| Dear Customer,
This is our 25th annual woodworking catalog. Lee Valley was incorporated
in July of 1977 but our first catalog was not mailed until the
following year. We had prepared as well as we could (given our
naiveté in the mail-order business) and sent the first
few thousand catalogs to a compiled list of known woodworkers.
The most common response was "Where have you been until now?"
The second most common response was "Received your excellent
catalog but I am disappointed that you do not carry... (fill in
As we scrambled to fill orders and adjust our product line, we
discovered that we were dealing with a remarkably honest slice
of the consuming public. The best example ever involved a $50
British dovetail saw. The manufacturer originally packed them
one to a box, but later changed the packaging so that two were
nested in a box of almost the same dimensions. Before we noticed
the change, we had shipped seven of these new boxes to customers
but charged them for single saws only. I believe we discovered
our problem when the first duplicate was returned. Even in those
pre-computer days, we could quickly determine that there were
six more duplicates out there and who had them.
I thought it would be interesting to just sit tight and see what
customers did. Four more came back quite quickly and we sent Thank
You notes and shipping cost refunds. A week passed and the sixth
saw came back with a comment that it had caused a small moral
dilemma but conscience won in the end. After several more weeks,
the seventh and last saw came back with a long, anguished letter
from the customer telling us that we had caused him some of the
most uncomfortable weeks of his life. He had initially expected
that we would discover our error and contact him. When no letter
came, he began to speculate about where he might sell this little
jewel of a backsaw that he had gained at no cost. However, he
continued to feel guilty about the whole affair and, to re-establish
his peace of mind, he finally sent it back to us with a complete
confession and a plea to never again test him.
Years later, when we started selling gardening tools, we found
that gardeners had the same ethical standards. In short, we have
had an easy time of it these past 25 years because it was possible
to do so many things based on trust. Thank you for trusting us
this past quarter century to respond to you in the same manner
you have responded to us.
Leonard G. Lee