Fountain Pen Groups – have they lost their purpose of bringing FP lovers together? (Part 3)

Fountain Pen Groups – what ails them? What medicine do you prescribe?

The caveat up front. I am only trying to raise an issue that afflicts all of us. There is no intention of pointing fingers at any one Fountain Pen Group or person in particular, leave alone a desire to hurt. If, inadvertently I cause any hard feelings, my unqualified apologies. Hope all of you will read the piece and the ones that will follow with an open mind and the same love that you have for your collection.  

I am inundated with complaints from fountain pen lovers who, seeking knowledge and fraternal bonding join Fountain Pen groups in various social media platforms, only to be waylaid – sometimes ridiculed by old hands who hunt in packs, at other times getting short-charged as the so-called experts lead them to purchase pens that are, shall we say, not exactly what they are palmed off as.

Some people have also pointed out a predictable trend – one so-called expert posts a certain picture with his / her cahoots flooding it with clapping / raging fire / beating heart emogies to build up the tempo which leads the vulnerable to walk into the well-laid “trap”. What is equally deplorable is the practice of some established pen makers / sellers, who take potential buyers off the grid and quote prices only on Whats App, which leads many to feel that not all is above board and transparent. Why pray? Why can’t we have open pricing – it is a fraternity, after all?

The questions that were set before the stalwarts are simple:

  1. Fountain pen groups – have they lost their purpose of bringing FP lovers together?
  2. Are Fountain Pen Groups mere platforms where sellers donning the garb of lovers of FP lurk to pull fast ones on unsuspecting new-comers – hunting in packs?
  3. Are we not forcing the real FP lovers to quit in disgust?
  4. We have nothing against people selling pens – but sellers calling themselves pen lovers with ulterior motives and hidden agendas is deplorable – do you agree?

Here is what Dr Samrat Ganguly –lover, collector and fountain pen aficionado, apart from being a reputed member of the fountain pen community in the social media and otherwise,  has to say on the matter:

Prescribed by the Doctor

Fountain pen groups – have they lost their purpose of bringing FP lovers together?

I wouldn’t pass such a harsh judgement on the various fountain pen groups on social media.  These groups are still the best place that bring fountain pen enthusiasts from all over the globe together. People from all stages of life, right from students with very limited funds and resources to retired persons with huge personal collections are part of these groups. It’s natural that different members of such an inhomogeneous population will have different mindset, ideas, perspective, temperament and expressions. So, there are bound to be occasional minor ego-centric clashes between members. These stray incidents do not affect the overall warm and cordial environment of fountain pen groups. I would say these are common in every social media groups, even in real life groups.

The groups help us to get appropriate information about brands and services easily. One can argue that such information is available on internet blogs and youtube videos. But I have to admit, its impossible to filter out ‘paid’ reviews and reviews with ‘hidden conflict of interest’ from genuine information. Inside a group, personal experience of users help a lot.  These groups act as catalyst for different pen meets and interactive get- together among members.

But there are some grey areas. I agree with my fellow enthusiast that there is a problem of small sub-groups forming inside main groups. Sometimes that hamper free mixing of new members.  There are instances when intent and method of admins have been questioned by other members and few of them left groups in protest. Quite a few times senior members were abused by some stray elements. I feel all these could have been avoided and these incidents inflicted a lot of damage inside groups. Some true fountain pen lovers either distanced themselves or became inactive.

 Despite few negatives, I am hopeful for a even a better future.

Dr Samrat Ganguly

Are Fountain Pen Groups mere platforms where sellers donning the garb of lovers of FP lurk to pull fast ones on unsuspecting new-comers – hunting in packs?

I would answer this particular aspect from a different perspective.  All kinds of online transactions have some amount of uncertainty and risk involved. We have to rely on photographs to get idea about the item on sell, which in turn can be manipulated. There is some amount of waiting period after successful payment to get the purchased product. There are problems related to shipping and transit. So, its obvious that if someone is buying fountain pens online, he will face these issues as well.

Here lies the importance of fountain pen groups. We can get feedback about sellers and their products. When some seller cheats, the cheated person can always notify others in the group about the issues. Most of the times these are due to some miscommunication and members are able to resolve the issues rather cordially. Difference of opinion about any product doesn’t mean the seller is deliberately cheating. If the buyer or seller is not part of any group, the problem is far more. That’s why, most unscrupulous sellers avoid participating in any group.

There have been some very disturbing cheating incidents on some international facebook groups but such incidents are rare in Indian groups.

Basic problem crippling Indian fountain pen scenario is the unprofessional way of conducting business. The sellers are mostly good human beings, but they need to invest on professional tools to keep the business running at the same pace as the demands for their products. Very few sellers actually addressed the issue of expanding their business at appropriate time. Long delay in delivering orders, poor communication with prospective customers, drop in quality of product due to large number of orders saturating manufacturing process, poor after sales service- all these send wrong signals to the new entrants or foreign customers, who might be accustomed with much more organized luxury brands and sellers.

I would advise newcomers to ask for feedback inside group before transferring money. The delay might cause him to miss the bargain but at least his money will be safe. Go slow initially, interact in different groups and know what price to pay for a pen and obviously, what price NOT to pay for any pen. That’s the most crucial step to avoid being taken for a ride.

Dr Samrat Ganguly: as deft with the fountain pen as he is with the stethoscope!

Are we not forcing the real FP lovers to quit in disgust?

Leaving fountain pen groups is not always related to buy-sell activities inside them. Actually, there are dedicated buy-sell groups for that. Some people get bored of incessant discussions on fountain pens day and night. Some people feel they cannot ‘match’ fellow hobbyists as far as purchasing costly pens are concerned. Most of the members who leave do so within few days of entry, when they understand they are not interested in so much hobby related discussions.  Its different to buy and enjoy a few fountain pens compared to taking part in detailed analysis of nitty gritty of fountain pen world and regular WhatsApp notifications. Some members get burnt out after purchasing many costly pens and later suffering from buyers’ remorse.

There are some people who likes to throw tantrums and leave groups at the drop of a hat at regular intervals, before coming back again as a member. They neither can live without these groups nor can live peacefully within the groups. But again, it’s more of a common trait in every kind of groups.

As I’ve mentioned above, there have been some incidents of misunderstandings and ego-clashes leading to some genuine FP lovers quitting some groups. Admins need to pay attention to avoid such incidents in future.

Fountain Pen Groups

We have nothing against people selling pens – but sellers calling themselves pen lovers with ulterior motives and hidden agendas is deplorable – do you agree?

Most sellers know they cannot ignore ‘word of mouth publicity’ as well as negative publicity within the groups. It takes one dissatisfied customer to smear their public image inside a group. Most of the times, it is seen the discontent is about shipping, delayed delivery or from poor quality of third-party nibs. And there is a tendency among a section of hobbyists who try to compare a 2000 Rs Indian pen with a 50000 Rs Japanese pen. Such comparisons only bring about more discontent. During my short experience with these groups, I have encountered many genuine Indian manufacturers and sellers, all of them helpful and humble.

Many sellers are themselves big time collectors of fountain pens. Nothing wrong with that.

But there will be some members with ulterior motive of exploiting newer members. Members need to be alert. We shouldn’t conceal if we are duped or cheated. I also advise everyone to ink up all the pens they purchase within a few days of receiving, write a few pages and store only after that. Its difficult to take sides when someone complaints that a pen bought few months back and till then kept unused is not functioning after taking out from cupboard.  If you get a bad bargain, report it within a reasonable timeframe. That will prevent such incidents happening repeatedly. We need to guard new entrants from such persons.

 Public shaming of any individual, be it seller or buyer or participant of group buy, is deplorable. The difference between a complaint with product quality and intentional accusations and smearing campaign should be kept in mind.

There have been huge discussions regarding price differences between sellers and any discrepancy is considered swindle or cheating by few members. Fountain pens being luxury imported items, price may vary between sellers depending on their source of procurement.

Indian fountain pen sellers should come up with more transparent pricing. I would also advise all sellers to update their websites regularly and keep them functioning.  Maintaining order in WhatsApp is difficult task with chances of missing orders.

About price of pens, if one is not sure, he should ask the group before finalizing the deal. Being   careful is the key here.

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