Thursday, August 8, 2013

Consumerism Thursday: Needle Bait and Switch

I'm a rather fanatical knitter, and because of my joint problems, I'm very fussy about the tools I use. I only use nickel-plated circular needles with flexible cables and very sharp points. Wood, plastic, bamboo and stainless steel were to sticky for me, and the other nickel brands were blunt, so out of dozens of brands on the market, the only supplier I found with needles that didn't cause me hand pain was They had a lifetime warranty, so when I got a needle that broke or had a rough spot, I'd call and a new one would promptly be dispatched, no questions asked. Everything was lovely and happy for about two years.

Then this winter I ordered a few needles, and they just weren't the same. The points were blunter; the cables were darker and stiffer. Complaints built up in various knitting fora, saying the new wooden needles were more likely to split, that the cables were stiffer and the needles generally more fragile. Someone noticed that the needle packaging now said "Made in China" instead of "Made in India" and we concluded Knitpicks had changed suppliers without telling anyone. The manufacturer studiously ignored the complaints until about a month ago, when they sent this to their mailing list:

Forgive me, but this is the biggest piece of corporate bullshit double-speak I've ever seen. It's more like: "Thanks to savvy and subtle manufacturing improvements moving our manufacturing from India to China, we're now able to offer the same beautiful product, crappier needles that only visually resemble their Indian-made counterparts at an even more beautiful price a much lower price, while we capitalize on our customers' naive assumption that these needles are the same ones we've always sold. Cha-ching!"

I've long liked Knitpicks because their low prices let people try high-quality, natural fiber yarns which might otherwise be unaffordable. Most of my stash is Knitpicks yarn, and I've been very happy with their products, but I doubt if I'll ever buy from them again. I am not impressed by these kind of underhanded tactics. (Not that I need more yarn in any event.)

There is a happy ending to this story. The Indian factory had gone into business on their own, and now manufactures the same needles with only cosmetic differences, to the old quality standards, with a lifetime guarantee and a vastly expanded product line, under the name Knitter's Pride. Check your local yarn store or Ebay for them. I've been using some and they're just like the old Knitpicks needles.

ETA: In what is obviously a sadistic joke, Knitpicks released a new yarn line today that I'm totally in love with.

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