This really isn’t my post. It was written by Nelly (user name CCM) and posted in the discussion forum. I asked to publish it on the front page because she describes the pungent realities of working with small (DE level, small sewing shops) contractors. I don’t really have any solutions either other than the ones I expressed in my book. Just because somebody is calling themselves a contractor doesn’t mean they actually know what they’re doing. As I repeatedly kvetch, there is no licensing in this business. Anyone can call themselves anything -a license to wreak havoc- posing a danger to themselves but mostly to others. Personally, I’d rather have a better handle on the problems of small contractors in the interests of potentially improving the quality of their output because we need them to grow. It’s in our best interests to educate them as we can. This is no less the attitude that Toyota takes with their suppliers and it works. Please (please) feel free to make suggestions or share any problems you’ve had with contractors. You can follow the thread in the forum here.
I’m new here, I found the blog last night and I had to sign up (staying up late paid off!) I bought Kathleen’s book and received it last week, I love it! Now you can imagine how excited I was when I found her blog!!! About me: I’m a stay at home mom, turned work at home, turned DE (kind of) I’m working with this sewing company.
Anyways, I know pretty much nothing about the business, only that I have this product I’ve made for the last year and a half and had been doing very good and now I decided to have someone make it for me, so that I can assist my customers better…
So, we found this lady that owns a sewing house, wonderful! She is very nice and has great customer service… I took two samples with me, one of them finished and closed, and the other open and unfinished, so that she could see what I did on the inside. She looked at it, and told me I was doing too much secure stitching to my product, and showed me a more efficient way that she could do it, “she has the equipment” and knowledge, I trusted her. I made it clear that I needed something very securely sewn and she seemed to understand at the time we first talked.
Her sample was perfect, beautiful, professional work! And strong stitching…So we ordered all the fabrics and supplies and had her make our line, how exciting!…Not really, I have all the pieces here and most of them are so poorly sewn. The stitching isn’t straight at all, except for the ones she made and when I did a test on one of them, I found the stitching to be very insecure. Today, I decided to give the seams a tug and it tears right away, so easily. I’m so disappointed, I didn’t want to be a difficult person to deal with and left it to her professional service to do the best with what I showed her I needed and everything was just thrown together. She was supposed to serge (the 4 thread merrow machine?) the inside of everything and I realized she didn’t, they just did an inside straight stitch and a top stitch which can really be a big liability for me.
In the meantime, I’m not making any money and losing time and customers for taking so long to have our products out in the market. She had told me that anything that was wrong she would fix, but should I send everything back so that is properly sewn? That would mean that they would have to rip and sew again, for the most part. I feel that is not fair that I have paid what I believe is a good price per piece and get stuck with a load of merchandise I wouldn’t sell to anyone because it is unsafe. Please help! Give me your expert advice.
In response to Christy’s supportive response, Nelly adds:
…my husband is afraid that now they will take for ever to fix them… they also have more fabric to make more, but I don’t want them to make them. Should I just take the fabric and tell them to fix these first? Or should I tell them I’m not using their service after they fix the ones I have? I’m going to be calling her today, do you have any advice as of what I should tell her?
I called her… after talking here, I got the courage to explain to her. She said to bring everything! Almost 200 pieces. I’m in shock. She says she will fix them all if I will send her a list of things that she has to do and send her some samples of what they did wrong. I told her not to work on the others until we fix this. I think if they do a good job, then I’ll let her finish making them, then for next time, I’ll get someone closer to home, the trip to her sewing place is a little over an hour one way, so it’s not convenient either.
Following are suggestions and comments from other visitors to the board (feel free to add yours):
Christy wrote (paraphrased):
You should send everything back so that it is properly sewn and do it pronto. You cannot run a business “feeling guilty” because someone did a poor job and you have to reprimand them. Just because they are “nice” doesn’t mean you have to “make them feel good”. As “the Donald” says: “It’s only business”. You are going to have to “toughen up”, if you want to be in this for the long haul…and get a contract in writing for any production work you have done. Let them know that they will NOT get paid until you have inspected the product AND the damaged product from the first run that has been repaired.
Mike C suggests:
Very small contractors can be tough to work with especially because they don’t often have quality control built into their system. Whenever we’ve tried to work with micro-factories, we tend to see spotty results. Some pieces will be good, some horrid and some unfixable.
It’s easy to find yourself in a situation where you are disagreeing with your contractor over what is “right” or “good enough.” It’s normal to put together a specification document with your goods that explain the details of how you expect the garments to come.
I believe Kathleen’s book talks about them to some degree. There is also a book called The Spec Manual by Michele Wesen Bryant and Diane DeMers which lays out what measurements to take and how to take them. It is targeted at apparel, so if you are making something else it may not be as applicable.
If you are able to finally communicate to your contractor how you want them made and get good results, I wouldn’t switch just to save a one hour drive. That what UPS Ground is for.