is to send him a PM asking for a royalty or percentage of each sale, since you taught him everything he know. If he balks at that, how about charging for the lessons?

-- Jim Beachler, Chief Puzzler,

View SSMDad's profile


395 posts in 2800 days

#14 posted 08-09-2011 03:08 AM

Just a thought but since you corresponded by email and there are records of when you started posting your mailboxes on etsy, etc. Get an attorney to write a letter demanding a cease and desist or suffer an intellectual property copyright violation suit as well as a percentage of every sale of these boxes he’s made. Then see how fast they disappear.

-- Chris ~~Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past."

View longgone's profile


5688 posts in 3512 days

#15 posted 08-09-2011 04:21 AM

I would post a link to his Lumberjocks page and expose the bastard.

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