You Know Better

BBQ Dinner - Marshall Atkinson

I have this problem.  Well, it’s not actually a problem…more like a slight character flaw.  On big topics.  Things that really matter.  My wife is 100% right.  Always.  But do I listen to her?


That’s the origin of sitcom worthy conversations around our dinner table.  Or car.  Or bedroom.  Or even places I haven’t even been to yet.  It’s ok though because I agree with her.  I’m on her side.  Because she’s right.  I love her too.

It’s probably a guy thing I guess.  As a group we can be really stubborn and independent.  I constantly go out and do things the way I want, and in the end my wife’s way is usually the best.  So, how does that happen?  My guess would be that she has slightly more common sense than me and can sense when things aren’t right about something.  Eventually I come around.

She was right about the company I worked for in Florida.  Which is why we are now in Milwaukee.  A thousand times happier and I’m running a much better organization.  It was a huge step up, and one she suggested years before I left.  Apparently she has a built-in BS meter and can detect a problem from a long way off.  I have zero idea why it doesn’t start going off like an air raid siren when I’m around.  I guess she loves me too, because she’s stuck with me all these years.

On another note, I’m a BBQ freak.  Love it.  I’ll eat it everyday if I could.  Jody is from Memphis, so she has a similar take on the subject too.  However, an all pulled-pork diet is not the best idea for a guy that’s now over a half a century on this planet.  She supports me by consistently buying spinach and salad stuff at the grocery store.  It makes me happy that it’s on the grocery list.  And an occasional pork butt.

Do you have ever have that experience where you really know better, but you do something anyway?  (Sure, I’ll have that triple meat combo.  With extra beans!)  Maybe you thought to change something, but didn’t and now something went wrong and you are kicking yourself.

Like Dov Charney with American Apparel.  He probably needed someone in his corner.  But maybe he actually had and didn’t listen either.  We all saw that implosion coming years ago.  It’s not like there weren’t seven thousand warning signs.  I’m sure everyone at Alternative Apparel, Next Level Apparel, and Bella + Canvas are pretty happy about now.  It’s a shame really, those AA blanks were great shirts to print on.

I polled a question the other day in an industry Facebook group about their biggest workflow issues in their shops for an article I’m writing for a magazine.  One response to the question stood out.

“Crappy shop managers for lack of a better word.  Shop owners that micro manage.  Lack of tools to get the job done properly, poorly maintained equipment, kiss-ass employees that get away with murder.  Favoritism.”

Yep.  That guy is right too.  He knows better.  Do you think he gets the support he needs daily?  What’s the over/under on that guy leaving within the next year?  What if this guy was your key printer?  Would you act differently if you knew the truth?

So when someone brings a challenge to you in your shop are you doing something about it?  Are you actively listening or do you sweep it under the rug just because they aren’t “management level” employees?  Are you asking Why?  It’s funny…one thing being married to Jody has taught me and that is to trust your gut.  You know better.  Listen.

I think a lot of how I’ve grown as a person and as a professional has just come from discussions with my wife.  That’s the great thing about a fantastic marriage is that you can learn from it.  She can get on the other side of a topic and see much clearer, in a shorter time than me.  Hey, I’m trying.  These days if I don’t have all the answers, or I’m working on wrestling a problem to the ground, I’ll try to see how it looks from another perspective.  I’ll find someone that knows better.  They are usually out there somewhere.

However, people or companies do dumb stuff all the time without thinking.  You know what I’m talking about.

If you are in the decorated apparel industry here are a few that I think you can relate to where people or companies should “know better”, but still do things anyway:

  • Customers who want to start an order, and usually it’s a rush, but can’t for the life of them give you all the information at once.  You have to extract it out of them like you are mining for diamonds.
  • Last minute orders for annual events.  I guess calendars are too difficult to use these days.
  • Salespeople in the promotional item industry that send you an order before getting the pricing lined up.  After you have sent them your price they want you to reduce yours because they quoted it to their client before even talking to you.  Huh?
  • In this age of machines, lasers and robots…how can a t-shirt pocket be sewn on at a slant?  And why is every other hoodie that’s ever made constructed with hand pockets that are all sewn at random dimensions and placement?
  • People who complain about color matching, but are comparing what you printed to a computer monitor or a digitally printed business card they got for $9 a 1000.  C’mon people.
  • Customers that have firm in hands dates for orders, but can’t send you the hangtags, stickers or other necessary items that are mandatory for their jobs.  It’s not like they didn’t know we needed them.
  • Employees that are shocked that you won’t allow them to text or use their cell phones while working.  We’re not paying you to play Candy Crush.  Sorry.
  • T-shirt manufacturers that can’t keep their sizing or dye lots consistent.  The quickest way to lose market share is to start having quality problems in an industry that loves to gossip.
  • Customers that don’t want the responsibility of picking out colors or determining the size of an image, but then complain about the choice that was made.  Even after approving the PMS color or dimension.
  • Individually bagged shirts.  I think it’s nice that Gildan uses big plastic bags in their boxes to help protect their shirts…they make great garbage bags.  However, there’s a big trend now with performance shirts being boxed up and each one is individually bagged.  When you have hundreds, or sometimes thousands, of these shirts to print for a big event like a 5k run, it’s a nightmare to unbag these.  Good thing we have a recycling program.
  • Clean your shop!  I’ve been to a bunch of shops over the years.  You know who you are and why it’s a problem.  If you work clean, it’s always easier.  Also, anything that’s in the way of you printing or embroidering needs to be moved.  Don’t just walk around that ____________.  Move it and make your life easier.
  • Add yours to the comment section!  What happens in your neck of the woods that somebody should know better?  Share please.



  • I find 3 types of companies, those that never want to change anything and those that change everything constantly. In both cases what does work is often hit or miss by sheer luck. I have written an article called Who’s Running the Shop? Quite often it isn’t the guy signing the checks,

    The other type of shop is open to new products and concepts, but more importantly they are willing to test and learn, whether by their efforts or by the wealth of knowledge out there that often needs filtering for their particular operation.

  • Returning clients who printed a single color design and we turned it around quickly then ask I have this 6 color 300 piece discharge job… can you do it by Friday if i get you the sizes mid-week? After they told me they were on a two week vacation. See ya!

  • Great article, thanks for asking the question and thanks for pointing out that sometimes the simplest things can make for the most GIANT issues.

  • 1). Ink mfgs switching to a cheaper/different component in their formula and swearing there’s no change to color/quality/durability.
    2). Different knits from different mills on the same garment style causing havoc to halftone printing consistency.
    3). Not knowing environmental conditions (temps & RH) affect everything from screen making to curing the ink.
    4). Use and staff/customer education of proper color viewing conditions.

  • I actually have 2 off the top of my head.

    1. We are working on getting an optically bright one hit white. We are not there yet, but my printer always comes and asks if something looks “bright enough” as if I might lower my standards.

    2. Missing the deadline to have shirts ship out the same day. The cutoff is the same time every day, but my biz partner refuses to order early which has lead to an hour drive to pick up shirts the next day…sometimes multiple times a week this can happen. (I know there are more underlying issues here and we are currently working on a remedy for those)

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