Poppadums & print

There were two distinct possibilities: I was either sitting in a large trifle, or I had soiled my tweeds. The former seemed unlikely in a Toyota Landcruiser, so it was time to look worried and prepare my excuses. I turned to the T-shirt printer behind the wheel, an old friend……….’The thing is Dave’ I began….’What do you reckon to these heated seats’ he interrupted, ‘keep your danglers toasty in a heavy frost…’ I breathed a sigh of relief – fiendishly clever those Japanese engineers.

Dave pushed Johnny Cash into the tape deck and we were bowling along nicely, talking about when Chelsea stormed the Trent end, the difficulty in finding a well fitting body warmer, women and the toilet seat conflict, and then he hit me with it, something more uncomfortable than a heated seat……’Paul, what do you charge for 5000 two colours, onto black’?

I shifted uneasily on the leather, it squeaked, and then I squeaked ‘Well it all depends Dave, on whether we were supplying the garment, if it needed a high white, maybe it’s got a tricky half tone, you know, all that…sort…of thing’ I tailed off, felt guilty and then realised something important – it isn’t me and Dave as competitors against each other, it’s me and Dave against the rest of the world. We inhale the same thinners, our hands glow a similar red, and at night while the Buyers at high street multiples sleep and dream their evil dreams, we both sometimes lie awake, the noise of the dryer still in our heads.

So I told him and it turns out he’d be way cheaper than us, and we got to talking about the wild difference in price in the market – for a two colour print onto 5000 T-s, you could pay a commission printer 18p, or a broker supplying the garments £2.00. We wondered how many sectors have that kind of percentage discrepancy for supplying the same end result. Five quid a screen, thirty quid, free screens; eighty quid a disk or a tenner emailed in from Poon Tang; zero percent on the garment or a hundred, free samples or non-refundable full price, and carriage…what’s that?

So how do we come to these decisions? Finger in the air, a competitors price list, bullied by a customer into a cut price corner, yeah we do all that and then flip a coin, best of three. But how often do we start with a salary that’ll keep the kids in jaffa cakes, and then work backwards through a time and motion study to the price it HAS to be…’It’s not me being mean mate, and I know you’ve been buying from us since we did the Frankie Says T-s, but it’s just the maths nothing personal.

Now in a minute I’m going to suggest what many will consider collateral plot loss, but just so you don’t think I’ve gone totally Tom and Jerry, I’m not recommending we turn into solicitors – I know we’ll never start the clock and charge when someone wants to spend two hours explaining their new range of printed dog sporrans for Highland Terriers. We’ll never ask for £25 a letter, or invent a word called disbursements (from the Latin meaning to steal a man’s pants and wave them in his face).

But we could, brace yourselves, agree to always charge for screens, an amount for artwork, some carriage, mark up the garment, a little something for ink or thread changes.

The equipment engineers don’t have a problem with it:

Wake up – £40.00
Break wind – (small test blast) – £22.00
Break wind – (full throttle with 4 note changes) – £44.00
Truckers Special en route- £4.50
2 hours – Leicester Forest East – trap 2 – £175.00
And so on………

How did their industry manage to standardise all that stuff, and why can’t we – are they cleverer than us? (don’t answer that). Is the answer that we need to get together somehow, and have a bit of a chat? And I don’t mean a golf day – obviously the sight of one more embroidered polo and a lightning resistant umbrella and someone’s going to get a club up the rough. I don’t know maybe a curry in the glamorous hot spot home of the Printwear exhibition,
Birmingham.
We don’t have to tell each other how much we want to charge for the blood we sweat, but we might at least agree to charge for every drop. And you never know you might be after a second hand spot curer, I might need 50 screens, and someone might really understand discharge inks……all these discoveries could be made. There will be those who will think they’re giving away vital secrets, and if you are head of the MI6 T-shirt division you have my sympathy – I understand that if Al Qaeda figure out you have negotiated a 2% discount off a case of spray tack, it could destabilise the free world.

So what do you think, 50 Cobras and poppadums all round………pass me the lime pickle mate.

www.october.co.uk
t-shirt printing, screen printing and embroidery

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