Dealing with the guys in the hat business is not unlike the story of the two rival businessmen who run into each other at the Warsaw train station. “Where are you going?” says the first, with a touch to the brim of his fedora hat. “To Minsk” replies the other. “To Minsk, eh? What a nerve you have! I know that you are telling me that you are going to Minsk because you want me to believe that you are going to Pinsk. But it just so happens that I know you really are going to Minsk. So why are you lying to me?”
Actually, my guess is that our industry is not as deceptive as most. First of all, our products are rather benign. No reason to lie and cheat about the nature of hats (contrast us with the tobacco industry, for example). Furthermore, I suspect that the small size of our trade keeps us somewhat more personally connected than people are in large industries. Does the size of a community have a bearing on the incentive to maintaining one’s good name? I think it does (although some of our hat fellows must be the exception that proves the rule).
At the risk of sounding like a lecturing old grandfather, I’d like to address the young guns who have recently entered the world of the hat business. Your major stock in trade is your reputation and nothing will serve you better long-term than developing one for integrity. In the case of The Village Hat Shop, it is a fact that many hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent with vendor “x” rather than with vendor “y” on the basis of this issue alone. Multiply our single experience by that of others in the trade and it is clear that this can, and often does, make for the difference between success and failure.
And as the Warsaw train station story illustrates, you might as well just tell the truth. No one will believe you either way.