Wednesday, 2 March 2016

The fountain pen ghetto

I've had the same experience in quite a number of shops. It's the experience that tells me they have no idea about who's actually buying fountain pens. No idea about why we want them.

We all know that anyone buying a gel pen or rollerball or marker wants choice. They want a choice of widths of pen, they want a choice of colours, they want a choice of metallic and fluorescent inks too. So the pen display is absolutely full of different options.

But fountain pens? You can have: a medium nib. You can have: blue ink, black ink, blue-black ink. And they come in the following colours: black, chrome, and pink (that's for lay-deez).

The little fountain pen ghetto seems to belong to a different world.

The worst thing is that the big pen companies don't know better, either.  One of the best things about fountain pens is that I can change character and mood with a change of ink - I'm not stuck with one colour. It can be the rich Murasaki-Shikibu purple one day, Herbin Stormy Grey with its metallic glints the next, or Waterman Turquoise... Or it can be Cross black, if I have forms to fill in or want to do some drawing with my EF nib. Yet Parker, Cross and Waterman really don't have extensive ranges of inks, and even worse, don't manage to convince most stores to stock more than two or three colours (which inevitably include black, blue, or blue-black).

I think they may have missed the fact that the world is now divided increasingly into two kinds of people - there are people who just don't use fountain pens, and there are fountain pen lovers who are increasingly well informed and adventurous with their choices.

Staff in such stores often tell me there's no demand for fountain pens. I've given up arguing. They're right - in a way.

There's no demand for the fountain pens they're selling. There's no demand for boring fountain pens.

After all, would they stack all their shelves with the same Pentel rollerball, in red and blue only?