Earlier today I received an email from a Festool employee asking that I correct a price on my recent post asking your opinion about the Kapex vs. the Bosch Glide. I’m happy to correct the price, of course, but it struck me that, despite the fact we’ve written about Festool numerous times and our readers have expressed a lot of interest in the brand, today’s email was the first time I can remember Festool ever reaching out to us in any way. This reminds me yet again how much I wish readers could fully share the tool journalism experience. You can learn a hell of a lot about a company based on how they interact with journalists — yet virtually no one talks about the experience.
Then again, that’s probably because we assume readers are more interested in the tools themselves than the human stories behind them. Anyway, if you’re interested in some of those stories, read on. If not, scroll up or down where you’ll find plenty more pics of cool (or funny) tools and opportunities to weigh in on them.
So yeah, when I saw an email from someone “@festoolusa.com” this morning, I thought, “Awesome! They have something to say about the post!” When I open it, though, it was just three sentences: one telling me the price was “grossly inaccurate,” another giving me the current catalog price, and a third indicating the sender “would appreciate an email verifying that it has been corrected.” Sure, Festool doesn’t owe us anything at all in terms of interest, but contrast this to Bosch, for example, from which we regularly receive feedback. I can name five or six different engineers at Bosch whom I’ve met and heard pitch their ideas.
As I’m sure you’ve seen here and on other sites, Bosch holds yearly events in which they invite writers to their home office to show off their tools. Others do this as well, most notably DeWalt and Milwaukee, though others are getting in the swing of it, too. Besides giving everyone — even those of us who (despite our large readership) don’t have the budget of a massive print publication — an opportunity to see the tools in person with knowledgable folks on hand to explain the concepts, these events often say a lot about what the company is trying to do and why. Sometimes it’s positive, and sometimes it’s not.
Take DeWalt, for example. I remember years back attending DeWalt events where the engineers seemed to know surprisingly little about competing products. It was as if everyone there had imbibed the corporate Kool-Aid to the point where they were convinced each product was the end-all, be-all. Not so much recently. It’s not surprising to see all the new products they’re launching. In recent times the folks we talk to at the company seem acutely aware of their need to refresh. They’re hungry, and it shows in their work.
Bosch goes through similar cycles as well, sometimes convinced of their superiority, sometimes kicking ass to catch up. But one thing Bosch has always done well is communicate. We regularly receive emails from Bosch folks, some positive and some negative, but all friendly. Hell, despite the fact that we had a lot of fun at the expense of the “Joe the Pro” campaign — we’ve always maintained that a “we listen to you” campaign makes a lot more sense than a “we know what you want” campaign — Joe has been nothing but a good sport about it all. Bosch never once gave us a hard time about it, and Joe even comments on the site from time to time. (Hint: He’s actually a nice guy.)
Does this mean that I think all DeWalt or Bosch products are awesome? Nope. Let’s face it: Every company big enough to sell multi-nationally and fill your local big-box with all the SKUs they can handle is going to offer tools across the full spectrum of product quality, probably distributed in a normal curve. They’ll make a few superstars, a lot of pretty decent stuff, and a couple of turds. We know this, and they know this, too.
The bottom line for me is that after a number of years of interacting with tool companies, I’ve come to realize that the most positive vibe I can get from a tool company isn’t the greatest new idea or the slickest marketing piece — or the best wine-and-dine experience at a tool launch. Instead, it’s the feeling that they recognize their successes and their failures, that the individual engineers, designers, managers, and workers in the company want to make something great, and that they’re empowered to do so.
Despite talking to hundreds of thousands of readers, Toolmonger is a little bitty business. It has up times and down times. I like to think we’re pretty good at finding interesting tools to talk about here on the site, but we’re lousy at selling advertising, which means that sometimes Toolmonger brings in a bit of cash and often times we pay out of pocket to keep it running. We write about tools because we love writing about tools, and because we love reading what people have to say about tools. (We read TM comments just like you read the posts, BTW.)
So just a thought, Festool. If you’re reading Toolmonger internally, why not drop us a note sometime? Tell us we’re full of s*** if that’s what you think. (Readers do this all the time, and we appreciate it. Often they’re right and we learn from it.) Tell us that story about how you came up with the idea for that unusual switch or how you saw a contractor do the craziest thing with one of your products. Give us some idea who Festool is. We’d love to know.