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Thread: Brian Goulet and his recent Q&A "under cutting"

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    Senior Member KBeezie's Avatar
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    Default Re: Brian Goulet and his recent Q&A "under cutting"

    Quote Originally Posted by Miss Fountain Pen View Post

    Second, the most important value-added service for me is the testing and tuning of the pen before shipping. I'm much more likely to pay extra to someone who will check and tune the pen than to someone who's merely a great guy. On that note, may John Mottishaw have a long and prosperous life and business, because I have every intention of buying from him again in the years to come.
    Goulet doesn't do tuning, but they will check the nib upon request before shipping to at least prevent the rare mishap of getting a lemon or misaligned pen.

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    Default Re: Brian Goulet and his recent Q&A "under cutting"

    Quote Originally Posted by TAYLORPUPPY View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Empty_of_Clouds View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by TAYLORPUPPY View Post
    I'll pay Brian's premium retail prices over all other foreign sellers. I don't care how deeply they slash the price. If I don't like his pen, he will let me return it. I'm not likely to have that luck with Bilbo baggins in east egypt. With that said. I don't think Brian did himself any favors with this video. I don't know if he was feeling down, maybe he was hungry and not thinking well. It was especially troubling to hear him say why he can't sell hi end platinum. I would have thought Brian would look for ways TO sell hi end platinum, as opposed to talking about why he cant.
    There are highly reputable sellers in Japan that will under-cut the American dealers if you are willing to purchase online. There is nothing shifty about these sellers, and I think you should be careful about implying that ALL non-US retailers are disreputable, as you are with your "Bilbo Baggins in East Egypt" remark.

    The upside of dealing with local stores is the level of service. The downside is the elevated cost. The reverse is mostly true for the good online sellers, except that in my opinion the disparity in prices is far more significant than the disparity in services.
    You misunderstood me. I wasn't inferring that non US sellers are disreputable.

    Perhaps, but the way it was written suggests that people are heading to the shifty side of the internet, when the reality is that there are plenty of bona fide good sellers in Japan that will happily trade at their own market prices.

    The bottom line with Japanese sellers is that they are not under cutting anyone. They represent the baseline prices. The foreign distribution laws that lead to higher prices in the US (for example) are not the fault of the local Japanese retailers. US businesses, if they feel strongly about this, should take it up with the appropriate people and lobby. The customer base is not the right audience for this campaign in my honest opinion.

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    Senior Member KBeezie's Avatar
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    Default Re: Brian Goulet and his recent Q&A "under cutting"

    Quote Originally Posted by Empty_of_Clouds View Post
    The bottom line with Japanese sellers is that they are not under cutting anyone. They represent the baseline prices. The foreign distribution laws that lead to higher prices in the US (for example) are not the fault of the local Japanese retailers. US businesses, if they feel strongly about this, should take it up with the appropriate people and lobby. The customer base is not the right audience for this campaign in my honest opinion.

    Though while many retailers don't say it outright, I do feel that many as a way of trying to compete use fear tactics to dissuade people from purchasing abroad, but the 'warnings' could apply to even US sellers.

    Also far as eBay, Amazon, Rakuten the important thing to note is that they're market places, they themselves are not the retailers but rather there a large number of sellers, so if you know of a reputable seller, it's best to mention them by name rather than just the market place (for example on Rakuten I know Bunkidou shop and Pen-house are reputable, and Engeika on eBay or their own site).

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    Senior Member Sandy Fry's Avatar
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    Default Re: Brian Goulet and his recent Q&A "under cutting"

    I buy almost all of my pens online. I live in the desert. Nearest pen store is a 3 hour round trip if the traffic in Los Angeles is light but most times it is at least a 5 hour round trip.

    So, why make that tedious trip when I can sit on my sofa, order the pen online and have it delivered to me?

    David

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    Default Re: Brian Goulet and his recent Q&A "under cutting"

    I'm also into watches, and a variation of this argument comes up with respect to buying from an AD with their fancy shop and overhead, or buying from a grey market dealer online.

    With the markup on luxury watches being what it is, you can be talking about the difference between $750/$3000 for a mid-range watch, or $3300/$6000 for something nicer like an Omega.

    I work hard for my money and I can't see the AD bringing me thousands of dollars in "added value".

    Maybe Brian should just sell grey market pens for the brands he can't be price competitive with. Or, he should just not carry those brands until the dealer rectifies the pricing discrepancy.

    Sounds like he wouldn't be losing much money since apparently, people aren't buying those overpriced pens from him anyway.

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    Default Re: Brian Goulet and his recent Q&A "under cutting"

    I do not know much about this but from my few experiences buying from Japan it seemed the taxes of getting it in here was my main problem.
    Sandy
    We don't know what we don't know

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    Default Re: Brian Goulet and his recent Q&A "under cutting"

    I greatly admire what Brian and Rachel have done. They started from scratch and have built a highly successful business for themselves that has resulted in true job creation (as opposed to the kind the politicians claim). I have bought from them in the past and no doubt will do so in the future.

    Having said that, I didn't feel much sympathy for Brian's lament. It seemed rather unseemly. Certainly he realizes that he did to traditional brick and mortar stores what he complains of others doing to him. I imagine if you sat a traditional B&M store owner in front of the camera and asked him what internet dealers such as Goulets have done to him, you'd hear a similar lament. Brian points out the hidden costs of a business (any business). I wonder if Brian can even imagine the costs of operating a B&M retail business in New York City or Washington DC?

    Brian does a lot of videos, etc that he feels are value added. I think Brian and Rachel's extensive use of internet communication was excellent basic marketing, and is what initially raised their profile and helped them be noticed and attract business that helped them build. Their outstanding customer service keeps customers coming back. People who see a lot of value added in the videos, etc may be willing to pay a premium, others may not see value added and may be more price sensitive. The market sorts that out.

    Overall, his complaint sounded like someone who moved into a new subdivision, then a year later complains that with all the new houses the place is getting too crowded. I thought it was beneath him. Nevertheless, I still think highly of him and his accomplishments. Perhaps he just had a "bad hair day".

    The issue of inconsistent pricing in different geographies is a much more complicated one. I have no great expertise in this area regarding causes, so won't speculate. I'll simply state my experience as a consumer. I live in the USA and buy contemporary pens. Many come from other collectors via Pen sites or at pen shows. I prefer to buy lightly pre-owned, as they are a good bit less expensive. When I buy new ones, as long as pricing is close, some have come from B&M dealers in the US and others have come from internet dealers in the US. But when the price difference becomes huge I end up buying them elsewhere from anywhere in the world. So the new Aurora 365 Abissi I have on order will come from a US dealer, while the Pelikan Grand Place and Vibrant Blue are coming from a dealer in Italy.
    Last edited by whichwatch; February 7th, 2016 at 08:53 AM.

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    Senior Member migo984's Avatar
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    Default Re: Brian Goulet and his recent Q&A "under cutting"

    I can't remember the last time I looked at the Goulet web-site & their videos don't appeal to me. And, to be frank, being indifferent to Goulet hasn't hampered my enjoyment and experience of fountain pens in the slightest.


    I'm an online buyer, not based in the US. I've been happily buying pens and associated products for many years, from all over the world - mostly from excellent and competitively priced suppliers in Europe & Asia. I like exploring new sources & buying opportunities. I make my pennies count & don't pay unnecessary premiums. Ref member @whichwatch's post #47 above, I am "price sensitive".

    Globalisation is here to stay and the AD market and RRP pricing model needs to wake up and better respond to that.


    Pen sellers aren't charities - they charge like wounded bulls when they want to, and they aren't in the business of doing us all favours, however benevolent they want us thinking they are. Indeed I think some promulgate a clever business model that seems designed to disempower customers and make them feel obligated & dependent.


    Ultimately they make good enough profits from us or they wouldn't be in business. To this end I find Brian Goulet's shroud-waving somewhat disingenuous.
    Last edited by migo984; February 7th, 2016 at 03:12 PM.

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    Member JoeFromNashville's Avatar
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    Default Re: Brian Goulet and his recent Q&A "under cutting"

    I'm a little late to jump in on this thread, and will admit to not having watched Brian's video Q&A, but I've heard him and other retailers make this argument before and my thoughts on this are fairly straightforward: it shouldn't be implied as somehow being the consumer's fault for going out and getting the best deal they can find on an item. I'm sure that U.S.-based retailers such as the Goulets benefit from non-US citizens purchasing their products at lower prices than they can get in their home countries. Case in point, I know that Pilot products are much more expensive in the UK when purchased through retailers linked to the UK distributor, because the distributor sets much higher prices. Last I heard, the same was true for U.S.-manufactured products like Noodler's ink, etc. Goulet Pens ships internationally, so in a way they could be said to be contributing to the same problem they are complaining about.

    I love the Goulets, I buy stuff from them regularly, and have for years. However, it's a bit of a pot/kettle situation, since I distinctly remember Brian in an early video or podcast expressing the sentiment that he didn't feel bad for mom/pop brick & mortar retailers going out of business because it was a "dying" business model that couldn't compete with e-commerce. This was right before Art Brown closed, which made me really sad, and it rubbed me the wrong way.

    When I link to deals, etc. on my blog and twitter feed, I typically try to link to the best deal I can find on the item. My audience is the consumer, not the retailer. That said, I would say that MOST of the time I end up linking to a mainstream retailer such as Goulet or PenChalet, and NOT an eBay seller, because there's a limited universe of items you can get a "better deal" on. However, if I can buy a Platinum Bourgogne via Amazon for $61 (like I did yesterday), it honestly just doesn't make sense for me to spend $176 to buy it from Goulet. Personally, if it's a really expensive pen (over $250), many times I will choose to buy from the U.S. retailer so I have some additional comfort in case there's a problem with the pen. If I choose to buy from Japan, often it's because they offer a nib or color that I can't get from a U.S. retailer anyway. For example, I wanted the Pilot Custom Heritage 92 in Orange, not clear, and I paid $110 to get it from Amazon. If I went through an "authorized US reseller," I would only be able to get the clear version for over $200.

    I'd also note that many of these items appear to be shipping from Amazon in the U.S., not from overseas. Perhaps these manufacturers are now dealing with Amazon directly, and cutting out the middle man?
    Last edited by JoeFromNashville; February 7th, 2016 at 12:53 PM. Reason: Grammatical Errors

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    Default Re: Brian Goulet and his recent Q&A "under cutting"

    Quote Originally Posted by tandaina View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by SeminarianMike View Post
    On Brian's recent Q&A he addressed a question on under cutting. This really has me worked up and feeling rather guilty. I would like to here all your opinions. This is such a fine community full of great people who I care about dearly! The short time I've been here I have received so much kindness. I can't even begin to tell you some of the amazing things people here have done for me!
    Let me expound on why I feel guilty. Recently I bough a pilot 92 demonstrator. I did not have the money to buy it from most places so I went to Amazon. I found many Japanese sellers posting around 100 bucks, couldn't afford that so I searched deeper into Amazon , which can get tricky. After 10 mins into the pits of Amazon I see 1 fine nib blue demo 92 left in stock directly from Amazon for 78.00 shipped from Amazon prime... I don't know how that is possible buy it is real. This can't be good for pilot. Perfect example of what Brian spoke about today. I was not helping this community by buying that pen at that price.
    Further more my post on first impressions of my new m805. I paid 40% less then what that pelikan should cost. I contacted pelikan to confirm Martenodena as a legit authorized retailer, but am lending to the devalue of pelikan brand? Probably... I don't understand how martemodena can sell at those prices and be an authorized dealer but they do. This is a touchy topic and I don't know what response I will get... Have at it!
    It's hugely complex. Do huge corporations that buy in massive bulk (and therefore get discounts from the manufacturer) often make it hard to small businesses to compete. Yes. Undoubtedly. However that's not the whole story. I rarely buy Japanese pens from American distributers because the markup is frankly, obscene. This may be due to import duties, or what the Japanese manufacturers think they can get in the US, I have no clue. But often Japanese pens sell here for almost 2x what they sell for in Japan. Sorry, that's just insane. So I buy from Japanese sellers and pay for shipping (which is very reasonable from Japan.)

    That's not undercutting, that's refusing to pay unreasonable mark ups. I am sure Brian and others like him feel the squeeze and when the price difference is small ($20, $15) I'll happily buy from a place with better service and slightly higher prices. But when the price differences are immense I'm going elsewhere.

    For example: Vanness Pens in Little Rock sells Bung Box ink. I could probably get it cheaper through a Japanese distributer. HOWEVER, Vanness let's me tell them what I want (even seasonal stuff that can't be had but a few months a year) and then whenever they can get their hands on that stuff they email me "hey we found that super rare Halloween ink you wanted, want us to ship you one?" (Answer: DUH.) That kind of service keeps me shopping with places like Vanness.
    Excellent point of view.

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    Default Re: Brian Goulet and his recent Q&A "under cutting"

    Perhaps I'm a bit biased, because I honestly don't love the Goulets for a variety of reasons, but I find the point a bit annoying to be honest. It's one thing to discuss the issue of enormous corporations out-pricing smaller business and running out all of their competition. It's a completely different beast to complain when consumers shop around to find an affordable price. If the Goulets are providing a service worth a 60% markup, people will go there. In my opinion they are not. I'll pay full MSRP from nibs.com/Mottishaw or (formerly) Richard Binder. But I don't see the Goulets providing any service even remotely worth their prices.

    In all honesty it's not the fault of these sellers that companies like Pilot jack up the price so much for international markets, but there is no reason individuals should have to pay this markup instead of looking for the affordable option. It's not the job of consumers to blindly hand their money to whoever wants it the most.

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    Default Re: Brian Goulet and his recent Q&A "under cutting"

    Quote Originally Posted by Cookies View Post
    ....In all honesty it's not the fault of these sellers that companies like Pilot jack up the price so much for international markets, but there is no reason individuals should have to pay this markup instead of looking for the affordable option. It's not the job of consumers to blindly hand their money to whoever wants it the most.
    Actually, Mr. Goulet in that video states that he does the same thing when he spends his own money: shops around for the low price.

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    Default Re: Brian Goulet and his recent Q&A "under cutting"

    Quote Originally Posted by TSherbs View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Cookies View Post
    ....In all honesty it's not the fault of these sellers that companies like Pilot jack up the price so much for international markets, but there is no reason individuals should have to pay this markup instead of looking for the affordable option. It's not the job of consumers to blindly hand their money to whoever wants it the most.
    Actually, Mr. Goulet in that video states that he does the same thing when he spends his own money: shops around for the low price.

    Which lends a sizeable degree of hypocrisy to the video, doesn't it?

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    Default Re: Brian Goulet and his recent Q&A "under cutting"

    Quote Originally Posted by Empty_of_Clouds View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by TSherbs View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Cookies View Post
    ....In all honesty it's not the fault of these sellers that companies like Pilot jack up the price so much for international markets, but there is no reason individuals should have to pay this markup instead of looking for the affordable option. It's not the job of consumers to blindly hand their money to whoever wants it the most.
    Actually, Mr. Goulet in that video states that he does the same thing when he spends his own money: shops around for the low price.

    Which lends a sizeable degree of hypocrisy to the video, doesn't it?
    No, I don't think it adds any at all. I took the time to watch the answer on the video, and I don't think the context of that statement included resorting to gray market type sellers when making a purchase. Furthermore, he stressed a non-judgmental, albeit passionate, perspective on it all. I personally think it was a nice answer.
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    Default Re: Brian Goulet and his recent Q&A "under cutting"

    Quote Originally Posted by JoeFromNashville View Post
    I'm sure that U.S.-based retailers such as the Goulets benefit from non-US citizens purchasing their products at lower prices than they can get in their home countries. Case in point, I know that Pilot products are much more expensive in the UK when purchased through retailers linked to the UK distributor, because the distributor sets much higher prices. Last I heard, the same was true for U.S.-manufactured products like Noodler's ink, etc. Goulet Pens ships internationally, so in a way they could be said to be contributing to the same problem they are complaining about.

    I love the Goulets, I buy stuff from them regularly, and have for years. However, it's a bit of a pot/kettle situation, since I distinctly remember Brian in an early video or podcast expressing the sentiment that he didn't feel bad for mom/pop brick & mortar retailers going out of business because it was a "dying" business model that couldn't compete with e-commerce. This was right before Art Brown closed, which made me really sad, and it rubbed me the wrong way.
    A few years ago before the $AUD dropped parity with the USD and shipping was reasonable ordering Noodler's Ink or FieldNotes for instance was half the price of Australian sellers. A situation which now seems to be echoed in the Japanese (and some European) pen prices. It is a bit silly to expect products outside the country of origin to be cheaper but you would expect a marginal and fair mark up. Unfortunately this does not appear to happen with many products in "captive markets" where the distributors can set whatever price they think the market will bare.

    I do feel a bit sorry for Brian Goulet as his business is tied to these distributors and has to appear to support them. However you would expect that if the US or any retailers are buying products from their distributors/importers for more than some rivals are selling, then they would be making vigorous representations to those companies to lower their prices/costs - hopefully this is happening behind the scenes. But who really knows the actual figures outside of the stationery business.

    I do see Brian's video as an attempt to sell his business, justify prices and try to retain customers in the face of greater competition as did the mom/pop B&M sellers.
    I think he has grown his business to a size where he now will have trouble re-structuring to cut costs and remain competitive.
    sinistral hypergraphica - a slurry of ink
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    Default Re: Brian Goulet and his recent Q&A "under cutting"

    Quote Originally Posted by mhosea View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Empty_of_Clouds View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by TSherbs View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Cookies View Post
    ....In all honesty it's not the fault of these sellers that companies like Pilot jack up the price so much for international markets, but there is no reason individuals should have to pay this markup instead of looking for the affordable option. It's not the job of consumers to blindly hand their money to whoever wants it the most.
    Actually, Mr. Goulet in that video states that he does the same thing when he spends his own money: shops around for the low price.

    Which lends a sizeable degree of hypocrisy to the video, doesn't it?
    No, I don't think it adds any at all. I took the time to watch the answer on the video, and I don't think the context of that statement included resorting to gray market type sellers when making a purchase. Furthermore, he stressed a non-judgmental, albeit passionate, perspective on it all. I personally think it was a nice answer.
    What does "gray market" mean, exactly?

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    Default Re: Brian Goulet and his recent Q&A "under cutting"

    Quote Originally Posted by TSherbs View Post
    What does "gray market" mean, exactly?
    That Google thing is so handy.
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    Default Re: Brian Goulet and his recent Q&A "under cutting"

    Quote Originally Posted by JoeFromNashville View Post
    I'm a little late to jump in on this thread, and will admit to not having watched Brian's video Q&A, but I've heard him and other retailers make this argument before and my thoughts on this are fairly straightforward: it shouldn't be implied as somehow being the consumer's fault for going out and getting the best deal they can find on an item. I'm sure that U.S.-based retailers such as the Goulets benefit from non-US citizens purchasing their products at lower prices than they can get in their home countries. Case in point, I know that Pilot products are much more expensive in the UK when purchased through retailers linked to the UK distributor, because the distributor sets much higher prices. Last I heard, the same was true for U.S.-manufactured products like Noodler's ink, etc. Goulet Pens ships internationally, so in a way they could be said to be contributing to the same problem they are complaining about.

    I love the Goulets, I buy stuff from them regularly, and have for years. However, it's a bit of a pot/kettle situation, since I distinctly remember Brian in an early video or podcast expressing the sentiment that he didn't feel bad for mom/pop brick & mortar retailers going out of business because it was a "dying" business model that couldn't compete with e-commerce. This was right before Art Brown closed, which made me really sad, and it rubbed me the wrong way.

    When I link to deals, etc. on my blog and twitter feed, I typically try to link to the best deal I can find on the item. My audience is the consumer, not the retailer. That said, I would say that MOST of the time I end up linking to a mainstream retailer such as Goulet or PenChalet, and NOT an eBay seller, because there's a limited universe of items you can get a "better deal" on. However, if I can buy a Platinum Bourgogne via Amazon for $61 (like I did yesterday), it honestly just doesn't make sense for me to spend $176 to buy it from Goulet. Personally, if it's a really expensive pen (over $250), many times I will choose to buy from the U.S. retailer so I have some additional comfort in case there's a problem with the pen. If I choose to buy from Japan, often it's because they offer a nib or color that I can't get from a U.S. retailer anyway. For example, I wanted the Pilot Custom Heritage 92 in Orange, not clear, and I paid $110 to get it from Amazon. If I went through an "authorized US reseller," I would only be able to get the clear version for over $200.

    I'd also note that many of these items appear to be shipping from Amazon in the U.S., not from overseas. Perhaps these manufacturers are now dealing with Amazon directly, and cutting out the middle man?
    Did he really say that, that he doesn't care about putting mom & pop, B&M stores out of business? I hope you're wrong. The biggest thing that turned me off in his recent video, was when he started pointing out what he does for us and how they were debating on whether or not it was worth it to him to continue.
    Mr Goulet, I'm the guy that asks for a Golf scene to be drawn on his receipts. I've always heard that this is something you enjoyed doing. I could have overlooked your complaining but to hear that you were all for mom & pop going out business.
    Maybe what comes around goes around.

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    Default Re: Brian Goulet and his recent Q&A "under cutting"

    Quote Originally Posted by mhosea View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Empty_of_Clouds View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by TSherbs View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Cookies View Post
    ....In all honesty it's not the fault of these sellers that companies like Pilot jack up the price so much for international markets, but there is no reason individuals should have to pay this markup instead of looking for the affordable option. It's not the job of consumers to blindly hand their money to whoever wants it the most.
    Actually, Mr. Goulet in that video states that he does the same thing when he spends his own money: shops around for the low price.

    Which lends a sizeable degree of hypocrisy to the video, doesn't it?
    No, I don't think it adds any at all. I took the time to watch the answer on the video, and I don't think the context of that statement included resorting to gray market type sellers when making a purchase. Furthermore, he stressed a non-judgmental, albeit passionate, perspective on it all. I personally think it was a nice answer.

    I too took the time to watch the entire video, some parts of it twice, but if Brian complains about customers seeking the best economic deals when he admits to doing exactly the same thing when spending his personal money, well... that is hypocrisy. Bear in mind that I am not in the US, so the Goulet Pen Company is just one of many online sellers to me, and their service provision is of little relevance. In this respect, and measured against the reputable part of the internet market, the Goulets are not competitive in the slightest. That is, they offer nothing more for their extra cost. If you live in the US then your perspective will be a bit different.

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    Default Re: Brian Goulet and his recent Q&A "under cutting"

    I don't recall it being said maliciously, but more just a very matter-of-fact observation of how he felt it was the natural way of things for businesses to fail if they couldn't adapt to changing circumstances. I couldn't tell you which video or podcast it was in--it may actually have been in one of the old "write time" broadcasts, but I recall it because it was in the context of him discussing how his all online business model was the way of the future for pens.

    In a way, he's right, but he needs to learn to adapt just like everyone else (as I'm sure he's doing). With more and more retailers getting into the online pen business--both domestically and internationally--larger operators like the Goulets may not be able to stay competitive on certain brands/products where it's easy for others to offer a far better price.

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