Thursday, May 28, 2009

keystone pricing

Still listening to the old episodes of LnV, and got to #12 yesterday, which first ‘aired’ in September 2006. In it, the girls got serious and then livid as they shared the then-breaking news about keystone pricing in yarn. I grew livid as I listened.

During that year, I was discovering a lot of new sites, books, yarns, designers, and some podcasts, and the information was a bit of an overload. The transition from lone knitter to ‘net knitter was the sort of big jump I’m only now appreciating by reflecting back.

And like other things, I remember hearing about keystone pricing from Brenda Dayne’s podcast Cast On. I think I raised an eyebrow, as I continued to knit during that hour. Today, such news glares and blares out as it bloody well should. But knowing this news is three years old has me wondering today if the story ever had a happy ending. Did changes come about? Did it ever stop? If not, which companies still practice the policy and did any of ‘em drop it as a result of the outcry? Maybe LnV mentioned it again, with developments in later episodes. I’m going through ‘em all anyway, so time will tell.

If you haven’t heard about it, it’s a pricing policy that some big yarn distributers were using that mandated retail prices to yarn shops that sold their products. They forced these shop owners to maintain the prices to within 90% of the keystone price. Yeah, I know – price fixing! This country is founded on two things, and free market capitalism is one of ‘em. Anybody else getting images in their heads of the Soprano cast paying a little visit to some yarn shop? Okay, maybe that was just me.

If I understand it right, the story didn’t break as a result of any activist whistle-blower. Well, not an intentioned whistle-blower. That resulted from the honest and well-meaning intentions of an online shop owner, Sarah. When she was forced to raise the price to that magic 90%, after having already offered it at a much lower one, she felt like she owed her customers an explanation for the price jump. She gave the truthful one on the blog associated with her shop.

And that, apparently, is when the knitting world discovered the ugly truth. Lime ‘n Violet covered it in their September 2006 episode #12, even scoring an interview with Sarah who had since become the yarn seller knitters were rallying around. Embarrassed to admit I’m only just now hearing that one. Brenda Dayne covered it in her episodes #38 and #40, which is what I remember hearing. Others carried this news too, and a comprehensive list of links to these and to some legal sites about such laws can be found at a blog site that sprang up in response to this, Consumer Friendly Yarns.

And as I followed that trail, I was flabbergasted that it stopped with an entry that’s now a year and half old. What? No changes since then? That blog lists companies that, at that time, were using keystone pricing and ones that were consumer friendly. I want to know, as a 2009 consumer, which companies are still doing this – especially in light of today’s economic woes.

A google search just now turns up blogs dated in 2006. If anybody knows of any current resources or news, I’d love to hear it.

Either no news is good news, and the whole practice went extinct . . . or . . . the outrage just faded away, allowing the fat cats to continue on their merry way to the bank with our dollars.

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