As a collector, my general pipe buying habit can be summarized as follows. I see a pipe I like, I know I want to have it and I go about the process of making it mine. Sometimes though, the pipe that I want is not available. Someone else was able to snag it before I got my hands on it. In such a case I am forced to do the next best thing and that is to have the pipe commissioned for me. The words: “Please make me this!” as I point to the picture of the pipe, roll quite easily off my tongue.
After the pipe is ordered, the waiting for pipe to arrive stage is truly wonderful. My expectation slowly starts to rise as I am about to get my new pipe. There seem to be no questions and the outlook certain. I will not have to deal with the possibility that I will not enjoy the pipe. How could I? I already saw a picture of the pipe I want. All of the unknown and mysterious elements have vanished. I conveyed the picture, dimensions, finish and stain to the carver. Everything is assured and there is no doubt in my mind, the pipe that will soon be in my hands will be exactly as I presumed.
When the pipe finally arrives, more often than not, I have in fact received the satisfaction of my expectation being met 100%. Other times though, while a rare occurrence it was not even close. It seems that I placed my expectations so high, that the slightest deviation from my imagination, produces an unimaginable amount of pipe buyer sorrow for me.
I think my words and general request to the maker were absolutely clear. What was not clear however was the far too high expectation I placed inside myself, on the final replicated result. There is clearly some type of disconnect regarding my expectations and reality. I actually expect that the carver can execute the pipe I saw in the picture to an extremely high and perfect degree. I have on my own set the bar so high, only because my joyful anticipation allows me to ignore the realities of the situation.
Each new pipe, no matter how hard the carver tries to make it similar to another previously made pipe, will always be different. The briar will be different which eliminates the exact type of grain pattern that I saw in the original pipe. The carvers hands moved in a slightly different manner making this or that line ever so slightly different. Slowly but surely, those individual and unique factors mount and the pipe I was expecting, can suddenly become a new beast all its own. Not a completely new beast but enough of one that the differences allows me to experience displeasure because of the improper expectations I placed on the situation from the outset.
Funny enough, what ‘should’ eliminate that type of ‘pipe sorrow’ situation is the different type of purchase where I see a new pipe posted on some retailer’s website. It is again a rare occurrence but it still happens and the same type of misappropriated expectation can still occur. Even though I am able to peruse the retailers site extensively, review the video and pictures provided for that pipe countless times, check out the dimensions and generally pour over every single detail available on that pipe (and by doing this I am presumably eliminating all of the unknown factors associated with the pipe commission scenario), I can still feel disappointment when the retailer’s pipe finally arrives.
I found it hard to believe that 1/3rd of Jim Cooke’s commissions are returned to him. Perhaps some of the reasons fall outside this ‘perfect shape expectation’ range and as Jim said: “Some wives may have caught wind of the purchase and found it to be too costly and thus the pipe was returned” More often than not however, I expect that the pipe quite simply did not meet the collector’s expectations in one way or another.
I think two main things are at play in these moments. One is related to the commission purchase and I briefly touched upon it already in that we develop this clearly defined realm of expectation regarding all the pipe’s details and if our realm is defined with extremely small to non-existent margins for deviation, any slight and naturally expected difference, is met with a very high amount of displeasure. So this is the self-inflicted misappropriation of what we should expect from these types of scenarios.
The other situation related to buying an existing, already made pipe with limited mystery associated with it, from a retailer and then returning it, has to do with some type of disconnect between what our eyes see and generally enjoy & our inability to bridge the gap between that visual enjoyment and the pipe actually sitting in our mouths. The pipe looks nice and looks great but when that pipe is suddenly placed into action, something is a miss.
Other factors impacting these situations have to do with a form of peer pressure. We see our fellow pipe enthusiasts going ga-ga over some shape and that shape’s popularity starts to rise and slowly our personal idea of what we think we need to be a part of (the ‘in’ shape) starts to creep it’s way into our thoughts and it feels like the thought to have this ‘in’ shape is our own. When that pipe arrives though, we are faced with the opportunity to truly evaluate our previous thought, imagined to be our own and we see that in fact it was not.
I am also mildly appalled at the idea that a collector like me can commission a pipe and then return it to the carver. Based on the collector’s request, the carver puts his or her blood, sweat and tears into their work and upon completion, because of my misaligned expectation, I can tell him: “It’s no good! And here, take it back and give me my money.” It’s stunning to me that this occurs so often. I would like to blame the collector for any misappropriated forms of expectation and nobody else. Collectors should be the ones understanding what it is we are doing when we are ordering a pipe from someone. Seeing the act of the ‘return’ flourish so much, it is apparent that we do not value what goes into this exchange process.
The same goes with the retailer. I have returned 3 pipes out of 50 or so, over the course of my collecting habit. I do take advantage of the ability to do this. I would however really like to learn more about all of these misappropriated expectations that I apply to the situation to turn the number of pipes that I return into 0. When we are not being responsible collector’s and taking advantage of someone’s return policy, something is a miss.
By the way, none of the above applies to the 30% of customers that return Jim Cooke pipes. Please continue to do so because it allows me to get a crack at one of those blasted beauties!
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