In this episode, I talk about the Cult of New, defending your pen costs to strangers, and when I will fire a customer. Enjoy!

This week:

  • Went to wedding in NY last weekend, great to see family, talked about social media
  • Changed notecards this week, very supportive response, thank you!
  • taking off next week, Disneyworld!
  • Pretty quiet on the new products front
  • Stipula Alter Ego, very happy to be bringing that to you!
  • slight change in Diplomat Aero Blue
  • Coming soon:

 

Pens/Writing

1) Mentat V- Facebook 

Hi Brian and team. Have a couple of questions that you may have already answered, in which case sorry for repeating them. Why aren’t many coloured nib and feeds around? I get that the gold nibs need to reflect the gold, but steel nibs are almost always limited to black, gold or silver. And why not have coloured feeds matching the colour of the pen? Most manufacturers don’t make ebonite feeds anymore so why not shake things around a little? Are you aware of any technical problems with this? Cheers and thanks for the videos.

  • they’re just not that popular, I suspect, and they’re a little more complicated to make
  • any finish on a nib has to withstand a lot of abuse, and the rhodium or gold plating you usually see is electroplated, which is very durable but can only be done with metals
  • black nibs are usually PVD, black oxide, or ruthenium, which are durable but can only be black
  • other bright non-metal colors are usually some kind of finish coating, basically a form of paint, and may not hold up as well to scratches and ink exposure over time
  • feeds are a different story, they could technically be any color
  • ebonite would be limited to ebonite options, which can be done in a variety of colors (Flexible Nib Factory?)
  • plastic feeds could be done in almost anything, but would not be very universally appealing
  • there aren’t that many feed manufacturers, I imagine, and you’d need to buy just a stupid high quantity of a colored feed that wouldn’t meet demand is my guess

2) Ian S- Facebook

Are breather holes required I remember on a previous write on that either Drew or Brian mentioned they was not required so why do some pens have them and some not ?

  • they aren’t required, there are a number of pens that don’t have them
  • they’re most often used to give a clean stop to the nib slit
  • they have a slight impact on flow, I imagine, but can be accounted for in other ways, so it’s honestly mainly aesthetic
  • Major brands that don’t have them: Lamy, Noodler’s, Platinum Preppy/Plaisir, Traveler’s pen, to name a few

3) gkschick112- Instagram 

I would like to know how Brian would respond to a scenario that recently happened to me. I was discussing my fountain pen hobby with a friend who is interested and supports it. He mentioned the cost of a pen I was holding… another co-worker overheard, and said “OMG…. $120 for a PEN. I’d rather feed my family.” I didn’t know what to say…. what would you have said? (btw- I do feed my family LOL!)

  • Oh gosh, I get this all the time, even being “in the business”
  • I honestly get this even with $15-20 pens, Pilot Metropolitans and stuff so really it’s all relative
  • I don’t really justify it, it’s pretty much just “yeah, that’s right”, and I don’t really go beyond that because if someone’s that flabbergasted they probably don’t really want to hear about it anyway, that’s a very judgmental response
  • If I want to engage a bit, I usually just say “yeah, it’s my weird thing. Everyone’s got one, this is mine. And my family is well fed, don’t worry”
  • Think about it, if someone golfs, a $120 pen is on green fee at a decent course. It’s one fancy meal eating out. It’s far less than a nice watch, nice shoes, designer clothes, so many other things. And a pen will last your lifetime
  • don’t sweat it, they just don’t get it, and they don’t have to! It’s your thing!

4) Candice B- Facebook

I need to catch up on a few Q&As so I apologize if it’s already been answered, but could Brian show the Lamy LX gold pen next to the new Bronze Al-Star so we can see the difference in color? Write Now only compared past Al-Stars which doesn’t help me because I don’t have any of the ones they talked about. Thanks!

  • sure, the Bronze is more orange, the LX has metal accents and a black nib, plus the snazzy case

5) Steven G- YouTube

how did big historical events of the last century (like WWII) effect the development of fountain pen technology/industry/etc? It’s hard to not notice that most (if not, the best) pens are coming from Germany, Italy, & Japan… I think I’ve posed this question for Q&A several times before, and maybe you guys thought I was joking, but no. I was not, haha…

  • I didn’t want you to think I was consciously ignoring you, but I will confess I’m not a history buff or WWII expert
  • Richard Binder has a number of good e-books on pen history
  • Andy Lambrou’s books Fountain Pens of the World and Fountain Pens of Japan have a lot of rich history in them
  • I have other books on Sheaffer, Pelikan, Platinum, but I haven’t read them all through
  • clearly something like a world war will influence all industries, pens included
  • fountain pens were in their hey day in between WWI and WWI as it was, and these tools were in demand, it was also the rise of the industrial revolution
  • there were a lot of pen companies that were born, died off, or changed with WWII, it was such an influential period for industry
  • I know specifically the name Pilot came out of WWII, it was originally Namiki but they changed it to have less stigma after the war

6) muallaemine- Instagram

I was wondering why Aurora as a brand isn’t mentioned more. I mean it’s their centennial year and I know you mentined it a couple of q&as ago; but nowhere near as much as Namiki/Pilot or Platinum. İs it a business strategy on Aurora’s or your part? Or is the brand not as hot as other italian pen makers such as Visconti or Pineider etc? I’m curious about it because Aurora is my favourite italian brand, and I might be totally wrong, but somehow I feel it doesn’t get as much attention as the others. Why is that?

  • yeah, I totally hear where you’re coming from!
  • Aurora has a loyal following, but it’s largely established with people who already know about them
  • it’s definitely not a strategy to NOT talk about them, part of it is they have fewer models and colors, and they haven’t been coming out with as much in terms of new stuff
  • they are also all in the several hundred dollar range on up, so there’s a barrier to get into it
  • They’re actually a very established, very good size company with a rich history, but they haven’t focused quite as much on the US market as Visconti and Pineider, so they just don’t get as much attention
  • They’re working on it though, and this is something I’m talking about with their US distributor

Paper

7) @RadicalxEdward- Twitter 

I’ve been REALLY wanting to know since I got my Travelers notebook, has Brian ever gotten ink on his notebook and since I’m so paranoid about it happening to me, is there anything that can be done to clean it without ruining it if that happens? I get ink on myself constantly.

  • oh sure I have, nothing major but little bits here and there
  • I’ve spilled coffee on it, that’s for sure
  • part of it will be your own mindset around it, personally, I like the characteristics it builds with carrying it around, scratching it, staining it, showing that it’s living life!
  • not everyone feels that way, but I personally find it freeing to just let it be
  • I don’t have any specific cleaning instructions other than wipe with water and dry quickly, if there was a major ink spill on it I’m not sure how you’d clean it to perfection again because it’s a natural material

Personal

8) Savannah S- Facebook

How do you find local fountain pen peeps? I know there’s gotta be more pen people around me but I feel alone.

  • Most of us feel alone, there’s no question, we’re all that “one weird pen person” in our office, but I promise there are others around you
  • Facebook is a great place to connect, especially because you can start meetups/events within groups, or reach out through private groups like Goulet Nation, FPN Facebook, and others
  • Reddit can find some folks, Fountain Pen Network, Pen Addict Slack, or just Google your city name with “pen club” or something similar and see if there’s already a pen group
  • if there’s a pen show near you, local groups or clubs will often meet there or have some form of presence at the show
  • take heart! There are others around, I know you can find them

Business

9) Christopher L- Facebook

In some other hobbies, there’s a phenomenon called cult of the new. It refers to people who spend inordinate amounts of money on products that are very heavily marketed on kickstarter and at conventions, but after receiving the product they find that it’s fairly mediocre for the price, gets used once or twice, shelved, and never used again. However, there’s always tons of industry hype surrounding these releases (or things like limited editions/add-ons on kickstarter) to convince people to continually buying these.

My question is, do you see this problem occurring in the fountain pen world? I mean, every new pen seems like it is the greatest thing ever and marketing (as it should) makes many people feel like they need to have it. What guidance can you give to help people be more discerning or selective about what pens/inks/etc that they buy so they don’t end up buying tons of pens that they’ll never use?”

  • yeah, this happens, but not a ton probably
  • I don’t know a lot of pen people that are constantly buying cult of new on Kickstarter or Indegogo
  • I’ve bought a couple of things here and there and always been pretty “whelmed”, not really over or underwhelmed
  • the experience to me isn’t super appealing, because pens are pretty technical and honestly a lot of innovation with pens has already been developed over 150 years of history, so it’s usually the companies with rich pen history that have the most ability to innovate, as opposed to someone who has a random idea and just discovered fountain pens as a manufacturing interest
  • certainly someone not “in the business” could think outside the box and develop something cool, but most often I think if something’s really that cool of an idea, there will be broader appeal and distribution in the pen world past something like Kickstarter, so you’re not really missing out if you don’t buy it in the first run
  • Karas Kustoms was a success story coming out of Kickstarter, I think Nock too
  • If you’re going to support them, do so more to support the company and people behind it, not as much because of the innovation of the product itself or getting excited about the latest gadget

10) Mark H- Facebook 

Have you ever fired a customer? Has anyone done something, such as verbally harassed a team member, that made it worth turning down any of their business?

  • oh, absolutely, several times
  • I’ve always done so in the politest way possible, and with a cool head, I’ve never blown up at a customer
  • the easiest one is when someone is showing an inappropriate level of affection or personal interest in a particular individual
  • more often it’s not due to affection but the opposite, people blowing their lid and being belligerent
  • we’re very empathetic that sometimes people get heated or are stressed out, but if it’s a repeated pattern of abuse or it crosses a line, we’ll tell them they’re not welcome to shop with us any more
  • The customer is not always right, I don’t let anyone walk over our team if they can’t show basic human dignity
  • The customer is always the customer, meaning they should always be treated with empathy, dignity, and respect, and my team does that
  • as a business owner, it’s my job first to take care of my team, then customers, then my own interest/profits
  • in the big picture, our customers are VERY civil, it’s actually pretty rare when we get a cranky-pants, especially to the point where they get fired, but we will absolutely do it if we need to

 

QOTW: Have you ever been to a pen gathering of any kind, including a pen show, club, or meetup? How’d you get involved?

Write On,

Brian Goulet