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TheDispossessed
08-15-2013, 12:00 AM
The peaked interest in rakuten of late, and the batch of seemingly second quality KS's on the site got me thinking. I like to save money, hell i'm a line cook in New York, i'm broke as ****. However, I really believe, in as much as possible, in supporting small vendors within the reach of our community here. Theoretically, you could buy that knife, for a little less from some faceless shop online, or even direct from the maker, but remember that someone worked their ass of to bring you the knowledge of that product in the first place. And more than likely, that person won't sell you a lemon.

tk59
08-15-2013, 12:06 AM
Hear, hear!

labor of love
08-15-2013, 12:07 AM
im no noob, but i like customer support alot. i like knowing background info on a maker. i like having a vendor i can talk to about the best way to sharpen a new knife. plus the quality control thats involved with some of the more mom and pop vendors here is even more worth it. rakuten IMO is a good alternative to something like sur la table or cutery and more. not that i do business with either of those places.

NO ChoP!
08-15-2013, 12:12 AM
I've heard a few stories of Rakuten sales not going smoothly, and the correspondences through rough translations can't help.....

labor of love
08-15-2013, 12:16 AM
I've heard a few stories of Rakuten sales not going smoothly, and the correspondences through rough translations can't help.....

i think theres an rakuten translater app you can get on your phone....
:justkidding:

chinacats
08-15-2013, 12:32 AM
As one recent offender I'll offer another perspective. I've purchased twice from Rakuten...both purchases were very easy transactions. While I agree with supporting kkf vendors, the first purchase I made was a Shig when no one else had them available. My recent KS purchase was a matter of trying a KS or not--the knife has priced it's way out of my current knife budget so when I saw an opportunity to purchase one for 225 US including shipping, why not go for it?

I've bought multiple items from kkf vendors and will continue to do so...nothing makes me happier than opening a package wrapped by Sara.

As to Rakuten, my first purchase (Shig) I couldn't have been happier with, this time I wound up buying a knife that needed work. Actually as much as I have heard about Japanese tools coming tabula rasa this is the first time that I've purchased one that annoyed me to use out of the box. Knife is currently being tuned to my needs and I'm sure that there will be more personal satisfaction from that than buying one that is perfect to begin with and knowing it will only get worse.:laugh:

Anyway, cheers to the original point of this thread, just wanted to point out that sometimes there are variables that can weigh heavily in the other direction.

schanop
08-15-2013, 12:35 AM
I would be happier if we have more Oz friendly vendors on KKF.

daddy yo yo
08-15-2013, 04:22 AM
me too i prefer to support small shops and makers, and i will continue to do so. however, chinacats' statement is true for me as well: i purchased a KS on rakuten because buying it elsewhere was out of my budget. either i was lucky, or i simply don't see and fell the difference, but i really like the knife. it is my first wa-handled knife... oh, yes, it is a rather thin handle, and F&F definitely aren't perfect (transition between wooden handle and ferrule), but my plan is to replace the handle with one from stefan, so i don't mind... i like it, even OOTB. but i definitely don't have as much experience as the crazy folks on this forum, but i am willing to learn! :lol2:

TheDispossessed
08-15-2013, 07:33 AM
no judgement meant towards anyone buying off rakuten, etc. i actually think it's really fun to peruse that site, like a treasure hunt. and realistically, those shops are run by people too, probably decent folks with families etc.

pkjames
08-15-2013, 07:48 AM
being in Australia, I wish I could support the local retailer that basically sells everything $rakuten*2.

scotchef38
08-15-2013, 08:10 AM
being in Australia, I wish I could support the local retailer that basically sells everything $rakuten*2.

+1

eaglerock
08-15-2013, 10:54 AM
I would buy a lot more from our usa vendors if the shipping is cheaper. but last time my wife was in NY she got a package from Jon to her hotel :D

stevenStefano
08-15-2013, 11:04 AM
Echoing what others have said, I'd buy more from vendors here if I didn't get shafted by the UK Imports system every time I buy something. Paying $100 to the UK government for a $300 knife is something I don't want to do too often

eaglerock
08-15-2013, 11:10 AM
same here and it happens every time. 24% tax and if it is over 150 then 30%, which is crazy amount of money :(

daddy yo yo
08-15-2013, 12:11 PM
if my wife was in NYC and brought me a knife, i guess the knife would definitely not be the most expensive thing that she'd bring home... :biggrin:

when buying my KS on r*kuten, the seller would only indicate the real value of the knife on the shipping papers, so no chance of slipping through customs:
+8,5% customs
+20% import tax
+10 service charge

this ended up as +35% :shocked3::shocked3::shocked3: on the original price! but hey, it was still cheaper than buying anywhere else...

Ruso
08-15-2013, 12:18 PM
I hear the European guys. Buying from US you have to add insane shipping prices (not the vendor fault) + taxes on the border (neither a vendors fault). Not many US vendors will run a risk of marking the package as a gift and put the value of $5. While most eBay or Japanese places will have no trouble in doing so. This basically eliminates the risk of taxes on the border by 95%. In addition the shipping cost via EMS is so much cheaper then USPS.
And the local choice is quite limited here.
All in all I would gladly buy from US/Local stores, but unfortunately limited choices or added insane costs makes it hard. Next time I visit US I will try to hotel order few Items I am hunting for, but are not urgent ones.

chinacats
08-15-2013, 12:19 PM
I believe JCK is by far the best for countries where there is an import tax based on the value of the knife. :)

daddy yo yo
08-15-2013, 12:45 PM
the more i think about it, the more i am wondering if i can manage to convince my wife that buying from european makers such as tilman leder and will catcheside is not spending money but saving money (customs, tax, etc.)!!! :lol2:

kartman35
08-15-2013, 12:56 PM
Also, it doesn't help foreign customers (I am in Canada), that if I order a knife from the states that was made in Japan not only am I paying the duty as the item crosses the border into Canada, but presumably the American vendor has had to pay duty to bring the knife into the US. A quick google search tells me that the rate to import knives from Japan into the US is 15%.
I personally don't like the idea of paying 15% extra to the US government because my knife had a short stay on California or wherever.

Having said that, I am a past and future customer of at least one of the vendors on here, I absolutely love my Gesshin 8k stone, and plan to add a 400, and 2k to the line up as soon as my budget allows. I did however feel a twinge of guilt as I ordered my new gyuto from Nakaya Heiji direct, but the significant difference in price was just too much to overcome. It's true that I'd probably never have heard of Nakaya Heiji had it not been for Jon, and I certainly would not be able to sharpen nearly as well were it not for his AMAZING and unequalled sharpening videos on youtube.

eaglerock
08-15-2013, 03:01 PM
the more i think about it, the more i am wondering if i can manage to convince my wife that buying from european makers such as tilman leder and will catcheside is not spending money but saving money (customs, tax, etc.)!!! :lol2:

:doublethumbsup:

labor of love
08-15-2013, 03:24 PM
tilmans prices are high value already....you really might as well look into it.

stevenStefano
08-15-2013, 04:55 PM
the more i think about it, the more i am wondering if i can manage to convince my wife that buying from european makers such as tilman leder and will catcheside is not spending money but saving money (customs, tax, etc.)!!! :lol2:


Yes 100%. I haven't got a Catcheside but I've got 2 knives and 2 rehandles/tune-ups from Tilman and his prices are very very reasonable

sashae
08-15-2013, 09:36 PM
I've personally had no issues with dealing with Japanese vendors directly, and I'm not quite sure why it's seen negatively. The folks running these shops are vendors like any other, they just happen to be overseas (and closer to the producers of the knives we like so much!) I've visited a few shops in Japan over the years, and they're small shops like many here. If it happens to result in a lower price for the end customer, where's the harm?

I've bought from a number of vendors here, and I'm very happy to support them, but why feel bad about giving business overseas as well?

TheDispossessed
08-15-2013, 11:03 PM
yeah, totally get what all you guys are saying.
i have a tendency to rant online late at night after work and a few beers.
hell, the other week i wrote on fb something about not liking IPAs, i'm sipping a firestone union jack right now and loving it.

JBroida
08-16-2013, 12:21 AM
i know this will probably reflect poorly upon me, but i also hope it adds something to the discussion. This kind of going direct to the maker does really effect businesses like mine (and many others). We spend a lot of time and effort searching for new makers/brands, helping develop them (both in name recognition, but also, in our case, with improvements to the design, workflow, profiles, heat treatments, etc). Small businesses like mine also have many additional costs associated with running this kind of business... Fluctuating exchange rates (this effects inventory pricing in both the long and short term), customs and duties (which often times end users do not end up paying), shipping costs, storage costs, loss of goods due to damage or unforeseen problems, customer service, and so on. I dont feel like many people who go direct to the makers consider many of these things, nor do they consider how businesses like us may feel (its very personal to many of us and really does hurt our feelings and our business). It also effects how we go about sharing information with the end users (as we often feel like we cant trust anyone with anything important after these kinds of things happen). In the long run, this kind of attitude limits the new makers and brands that are introduced, as companies are less likely to search out and share new things for fear of this happening again. Also, in japan, though the makers will never say this to their customers, this kind of thing puts them in a very uncomfortable situation, as they then end up competing with the vendors they have chosen to use.

As a last point, bargain hunting can also cause serious problems in the long run. Though i truly understand the value of a dollar (i was a line cook before), and i know not everyone is swimming in money, bargain hunting encourages price wars amongst competitors. While in small doses this can be very healthy, many have a tendency to take things out of control. This severely effects the craftsmen making the knives (who are first to loose profits in these cases), and also can very negatively effect brand images that the makers have worked so hard for. Shigefusa is a great example of this. A while back, many people in Japan would frequently talk about how online price wars in the west brought shigefusa prices to the same level as their wholesale prices in Japan. The knives were sold at nearly break even points, as the pricing competition had become so fierce. People would often say how they felt bad this was happening. Lately, it has been a lot better, as they have done a better job at vendor control for the most part. This has happened with a number of other brands over the years as well. This is not an effect that customers here often notice, but it is significant... not too dissimilar from ichimonji stopping all shipments to the US based on a very bad experience with one US based vendor.

I hope this does not come across nearly as rude as i feel it may. I just hope these are things that maybe people will consider more in the future.

labor of love
08-16-2013, 12:28 AM
wow. great points to consider, thanks jon.

TheDispossessed
08-16-2013, 12:37 AM
well folks there you have it. Jon is no bullshitter and he's educated all of us over the years. Imagine not having a place like JKI, really think about it.

GlassEye
08-16-2013, 12:51 AM
Great post, Jon.

daddy yo yo
08-16-2013, 01:46 AM
fully agree with you, jon! in austria/germany bargain hunting has become a serious problem to small, one-man- or family-run businesses. and some big ones even encourage you: there currently is an advertising campaign by a big chain for electronic devices which uses the main slogan "greed is good / thrifty is nifty / it is wiser to be a miser". you can almost watch small stores die... am*zon is no help to book stores, online shopping in general makes running a business tougher (unless you're an online store yourself, but even that is quite challenging)... i guess times change, but i hear ya! this is why i generally prefer to support small stores and makers - with one or the other exception every now and then.

cookinstuff
08-16-2013, 02:39 AM
I agree with alot of points, I often buy cookbooks at the cookbook store for 59.99 sticker price (Canada), instead of on Amazon for 29.99. But, when I asked how much Astrance was, 109$ before tax, I thought 52$ on Amazon sounded pretty good, sometimes it sucks, you can't compete with that, I'm not rich (even though I'm buying 100$ books.) I feel sorry for small businesses trying to compete today, I try to support when I can, but sometimes you can't spend 1000$ on 9 cookbooks at the local.

kartman35
08-16-2013, 02:47 AM
I dont feel like many people who go direct to the makers consider many of these things, nor do they consider how businesses like us may feel (its very personal to many of us and really does hurt our feelings and our business).
As a customer of yours (past and future...I have a list of sharpening stuff to get soon) I'd like to respond to this.

At least some of the people that have gone direct to the manufacturer do consider these things. I would much rather have given my business to you as I feel enormous gratitude for the awesome instructions and advice that you so tirelessly bestow upon us all.

There is an amount that I would have paid extra for a knife to buy it from you, for example if I was in the market for a laser I would choose the Gesshin Ginga over the less expensive Yusuke not because I'm convinced it's that much better (though it may well be), but because it comes from you.

However, when the difference in price goes beyond a certain point, and funds are tight, loyalty in this regard can only be expected to go so far. There is a certain risk you take as an importer of goods from a manufacturer who sells direct online and ships worldwide for significantly less than you can hope to compete with...In most industries manufacturers have non competition agreements and refer retail purchase inquiries to one of their dealers.

The Gesshin model of the knife I bought is simply way out of my price range and I could not justify spending that much on a kitchen knife.

I am sorry and I hope there's no hard feelings.

banjo1071
08-16-2013, 02:59 AM
no judgement meant towards anyone buying off rakuten, etc. i actually think it's really fun to peruse that site, like a treasure hunt. and realistically, those shops are run by people too, probably decent folks with families etc.

True. Everytime i am amazed by the stuff they offer.

maxim
08-16-2013, 03:15 AM
There can be many downsides. First some vendors do really bargaining with blacksmiths in result less quality and love in they product. Another is like Jon mentions some sell them without profit just to attract costumers to they store witch is super damaging to blacksmiths price and value.
I see many knife examples to that :( Very good example for me is Yoshikane. Because of that we now see so many different things from them some super super cheap. It is because some sellers tried to sell them as cheap as possible and asked them to make cheapest knife possible for them. In result less time for they very good products and quality drop :(
I remember at start they was as exotic and good as Shigefusa

apicius9
08-16-2013, 03:30 AM
Good points all around. I have been in that spot also, wondering why I should pay a lot more money for the same knife in a US store if the knife maker offers the option to order directly. And that may also be a factor, if a Japanese maker does not have an online shop, it clearly signals that I should go through a vendor to get his products, and that's what I would do. But the points that Jon makes are just as true, I am sometimes grumbling about people not realizing all the hidden costs of something, and then I forget about that when I look at other vendors' prices.

But the general trend is certainly not limited to 'luxury items'. In my home village, all the small stores - baker, grocer, butcher etc - were killed by the supermarkets in the neighboring villages. Now, there are 3000 people in the village and there is not a single store left where you can run and get something, not even a gas station. If you are old or don't have a car, you are doomed and depend on the help of others. That really showed me how important it is to keep the small businesses alive. Although I realize it is easier to pay an extra $ for a pound of tomatoes than an extra $100 for a knife. Since I don't 'need' the knives professionally, that just means I have to save a little longer to buy it or liberate someone from his knife in the BST section.

Just my rambling on the topic.

Stefan

jaybett
08-16-2013, 04:59 AM
I've never felt comfortable ordering directly from a maker. If there is a problem the language barrier will make it difficult to resolve. That's why I don't mind paying the extra money to Jon or Koki. They know, what people in the west, expect out of their knives. By chance, something goes wrong, I know that they will take care of the situation.

If I am seeking assistance from a vendor, I feel obligated to make a purchase, even if its a small one. The vendors time is worth money and I want them to be around the next time I need help. Too many times I've gone to a small business to pick up a part. Frequently the owner would be on the phone answering question after question. At the end of the conversation, the caller will say, "I'll think about it". What is there to think about, buy something!

I'm all about supporting the little guy, but the little guy has to give me an excuse to spend money in his store.

Jay

Timthebeaver
08-16-2013, 05:49 AM
I see many knife examples to that :( Very good example for me is Yoshikane. Because of that we now see so many different things from them some super super cheap. It is because some sellers tried to sell them as cheap as possible and asked them to make cheapest knife possible for them. In result less time for they very good products and quality drop :(
I remember at start they was as exotic and good as Shigefusa

This is a shame. The Zensho-Yoshikane you sold me was/is an awesome knife, easily the best I have owned.

ChiliPepper
08-16-2013, 06:22 AM
Yeah, it's a balancing act - as evrything in life I suppose. For me the question is not about choosing local businesses vs big retailers but rather: how much money do I have to choose supporting local small businesses vs big retailers? There's no doubt that in the long run the death of small retailers will be way worse but how long can I economically endure pursuing this kind of support? It's a freaking shame, is what it is and I'll do my best to follow the "buy local" route but for some goods that's simply not feasible. Being in NZ and wanting good knives is a good example.

Lefty
08-16-2013, 10:02 AM
Don't even get me started. I've learned I run a business to sustain my habit at a smaller loss. It's starting to get tougher and tougher to do it, really. Meh.

labor of love
08-16-2013, 02:06 PM
Yeah, it's a balancing act - as evrything in life I suppose. For me the question is not about choosing local businesses vs big retailers but rather: how much money do I have to choose supporting local small businesses vs big retailers? There's no doubt that in the long run the death of small retailers will be way worse but how long can I economically endure pursuing this kind of support? It's a freaking shame, is what it is and I'll do my best to follow the "buy local" route but for some goods that's simply not feasible. Being in NZ and wanting good knives is a good example. well, it's not like you're buying the same product either. Often times the higher price tag includes a better final product.

Chefdog
08-16-2013, 02:12 PM
Ill happily pay more for the peace of mind I get knowing that there's a person I can talk to who cares about the product they sell, and cares that the person buying it is satisfied with the purchase. The ability to return something without a hassle and the knowledge that someone is inspecting the product before they send it to you is reassuring and worth the money to me. That's why almost everything I've bought this year has come from either Jon, Koki, or Maxim.

IME, the old adage "you get what you pay for" doesn't only apply to the product itself, but the buying experience.

Having said all of that, there certainly is a point at which I'm willing to take a risk if the savings are significant enough, provided that the product appears to be equal.

mkriggen
08-26-2013, 05:31 PM
For me the decision is a simple one. I'll always be willing to pay a little extra for the outstanding support you get from our vendors. If I have a question or a problem with an order I can get on the phone (or email) to Jon, Danial, Drew, Maxim...etc and I KNOW I'll get a fair resolution. If I have questions about products I know I can talk to them and they will make recommendations that they feel are right for me and not try to "up sale" me (last time I ordered something from Jon he talked me into something LESS expensive). You just can't get that when you're trying to talk to a manufacturer on the other side of the world via Google translate.

ptolemy
08-26-2013, 08:42 PM
This is a very interesting discussion and it's even more interesting when Jon and Maxim chime in. Usually, vendors would run from such threads because anything they add would not feel genuine. Not in this case, IMO.

I think Jon and Maxim made very valid points. I am not at the point where I can spend $200 for a knife - not because I can't save and buy it but because I won't appreciate it. I did a pass-around with a $500 knife last year (maxim's 270mm). It was glorious. very light, very sharp, but I was very very careful when using it because I didn't want to risk damaging it.

I am not worried about damaging my henckels... if I do, i'll take it to stone, take 2mm off and it's good as new.

As to the point at hand. Recently, I bought a couch. I was talking with several vendors to get the best price, research brands and materials. Once a settled on a material/couch it came down to a vendor which has 1 very big store in NC and a vendor around washington d.c who was a sole proprietor. His prices were 7-10% higher but it also meant getting a personal service if I needed to do warranty or something else down the line. In this case, I went with him but if his price was 15% higher, I would have likely went with the other vendor.

I think we all want to support our vendors and I totally agree with that, but math takes over here. Recently, global rakuten had free shipping promo and I was looking at misono knives. I think USA vendors had them for around $190-$290 while on rakuten, same models started from $120-200, that's more than 30% difference. if i was buying a $1000 knife, $100 would not have been as big deal as in this case.

In the end, to each his/her own. Rakuten offers some risk versus a much better price. Some chose to go there and some chose to deal with a trust vendor. It is, what it is. Every has a point where they would swing left or right

Baby Huey
08-26-2013, 10:50 PM
I am still a knife knoob, but this can and has been an issue across the boards. Being a small business owner as well as having a full time job has been hard and the future is looking like it is not going to get any easier. One thing a lot of people do not realize is that there is some quality assurance that you get from small professional shops. They take the time to travel to meet the blacksmiths with specifications as to what they will or will not sell. The people peddling on Rakuten, Alibaba, as well as other similar sites do not do this. For all you know you are getting factory seconds or the ones that did not pass the quality control to make it to these boutique shops. I completely understand the value of a dollar and understand it is hard to pass up the savings, but bear in mind as I know quite a few of the forum members work in kitchens in some capacity. What if they perfected automatic cutters to slice, dice and julienne. If it were more economical for them to use said machines instead of hiring aspiring Chefs or Culinary Artists, and they could get the same quality........... where would we or the future of the culinary industry be? I would personally prefer the handcrafted touch of real people demonstrating a passion for what they love to do. I like the personal touch that I get with smaller business professionals as it seems they are more about quality versus quantity. Also I have a good feeling that if Jon had a knife and he knew it was faulty that it would not make it to his shelves to sell to us.

kartman35
08-26-2013, 11:59 PM
For me the decision is a simple one. I'll always be willing to pay a little extra for the outstanding support you get from our vendors.

How much extra are you willing to pay? 15%? 25%? 50%? 100%? Is there no point at which it becomes unreasonable to expect a customer to pay "a little extra".

Would you really pay double the price for a knife from the local dealer versus what you could get a similar one for from the manufacturer?

labor of love
08-27-2013, 01:09 AM
How much extra are you willing to pay? 15%? 25%? 50%? 100%? Is there no point at which it becomes unreasonable to expect a customer to pay "a little extra".

Would you really pay double the price for a knife from the local dealer versus what you could get a similar one for from the manufacturer?
ok our hypotheticals might be getting confused here. if youre paying a mark up for the exact same product then thats a different story. in earlier discussion, one of the issues was developing a product, marketing it, and then having a competitor create a crappy clone version and profit from it(cktg).

kartman35
08-27-2013, 01:27 AM
Not really...At least part of this has to do with seeking bargains by buying knives off Rakuten or directly from the manufacturer rather than supporting the local businesses who drew our attention to the knives in the first place.
From the OP
"I really believe, in as much as possible, in supporting small vendors within the reach of our community here. Theoretically, you could buy that knife, for a little less from some faceless shop online, or even direct from the maker"

labor of love
08-27-2013, 01:36 AM
what local business in the states is rakuten competing with? in the US atleast? theres pitfalls potentially in buying directly from a manufacturer too....and depending on which vendor and which product youre comparing, their could be many invariables between the 2 products are arent obvious. but if you are indeed speaking of the exact same product then by all means go with the wholesaler. i would question the quality control of any knife sold by a wholesaler though(rakuten,cutlery and more,cktg).

Matus
08-27-2013, 01:44 AM
Buying through a vendor that his highly knowledgeable, offers personal assistance and advice , like JKI or JNS, from my point of view - is a value added which of course comes at a price. There will be buyers who appreciate (I keep out the word 'can afford' on purpose) that additional value and those that will simply 'google' their knife and get it the cheapest they will find. They may or may not get what they have been looking for or expecting.

Jon - I appreciate your longer response back in the thread - you make points I did not realize at first. Very good points.

Personally - I would rather pay the same price for a slightly 'lesser' knife from a vendor then for a theoretically 'better' knife bought online. It just fees better and I appreciate the advice from the vendor - which mostly means that I get the 'right' tool instead of a 'better' one (for the lack of better expression on my side).

I had a chance to buy from both Jon and Maksim and it was a very pleasant experience where I have also learned something new. I feel I got a lot more than a few knifes and few stones.

kartman35
08-27-2013, 02:33 AM
what local business in the states is rakuten competing with? in the US atleast?

Anyone that sells Masamoto...Korin for example

labor of love
08-27-2013, 02:48 AM
i dont think the competition is too significant in that example. and thats really the only example that comes too mind. korins mailorder sales may suffer slightly but i doubt their walk in business is affected.

bahamaroot
08-27-2013, 04:06 AM
I support local small businesses when I can but I also take advantage of wholesalers when I can without to much risk. I see nothing wrong with using a combination of both. It allows me to get more out of that dollar I work so hard for and have things I normally couldn't afford. It is important to support local businesses but it is also important to think about yourself first now and then too.