I’m not one who typically bad-mouths, but in this case it was so bad it was laughable – even satirical that I can’t not share what I witnessed today. Since this transpired, I’ve had Treble Charger’s Brand New Low stuck in my head. So click the link, listen to the music, and read the rest of this entertaining post. What you are about to read is true – I couldn’t even make this stuff up.
I’m talking about my experience at the Cloverdale Woodworking Show today. The show has been getting smaller and smaller every year and is now down to one building (I remember three buildings, tents, and the bandsaw mill out front). One by one, vendors dropped out and instead of paying to rent a booth at the show, decided to host their own show at their own stores. While that may be sad, it’s not funny. Had I not gone to the woodworking show with the sole intent to educate the fellow I was with, I would have been sorely disappointed. We arrived about four hours after the show had started and found lots of close parking in the mostly-empty lot. I remember having to look for parking on the street and hike in 5 minutes (or more) to get to the show. I was second-guessing myself as to whether we were in the right place. It was, and we paid the $10 admission.
While at the show, I spoke to a number of the manufacturers’ reps. Some are very nice, very knowledgeable people, very helpful people. Some are not. I want to know what companies look for when hiring a rep.
Even though I don’t need any more tools or machinery, I like to stay current so I always have a good look at what each company has to show. I’ll talk to the reps to learn what I can. As I was looking at Delta’s new 18” drill press, the rep came over and asked if I had any questions. I asked him what the stroke on the drill press was. As I asked him, I looked at the depth stop and could see that it had a 6” stroke. “Fifteen inches”, he replied. I looked at him and decided not to ask him any more questions. Okay, that was an honest mistake from an inexperienced rep. Kind of funny, but not ridiculous.
Then there were the Grex and Festool reps who were working at the Ultimate Tools booth. They were talking looking at the jointer/planer combination machine made by Hammer. We stopped and looked with them and asked a price. One of the guys gave us a ballpark price – he said the only reason he knew was that he was looking at the machine himself. Then they continued their conversation.
I continued wandering through the booths until I got to the Laguna Tools booth. They had a planer, jointer, bandsaw and dust collector set up, each with a sign reading, “Ask For A Demo”. I didn’t need to see anything demoed, but the fellow I was with wanted to see the jointer demoed. There were no Laguna reps around whom we could see, so we continued on. When we came back, I spotted someone in a Laguna shirt and we called him over and asked for a demo. “I can’t demo the jointer” he said. I guessed that there was some silly safety regulation disallowing him to use the equipment, but the fellow I was with pressed him more. His reasoning was not due to some technicality, but rather that he does not use the jointer because he is scared of it. Let me repeat: the company representative for Laguna Tools would not demonstrate Laguna’s jointer because he is afraid of it. AFRAID? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?!? Unbelievable. Here’s a tip: if you are afraid to use the equipment that you sell, it is very difficult to inspire confidence in anyone looking to buy machinery. That goes doubly for someone who is just learning the craft.
To me, the show has become a place to go to buy tools where you have to spend $10 to get in the door. I don’t know about you, but if I want to buy something, I’d rather not spend $10 to buy. There were very few companies and many more reps than customers. Most of the reps were more interested in talking to each other than customers. I guess they are reps, not salesmen.
I’m glad that I went to the Cloverdale Woodworking Show. I enjoyed it. It was memorable. I want to share my experience. But for all the wrong reasons.