I retired in April 2013 after 25 years as a librarian at the British Library specialising in inventions. This included running numerous workshops; writing books on inventions and a work blog; carrying out searches for clients; and one-to-one meetings with inventors. [more]


22 May 2016

Inventors and saying "thanks" and "sorry"

A couple of months ago I was contacted via e-mail by two strangers, one in the UK and one in the USA, asking for (free) help about their inventions.

The British person's question involved a 15 minute e-mail by me, with lots of detail. I asked to be contacted again when some issues had been resolved. I didn't receive a quick e-mail thanking me, so after a while I sent a further friendly e-mail. Again no response.This has happened a lot to me.

The American, in a fawning e-mail, said that he had questions to ask about his invention and could we skype to discuss them. He should have briefly indicated what they were, really: it's always easier if the nature of the problems are known, and sometimes the person being asked is not the right one. He said that he wanted to skype at a certain time, and said that he would let me figure out what time that would be.

I checked, and he meant he wanted a complete stranger to skype with him, for free, at 2 in the morning.

I replied saying that this was not on. In the circumstances I feel it was a mild rebuke. It only took me a few seconds to figure out that the suggested skype would be at two in the morning, and anyway (I did not mention this) did he assume I would drop everything to skype with him ? Surely he should have asked me for convenient times. He, too, did not reply to say sorry.

Now, some private inventors may think "what's the fuss." The problem is that if complete strangers are asked to do something for free and are not treated with simple courtesy, how will possible business partners be treated ?

I've often had inventors telling me how badly they get treated. Perhaps that was true in some cases, but perhaps the inventor didn't think about the feelings and desires of the person on the other side. Rudeness and arrogance can sadly be coupled together, and it's difficult to negotiate with anyone who possesses either of those qualities.

My suggestion ? Keep to the golden rule: treat others as you would like to be treated.