2016.12.5 JOE’S CORNER: CUTTING OUR OWN THROATS

OK, I’m going to just come right out and admit that I am writing this out of frustration over something I’ve been seeing on the modeling DG’s I follow.  I am also going to admit that, as a manufacturer, I have a bias on this issue.  At the same time, I also believe I have a legitimate grievance and that all modelers would do well to consider what I have to say.  I just need to say it differently than I would have in the past.  I’m not sure if it is the fact that I’ve gotten older, or wiser, or that I am ‘on the other side of the counter’ in this hobby.  All I know is I can look back and see that I was one of the people I’m about to criticize, and because I dislike hypocrisy (especially in myself), I’m have to try to approach this subject by focusing on my own personal experiences.  I hope that this will allow me to make my point without pointing fingers.  I’ve done far too much of that in the past.  Therefore, I will do my best to say what’s on my mind by writing as though I were speaking to myself.  So, with that said, I’d like to invite you to listen in on a conversation between me and myself, then apply what you read to your own world however you see fit.

Now, to get straight to the point: I do not appreciate modelers who criticize a kit or tear down a company when it is not justified.  In fact, I think it harms the hobby when people do this.

Sometimes, a kit does have problems.  And, sometimes, a company deserves to be criticized.  But only when it is justified.  Many times, however, modelers are just looking to complain for the sake of complaining, or worse, to draw attention to themselves.  That used to be me.  I complained all the time about how a company should have made their products differently, so I understand how this works.  I also understand that, while I felt justified in criticizing, I was also trying to make myself bigger than I deserved in the process.  By pointing out what I thought were mistakes, I put myself forward as an ‘expert.’  The only problem is, I wasn’t an ‘expert:’ I was just an ignorant loud mouth who didn’t know half as much as he thought he did.

However, in my case, my loud mouth put me on the spot, and it lead to the creation of TMD.  A friend of mine got tired of hearing me gripe, much like I am tired of others griping now.  Only my friend knew me, so he told me to either do better or shut my mouth.  So I started TMD.  You’ll have to decide whether or not I did better, but it changed the way I see things in the modeling industry.  I just wish others would do the same.  I wish they would either get some real ‘skin in this game’ by starting their own model company, or be much more careful about offering opinions on things when they might not know as much as they think they do.

For example: I’ve had customers come up to me at a show and tell me how I should have made a given product.  Usually, I start by asking them a couple simple questions designed to tell me how much they know about resin casting.  And, usually, I quickly learn they don’t know much at all about resin casting.  yet, here they are, telling me how I can make things better when they have little or no idea what it takes to make the products I produce.

In the last few years, I have worked with about a half dozen plastic manufacturers, and I learned a great deal about how that business works.  In fact, I’ve learned enough that I’ve looked seriously at starting my own plastic company.  What I discovered is the plastic companies have much the same problem.  Most modelers simply do not understand the technical abilities and limitations of the industry, yet, their ignorance does not stop those modelers from criticizing what they do not understand.  The thing is, companies pay more attention to what modelers say than the modelers may realize, and that affects the direction of the industry.

For example: I had customers ask me to make a certain product, and to make it as accurately as I possibly could.  So I made it, and it is one of the best resin kits that has ever been produced.  Now, I believe this, but then, I made the master.  However, I’ve had several competitors tell me they believe the same thing, so I have to confess that I feel a certain sense of confidence in making that statement.  However, the kit was ex-pen-sive!  And that was in spite of the fact that I sold it at wholesale!  I should have charged a lot more for it.  So, how did my customers respond?  Well, most of the guys who asked me to make it never bought it.  Now, it sold well enough, but nowhere near as well as I had hoped.  So, eventually, I dropped it from my line.  But guess what?  Plastic companies respond the same way!

We live in the golden age of modeling.  Not only are the plastic companies making kits we would have never dared dream of seeing in plastic ten years ago, but many times today, we have two or three or even more versions of the same kit from different companies.  What’s more, you can get kits with much more detail, accuracy and even multi-media parts in them for what are — in many cases — reasonable prices.  So, how do we as modelers respond?  By attacking every little thing we perceive as being ‘wrong’ with the newest release.  Heck, many times, we don’t even know if something is wrong.  We just go on the word of what this guy said, who might be going on the word of another guy and the next thing you know, the internet thinks a very good kit is a piece of trash when, in reality, it may be that a bad modeler with a lot of followers ran his mouth about something simply because he is a bad modeler.

Again, to keep this focused on me, I have had this happen.  I have had people tell me that a TMD product is garbage because they could not build it correctly.  Now, what am I supposed to do or say when I have a customer, usually at a show and in front of other people, telling me that I produce a worthless product when I know the problem is the guy who is complaining can’t build?  I’ve had this happen many times.  I know I’ve lost sales over this.  So how do you think I respond?  Well, in my case, I make a note of the guy’s name and, the next time I see him order, I consider whether or not to refund his money (yes, I do this — when I think it is necessary).  But this is because I hold a special place in the industry.  Most companies — especially plastic companies — cannot respond this way.  They have to respond differently.

Have you ever heard the old saying you can have it done right, done fast or done cheap, but you can only have two of the three?  So, if you want ti right and fast, it will not be cheap.  If you want it fast and cheap, it will not be right.  And if you want it right and cheap, it will not be done fast.  Well, the modeling world works in a similar way.  If you want it done right, then it is not going to be cheap.  To do it right requires more parts, and more parts means more money.  If you want it done cheap, then detail and accuracy have to suffer.  So, we modelers demand accurate, highly detailed kits.  The industry responds by giving them to us.  What do we do?  We complain about the cost and start looking for ‘problems’ with the new kits.  Now, if you were the owner of the plastic company, how would you respond?  I know how I would respond: by looking for a new market that won’t mind if the kit isn’t detailed or accurate.  Say, a market like the “World of Tanks gamers.”  Not only are they easier to please, but there are more of them, which means an easier and bigger profit margin for the model company.  And what happens to us modelers?  We get placed back in the cold again: wishing for the ‘good old days.’

I know most people will argue with me, and present their reason for why I am wrong.  And I guess they’re right: what do I know about any of this?  I only own a resin company that actually has made changes like those I described — and for the very same reasons I just described.  What do I know?  I only work with the plastic companies as an adviser.  It’s not like those companies would be honest with me about their thinking, or the plans they’ve made as a result of the things the modelers are saying and doing.  What would I know about any of this?  I mean, I just make my living in the hobby.  It’s not like I actually build or anything like that — right?

Well, I can’t speak for others, so I won’t.  I can only worry about me, and for my sake, I am going to start doing my best to build up this hobby — not tear it down.  Maybe I’ll start calling my products ‘improvement sets’ instead of ‘correction sets.’  Maybe I’ll make a conscious effort to make ‘improvement sets’ for kits that are generally excellent, but which might lack just a few things from being perfect.  This way, I can be a friend to the company that made that kit instead of acting like an enemy.  And maybe I’ll start explaining how modelers can deal with more complicated builds.  Heck, I might even start making resin products to help with those difficult builds.  I could make jigs, or other items like that to help guys build these beautiful new kits.  Anything that helps, I’ll consider.  But I’m done tearing things down simply for the sake of acting like I’m somebody.  Again, I’m speaking only for myself, but I’ve realized that complaining just cuts my own throat in the end.