I know I said we’d post every Friday, and we haven’t, so we’re gunna get back on that. In the last post (The origin of the Hammer Rosary) I mentioned that nothing is ever as easy as is expected, and this story details just how not-easy things can be. This time, it’s a little step back in time from then. This is the story of how Grimwire almost didn’t happen.
When I got the email about Warped Tour, I knew we’d have to stock up immediately. I spent several days budgeting and researching manufacturing options from local print shops, to out-of-state makers, to home production. I compared pricing from a bunch of different options and weighed my opportunity costs on each possible avenue. Our budget came out to around $1500 to start the brand and be a part of Warped Tour. That is, $1500 in two and a half months. Talk about stressful.
I decided to print through a company that I knew about through a design community I’m a part of on line. The owner used to be an active member of the community and has worked for plenty of notable bands in the metalcore and hardcore space, and their pricing was great. I sent off the first files and placed the order on Friday, June 4th of this year. That was mistake number one.
Two weeks of blissful ignorance, excited and eager to receive our first batch of shirts. My first physical product of this long, crazy dream of mine (other than the boards, but at this point those are a strategic idea in hiding). I hadn’t heard anything from anyone about the order, which, if you’ve ever been through a print house, is odd. I decided to log on to the website to see if there was any messages or proofs for me to check on the order. The ship date was supposedly the 28th of June, and that was only a few days away. Upon checking my account, a status indicator next to my order says “proof sent to customer, pending approval” (and I actually think it still says that, but we’ll get to that later).
I hadn’t received anything anywhere. I checked all over the site, all of my emails and mailboxes, and found nothing related. Of course I was frustrated seeing as I had no way of knowing when I’d get my shirts, but I wasn’t too concerned. I sent an email to customer support asking what was going on with it, but heard nothing for two days. At this point I’m a little spooked. Customer support isn’t responding, the owner (who I was friends with on Facebook) was unresponsive to messages, and I found a few posts on the company’s Facebook page from people asking where their orders were from weeks ago. Red flags everywhere.
I turned to the only thing I could think was left and tweeted at the company asking why I couldn’t seem to get a response, and more importantly, where the hell my order was. Surprisingly, I got a response.
Right after a brief conversation through tweet, I received an email from the owner of the company (we’ll call him Jacob for all intents and purposes) explaining that an email had been sent from the art department with a proof the day after I placed my order. I verified the email address it was sent to and settled that I received no such thing. I asked that Jacob send me the proof himself and asked for an ETA, since it had been so long from the initial order placement. Neither of those requests fully came through other than he reassured me “you’ll get them on time” which really didn’t mean anything concrete.
A little more back and forth happened between us and Jacob offered free expedited shipping and a $50 credit towards our next order. We thought all was well and taken care of, so I sent in another set of files for another order.
Mistake number two.
A full week goes by with no contact. No invoice for the second order, no proof for the first set of shirts, no ETA on the delivery, nothing. Our deadline was two weeks from this day, we had a photo shoot scheduled and paid for, and Warped Tour was three days after that shoot. There was very little margin for error here.
I emailed Jacob again, fairly irritated, demanding our proofs, an invoice, and confirmations on production. A few hours later I finally got the proofs and approved them. He told me he had already put in the order for me as soon as I sent the files over for the second batch the week before, without my paying or confirming with me that he received them, because he would be out of town for that week. I had absolutely no way of knowing this, there was no response on his end or notification that he would be away from communication.
Trying to keep my professionalism, I thanked him for the proofs and invoice, paid it off, and requested he be in closer contact as our deadline was very close. I made it a point to tell him that by this moment, the deadline was just over a week away and we couldn’t risk any more issues, else we’d have to drop off of Warped Tour, and our entire debut would be shattered. He seemed to oblige.
I still had no ETA on delivery, the only thing I got was him telling me a few times “You will receive your order on time.” Obviously this had me furious, I had a hard deadline and was only receiving vague response as to whether it would be met or not.
This is where it all got mind-blowingly bad (as if this all wasn’t bad enough);
Two days pass without contact, and at this point I refuse to go any longer without an update. It had proven to me that this company was unable to meet my needs or communicate properly, so in order to have control on the situation I had to make first contact every time. I asked what my shirt delivery date was, and why I haven’t gotten any confirmation that the shirts are in production yet. The response was not at all what I expected, let alone hoped.
I was told that the company I had been working through for my printer doesn’t actually print the orders. They were simply a middle man, and outsourced all of their orders to a vendor. There’s a lot wrong with that, but I’ll let you think to yourself about why that’s a crazy business model. Even more astounding, the company I ordered through was facing a law suit with the actual print house they outsource to, and that’s why I had this five-week-long clusterfuck with them. It took all that complaining, hovering, and strongly-worded emailing for five weeks to find out what was at the root of my hideous experience.
Furious, of course, I assured Jacob I would never be working with him again, and that if I didn’t get my orders by the end of the week I would be taking him to small claims court for failure to deliver as well as file a dispute with my bank to get my money back.
At this point, my only option was to wait until the deadline I had set out, completely in the dark of what was going on. Either the printer was going to drop the order because of the lawsuit, or I would get my shirts the day before the photo shoot. There was no more response from Jacob other than one email that said “Your shirts are going in to production today” with no ETA or other details. I gave up trying to get a delivery date and prepared to start a long, frustrating legal process to get my money back.
In a happy ending, we got our order the day of our photo shoot, four weeks after the initial requested delivery date. Everything turned out okay in the end, but we definitely learned a lesson to not work with this company ever again. If anything, this taught me to pay for quality and not worry about saving money. I ordered a second batch through JakPrints and had my shirts within a week. Sure, I paid about $100 more than through the previous vendor, but the quality was great, they delivered on time, and there were absolutely no headaches.
Moral(s) of the story; everything that can go wrong will go wrong, and, pay the extra money for the extra quality.