I recently purchased a set of Laguiole knives from MyNetSale.com, as I thought they'd make a nice addition to my collection of kitchen paraphernalia. Here's the brand profile page on the site, promoting the Laguiole sale:
Looks kosher, right? So let's recap. You go to a website. It says it wants to sell you something. You look at the brand profile, the product listing, you purchase something.
...All really well and good until I actually received the goods in question. Each one had a cute little sticker, saying 'made in PRC (People's Republic of China)'. The knives had no weight and basically felt cheap and nasty. Bit of a surprise, considering Laguiole knives are produced with great care for craftsmanship and quality IN FRANCE.
So, upon further digging, I ended up on Ed Charles' Tomatom blog, where he recounts a certain Melbourne restaurant using cheap looking Laguiole knives. They turned out to be made by Maxwell & Williams in the PRC. Maxwell & Williams' response to being called on it, was that the line had been deleted and was currently only being sold by participating stores (such as MyNetSale and apparently now on OzSale.com.au).
Here's the rub. Laguiole doesn't have an appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC), meaning that people can produce anything called 'Laguiole' outside of that region. So, high quality or cheap and nasty, from China to France, manufacturers can produce 'Laguiole' without it actually being an example of the fine craftsmanship associated with knives still made today in that region.
My beef, however is how websites such as MyNetSale have sneakily gone about selling lesser quality products in such a misleading way. Take the brand profile picture above. They're representing an image that alludes to the original, high quality French products that made the name 'Laguiole' famous. On checking their terms of service, we also find this:
"We guarantee that all of the designer goods sold on MyNetSale are 100% authentic. MyNetSale purchases designer goods via trusted international brand suppliers. Prior to being dispatched to our customers, all merchandise is carefully examined to ensure top quality products. If you have an inquiry regarding the quality of an item, please do not hesitate to contact our customer service team who will be happy to assist you."
So if you are an average punter, who knows that Laguiole means quality knife products made in France, and you saw the brand profile above, checked for a statement of authenticity by the seller...you'd be forgiven for trusting that you're purchasing the product you think. Apparently not.
What is needed here is clarity of product. Of course it doesn't help shift units if you say "Produced by Maxwell & Williams" or "Made in China", but the fact of the matter is that these are true statements about the product that shouldn't be hidden from consumers.
Maybe I'm a bit of a fool for being so easily led into thinking I was purchasing a good deal, and with many reputable online stores out there, good value and quality products are indeed available. Don't you think however, that life would be a lot simpler if sellers just called a spade a spade, and didn't insult anyone's intelligence by deliberately creating misleading statements?
For the record, I did request a refund from MyNetSale. Here's their response:
Thank you for being a valued MYNETSALE customer.
We are sorry to hear that you are not happy with your purchases.
However, when we use the term Laguiole in a sale, we are referring to the style of cutlery on offer. The word laguiole is a generic term, not legally restricted to any one company or place of manufacture. As Laguiole designates a type of knife and is not a brand or trade name, Laguiole knives are manufactured by multiple companies globally.
We apologise for any confusion this may have caused you. If you are not happy with your product, you are welcome to return your order as per our Terms and Conditions for store credit."
Firstly, points for looking up and copying the first thing you see on the Wikipedia definition of Laguiole knives. It's so very thorough and professional of you.
For the record, 'Laguiole' isn't a type of knife. Especially if you are selling a suite of products that includes bottle openers, cheese knives (holy shit, a different kind of knife!) and more under the word as a brand.
Secondly, if you're referring to 'Laguiole' as a generic term, then you shouldn't be appropriating it as a proper noun. Laguiole is a location in France. So if you want to use it in the context of a style, then why not simply say 'Laguiole-style'? Not as sexy, but truthful.
Thirdly, what use is a store credit going to be when the trust is gone, MyNetSale?
And at the end of the day, isn't clarity of communication, especially where transactions are concerned, better for both the buyer and the seller? Or perhaps their assumption that nobody will notice is what gets them by. Either way, it's disingenuous. My tip? If it's too much of a bargain, there's probably a reason for it. Buyer beware.