TurkoTek Discussion Boards

Subject  :  The Merchant of Venice
Author  :  Administrator
Date  :  11-07-1999 on 08:15 p.m.
Famous and infamous dealers and their deals.

Subject  :  Reciprocal Socialization in the Rug World
Author  :  John Howe
Date  :  11-14-1999 on 09:58 p.m.
rjhowe@erols.com Dear folks - This is a story illustrating how easily serious misunderstandings can occur in the rug world. When I had literally just begun collecting Turkmen I happened on to a dealer at a distance who was truly knowledgeable, helpful and who had very good, reasonably priced material. When my wife and I first visited his shop, he treated us graciously, showed us some very nice pieces and recommended, soundly, three of the major books, those interested in Turkmen weavings should read. There was mention in this initial conversation that one could expect to make some mistakes early on and that the costs of them should be seen as a kind of "tuition." A week or so after returning home from visiting him, I called him and bought a Turkmen chuval (asymmetrical knots) that he had shown us. Now there was an immediate problem to solve since this bag had a bare area or two. The dealer had told us that he had felt for some time that this bag was deserving of repair but had just not done it yet. I asked whether he would arrange to have a quality repair job done, he said yes and we agreed on a price for the repair. He mentioned that he had an out-of-town reweaver in mind (he is "so Tekke" the dealer said). I sent a check up front. In a subsequent phone conversation I asked how the piece was coming and he confided that he had sent to piece to another weaver, someone he had just begun to use but who had done very good work in his first couple of jobs. The dealer further said that in his experience reweavers did their best work early in a work relationship and tended to tail off after awhile. The change of repairer was a small red flag for me, since he had touted the "Tekke" so strongly but I didn't protest. A few days later, I got a note from him advising me not to worry about the change of repair person. "I have enough experience here for both of us," was his phrase. A couple of weeks later he called saying the piece was ready. "I should tell you," he said, "that this piece has some symmetrical knots in it." Now I knew nothing about rugs but I am an inveterate graduate student type. So by the time he said this sentence I had not only bought Macke/Thompson, Loges and Eilands' "Comprehensive Guide," as he had recommended, I had read each of them several times. Armed only with this reading I said, "That's not a problem if the symmetrical knots are at the sides." There was a noticable silence on the phone at the other end but we completed our conversation without further mishap and the piece eventually arrived. Now I was a little concerned about what the change of reweavers might have meant (I read it that he found a way to make a little more money on the job, but wasn't particularly disturbed by that alone). But the indication about Turkish knots and the silence in the last phone call worried me. So I took the repiled piece to a local dealer who does lots of repairs and paid him to write me an evaluation of this repiling job. He did so, indicating that not only was the repair done in symmetrical knots throughout, but that, in addition, the rug had not been saddle stitched at the bottom (a very inexpensive procedure) and so was exposed to loss of material there. I contacted the dealer from whom I'd purchased the bag and who had supervised the repair and advised him that I had this written assessment, and asked what we could do to rectify things. He said there was no point in asking the repair person to redo the job. "There's no getting blood out of a turnip." (It could well be that this repair person could only repair using a symmetric knot.) We discussed it further and at one point he offered to buy the piece back from me for what I had in it. But I liked the piece; just wanted it repaired properly. Finally, he said, "What do you want me to do?" I said that I wanted for him either to arrange to have the repair done properly or to refund the money I had paid for the repair. He said, "If I do that I'll be out a couple of hundred dollars on the deal." I didn't respond and he finally agreed to do send me a check for the repair fee and did. (Someone told me later that the fact that I got a rug repair fee successfully refunded is itself deserving of at least a short article in Hali. Likely a rare event in history.) I then paid to have the old repair removed and to have the piece repaired using asymmetric knots. It cost me all of the refunded repair price plus about $200 in addition. I also wrote the dealer who had sold me and originally repiled the piece, thanking him for seeing his way to making this deal right. I added that I hoped that this unfortunate experience in our first dealing would not prevent him from occasionally drawing an interesting Turkman piece to my attention, since, as he had pointed out himself, expenses associated with mistakes are probably best seen as a kind of tuition. I have been unable to deal with him further. I have thought about this transaction a lot. I think what may have occurred is that two basically honest, well-meaning people, each playing by a particular set of rules, both came to feel at the end that they had been taken advantage of. I felt I had behaved openly and equitably in terms of the agreements I had made and the assurances I had been given. I think he may feel that my sentence indicating that I knew that symmetric knots should only be at the sides of a rug with asymmetric knots, indicated that I had posed as a novice but was likely far more knowledgeable and therefore a kind of sharpy from the start. And looking at his situation when he had received the completed repair job and found that it had been done with Turkish knots: how was he to know how serious a collector I am or whether, regardless of that question, this was something that would concern me at a level that would obligate him to share it openly with me? More, I think he felt that he had basically gone as far as he was obligated to go at the point that he offered to buy the piece as repaired back from me. I, on the other hand, felt this offer was entirely inadequate since it did not honor either the original purchase agreement or the repair agreement, especially in the face of his assurances, when I expressed concern about the change of weavers. I tell this story in fairly tedious detail because it illustrates for me how easy it is to get cross-wise in the world of our interest. How many knowledgeable rug people do you know who don't speak to one another and what is lost to all of us in such lacunae? How often to both parties to such a difference feel justifiably wronged? It challenges us to be careful and patient with one another. I'd still like a relationship with the dealer that sold me the very nice piece discussed here. I just don't know how now to go about it. Regards, R. John Howe

Subject  :  RE:The Merchant of Venice
Author  :  Marvin Amstey
Date  :  11-15-1999 on 11:37 a.m.
Dear John, I think you are being overly kind to the dealer. He saw a way of sticking it to you; for the same bucks, he found someone to do the job more cheaply so he could pocket the difference. Had you been the knowledgable person you now are, he probably would have used the original reweaver. The other explanation is that he underestimated the repair cost, and without telling you the truth about the cost - and the additional charge - he found a novice repair person for the original price. In either case, he was dishonest. Best regards, Marvin

Subject  :  RE:The Merchant of Venice
Author  :  R. John Howe
Date  :  11-15-1999 on 06:42 p.m.
Hi Marvin - Thanks for your comment but I'm less sure that it's that simple. Yes, he made some moves that he probably shouldn't have but looked at even-handedly I think there's room for siding with both of us. I've told this tale to a couple of dealers whom I respect who said that they felt that he had met his obligation to me at the point that he offered to buy the repaired piece back for what I had in it. Part of it could be is that you and I are both collectors and so tend to see the collector's side of such situations more clearly. This dealer is very low key, widely respected and I think actually quite honest. I could tell you another where I was the seller and may have gotten seriously cross-wise with a third party because I don't hear well. He claims I explicitly agreed to a commission for telling me that his partner might be interested in a given rug. My experience was that is was in his partner's booth at ACOR for the sole reason of showing the piece to him and the third party's contribution was only to tell me that his partner would be there shortly and that I only nodded my head acknowledging that. This third party felt strongly enough about my agreeing to a commission that he pursued me for several days with long distance phone calls. And he could likely get my wife to testify on his side since she constantly claims to have told me things I have no memory of. Ain't life complicated? Regards, John Howe

Subject  :  RE:The Merchant of Venice
Author  :  Marvin Amstey
Date  :  11-15-1999 on 07:42 p.m.
mamstey1@rochester.rr.com Good evening, John. I agree with the conclusion that he met his obligation to buy back the rug including the repair done. My dislike of his/her action was a sneaky attempt to get a few more dollars in his pocket by finding a third-rate restorer for less money. Regards, Marvin

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