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Value

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Recently I received a letter from a customer with page from a mail order catalog (Sierra Trading Post) containing an ad showing "breathable waders" manufactured by Patagonia. The first line of copy states: "Who says you can't breathe under water?" The letter writer, Don, states in his letter that he is having trouble understanding how this magic cloth Hydro-storm can accomplish this. He also asks if the fabric can breathe because it has "gills."

Curious, I called Patagonia and Sierra Trading Post and asked them to explain to me how the material works. In both calls I posed the same situation. I said that if with technical person at the other end of the line and I-were to go to a high mountain stream here in Colorado, park our car, put on the waders and walk about one mile to the stream certainly we would be generating some moisture in the waders, which would be escaping, (not through the fabric) but would that continue to occur once we walked into the water? The answer I received in both cases was yes. I then stated that if I understood them correctly, the moisture would come through the fabric while we were in the water. Again they said yes, and in each case they asked if I new about-you guessed it-Gore-Tex. The ad does not say Gore-Tex, but I believe it probably is a Gore-Tex laminate. Knowing I was speaking with people who are ignorant of the subject, I ended the conversations. But before I said good by I told them who I was and that they should look at the upcoming newsletter on my Web site, as it would address this very subject. They had no knowledge of the fact that vapor rises, or that if you are not wearing a jacket, the vapor comes out the top of the waders. In addition, if you are sweating in the waders and walk into a high mountain stream in Colorado, where the water is probably 50 degrees, it would cause condensation immediately. Further, the pressure of the water surrounding your legs and body would make it impossible for anything to escape. And last, I read an article about Gore on a Web site (just-style.com) that deals with the textile industry. I quote: "CraigTorrie from Gore added: ‘The success of Gore-Tex fabric lies in its versatility. It is not only incredibly adaptable but is the market-leading waterproof [emphasis added] membrane’." I don't know how long Craig Torrie has been in the employ of Gore, but he obviously knows something the rest of the employees at Gore don't, that Gore-Tex doesn’t work. Remember Frisby Technologies, one of the companies pedaling the micro- encapsulated beads of paraffin called ComforTemp? Well, they are pedaling a new product that contains these beads of paraffin, a polyester fabric impregnated with them. And they have sold a bill of
goods to a German nonwovens manufacturing company, who is making this product for them. Frisby was kind enough to run an ad in Sporting Goods Business magazine that included a small sample of the material. Any sewing
operator, whether they are a home or factory sewer, will recognize the material immediately, as an interfacing. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this material, just look at it as toilet tissue that is very strong, or go to a home sewing store and ask to see Pellon products. 

I called Frisby to hear what they had to say about this new product of theirs. The individual I spoke to didn't have a clue, and displayed total ignorance on the subject of insulation. I understand that the same magazine had an interview with the president of the company, Duncan Russell, who made it very clear that he is as ignorant of the subject as his underling is. First he notes that Thinsulate has been in the business for 20 years. And that he knows that Thinsulate is not an acceptable insulating medium, as proven by the mere fact that nobody uses it any longer.
I was informed by Frisby that he had been with the 3-M company, the manufacturer of Thinsulate. In the article Russell further states that this product, ComforTemp, is different, because it takes the trapped-air insulation to the next level. "By bringing in the abilities of ComforTemp, the wearer now gets a very thin profile that is also high-performance."

I remember years ago, when I sold insulation to skiwear manufacturers, (when they existed in the U.S.), all they wanted was thin insulation. Their customers didn't want to look like the "Michelin" man, they believed. These manufacturers were sold a bill of goods about a new thin insulation. Of course, when their customers were freezing on the lifts with these thinly insulated parkas, they started to buy parkas that did make them look like the Michelin man. This new-fangled material is in reality a worse product than Thinsulate. Any manufacturer choosing to use it is once again displaying a total lack of knowledge of insulation. I say again, the majority of outerwear and sleeping bag manufacturers have for years demonstrated this lack of knowledge by changing from one form of insulation to an
other. From year to year they will go with anything that is new and has an “advertising package" attached. Russell was asked, “how do you market a product the consumers can’t see?” His response was: “When you go into a store and you have the opportunity to buy a jacket made with ComforTemp, you’re buying the
comfort benefit and your buying, hopefully [emphasis added] the knowledge that this product is going to keep you comfortable in almost any situation. We don’t take time to make the technology visible to consumers because they really don’t want to know more than “what are you going do to for me.”

It is obvious that Russell has no respect for consumers. He has joined the ranks of numerous manufacturers who have a very low opinion of consumers, thinking that they are less than intelligent. Being a manufacturer and mail-order company owner I find that the average consumer is very interested in knowing all they can about my products.
Why should that be different for other manufacturers. The difference is that the other manufacturers aren’t selling products that do what they claim, and the Frisby product, ComforTemp, is one of those.

When Frisby first introduced their micro-encapsulated paraffin beads, it was impregnated into polyurethane foam. To the best of my knowledge not one manufacturer of outerwear garments uses it as insulation. A skiwear company did use it, but they found that the foam, (open-cell urethane) absorbed water and they stopped using it. I was told by the same representative of Frisby that they are changing to the new material. That will also be short-lived, because their customers will be cold in garments made with this material. Frisby claims that they are recognized worldwide as a leader in the apparel market with their dynamic climate control material. [Emphasis added]. I could be wrong, but if only one outerwear firm is using this material does this make them a “world leader”? I don’t think so. I did more research into the claims by Frisby. They show a thermal image of two jackets. Jacket A shows much less heat loss than jacket B. I inquired about the shell and lining materials as well as the insulation used in jacket B. In both cases the shell fabric used was urethane-coated Cordora nylon and taffeta lining. The insulation used in jacket B was Hollo-fil. Somebody is lying. Is it the representative in direct communication with me, or the technical adviser to the representative? While speaking with the representative I was having my intelligence insulted. I couldn’t tell him who I was since I am sure he would have hung up on me. He had the audacity to tell someone, in this case me, that the tiny beads of paraffin knew (emphasis added) what my body temperature was and would take the heat from me when I was warm and give it back when I was cooling down. INCREDIBLE!

I didn’t pursue it with the representative, but have you ever seen a jacket made with Cordora as the shell material? I haven’t, and I have been in the outerwear business since 1961. The ability of this material, about 1/16 inch thick, to retain more heat than the thinnest Hollo-fil, which is between one-half and three-quarters of an inch thick, is simply a false statement. I wonder what sort of response they would get from DuPont if they advertised that their insulation was superior to Hollo-fil? In their advertising they also make the following claim: “In cold weather, they [beads of paraffin] perform like a home thermostat, automatically [emphasis added] returning the stored heat when it senses
[emphasis added] the temperature dropping below a predetermined temperature.” Another instance of a company stating that it produces an inanimate object which can do something. Frisby further states: “In warmweather, ComforTemp materials pull heat and moisture away from the skin to provide a cooling comfort. Laboratory tests have shown ComforTemp materials can keep a person 10% warmer and for twice as long.” We are
now told that these itsy bitsy teeny weenie beads of paraffin have this uncanny ability to pull heat and moisture away from its source. This is a miraculous accomplishment, particularly the part about pulling the moisture. It should also be noted that all of their information is coming from laboratory testing [laboratory testing of insulating materials is always inaccurate or blatantly wrong] at Leeds University in England. This information also states that “ tests show ComforTemp materials to be up to twice as effective as trapped air insulation.” At this point I begin to think I should be wearing chest-high waders and carry a shovel. For the record, nothing I know of is as good an insulator as a material that traps air and keeps it from moving, a material such as Lamilite.


Further on in the interview with Russell he states the “vision” of the company. “A person has a very good night’s sleep because she’s sleeping on a mattress or mattress pad or pillow with ComforTemp. This person gets dressed and puts on any number of clothes that contain ComforTemp, and then gets into her car and sits on a seat that’s going
to contain ComforTemp, and grips the steering wheel with ComforTemp in it. And if she’s wearing gloves with ComforTemp, her hands feel great. Next she gets to work and sits down in her office chair with ComforTemp.
She’ll use her cell phone that has a heat-absorbing base device, and work at her computer, which will have one of those wrist gel pads with ComforTemp. At lunch she’ll order pizza delivered in a box made with ComforTemp, so when she’s ready to eat, the food is neither too hot nor too cold. [Emphasis added] At the end of the day, she’ll go home and maybe play tennis or go for a bike ride; both [products] equipped with handles made of ComforTemp. In other words ComforTemp is a lifestyle technology. I don’t particularly love the word lifestyle, but it really
does describe our vision.” What gall! How have we ever existed without these beads of paraffin?

What do you think about making a purchase that does not give you value for the monies spent? As an example, Russell mentions gloves. Now if the additional cost of the gloves made with the addition of these beads is $10.00, for the extra cost you expect to get an equal value. Several years go when fabric coated with these beads became available I purchased a yard from Frisby’s sister company, Outlast Technologies. (They aren’t the same company but are tied into marketing the paraffin beads.) I made gloves with this fabric. I then sent the gloves to a Lt. Col. friend at Ft. Wainwright in Alaska. I also sent an identical pair of gloves with the nylon taffeta I use. Both pairs had Lamilite insulation. The soldiers whom they were given to used them in 0-degree temperatures for a few weeks. Neither pair was acceptable at that temperature. I knew my glove wouldn’t perform, and I didn’t think the new fabric would either.

I believed then and believe now that this material has no value. If you are going to add cost to your product it must have increased performance, ie; increased value. The consumer will have received zero value for the extra cost. The manufacturer will probably get some of the gloves back from the retailers, so the manufacturer and retailer will
actually lose money on the deal. However, Frisby will have receivedpayment for the product they have supplied, even though it is bogus.

Over the past 20 years companies serving the outdoor industry have marketed several products that contain materials that have been costly to both manufacturers and retailers and given zero value to the consumer. Raw materials such as Thinsulate Liteloft and Primaloft, to name two, were marketed as insulation. Neither performed even remotely close to the advertised message. Many consumers wasted money for sleeping bags made with these materials. When the insulation proved to be inferior, the product was thrown away. If the consumer brought the bag back to the retailer, a refund was given or a new bag with a different insulation. (I was the recipient of many orders from these folks.) At this point the retailer has lost money. All of the bags the retailers received back were sent back to the manufacturer, who had no choice, but to either replace the bag or credit the retailer. So the manufacturers lost money, and in some instances this situation was the death knell for a manufacture with problems. All of the products made with the bogus waterproof-breathable materials are the same: no value for the dollar spent.


This company is listed on the NASDAQ, but I believe they will go the way of so many of the dot.com companies. This guy is probably a sweet talker, since he reports that they received $2.25 million in new financing in May and will receive an additional $500,000.00 soon. This is after getting about $7 million when they went public, not long ago. In order to place their product with manufacturers they need advertising funding hence the continuing need for funds. Needless to say, I do not think this company would make a good investment.

Occasionally, I am asked if anything can be done about false advertising. Yes, there is something that can be done: you can write letters. It is very inexpensive, just $.68. You can write to the 

Council of Better Business Bureaus, Inc. National Advertising Division

845 Third Ave., 

NewYork, N.Y. 10022-6601, 

Attention Chrysse Sparthas. 

You may challenge Frisby or Gore or any other company you want. The first letter should go to BBB asking them to investigate the claims of the company. The second letter should go to go to the governors’ office of
consumer affairs of the state the company is located in. Two stamps are all it takes. You can also go to the retailer you purchased the product from and ask them to prove the claims as well. All company names, addresses, etc., should be given to the BBB.

LETTERS FROM CUSTOMERS

E-mail from Dennis Rowe-August 10, 2001
“I couldn’t agree with you more on the issue of Gore-Tex, a total waste
of money and not worth the effort of taking it afield. Also your
statements on the Backpacker magazine crowd. I have found them to be
self-serving in the manner equipment is reviewed.
I am fortunate to have your Ultima Thule bag and have found it to be of
the best quality. Additionally, I appreciate that such a fine product
can be purchased from a USA manufacturer.
Thank You”
Note: I am a strong advocate of free trade, however, it is very
gratifying to know many of my customers appreciate a home-made product.


E-mail from Stan Whitter-July 19, 2001
“Jerry,
Sorry I took so long to write. I used your gear (sleeping bag, Antarctic
Parka and bib) this past winter. I was very pleased. I live in
southwestern Alaska and the temperatures get to –80 in the winter.
I went on a moose hunt in February. This trip was a total of 340 miles
round trip by snow-machine. Your bib and parka were so warm in –20 (not
counting wind chill) that I had to open the zippers. We camped in three
foot of snow and awoke to more snow and cold the time we were out
hunting. I had your –60 degree bag with the cover. [Over bag, I believe]
I SLEPT HOT during this trip. This is a welcome change from the cold
nights spent in a GI-issue arctic mummy bag. I would advise everyone to
consider your products and recommend them.
Thanks for a warm hunt.
I travel between 1,000 to 3,000 miles each winter by snow-machine. Now I
travel warm.”

E-mail from Bob Shaffer-August 19,2001
“Hiya Jerry,
Had an opportunity over the winter (because of my stupidity) to have to
sleep in my Ultra Light while it was just soaking wet. After less than
an hour, I noticed that my skin was bone dry and there was “steam”
coming off the outside of the bag. Spent a comfortable night, woke up
bone dry, as was the bag. Came back to Richmond, logged onto E-bay and
sold my two Feathered Friends bags; thank God I didn’t have a down bag
out there. I have no idea what it is about your bags that does this,
must be magic. You are really the first name in insulation, Jerry.
Unbelievable stuff! I’ve busted zippers in just about everything I’ve
ever owned, but I think I could tow my car with yours and not hurt them.
All the stitching is still perfect, no rips/tears, etc., and still lofts
like new. Have recommended you to all my pals.”
Thanks
Note: In the late ‘60s until the mid ‘70s every expensive sleeping bag
made in the country used the #10 YKK molded tooth zipper. Today Wiggy’s
is the only company to use it.


TRADER PRINCIPLE: “The symbol of all relationships among [rational] men, the moral symbol of respect for human beings, is the trader. We, who
live by values, not by loot, are traders, both in matter and in spirit.
A trader is a man who earns what he gets and does not give or take the
undeserved. A trader does not ask to be paid for his failures, nor does
ask to be loved for his flaws.”
--Any Rand, Galt’s speech from Atlas Shrugged


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