Retailers and Reputations


The fountain pen community is a very connected group. With message boards, blogs, and social media of all sorts, that’s true of every hobby these days. While it has many advantages, there are also some disadvantages and today I was struck by how easily rudeness can do an amazing amount of damage.

Case in point is the shortsighted and rude reply from a pen vendor to an email inquiry from a well-known blog. Further research produced a few more tacky, tasteless responses so this guy has been at it for years.

This situation came to my attention via Twitter so word is getting out. Opinions will differ on whether the blogger should have published the retailer’s responses or whether she deserved it for contacting the company in the first place, etc.  However, the manner in which the company responded to both her and others who wrote email about the situation is telling.

That left me wondering whether Inkophile should offer a link to this company or for that matter any company with customer service or other issues. There are plenty of good pen sellers to recommend so eliminating a questionable vendor makes sense. If I recommend one with problems, my reputation is also on the line. There are enough other vendors in whom I have confidence, that eliminating one who has issues is easy. My list of links has been updated accordingly.

However, what I value more than my reputation is your confidence in what you read on Inkophile. So if you have a bad experience with a company you see listed here, please send me an email about your experience. Include whether or not the company tried to make things right and whether or not you were satisfied in the end.

In addition tell me about great companies that deliver more than you expected. That may offset a bad experience or put a questionable one in perspective.

My intention is not to rate anyone but simply to eliminate problems. I do not have personal experience with every company in my links though I wish that were possible. Between the experiences of my many friends as well as years of participation in the fountain pen community, I’ve found the vendors listed are those that are most likely to sell a quality product and treat you well along the way.

Editing the list is easy so let me know if you think it’s time to reconsider anyone on it. Your help is much appreciated.



  1. I don’t think anyone is going to infer anything from the mere fact that you list an online store on your blog. I have several listed on mine, but have only ordered from two of them (Jet Pens and Goulet Pen Co.). I think most people assume you’re just giving a shortcut unless you also include some kind of explicit endorsement on your blog.


  2. Well said.


  3. I think this is a tricky issue. My (lazy) solution has been to refrain from having links to pen dealers. On the other hand it is a good service to have a selection of links – just as you have.


  4. Unless you explicitly endorse a company, I assume you’re putting links as a convenience and it’s up to me to research the vendors before I use them.

    You don’t say whether the blogger in question also listed the correspondence leading up to the curt response. People are human beings and we’ve all had off days where we bang our heads on our monitors or desks and moan, “Why did I do that?” We don’t know if the blogger has a history with the vendor, did something to set them off, or simply caught them on a bad day.

    I wouldn’t worry about it.


    • Just to clarify there was more than one exchange so I don’t doubt the retailer had more than just a bad day. In fact there is a thread from two years ago about him on FPN. The whole exchange started with the blogger offering to review a product for the retailer if he would send an item to her. This sort of thing is done all the time. No one gets offended. If the company isn’t interested, a polite response would end the exchange. This retailer was rude and insulting and continued to be so in another exchange. He did the same to someone else and that exchange was also made public.

      I’ve had problems with poor communication from a very well-known retailer but you will still find him on my list of pen vendors. Someone there dropped the ball with me twice but I still buy from them. They just aren’t the best at inquiries but they do deliver product in a timely manner so the good outweighs the bad.

      Then there is a nib repair person who botched a job for a very experienced pen friend and did not make things right. He also shapes nibs in a way that is difficult if not impossible to allow for adjustment or correction. Some of his remarks on message boards have reinforced my opinion that this bloke is just plain hard to work with. You won’t find him on my links list.

      Certainly I don’t think my links list is the final word on who is the best to do business with or who delivers great products. That is up to the individual to research. But I just don’t feel good about listing people or companies that have splotchy records.

      That said, I enjoy recommending people and will do so whenever I can. It’s part of the fun of writing a blog.


  5. Interesting post. As a rule, I only link to and recommend people/companies with which I have done business.

    There is one very prominent pen pusher/repairer that is absolutely insufferable. I will NEVER recommend his services to anyone again!

    All you can do is offer your opinion. People are free to take your advice or not. I wouldn’t worry about it too much. 🙂


  6. It’s one thing to mention that there are persistent issues with a retailer, it’s something else to encourage a pile-on. For me, I don’t assume any link is an explicit endorsement–however, I also do assume that if a site links to a retailer in their sidebar that they are at least generally reputable. Ultimately, I bear the responsibility and if I get taken by an unscrupulous retailer, that’s on my head and no one else’s.


    • Sorry you see this as a “pile-on” even though no names were mentioned. Personal responsibility is the bottom line though and on that we can agree.


  7. Oh! Let me clarify–this post, not a pile-on! However, it took me approximately 60 seconds to find out exactly the situation you were referring to in the beginning of this post–that’s what I was referring to as a pile-on (I think there are better ways to deal with such situations, obviously). My apologies for being unclear.


    • No problem, Natalie. Piling-on or lots of agreement that retailers shouldn’t be rude or insulting, the Internet provides a forum for both. Frustrating but cool at the same time.


  8. To back up the “not a pile-on” sentiment, I have to say that I’m wildly curious about the folks in question, but I still have no idea who any of them are. No piles here.


    • Whew! Glad there are no “piles” around here. 😉


  9. No piling here, but as someone who is in the learning stages, it would be nice to “objectively” see what your thoughts are on specific retailers.

    I think it’s totally reasonable to provide feedback in a constructive manner. Any good retailer worth buying for will either take it to heart or take the time to explain their reaction.


    • We were all newbies once so welcome aboard.

      My criteria is simple: good communication, fast shipping, and a company that stands behind their products should something not be as advertised or expected.

      As to retailers, well, there are just too many for me to have personal experience with all of them. Dang, but I’d like to have a budget that would all for that. Anyway, most of those I link to in a post have proven reliable whether in my experience or that of my friends. Once in awhile a new one pops up but that’s often noted. There are lots of blogs that have info as well. Another resource is Fountain Pen Network. You have to be a member to conduct a search but it’s worth it.


  10. It would be interesting to know the specifics of this incident. It would seem a little cavalier to contact businesses, asking for free products because one has a blog and a few ‘friends’ who like to frequent the blog.

    Most businesses are trying to make a profit. If you were a rep of a widget wholesaler and wanted to see a sample on spec, that would be one thing. If you are a hobbyist/enthusiast/blogger with a overly developed sense of entitlement, that’s another thing altogether.

    Just because the ‘gimme’ practice is done all the time (as you said) this doesn’t mean that it’s done on the retailer’s side without reservation.
    It should also be noted that just because a retailer is a grouch from time to time, doesn’t mean that they are not worth your business. Often the most obscure and well made products are to be found from the most difficult people.

    Still, it is difficult to know without details.
    You have a nice blog by the way.


  11. Personally, I would say “caveat emptor” (or TRY to say it anyway). If you are generous enough to provide the convenience of a link on your page that helps both the buyers and sellers, then I see it only as an act of kindness on your behalf. I think that holding you responsible in any way for a bad experience with a business linked on your page is like blaming the NBC network for my Sham-Wow not cleaning up a gallon of root beer.
    I would say list the business anyway and let word of good/bad experiences travel through the community via word of mouth. This way you are able to remain a neutral party assistig people with finding sources to pursue their ink passions instead of entering the morass of pen politics.
    Just one opinion of mant this newbie has.


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