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Guest Commentary: One Should Be Wary of Greed

23 Apr 2008

[Editors’ Note: The following guest commentary by Sam Driban is a response to yesterday’s guest commentary by Gary J. Arzt . Mr. Driban is owner of the Black Cat Cigar Company.]

Black Cat

It was with both amusement and sadness that I read the Gary Arzt commentary, “One Should Be Wary of Black Cats,” on Tuesday. I’m happy that at least he acknowledged he was biased as both a devotee and friend of the Garcia family. The content also confirmed that he had spoken with the Garcia organization prior to his commentary.

I agree and laughably disagree with portions of Mr. Arzt’s words. I disagree that Black Cat is trying to “get even” with Pepin. We offer discounts of 40 percent or more on many products from many companies, not just Pepin’s, and we do this based solely on our business strategies. Also, we have not placed a single order with Pepin, contrary to Mr. Arzt’s statement, since we were informed that he would not be making the Rey Miguel cigars that we had put so much hope, effort, time, and money into.

I do agree that we have sent a mixed message with the rock bottom prices and hope for reconciliation. Mr Arzt is right as he quotes my words of “upset” and “blown-off.” I’m also forgiving and would welcome a call from Pepin. Sadly, I have not received one. I guess I’ve served my purpose for Pepin and am no longer needed. I am not alone, as Pepin has also blown-off and ceased production of brands for other hard-working, good people who spread the gospel and helped create this market for him.

The sarcasm in the commentary is absurd. Pepin didn’t think that cutting me off would affect our relationship? The bottom line is he just didn’t care. Continuing to make Rey Miguel, while perhaps inconvenient, really wouldn’t have been difficult and would’ve been the right thing to do. Mr. Arzt uses words like “dislocation” and “dynamics of companies.” These are words that I expect to read in a Wall Street Journal article, not a cigar blog commentary.

This is my 25th year in business. The “gentlemen” that Mr. Arzt refers to should be men such as Edgar Cullman Sr., Benjamin Menendez, and Jose Blanco. These are giants in our industry who I have learned from. They use words unfamiliar to El Rey de Los Habanos (Pepin’s company) such as “integrity,” “loyalty,” and, foremost, “passion” when it comes to the product and the relationships. Unfortunately, Pepin’s passion has evolved into a sad passion for greed.

Sam Driban

photo credit: Black Cat Cigars

15 Responses to “Guest Commentary: One Should Be Wary of Greed”

  1. Arturo Menendez Wednesday, April 23, 2008 at 3:44 am #

    I'm never happy to read of such episodes, but should be applauded for granting both parties a forum to air their grievances.

    But there’s one part of this story that I don’t understand: Why would Pepin’s people be upset at Black Cat for selling his cigars at a discount? Aren’t the costs of such a markdown incurred by the retailer and not the cigar manufacturer? Wouldn’t the markdown ultimately result in more customers for Pepin’s products?

    I look forward to answers from these questions. And thanks, Stogie Guys, for all you do for the online cigar community.

  2. buddy herz Wednesday, April 23, 2008 at 4:33 am #

    Mr. Driban's comments were excellent—and right to the point. His was a sad commentary on our society today—a Businessman A helps a Businessman B grow his newly formed business by purchasing, selling and marketing the merchandise produced by Businessman B. Businessman B becomes successful, greed sets in, and Businessman B forgets who helped him along the way. Screw Loyalty, it's all about ME. Pepin Garcia needs to understand that he will meet the same people on the way down as he did on the way up—and they will remember how they were treated. Maybe Pepin Garcia ought to go back to Cuba and Communism since he certainly hasn't been taught business ethics or, for that matter, the first ethical/biblical precept of Micah—DO JUSTLY

  3. Mac and Nudo Wednesday, April 23, 2008 at 5:02 am #

    I'm not sure why you chose to link Pepin to communism, especially since he's just trying to do what's best for his company. Don't forget his capitalist tendencies are creating jobs and many wonderful cigars for us all to enjoy.

    And let's not get carried away with insults; we likely don't have the whole picture from two short, biased commentaries.

    I'd also like to see some answers to Arturo's questions.

  4. Lloyd Wednesday, April 23, 2008 at 6:28 am #

    When Pepin began working with Ashton to create a cigar I thought he had really hit the big time. I am not surprised that he is disassociating himself from the smaller boutique brands. There is only so much Pepin to go around these days. I just think there could have been more tactful ways to end the relationship.

    Guess I should buy up 601's now???

  5. Daniel Q Wednesday, April 23, 2008 at 7:01 am #

    It is unfortunate that the Rey Miguel line could no longer be made. That being said; if there wasn't a contract in place (didn't read anything regarding that) for a specific number of units/lots/mazos/etc then what can be said? If the commitment was made then the discussion is over. If production stopped before the agreed upon number; then Pepin's business should be frowned upon for leaving a contract.

    There are three parties in this discussion; it would be nice to hear the third.

  6. jackson Wednesday, April 23, 2008 at 4:45 pm #

    Maybe I should buy up as many old henrys as I can find

  7. cigarfan Wednesday, April 23, 2008 at 6:15 pm #

    Has anyone noticed the HUGE increase in prices for Cigar King's Pepin blends? Ashton VSGs are now more affordable than Sancti Spiritus or Habana Leon. Craziness.

    But I don't think anyone should be surprised. At the end of the day it's just business. And at those prices, I'll be taking my business elsewhere.

  8. John Tant Thursday, April 24, 2008 at 2:32 am #

    A lot of times in this industry, contracts are informal and based on little more than a handshake. That's not to say that there shouldn't have been a contract, but in this case I can understand if there weren't.

  9. big mike Thursday, April 24, 2008 at 2:35 am #

    I loved the rey miguels. But he also stopped making the padilla that should strike more of a chord with cigar smokers. I live 2 miles from pepins factory but i will go across the street to el titan de bronze.Thank you very much.

  10. kevink868 Thursday, April 24, 2008 at 10:01 am #

    Cigarfan: Yes, I noticed the CK increases! Brutal. I was going to reload on Nacionales Ws and nearly soiled myself when I saw the price. Needless to say, I couldn't pull the trigger. I may be sorry later when they're gone, but…

  11. MMarsden Saturday, April 26, 2008 at 3:10 pm #

    I'd have to wonder about your claim that it is only a normal business practice to cut 40% of the price of Pepin's cigars. No doubt you do offer cigars at that discount, but the fact you post a story of how Pepin has betrayed you on the same pages as your Pepin products leads me to believe that no, this is not just "Business as usual."

    What the Pepin company did was completely professional, if not polite. However, he's running a business, not a cabal of friends. Maybe you should learn to discern between your friendships and your business relationships so you don't take these things as a dramatic betrayal next time it happens, and I would bet top dollar it will happen again.


  12. S. Monday, June 16, 2008 at 4:29 pm #

    The line between business relationships and friendships can grow fuzzy or fade entirely at times and in places.

    I don't think the entire cigar industry is all about profit and nothing else. Tradition and passion can be just as important or more so, depending on who we're talking about.

  13. 502 Thursday, October 22, 2009 at 4:54 am #

    Far from a contrivance the muscle-up is hugely functional. ,

  14. 502 Friday, October 23, 2009 at 2:46 am #

    This commonly occurs for apostrophes and quotation marks when they are written with software that uses its own proprietary non-standard code for these characters, such as Microsoft's Smart Quotes. ,

  15. Former Black Cat Emp Thursday, July 15, 2010 at 4:25 pm #

    Sam, why don't you man up? I worked for you for months and watched you insult, degrade, scream at, and treat with utter condesention every single one of your employees, many of your customers, and your own father. You lost Don Pepin because you treated him with the same lack of respect as you do everybody else aside from the reps who shove free cigars at you. Why do you think you can't retain any employees for over a year? Every rep and salesperson I talked to after quitting had horrible things to say about you.

    I'm sure you're rolling your eyes as you read this Sam, if you read it, the same way you did to me every time I opened my mouth, even if it was to inform you I had just doubled one of your wholesale accounts or upsold a customer to the tune of a few hundred extra dollars. But for all the spouting you did about 'common sense' you never figured out the most basic one. Treat the people around you with some respect and decency.