dare I use the f word?

I was a trader at a big event in Cape Town in February. In advance of the event, I read through the list of stallholders. Two other people would be selling hats, one as a reseller of mass-produced straw hats and fedoras, and one as a crafter selling her own makes.

During setting-up time, I introduced myself to the crafter and said I’d looked for her website or facebook page to view her stuff, but couldn’t find anything. She said she doesn’t advertise at all because she’s already so swamped with orders that she wouldn’t be able to cope if more people saw her products. Knowing the kinds of difficulties that a small hand-made production business faces, as I do, I was amazed and impressed by this. I couldn’t wait to see her hats, and thought perhaps I could even learn something from her.

The event opened, and I beetled off to ‘network’ as soon as I could. As I approached the row of stalls on the other side of the park, I saw a display of animal novelty hats and hoodies that I recognised from a school event last year, which stood out for their uniformity and unmistakable mass-produced nature and low prices. They are also readily available at various pavement stalls around Cape Town and in the Chinese shops.  So, no problem – you can buy and sell what you like. Good for you (and you’ll see below, I do it myself sometimes). — but it turns out that this was my fellow crafter! I greeted her and said something along the lines of wow, you’ve got quite a range here – are these the ones you make yourself? And she said Yes. And looked away.

I’m so mad that someone does this. Claiming cheap imports as your own work is – what? fraud? or just a big fat stupid insulting lie? And I don’t understand why someone would do this. There’s nothing illegal in being a reseller of hats, after all.  For a big event, working on my own, I’m not able to produce enough stock by my own hand.  I buy in about 30% of my stock, and either modify it by adding handmade flowers or a band or a crochet trim, or resell it as it is. If I haven’t made an entire item myself, I don’t put my label on it and pretend to have made it. I don’t not put a label on an item and pretend it’s my own work.  I point out which my own handmade items are, and which are not – and, frankly, the difference is very evident !!

I wrote this post a good few weeks ago, and was going through draft posts when I came across it and got all riled up again and decided to publish it. I’m trying to work out why I actually care about this – presumably Imported-Animal-Hat Woman wants people to think she is a creative genius, and what do I care if she is or isn’t?  People are still buying my hats and asking for special orders. There’s enough work to go around. Am I so morally above reproach that someone else’s lie rocks and jolts the foundations of my innately faultless nature? Um….no, hardly!!  hahaha    Is it because she’s just stupid and thinks everyone else is as well? Aha, could be that.

Okay, rant over. F is for fraud, by the way, not the four-letter word beginning with F and ending with K. But that too.

22 thoughts on “dare I use the f word?

  1. katechiconi

    Glad you got it off your chest! The fact remains that she is cheating her customers, and you are not. There’s no one out there to police the activity of traders like this, so it’s up to the rest of us to let others know when we discover cheats.

    1. Nice piece of work Post author

      Don’t think so, she didn’t strike me as being very bright.
      The thing is, she doesn’t have to lie. She would only have to lie if she was trading at a handmade-everything market, which this one wasn’t.

  2. salpal1

    I would get riled up, too. But not sure there is anything that you can do about it – unless the event rules indicate that the product have to be handmade, in which case, a complaint to the management is in order.

  3. craftlyn

    I agree with your viewpoint. The sad thing is resellers are able to undercut hand makers by so much because they don’t have time involved. Etsy has fallen into the same thing–sellers claiming they’re handmaking all their items when clearly they’re not, especially when they show up with tags that indicate they were manufactured. Like you, I’m not so much annoyed by the part that they resell, but by the fact that they blatantly lie and say they made it all by hand. :(

    1. Nice piece of work Post author

      Reselling is not only legal, it’s probably the basis of our entire economy! I hope I made it very clear that I BUY IN SOME HATS AND CAPS FOR RESALE. The difference is that I don’t pretend I made them. Also, I only do carry the purchased hats at markets where that is allowed, and not at the “only handmade” ones. The Chinese-hat woman once took her crappy headwear to a very eco-conscious school’s annual fair, I couldn’t believe that the organisers let her in. That school also has an arts and crafts shop on its premises, where they won’t even stock an item that isn’t 100% natural fibres only and made by hand. Crazy.

  4. The Knitting Scientist

    As a crafter and a consumer this makes me very angry! Not only because it undercuts what real crafters do, like craftlyn pointed out, but also because it’s blunt lying to the customer. You have all the right to be angry at this fraud! I know I am! And I think I’ve seen a few stalls with these “handmade” hats here in Sydney…

    1. Nice piece of work Post author

      I since bumped into a woman I know trading at a big market in Stellenbosch, stopped to chat and said I loved her clothing products (she used to trade in “vintage” stuff). She told me she’d discovered her creative side and was sewing the garments along with a woman she’d hired on a part-time basis. I said Wonderful, and paused to look at a long flowing turquoise top (just my style!). The label inside the side seam said Made in China. I wish I’d had the guts to ask her why she goes to all the trouble of making her own stuff and then stitching in something like that….

  5. gentlestitches

    Disheartening behaviour on her part. People really need to check where their purchases come from. Make me physically ill what some unscrupulous people get up to with outsourcing work.
    There is of course a fair trade movement happening. You are one of the many good guys. <3

    1. Nice piece of work Post author

      The South African marketplace is flooded with Chinese imports. Our government has only started to try and cut back a bit now, but only after they realised they had shot themselves in both feet and managed to kill off many local businesses. Cape Town is the centre of the garment industry in the country, and more and more experienced designers and sewers and pattern makers lose their jobs every month.

  6. nanacathy2

    What can I add? It’s just morally wrong. I get annoyed by some fair trade products which are purported to be hand made but look very much factory made and would undercut similar U.K. genuinely hand made items. Not fair trade for local crafters.
    Not certain people would get away with claiming things were made by them if they aren’t here, but am probably wrong. I shall check now!

  7. kathrynrubidoux

    There’s a meme that’s popular around here, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!” And is probably how that gal justifies her lying about her “makes”. There is a truth in advertising law here but people still lie. I think most people can see the difference between your obviously skilled and handcrafted work versus the mass produced items carried by the other guy. Hang in there, you do good work and it shows.

  8. daniellajoe

    totally understand you, once i saw on facebook this woman who said she had made her crochet wedding dress in 3 weeks….all of that while moving ….excuse me?? lol i asked her how many hours a day she crochet…she didn’t answer me lol :-)

      1. daniellajoe

        no, it was almost mid shin and long sleeve with what look like #10 thread…there is no way she could have finished it in 3 weeks ….

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