There is nothing quite like it. Well maybe fish and chips, but you know what I mean. It was a nice summers day, and we were in the warehouse trying to solve a mystery. It was a smell of curry coming from somewhere. We could not figure it out and kept going round in circles. Eventually (and I mean eventually) we stopped at three pallets of notebooks that were printed in India ! And yes, you guessed it, mystery solved. It still does my head in that instead of being pristine and blank, there were blotches of curry in random pages and in random books. There were a lot to go through, so we ended sending the whole lot back to the intermediary for them to sort through. How, just how, could this possibly happen? But at least we discovered the problem before they went out to any customers.
The other big problem we had, we didn’t discover.

We had a container of mugs come in, which we sent straight out to various shops. All was well until we started getting phone calls from consumers. Our lovely looking mugs, came out of the dishwasher blank !! And I mean totally white. The entire design came off in the wash. It was a disaster. We had no choice at all, but to take all the mugs back, and trash them.

The Chinese wouldn’t refund us just because we didn’t ask the right question. You’d think it was obvious wouldn’t you, but apparently not. My point is this, one learns to ask the right questions, no matter how stupid they might sound, as it’s better to look stupid at that point rather than in front of a consumer, and of course the expense was crippling.

I’ll add one more embarrassing cock up. We had a best selling range of cards called “Happy Heffalumps”. It was fantastic, but included a deepest sympathy card. Clearly we couldn’t put the title on the back, or the usual happy spotty envelope with it. It was discussed at length at the office, and a plan was made. But, you guessed it again, plans and systems go wrong. A whole batch had found there way onto the shelves. I remember being in a shop when Talk Radio rang me up on my mobile, and wanted me to do a live comment on the situation. As one of my staff said, I went in smelling of shit and came out smelling of roses. Where as most of their guests put up a fight with their wrongdoings, I just admitted the cock up straight away, and offered to put it right immediately.

I had no defence to any of these, but the honesty to own up, and the integrity to carry it through, regardless of expense, is one of the reasons we’re still here.

Nobody is perfect at quality control, but try and stop the shit getting to the store front in the first place. It affects your reputation with the shops and long term, the consumers. You’ll probably only be able to do random checks to your new stock, but it’s worth it.

By the way, one of the worst cock ups I heard, is of a company that printed an anniversary card.
On the front it said ‘to my dearest darling husband’ but on the inside, another line…’sorry you’re leaving’ !!