Theft in the Guise of Flattery

An old adage relates that copying is the highest form of flattery and judging from the many places where I have found my words plagiarized by others, I must be one incredible writer! And while it may seem like I ought to be flattered that others find what I have to say good enough to steal, very little else in the world irritates me as much as plagiarism.

Although I spend a considerable amount of time managing the computer jobs associated with running our business, I teach literature and composition at a state university in what I like to call my "real life." As an educator of college students, most of whom plan to become teachers themselves, I find myself constantly shocked and awed by the decline in students' concern for ethical behavior when it competes with grades. In the business world, the same competition occurs except that money or sales replace the concern for grades.

My husband and I offer
our handcrafted Egyptian items on eBay and have worked arduously to become successful sellers there. From learning how to take better photos of our products to writing the descriptions and clarifying sales terms, it has been a long journey to make our name and brand stand out among the sea of sellers on the world's foremost auction site. And what I have learned along the way is that other sellers, in an effort to build their own businesses, see nothing wrong in stealing my hard work in the process.

Ethics in business has become consumed by the bottom line, and profits far outweigh the value of honesty. I first noticed this when other eBay sellers realized that authentic Egyptian hookahs sell better than the Chinese manufactured ones do and began deliberately misleading buyers about their wares. Falsely labeling their inferior products as "Egyptian" to attract unsuspecting buyers into believing that they would receive an authentic Egyptian hookah, these sellers didn't give a damn about integrity or their customers; their primary concern was in raking in the "big bucks" for an "Egyptian" hookah. In an effort to combat this dishonesty,
I wrote an eBay guide describing the differences between handcrafted Egyptian hookahs and their Chinese manufactured counterparts. The popularity of this guide made it vulnerable to plagiarism. It didn't take long for other eBay sellers to begin copying portions of it in their item descriptions, store headers, and blogs. I have given up on policing the thieves because there are simply too many of them, and I have students to tend to and a business to run instead.

Part of building a successful eBay business is branding, or making your company name and products stand out in the crowd. We've been around the eBay block for several years now, so our brand and products are recognized fairly easily. On one hand, this recognition has helped us tremendously; however, on the other, it has made the benefits of all the hard work that we put into building our business sometimes seem like a wasted effort. Why? Because the recognition that we have achieved has made our item descriptions and photos vulnerable to unethical sellers on eBay and eCommerce sites who see nothing wrong in stealing them. These unscrupulous individuals don't want to build a business of their own; instead, they seek the easy way to the top by stealing.

There is, however, a pot of gold at the end of this seemingly dark rainbow. As
one blogger pointed out in a discussion of the glut of hookahs for sale on eBay and the effect is has on the market, "the pioneer Hookah eBayers still have the power and attract more" buyers. I would argue that the problem is not that eBay has too many hookah sellers but that eBay has too many dishonest hookah sellers.

Introducing Saalaam Exotic Organic Shisha: More Peace for Your Pipe

We'll soon be adding a new product to our shisha line-up, and we couldn't be more excited about it! Saalaam, which means "peace" in Arabic, is a new organic shisha made in Egypt. Saalaam has been tested among hookah fans for months to determine things like which flavors are the most appealing, how long a bowl lasts, the intensity and color of the smoke it produces, and overall product quality. We brought some samples to the U.S. to share with our customers as well and since the response we have received about it is overwhelmingly positive, we signed up to become the sole U.S. distributor of the product. Our first container of Saalaam is scheduled to arrive from Egypt sometime in January 2008.

Saalaam has no tobacco, no tar, and no nicotine. Its unique mouth-watering flavors, several of which are not available in any other product on the market, will definitely add the "aah" of satisfaction to your hookah experience!

We still have some samples left so if you're interested in trying it out, give us a shout.

It's Cyber Monday!

With Black Friday officially a resounding retail success, online merchants hope to share in the consumer spending spree today, Cyber Monday. Although it is really only the 12th busiest shopping day of the year according to Business Week, internet merchants have prepared an advertising blitz of a magnitude that boggles the mind. Just google "Cyber Monday" to see what I mean., a member of the National Retail Federation, gave birth to the idea for Cyber Monday in 2005, a week and a half before Thanksgiving. Based on the notion that the fever pitch of Black Friday would extend to online shopping when employees returned to work the Monday after Thanksgiving, the marketing "genuises" who created Cyber Monday overlooked the fact that access to the internet is far more common in the American household than they considered. In fact,
a recent study indicates that 2/3 of American homes have internet access, thus buyers who want to continue their Black Friday shopping spree can easily do so from home on Friday night!

Despite the cutsie name and the media attention it has garnered, Cyber Monday is not as successful as anticipated. eCommerce analysts, after studying the web traffic of online merchants, report that the busiest online shopping days occur between December 5 and 15 in any given year. This statistic makes complete sense to me, as we've been selling online for 7 years and have always found that the last-minute shoppers come out in droves during this period. In 2005, the year when Cyber Monday was launched, a survey done by revealed that online merchants reported December 12th as their busiest day of the year!

Although I don't plan to spend a lot of time looking for deals online this Cyber Monday, I will search for deals on a few things. Since I hate shopping to begin with, the idea of queuing up in a parking lot for a "door buster" deal is not at all appealing to me. Even though the prices are not as deeply slashed as those offered at 4 a.m. on Black Friday, I'd much rather scope out bargains from my far less crowded couch.

Find a Hookah Lounge in the U.S.

I'm lucky enough to have the entire week of Thanksgiving off from teaching. My students are thrilled to have a week off from me! As we chatted before the end of class on Wednesday, I took note that several of them planned to spend Thanksgiving in their home states and were preparing to leave as soon as today. My students' travel plans got me thinking about our customers who attend universities away from home.

Since many of our customers buy a hookah from us after they've been to a hookah lounge, it's probably safe for me to conclude that there are plenty of lounges within a reasonable distance from a college campus where students go to smoke and socialize with friends. But what happens when you go home? You've been away for a while, and the old hometown might not look the same when you return for the holidays. Where will you go to smoke hookah with the hometown pals?

I did some searching and discovered a fantastic resource for hookah fans, and it's especially useful to anyone who travels and wants to smoke hookah in an unfamiliar place. has compiled a list of hookah lounges across the country and organized them state by state. Now no matter where you plan to travel, you can look for a smoking spot to share hookah with friends! Some states, like Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Vermont have no hookah lounges listed. Whether or not that means these states are missing out on the hookah experience, I don't know. If you live in New England, though, you're totally screwed -- look at how few of the New England states actually have a hookah lounge!

Business majors and entrepreneurs, there's an opportunity for you -- populate New England with hookah lounges and show those poor people what they've been missing!

To Tip or Not to Tip: Hookah Hose Hygiene

The social aspect of smoking hookah means that at some point, multiple users will be sharing a hose. Unfortunately, that also means that you'll share all the germs from the other users as well. Eeeewww!!

The best way to avoid the germ issue is by using a plastic mouth tip on the end of your hose, but how can you tell whether your hose needs a male or a female tip?

To determine the type of tips you need for your hookah hose, it's best to think in terms of anatomy. Hoses that have a metal tip protruding from the end are male hoses and need female tips. If your hose does not have a metal tip sticking out at the end, it is female and needs male tips (shown above). Although this is the general rule, here's a nice tip to know: male mouth tips will actually work on both types of hoses!

Our Hookahs in the News

We're always happy to share our customers' good news, so I'd like to send a shout out and kudos to Javid's Indian Grill & Hookah Lounge in Carlisle, Pennsylvania on the grand opening of their second location. If you're in the Carlisle area, why not check it out?

Javid's Indian Grill & Hookah Lounge
240 N. Hanover Street
Carlisle, PA 17013
(717) 240-0100
Hours of Operation: Monday-Thursday, 11-10; Friday & Saturday 11-11
Map / Directions