In recent days, I have taken a lot of flack on the Bob Dunsire forums, standing up for a brand that I believe in. I feel that it is unprofessional and improper for people to voice their negative opinions about a product or company and not allow the vendor to redeem himself. The string started with someone wanting to know about the Dunfion Bagpipes. As a vendor that carries Dunfion as one of a dozen brands that I represent, I figured that I could answer the question. I deal with the product all of the time and in fact play the product myself. Needless to say that has started a long, drawn-out discussion about business ethics.
First, let me say that I have been in the sales profession now since I was a teenager, almost 40 years total. I personally believe that a "sale" is only a sale if both the buyer and the seller wins in the transaction. I also believe that the best and most credible way to sell anything is to already be a user of that product. One of the aspects of my business is that I pay bagpipe teachers to sell bagpipes. In my experience, the teacher is already being paid by the student to guide that student through the bagpipe world. I also tell my "affiliate teachers" that the best way to sell products is to sell those that they are currently using. Why? Because they are experts on those products. I personally sell a lot of Dunfion Bagpipes. Why? Because I play Dunfions, I play the Ross Bag, I play the Kinnaird Drone Reeds etc. I know how these products work and how they react to different situations. What I do is no different than the College of Piping selling their own book to their own students and anyone else who will buy it. The College of Piping isn't a benevolent association, it is a business!
I am a business. I buy products at wholesale and sell them at retail. My prices are competitive in the market place. I pay my teachers from the profit that I make just like any other business that employs sales people. I have seen comments that this is unethical. Is it unethical for any business to employ or subcontract people to sell its products? If that were true, we wouldn't have an economy. There isn't anything sacred about bagpipes and bagpipe products. I think that the people making such statesments have no idea how a business works.
I also charge people tuition to teach them how to play the pipes. Why? Because I then have a vested interest in making them successful playing the pipes. If you teach lessons for free, good for you. The problem with that approach is that you will only take students who are 1000% committed to the project. When they stop practicing, you can dump them because it's no skin off of your nose. I have a 22 year old bagpipe student who I have had for 12 years. He is severly autistic. If I wasn't being paid to teach him, I could have just told his parents that he "doesn't have what it takes" to play the pipes. Because I was being paid, I had to come up with a method to not only communicate with him, as he doesn't hold a conversation, but also a method by which to teach him. Today, he has been playing in pipe bands for 7 years.
Over the years I have posted hundreds of posts on the Bob Dunsire Forums. My intent was to help people learn about bagpipes and how to use the products that have come into the market place. When I started playing back in the 70's, we played this instrument the same way with the same set up as it had been played for hundreds of years. Bagpipe inovation and products have developed tremendously over the last 30 years. As a vendor, I have seen, installed and used most those products. I think that I know the business. I think that I am a pretty credible source for most new bagpipers seeking information about products and their use. I speak not only as a vendor but also as a bagpiper with 40 years of knowledge. What's wrong with that? By the way, I haven't included a link to my PayPal button or anything unethical, as some are suggesting.
Again, a sale is a transaction where both parties win. The buyer gets a good product at a fair price and the seller makes a profit on the sale. I would also like to point out that a "full mark-up" in most retail businesses is twice the cost of the wholesale. That's not so for the bagpipe business. We're lucky if we get half of that! As I said before, I represent a lot of vendors and products. I will sell to you what ever you want to buy, however, if you ask my opinion, I will probably steer you not towards the products from which I make the most profit but towards the products that I currently use and play. That is ethical and credible!
Gary Guth is a professional bagpiper with over 45 years of playing experience and has been teaching bagpipes full time for the last 20 years. He has written "Bagpipes For Beginners", "the Bagpipe Hymnal", and " A Piper's Christmas".