Apr 7, 2012

Call Me "Doubting Thomas"

My MMM editor, Sev, is convinced that I hold grudges for too long. I hadn't thought about this much, but after our conversation and a recent event I realized that he's right about the first half. Regarding the second part of that assumption, I think I hold my grudges for exactly the right amount of time. The conversation began when I doubted the validity of the surface-skimming review we recently published on the Hyosung GT250. The two page love-fest-without-a-fault puff piece seemed to be more of a marketing blurb than an MMM review. Even the loud exhaust system was given a PR polishing ("I had to repeatedly look behind me to see what big bike was coming up on me. The exhaust sounding so powerful, I was sure I was going to get lapped."). The oversized picture of the vintage-looking GT showed too much detail because the marginal quality welds were obvious even in black-and-white. The positive side of the review was that it appeared to be, mostly, promoting a good local dealer; Mill City Motors. The negative side was that it appeared to be more of an apology to Hyosung than an actual critical review.

My history with Hyosung has to get in my way, though. That's where this discussion began. The fact is, I am a firm believer in "Screw me once, shame on you. Screw me twice, shame on me." I don't forgive and forget easily. In my studio service business, I have an unbending policy that says if you don't pay me 60 day after I invoice you, the next time you need me I'll ask for a retainer before I leave home. If I don't get it, I don't do the work. If you manage to find a way to stiff me for any amount of money, I'll block your telephone number from my business and any email will go directly to the Junk folder and be automatically trashed. I'm old. I have more work than I want. I don't need new customers and people who don't pay their bills don't even qualify as "customers." They're just freeloaders.

I was reminded of my habit, again, this past week. I did some audio work for MPR and the school where I work with students from one of my classes. We've done this project a half-dozen times with some pretty substantial local bands in the past. The most recent event was with a very local band with a minimal following and who drew a couple dozen people to the show we recorded. Afterwards, the band went prima donna on us and inserted themselves into an "approval" process of the show that will probably result in the the show's cancellation. Honestly, that works for me. And from here out, if I'm asked to do anything with that group or the group's members, I'll find somewhere else to be. Burn me once . . . you know the story.

I've applied the same logic to my vendors for decades. In the motorcycle world, I've been burned twice on motorcycles: once on a brand new 1974 Suzuki RL250 and once on a barely used 1986 Kawasaki KLR600. Both bikes were unreliable crap and the Suzuki actually cost me a bit of money when I had next-to-none. It was the second new motorcycle (and the last) I've owned. I bought it in 1974 for $1,100 and a year later Suzuki dropped the price on the RL to $700 to unload their 1974 inventory and bail out of trials forever. Obviously, I took a beating; value-wise. I didn't consider owning another Suzuki until the SV650 had been well shaken out and I bought a nearly new 1999 in 2000 for about 1/2 of Blue Book. I bought my 2nd Suzuki in 2006, when I bought my barely used DL-650 for 2/3 of Blue Book. The Kawasaki was a POS from the day I bought it and the longer I owned it, the more disappointing it was. Even selling that bike was a problem. I didn't own another Kawasaki until I bought my 2000 KL250, used and cheap, in 2005. That bike was also a disappointment and I don't expect to own that brand again. Compare those experiences with my Honda, Yamaha, and, even, Rickman/Zundapp bikes and I'm uninspired to experiment again.

There is a restaurant rule that says something like, "It takes $5,000 in advertising to get a customer to try a new restaurant and 5 seconds of poor service to push that customer back out the door. It will take 5 years of marketing to get that customer to try it again." Choose your numbers, but the fact is in a world with lots of options, you don't get a lot of chances to satisfy your customers. There are no do-overs in life or business. I may be a "moto-journalist," but that doesn't make me a sucker or a shill. I'm too old and too cranky to kiss up to a half-assed Korean manufacturer of questionable quality or character. I'll give them a decade and we'll see if they are still around to review after they've settled in a bit.

There are a collection of manufacturers that I won't buy from, based on past experience and an overwhelming number of acceptable alternatives: Tascam, Sony, Presonus, Adobe, MOTU, Toshiba (Toughbooks aren't), and ProCo are among the list. The list of companies I look for when buying is probably a lot longer. I'd bet you have your biases, too. I bet even Sev has a few. Why should I pretend to be different than I am? Why would I want to?

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