Friday, May 09, 2008

Weak link

I’m casting about for a printer to handle a particular book. Because of the nature of the job, I may end up using a printer I haven’t used before, and so I’ve sent off requests for quotations to several companies. One that I contacted because they came recommended by people on a publishing list came back with an attractive price quote. So I followed up by requesting they send a sample of a similar book.

The sample arrived today.

The question I have for you is this: If someone—a sales prospect to whom you had gone to the trouble of quoting a price—were to ask you for a sample, would you make an effort to send a sample of your best work, or would you take a piece from the reject pile, rescuing it before it went to the shredder?

I’ve got to think you’d send a sample that at least met your minimum quality standard. Maybe you’d go out of your way to send your best work.

So I’m always mystified when I receive a sample such as the one I got today. I assume the person who packed it thought it was a good enough example of the company’s work. But if that’s the case, does that mean their customers accept shoddy goods without complaint? And why was the company recommended to me? Does that mean there are large numbers of people in the publishing business who are incapable of judging well made books from badly made books?

Problems vary. But in the case of today’s sample, the book was actually printed quite well (there were several problems with the design, but I can’t blame the printer for those). The weak link was the bindery. In the first place, the perfect binding equipment, which glues the cover to the book block, was out of adjustment. As a result, there was barely enough glue on the spine to hold the cover on, but there were great gobs of glue squeezed up between the cover and book block, front and back, top and bottom (but not in the middle). In the second place, while the book was trimmed square (as opposed to being trimmed askew), the dimensions were not what they were intended to be. I’m really not sure what they were intended to be, but I’m quite certain that 5 9/32 × 8 3/8 is not right.

I’m glad I requested the sample. I won’t be ordering from that printer, now or in the future.

Price matters, but not as much as quality.


Anonymous said...

I am quite mystified by this kind of behavior. I mean, which does it demonstrate more: bad judgment or poor workmanship? Go figure.

Dick Margulis said...

It's consistent with the business model that says all you need to make a product is capital and management; and all you need to sell it is salesmanship and a marketing budget. Workmanship and judgment are too hard to quantify in this model. So they're worthless, and a penny spent acquiring them is a penny wasted. Moreover, any customer who demands them is a customer you're losing money on; so it's no loss if that customer goes elsewhere.