Save Yourself From Yourself Policies

Hoodies on Embroidery Machine - Marshall Atkinson

Does your shop ever just say no to a customer or a situation?  Not even a standard no, but a HELL NO?  In business we are always in the mindset of trying to please customers, but often we act against our own best interests.  We take jobs we know we shouldn’t.  We don’t quite think things through all of the time.  Have you ever analyzed those orders after the fact and just sat there shaking your head?  Why do we do it?  Maybe we just need a firm company policy to guard against ourselves.

The “I Have a Feeling You Aren’t Going to Pay Me” policy.  This is when you know in your gut that you are going to chasing this guy to pay his bill for the next four months.  WARNING.  WARNING.  WARNING.  Extra danger – if he can’t come up with the 50% deposit to get the order started and pay that on time, you will work triple overtime to get the back half after the job is complete.  You might want to rethink what you are getting yourself into here.  There is a reason he is smiling and it isn’t because you are funny.  Couple this with the “Nothing ships until the bill is paid in full policy”.

The “Reason We Have Rush Fees” policy.  A customer calls you wanting to get a rush order going and she explains that they really need everything handled by Thursday.  “I just gotta have it ready by then” she says.  Every step along the way is riddled with extra hand holding and follow ups from your staff because of missing information, art files that won’t work, and problems with understanding her instructions for the order.  What should be a simple job becomes a heartburn filled torture chamber of misery.  It doesn’t help that a bruise if forming on your face from the constant forehead slapping after you hang up the phone with the customer.  It’s like you are trying out to be a MMA fighter.  Here’s the punchline:  A week later, despite numerous phone calls and promises, the order is still in your customer pick up area waiting for her to come by and pick it up.

The “My Other Decorator is Cheaper” policy.  You only see this guy when his “normal” decorator is too busy, the work is too complicated, or some other reason they are coming to you.  He always talks about your competition and how wonderful they are, and then will tell you to your face the biggest reason they are better because they are cheaper.  The next words out of his mouth are “but I’m giving you this chance to work with me on this big project.  I need you to help me on the price.”  Do you get his regular business?  No.  The easy one color, left chest stuff that has two weeks to ship?  No.  He hands you the three locations, six color, four thousand piece with 312 drop ships, that is due in four days dog turd nightmare.  By the way, the art is still being developed.  I’m sorry, but why are you laughing?

The “Looks Like a Lawsuit” policy.  You’ve met these guys.  They come sniffing around at the beginning of every sports season.  Football, baseball, basketball, even hockey.  It doesn’t matter.  Their big Donald Trump dream is to rip-off the team’s logo onto some shirts and go around selling big black trash bags full of shirts for $20 in parking lots to tailgaters before games.  “Ssssh, we won’t tell anyone you printed these…”

The “Change Order” policy.  You get an order and it’s a fairly good sized one.  The art is e-mailed, approvals go out, and everything is set and ready to go.  Except that the quantities changed in a day.  Then, the art needs to be increased by a half an inch.  Now they want to send their graphic artist in for a press check because they are concerned about the shade of blue…is it “royal” enough?  You get the approval to run and your crews start churning them out.  “Stop!  We’ve ordered too many mediums; can you take 250 off the order?”  Whoops, we just printed those.  “What about smalls?”  Just getting to them now.  “Great, can you take 50 off the total for that size?”  Uh…sure, if I can sprint out onto the floor.  You’ve always wanted to yell “Stop the presses” at the top of your lungs.  Bucket list amended.

The “Are We Really Printing This?” policy.  This is where morals and ethics arm wrestle with the need to keep customers happy or the lights on.  This job comes knocking on your door when you are at your weakest usually.  Business is slow.  You are sending people home early to keep your labor costs down.  Then Mr. Offensive Art walks in.  Whoa.  They want that on a shirt?  Brown chicken brown cow.  One of your customer service reps comes in to ask you a question and sees it on your computer monitor.  Embarrassed is an understatement.  “Are we printing that?  Oh my.”  Red-faced, she slinks out of the room and you hear a bunch of giggles and comments through the doorway.  This is where you jump off the fence and land on one side.  Either you take the job, or refuse it.  There is no going back.

The “Salespeople Must Calculate Overtime Into the Cost” policy.  I’m sure this has happened to you at one time or another.  The salesperson for the company agrees and books a job without thinking what’s going to have to happen to be able to pull it off.  Most of the time it revolves around the fact that the quantity vs deadline ratio is a little skewed.  Meaning, someone is working nights or on Saturday to be able to pull it off; or maybe you can find a science fiction worm hole to bend time and space.  That would work too.  Just so you know that guy can pull shirts off a press, cut pellon backing out, or hangtag too!  Once or twice “helping out” is often the cure for over-promising sales folks and suddenly your production schedule gets checked more often.

The “Hey, Can You Decorate This?” policy.  About once a month someone hands us something and asks if we can print or embroider on the item.  Leotards, work gloves, some funky new tote bag with a cheap plastic handle, whatever.  It’s definitely not a golf shirt or a t-shirt.  Our standard answer?  Sure…can we ruin one?  We’ll need to test one to see, and it just might not work out.  I’m happy to say that almost all the time we can figure it out.  Almost.  There’s some crazy stuff out there.  Thankfully we have a great supply chain full of experts available to us.

The “Must Be a New Garment” policy.  Sure, you occasionally will decorate customer supplied goods.  However, you draw the line when the customer sneaks in your loading dock doors and drops off his latest order.  A big sack of already worn items from a new restaurant client he just picked up.  A good chunk of these are greasy and smelly, and have bits of food stuck to them.  I guess you won’t be eating there now.  Gross.

The “Celebrity Kiss My Ring” policy.  What’s up with famous people?  Actually, ordinary people that work for famous people?  These celebrities all have their own apparel line, yoga studio, non-profit youth camp, or some other hobby that they are lending their name and likeness to publicly endorse these days.  Why then do they seem like they are always looking for a discount or freebie just because our shop can then be associated with their “greatness”?  We should work for free to support your tax haven?  I get it if you actually do support their cause and want to contribute.  But shouldn’t you do that without the celebrity arm twisting?  Not to mention you aren’t really ever meeting the celebrity…just some intern or flunky that works for them.  We have seen Entourage, and we’re tired of talking to Turtle.

Got a “policy” about situation you’d like to share?  Throw it down in the comments section!  I know you have one!


  • Thank you for making me laugh! Yes I do need a policy to save me from me. Thankful that Dan is helpful when these crazies come in.

  • Re-Orders: Re-Orders are subject to the pricing of the re-order quantity, not the quantity of the initial order.

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