In commenting upon a recent action brought by a Mr. Soper for a libel published upon him in a trade journal in regard to the sale of adulterated boots, the Daily Telegraph makes some excellent remarks, which ought to appeal strongly to all manufacturers, no matter what trade they are engaged in, who are really desirous of conducting their concerns upon honest and straightforward lines. The Daily Telegraph observes that reformers are rarely popular with their rivals, especially when they expose tricks in the trade, and advocate raising the standard of commercial honesty. Mr. Soper, the plaintiff in the case in question, was in that position. He had started a crusade against the practice of adulterating the soles of boots with paper fillings, and advocated a standard mark, in order to distinguish what is genuine from what is adulterated. This was resented by the threatened interests. Mr. Soper raised up enemies, and, in consequence, the article complained of was written, accusing him of “knowingly” selling adulterated boots at his shop while he thus publicly denounced them. The libel lay in the word “knowingly,” for it appeared that adulterated boots were actually sold at Mr. SoPer's establishment. But this was because he had failed to detect their presence; he had taken all the precautions which he could take, and he had cut open a number of pairs; he demanded guarantees from the manufacturers with whom he dealt; and, moreover, he was willing to take back any pair from any customer which were found to contain paper. The boot trade does not emerge with credit from this investigation. It was admitted that adulteration had been going on for the last ten years, and one manufacturer's traveller, when asked whether he was not surprised that paper should be found in the soles of boots costing seven or eight shillings, frankly replied, “Nothing surprises me in the boot trade.” The public will share his truly Horatian attitude of mind. Some such standard mark as that advocated by Mr. Soper seems to be the only method of protecting the public, if, indeed, the public desires to be protected, which seems doubtful. The ordinary customer is as helpless in a boot shop as in a curiosity shop. He must trust the word of the shopkeeper. And in turn the shopkeeper has to trust the manufacturers. The excuses of some of the latter, that the use of paper instead of leather did not mean any profit for them, or that the workmen could not be stopped from using cardboard fillings, will not do. There would be no adulteration if it were not profitable to adulterate. Adulteration seems to be rampant in most industries. One might even say that in some it is no longer the exception, but the rule. Wool, for example, has been treated just as scurvily as leather. Woollen no longer means woollen, but cotton with a pinch of wool. One has to ask for “guaranteed pure wool”— and pay accordingly—to feel any confidence that one is getting wool. So, too, with flannel and silk, and even cotton is adulterated with minerals to give it an essentially false weight. The ingredients from which “shoddy” is made would terrify the future wearer of it if he could see the “devil” at work, tearing up the noisome rags. Ignorance in this respect is becoming more blissful every year. Cheap sweets, cheap jams, cheap table delicacies, and all kinds of foods, all of which are warranted pure by the manufacturers, are, as a matter of fact, adulterated with impunity, and are all, in reality, “nasty” as well as “cheap.” The impotence of Government departments and of the Legislature in face of this condition of things has been demonstrated ad nauseam, and while such efforts as are made by local authorities to detect and suppress adulteration should receive all possible support and encouragement, it must be admitted that there is only one effective way of dealing with the evil—namely, the supply of guarantees of an independent and authoritative type to retail vendors and purchasers.
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