This is a story about international commerce, diplomacy, and fly fishing. It begins simply enough, with my friend John Ryan looking at some fly reels on eBay. He became intrigued by a sleek-looking bit of machinery called the CNC Machine Cut Aluminum Fly Fishing Reel. It was made in China and probably a knock-off of a more expensive reel, but for $39, John decided he'd take a shot.
Since he was at my house and perusing my eBay account, I ordered it for him and he gave me $40 cash. For the record, I advised against the purchase and suggested the reel was probably going to be a piece of crap.
The reel arrived about 10 days later. It looked pretty good, actually — sleek and shiny, and the spool spun easily. Only one problem, a big one: There was no drag system, nothing to slow the reel when a fish strikes, no way to keep it from spinning while casting or stripping line. It was a piece of crap. Useless.
John was philosophical, but I decided I should warn other people who might be tempted to order the "Chinese POS Reel," as we now called it. So I left a disparaging comment about the product on eBay. Something along the lines of, "Buyer beware: This reel has no drag system. It's a POS. Stay away."
Imagine my surprise the next day when I received a message from "Jean" in China: "We feel sorry you not satisfied with the reel and leave us a negative We note in our description ,yes ,the reel without drag system .If you feel it's not good to use .Could you return this back, Hope you can offer us a chance to communicate with you work with the problem . If you have any requirements ,pls be free to tell us."
I was sure that when we ordered the reel there was nothing in the description noting that it didn't have a drag. But I went back and looked, to be sure. Aha! It had been "edited" the previous day, and a line added saying, "This reel without drag disc/clicker , if you want the drag, pls click here." It had Jean's fingerprints all over it. Also, suddenly, there were no more of these reels left to sell.
International chicanery of a high order, indeed.
I replied to Jean: "A reel without a drag system is like a lotus flower without petals."
Pretty good, I thought. Let these commies know they were dealing with someone with diplomatic skills and the soul of a poet, not some stupid American pushover.
The next day, Jean wrote back, again asking if I would remove the negative comment, and adding that if I returned the reel, they would send me a "more expensive reel with drag system."
I replied, "I will spend no money on your reel until I have another in my hand."
The next day? Victory. The commies melted like a wet fortune cookie. "We sending you Reel 2901859889 ,worth $50 which, have drag. Please return first reel and we will repay you cost."
"It's a deal," I replied. "Pleasure doing business with you, comrade."
Like a boss.