The following account was originally in the main article. I am not sure who the contributor was, as it was contributed anonymously. I have no reason to either doubt the credibility of the account, or to trust that it is accurate. What I do know is that often there are miss-understandings with arrangements like this. Sometimes people are remarkably good at getting folks to help them, perhaps with good intentions, but then end up either taking advantage of them, or getting overwhelmed for whatever reason and leaving the helper high and dry.
If you wrote this account, and would be willing to have your name associated with it, I'd be happy to discus how best to document it in the main article. Scott Thile, Pipedia founder and SYSOP
The Tale of John Hamilton McGrath, Pipe Carver & Thief
by an anonymous contributor
I met John Hamilton McGrath in 1999 (never in person) through a usenet newsgroup called alt.smokers.pipes. He then became a customer. Over a period of a few months I sold him many items including some $300+ pipes. It had come up in conversation that he wanted to start carving pipes for a living. We spoke over the phone in February of 2000 and came up with an arrangement for him to carve pipes and I was to be the sole US "distributor / supplier". Part of the arrangement was for me send him money to purchase tools and to send him briar to get started. He told me he was not in the position to lay the money out himself as he claimed to be broke. I agreed under the condition that I would be repaid ... he agreed. In March 2000 he sent me a list of tools and costs he said he needed to start and I sent him the money he asked for. I then shipped him briar stummels with stems (to Canada) to get started. He then sent me very specific mechanical drawings of a pipe design that he wanted briar blocks cut to match. I contacted Tim West and he found the right blocks, cut them to the exacting spec, fitted stems to them and shipped then to me. Upon arrival to me I shipped them to Canada. During this period John told me that his finances were in very bad shape and was in danger of being put out of his apartment. I thought this strange because of his recent spending habits. I felt neither responsible nor obligated to bail him out of the situation. Time was passing and I was told that he was working on pipes. Our contact became less and less frequent. One day while reading the ASP newsgroup there was an announcement that John had pipes for sale and they were being sold through a Canadian based retailer. I contacted John and he told me via email that he decided to abandon our agreement if favor of the Canadian based retailer because he said I was insensitive to his plight being that he felt I should have been supporting him financially during our agreement and he said the new retailer was providing the briar he needed faster. This was strange as I had not seen one pipe yet other than the ones that were for sale ... made with the briar I had sent. John told me he would repay me the money I had laid out in full in cash and wholesale value pipes. He told me that the briar I had sent him was stolen or lost during a recent move. About a month later I did receive 1 pipe that was carved from a Tim West block of briar from the Canadian retailer. Not a bad pipe ... a tiny 4 1/8" horn which after 3 tries ended up selling on eBay™ for $100 which was fortunate due to the fact that no one ever heard of John Hamilton McGrath. That was the last and only attempt at taking care of the debt. I later contacted the owner of the Canadian retailer that was the distributor. He told me that John had been in contact with him for quite some time during my agreement with him. He also told me that they struck a deal based on "helping John out" and was selling the pipes as a favor. Seems John found a way to avoid me and find someone to sell his pipes for free. John later went to another US based retailer to distribute his pipes much to the surprise and disbelief of the Canadian based retailer. I'm not sure but I think the arrangement with the US based retailer has ended too. Must have something to due with John having his own web site now but I can't say for sure. As an interesting side note, not long after John broke our agreement, with the help of a few on the ASP newsgroup, a fund raising effort was established for him. The goal was to raise $3000+ for him to pay his bills. He claimed "that his finances were in very bad shape and was in danger of being put out of his apartment." Sound familiar? As far as I know the money was raised and then some. I didn't go public to the ASP newsgroup at that time though I did contact the person who seemed to be in charge of the fund raising effort and told him of the problem. He told me "F U". Nice. John made a brief thank you to the group and didn't post for quite some time. He then started posting as usual, never making mention of the matter again. Soon after John seemed to be doing well. I've read of his purchases of pipes, tobacco and other items. I've watch a handsome web site go up with his name on it with many expensive pipes for sale. I read very frequent advertisement for his pipes on the newsgroup and sales seem to be brisk. All rubbing my face in our broken agreement. Yes, I've tried many, many times to email and call John but he has never replied. I've even offered to take wholesale value pipe in trade for the mounting $2400+ debt he has to me. Still no replys. I guess John doesn't feel any remorse for his actions. What a poor foundation for him to build a business on. I've decided to go public with the matter. Maybe I'll receive my money some day or maybe I won't but I would let him forget what he has done and you as consumers should know who you are dealing with. If you ever see a John Hamilton McGrath pipe think of me.