Originally Posted by SGladwell
Globalization has costs as well as benefits. Even if your nightmare scenario were to come to pass - as I'll explain below, I think it's a strawman - I wouldn't feel any more or less sorry for these two gentlemen then I do for a call center employee who was laid off because his firm moved to India or a factory worker who's unemployed because her company couldn't compete with a Chinese company on quality or price. Like it or not, there are costs to basing a business model on the fallacy that borders are still relevant to commerce in the 21st century. It's really quite reckless, if you think about it. It's sad for some of the individuals affected, and in cases where necessary I certainly support government-funded safety nets and civilizing reforms like single-payer healthcare to minimize the human costs of dislocation as much as possible. It is also ultimately for the good of the entire world to see countries like China and India follow in the footsteps of the UK and the US in their development, grow middle classes, and climb their way out of poverty. If Vass or any agents on their behalf wish to prevent prices from more or less harmonizing across borders, they are free to attempt to amass the capital to control the destiny of their shoes from every point up to the end user in every market. If they cannot or will not do that, they are resigning themselves to fight an ultimately losing war against the free market.
Now that's very extreme. For one thing, with the internet being what it is sooner or later almost all of the good niche producers of everything all over the world are going to be known to those who wish to find out about them, regardless of any individual's hard work.
Now, someone going into Bergdorf, trying them on, and ordering them elsewhere, I'll agree, is distasteful. But I would venture to guess that the majority of people who are buying expensive shoes over the internet without trying them on have done no such thing, so suggesting that internet sales are taking away from local sales itself is quite the strawman. And frankly, if BG dies drops Vass the more likely reason is that Americans in the main aren't that interested in the Central European shoemaking traditions, and have ingrown preferences for sleeker English and Italian products. I know that people have commented on my Ludwig Reiters for over five years, but nobody has ever asked me where he could get a pair.
Also, the requisite disclaimer: I've neither seen Vass shoes at BG or anywhere else, and certainly never considered paying $500+ for a pair of shoes on a last I've never tried. $500 is not pocket change to me. However, when I go to Europe in August I might look for some because I am a fan of that school of shoe design. If I judge Vass to be worth the price difference from Ludwig Reiter then I probably will buy a pair. Unless they raise the European price to US levels, in which case no matter how good they are they won't be relevant to my lifestyle.
I can't see why you say that Vass worldwide internet sales are "quite the strawman."
It's part of this business model, as you implictly admit in your comments regarding the modern, borderless economy.
No doubt the Vass distributors were aware it could happen, and sought, quite understandably, to protect their territory. To suggest that Internet sales is a strawman is to suggest that the universe of Internet buyers is finite and closed.