Many of our worst fears realized. This will be very educational for people who aren’t familiar with our industry. From my mail:
I am a pattern maker with 30 years experience. My primary work is computer grading and markers for any factory in this area. Recently (and for the first time) I am being sued by a first-time customer who brought her patterns to me for grading and markers. She had been a designer in Italy and had never worked the production end of things. I sat her down and ran her through the routine of after having her first pattern made, she had to have a sample made for fit and design confirmation. After testing the pattern with a sample, then a production pattern is made before handing the patterns over to me for grading.
When she brought me her patterns she assured me they were fine. I found out later from the factory that she never had a sample made from them and so these were untested first patterns. Taking her word for it, I graded the patterns for sizes and made the marker. I am 100% sure my grading and marking were perfect. The problem is, because she never tested the patterns she gave me, the patterns were very unsatisfactory.
She doesn’t understand the problem (why else would she be suing me). I am still dumbfounded that she doesn’t get this!!! I even discounted my normal rates since her projects were so simple!
So my question is; does your book state the normal and common sense sequence of events that must take place before a pattern is graded and marked? I need something in writing along with a lot of other proof to show the courts. You can bet I am fighting this all the way.
Beleive me, I’ve made my share of mistakes in life and I’ve learned from them and moved forward. This young woman is demanding that I pay for her mistakes. I believe she has financial backers that want compensation for lost orders. Please let me know if your book talks about the pre-production routine amd any other articles you can help with this fraudulent mess.
Yes my book explains to do things exactly as you did them (she has since bought the book). Now that that is out of the way, there’s some other issues going on to avoid problems like this, speaking as one pattern maker to another.
I’m guessing you haven’t worked with many designer entrepreneurs. They can be talented, intelligent, articulate and charming and because of it, I’ve given them price breaks too. Also like you, I’ve had misplaced confidence in a client based on their self reporting of experience, work history and education. In this case that would be that she said she was a designer. If that is true, you would have every expectation that she’d know the proper protocol. I’ve learned that depending on someone’s background, we don’t share the same definitions. It could be she sold sketches of design ideas but obviously wasn’t involved in the rag tail end of getting a line together. That’s why I trust but verify; I’ve gotten into trouble when I’ve believed a client who said something was ready to go.
Having learned the hard way with more horror stories than I can remember, I do things a lot differently now. No matter someone’s background, I don’t grade a pattern unless I check it first. By checking I mean walking all the pieces to make sure it goes together. I don’t do this for free, I charge my usual hourly rate but as you know, that doesn’t take long at all. Some clients actually prefer having the work checked at this step and look for pattern makers who will do this. I have other colleagues who have their own rules. Some won’t grade a pattern unless they’re the one who made it which means they’d know it went together and know the client tested it in sampling. In working with entrepreneurs, these are things we must do to reign in a client’s excitement to prevent them from skipping steps and moving ahead too quickly.
If I check the pattern but I still have doubts, I’ll want to see a sewn sample and compare it to the pattern so I know it’s been vetted. This is where I run into a lot of problems. For some reason, the sample I get never matches the pattern. There have been changes made to the pattern but a new sample wasn’t made after that. It is difficult to explain that this is necessary. If the client can’t understand why or wants to move ahead anyway, I usually turn down the job because it’s usually an indication of other problems to come. I’ve worked with so many entrepreneurs I have a sixth sense about these things and it boils down to if in doubt, don’t.
There’s other ways to know whether there may be a problem with a client’s pattern. Very often it is the medium of the pattern itself that gives it away. If the pattern isn’t on pattern paper or a tracing of a hard pattern with traditional notching practices used in industry, or the markings and information presentation aren’t typical (also in my book), this raises a big red flag. If something is done unprofessionally, it’s usually evident across the board. Another thing to look at is the information they provide to you. None of things are insurmountable and cause to decline the client but you’ll know at the outset that they’ll need more hand holding and may want to revise your estimate accordingly.
I know many people here have had similar experiences we’ve talked about before. What are your tips to preventing a situation like this from occurring?