Wednesday, August 3, 2011
"Last time people took things from me," said Mitchell Buck, owner of Dirty Fingers Bike shop referring to the March 6 burglary at his Heights store. "This time, they've taken my entire business identity."
The covert theft came to light when a Facebook friend of Dirty Fingers posted an alert on Friday, directing Buck to a virtual "duplicate" business - opened just four months ago in Sandpoint, Idaho - called "Greasy Fingers Bike Shop."
When Buck followed the link, he was "completely shocked" to find a bike shop with the identical layout to his own, right down to a personalized chalk board displaying Buck's famous "word of the day" and "daily catch phrase" customer teasers.
"Their website text was taken from our site word-for-word. Store colors - the same. Their logo, a slightly altered copy. Even the labor prices for services were identical," said Buck.
It then became all too hard to swallow when Buck noticed that his local service special, called "The Full Monte" was also listed on the clone site.
"They even stole my dog!" said Buck. The "Monte" referred to in the cheater's service plan is Buck's beloved shop dog of 11 years.
So, with the unwitting help of the Internet, and what Buck thinks must have included a personal visit to photograph the inside of his shop, Buck's business model was pirated. Conversely, the age of high-speed Internet social networking has also provided the start of the remedy to the high-tech theft.
Much like a publicly corrected Wikipedia entry, friends and fans of Dirty Fingers kicked in and began providing both support for the "original" business and public shaming for the marauders.
"I understand that the information exploded over the weekend via our Facebook page and that postings to their website and Facebook page caused them to take down and revamp their stuff," said Buck.
For those interested in seeing the copycat version, Buck has saved a screen page copy of the first site put up by Greasy Fingers which appears as an exact replica of his original.
Taking the raid with a wry sense of humor, Buck decided to contact the Sandpoint Chamber of Commerce and their local newspaper with something other than the standard legal "cease and desist" letter defense.
"I've told them that I am going to petition to change Hood River's name to Sandpoint, just to keep things even," said Buck. "Actually, they were both really great about hearing me out."
On a serious note, the brand materials of successful businesses, developed with hard cash investments from owners, are a very real financial asset and are now more vulnerable to theft then ever before with the ease of access provided through the Internet.
"Of course there is a real hard cost to producing logos, designs, floor plans and marketing for every business, but this is also about what Mitchell has created from his vision, heart, and soul. You can't put a price on that," said Kerry Cobb, Hood River Chamber of Commerce director.
"We know that there is a 'conversation' going on out there on the Internet about every business and we advise people to be vigilant about your brand in this viral world," added Cobb.
Brian Anderson, owner of Greasy Fingers, did not return calls for comment.
Buck sent the following personal message about his ordeal to his customers via his website page on dirtyfingersbikes.com:
"I created Dirty Fingers with the last $1,500 I had in this world. Dirty Fingers was forged with love, sweat and heart … I humbly ask the riding community to … Let them know that in the bike industry, as in life, things should be earned and not stolen."
Dirty Fingers (the original) is located at: 1412 13th St. in Hood River.
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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"
Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge