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Misprint Monday: Polishing a Turd

The photo for this post is an example of a very rare time where we were able to fix something we printed and the fix worked out. Our customer had printed a whole lot of expensive tote bags and included part of a logo that they now found offensive. We were able to embroider over it and it looked good and the customer was happy with the results. We documented this in a previous post. Key to this fix was it was the customer’s error and the tote bags were so expensive that the somewhat expensive embroidery cost was much less than replacing the bags.

Mostly I have to say that trying to fix an error is a fool’s errand. Most mistakes if you try to fix them will take too much time, will cost too much, and will look bad in the end. Your heart goes out to someone who is struggling anyway and a terrible error is made. You want badly to help them out, but the reality is that it usually is not possible and I have many times gone through the math with someone and showed them it just is not worth “fixing” something that is wrong. You want so badly to make that mistake right again. You want so badly for those shirts or bags or jackets or sweatshirts not to go to waste. However, in the end, at least 9 times out of 10 you just have to move on as there is no economical passable fix.

Some considerations:

– Your time is worth something. Honestly figure your labor in doing whatever you think will fix it. Honestly! Do a time study and then do the math on what it costs to do this fix. If you are a small shop and devalue your own time by not putting a dollar amount on it, then think instead of what you can do with those hours to make some money and which is worth more, your time fixing that bad job or spending the time going out and finding more lucrative work.

– Get an accurate reading on the cost of the replacement materials and anything else involved in the fix.  How much for the transfer material, the patches, or whatever you are using to fix this problem. How much for the shootout fluid? How much for the new shoot out gun you need after blasting a 1000 garments? How much for the 10% replacements needed for the garments that don’t look right after you fix them?

– Don’t fool yourself on how the “fix” looks. Particularly a print over an already printed word usually you can see through it and the texture or gloss will be noticeable.

– If blasting the existing image out, watch out for blurring caused by the fluid and make sure you are also not damaging the fabric with the process.

– On rare occasions you can bring attention to the error and with humor get away with it. Once we printed an X over a name and the right name above it and it worked because the odd spelling of the name was sort of a known thing to the people at the event.

– In general you are going to have to lay something heavier over something lighter, so a thin coat of ink isn’t going to work. To successfully cover ink printed wrong, you will need embroidery or a patch, or sometimes some thicker type of transfer will work.

– If you can get the customer to accept the defective prints, that sometimes can work best. The best is to give them a substantial discount in the future, because that truly will mean you didn’t lose them as a customer. The next best is a discount and often that is far and away a better solution than a reprint or the extensive cost of a fix. I have always found that being overly generous as my first offer works out much better than trying some small amount as discount as the first offer.

– Be careful with getting the customer to accept a discount on defective goods, since  you also have to weigh the fact that later the customer may be unhappier than that moment they had mercy on you.  You and the customer will live forever with the wrongly printed garments out in the world. For example, getting a customer to accept a garment with a wrong color usually is fine, but a glaring spelling error, not so great as those things stay out there in the world a long time and can ruin your reputation.

– If you have to print over, sometimes two prints over may be the way to go, some sort of pattern to obscure what is below and then a reverse of the type. A heat press sometimes will also even out the differences in the gloss of the two layers so the type underneath doesn’t show. It is very difficult to get such things to work and it almost always is slow, costly, and not really perfect. Always be sure you want to do down that road before doing it.

– The cost of the garment is usually the biggest concern. T-shirts are so inexpensive that anything which is time consuming to fix them then you are better off reprinting them. This is not true with expensive jackets, bags, or even sweatshirts. If you are close with your garment supplier I have had them have mercy on me or my customer when they know we are doing damage control. Those are the times that vendor loyalty is so important.

– If you replace the garments, get rid of the bad ones. I see folks keep such things around thinking they are going to make something out of them or fix them in some way later. It never happens, get them out of your sight as soon as possible.  The most positive outcome of an error is that you learn from it and redouble your efforts not to do it again and redouble your efforts to be profitable in your work. Spending time thinking about how to turn those bad shirts into something that will recoup your losses usually is time totally wasted. Don’t be a turd polisher.





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