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Discussion Wholesalers dropping the ball... Is it just me?

Discussion in 'General Chit-Chat' started by Evan Gillette, Oct 1, 2019.

  1. Evan Gillette

    Evan Gillette Member

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    The last month or so I have been disappointed with several of our usual wholesalers. Now I am not one that likes to slander so I will withhold names, but these are companies we have worked before (some for many years) without any issues.

    I am just looking to start a general discussion to see if others have had problems lately and if there is a trend developing, and if so, why?

    I will throw out 3 recent examples

    1) Trifold brochures (I know they are not sign related, and only provide to "good" customers as a "favor") Before ordering I (almost always) check the templates to make sure artwork is within margins and bleeds are correct. Sure enough, on of the previously ordered brochures from early 2019 had different panel widths than the current template from the wholesalers site. I call them up to verify, they say ummm sure. I am not impressed so I contact my "assigned rep" directly and he follows up a few days later to tell me to open a CS ticket to make sure. I open a ticket and wait over a week for a response. I make two calls to follow up and get a promise for a resolution and returned call. Two days later I get an email with half a sentence that says to use current template and that my ticked is closed. I proceed to order 5000 brochures (2500 of two layouts). They arrive and one layout looks good, the other half of the order is folded differently and looks like crap, text cut off and fold lines different than the other layout. I double check artwork and they are exactly the same. I contact my rep and get nothing but crickets in return...

    2) Business cards (again not our usual product) for a subcontractor who is going on vacation and looking to make some sales contacts. Wholesaler lists 1-2 day turnaround plus shipping (about 3 days). Order cards (9/18) 3 days before he leaves for AZ and drop ship to his mothers address where he is staying. I get a call yesterday before he flies out and says they never came. I check the order status and it says they are in cue to print. I call this morning and they say they are printed but not shipped and that if I want to change the address I need to email them (cant take an address over the phone I guess). I asked what took so long to print and she gave me some generic excuses that didn't even apply to my order (no proof request or coating)

    3) UV print on coro. I order (20) double sided 4'x4' coro signs for a contractor from a somewhat local wholesaler I use frequently. I get a 2'x4' box a few days later....they scored the signs down the middle and folded them in half. I let my frustration lapse for a few hours and then call them up to work out a resolution. They list on their site that anything over 2x3 might be scored and folded to save on shipping (my fault) but it is on a tab in an obscure location with details about the "materials" and never asks anything about it during the ordering process. They were good to work with and reprinted for half price and added freight charge which I was expecting on the first order. Why not just make a 30 second call to verify the first time and save everyone the trouble? I am sure they paid just as much to ship the folded signs via ups (only charged me $25) as they did for freight the second time.

    So I know that was long winded. Are the industry wholsalers losing touch in their race to the bottom? Or am I just having a bad luck streak? Anyone else seeing these trends of overpromising and worse service from wholesalers?
     
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  2. Dan360

    Dan360 Member

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    We've had similar problems with a couple of wholesalers, one is the most notorious and we're on the verge of moving a lot of our work we send them elsewhere. It seems there is little quality control on their end, we often end up having to get in contact with them to fix/rerun orders which they usually end up doing but it becomes a problem on tight deadlines and we end up having to produce some of these jobs in house, often during extra hours.

    Shipping is another issue with wholesalers that have multiple locations all over NA, we're expecting something and it doesn't show up so we call and they say it was produced in a far away location and will take longer, would be good to know when ordering. Customer service is a whole other part where sometimes it's great and other times it's terrible, talking to multiple people who all give you different answers.

    All this lack of control is why we're hiring and investing in equipment to pull as much as we can in house. But I don't think this is new, we've been dealing with these problems for ages and are only now growing to the point where we can do something about it.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  3. ddarlak

    ddarlak Trump Hater

    If i have weeks to play with, i don't mind going the wholesale route, but it always seems to be with tight deadlines things never go smoothly.

    I guess with the quick turn around and cheap products they really can't afford to have good labor, i couldn't imagine what it must be like to try and keep these places staffed with the kind of great labor that is needed to comply with the quick turnaround they offer.
     
  4. Evan Gillette

    Evan Gillette Member

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    I agree that some of them must be using very cheap labor in order to offer the prices they do. Just doesn't seem sustainable to me, especially if the economy take a dip. In most cases competition drives better pricing or quality, from what i have seen lately it is better pricing at the expense of quality and service. Time for a few wholesalers to step up and work the other direction to set themselves apart.
     
  5. Christian @ 2CT Media

    Christian @ 2CT Media Major Contributor

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    Then people will complain about their prices and say they can do it in-house for cheaper and better quality.

    Wholesale work is typically dumped off work. If you have a hard deadline its hard to use a wholesaler in which you have no control of output and timing.
     
  6. Evan Gillette

    Evan Gillette Member

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    Potentially, but there is almost always a good use case for wholesalers.

    Take Gemini for example, they specialize in harder to produce items that most small shops and some large shops do not have the equipment to produce, and they have done a great job mastering this market.

    Another case is something like uv on coro, I could easily buy a flatbed/hybrid and print yard signs, but I currently would rather outsource and save my limited shop space for equipment that makes higher value permanent signage. That of course will probably change with growth, but I am sure there are a lot of shops that outsource things they could potentially do in house.

    As with most of us, my struggle is usually getting out of my own way to relinquish control, and living within the assumed constraints.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  7. Christian @ 2CT Media

    Christian @ 2CT Media Major Contributor

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    That is my point, to outsource is to be ok with not having the control and baking in enough of a buffer to weather any of the turbulence having an outsource partner may bring. We do quite a bit of trade work for smaller shops in our area, but we also have our own deadlines and clients, we try our best to convey the hurdles we face to all of our clients but ultimately it is near impossible to forecast all that may come about. I see that struggle with all of our outsource partners we choose to work with too... it is just the nature of the beast.
     
  8. rossmosh

    rossmosh Active Member

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    Here's what I believe is going on.

    1. People are distracted. There's a lot going on in the world. It's distracting.

    2. The tariff squeeze. Everyone needs to raise their price 15-30% because of the tariffs but people are super hesitant because the first person through the wall typically ends up bloody. The simple reality is, even if the materials you're buying haven't gone up, your cost of living is going up and already has gone up. This leads to management/ownership to push really hard to make up that difference through quantity.

    3. Customers are getting too used to quick turnarounds. Amazon has trained people to believe everything can be had in 2 days with free shipping. Amazon stuff is being taken off a shelf and throw in a box and has literally billions of dollars of investment behind that simple premise. People don't seem to realize this.

    4. Because customers are distracted, cheap, and trying to get stuff made in 5 minutes, wholesalers are left to try to appease everyone. The end game is to just crank it out. "They're getting what they paid for."

    Long story short, this market is completely screwed up at the moment.
     
  9. Texas_Signmaker

    Texas_Signmaker Very Active Signmaker

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    I haven't had many problems using wholesalers lately. Some wholesalers are more sloppy than others so I steer away from them. Case in point, I needed some perf and 4over is cheaper than S365. Well, short story short... 1 of my 10 prints didn't arrive on Monday, so I ended up taking a ride down to Arlington because someone couldn't get it on the UPS truck quick enough AND local delivery driver was out sick today. I know 4over is kind of sloppy with deadlines but the price was enough of a hassle factor.

    Mostly though everything goes smooth. Thankfully I build enough time in on almost EVERY order to account for mishaps... like this one. I planned on wrapping the store on Thursday and I've got it on the truck for tomorrow... so even though we had some delivery issues, I'm STILL getting there a day before schedule.
     
    • Agree Agree x 1
  10. Awesome Graphics

    Awesome Graphics Member

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    Quality control is always an issue. We just received 99 double-sided pole banners today for a 4-man Monday install. We could've pushed them through our shop, but we're pretty pinned right now. Problem is, they all came in with streaks. Makes for a tough conversation with my client tomorrow morning.

    9 times out of 10, we have no issues, but that tenth always seems to happen with big jobs that have tight deadlines.

    Frustrating to see poor quality control, but I can't produce 200 double-sided yard signs or 1000 business cards at anywhere near the price I pay my vendors.
     
    • Agree Agree x 1
  11. Awesome Graphics

    Awesome Graphics Member

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    Same here. Always try to add at least 2-3 business days to my estimates. 4over has great prices, but sometimes they are just painful, with mis-cuts and bad coloring etc.
     
  12. Evan Gillette

    Evan Gillette Member

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    Completely agree on the deadlines, I try to have at least 3-4 days wiggle room if plan to outsource and like to be upfront to the customer if their job is not being produced in house. I think rossmosh is onto something with the "you get what you pay for" mentality. I just hope things move the other way, everyone pays more for a better standard of quality and ends up more satisfied with the outcome.

    On another note I think online consumer pointed B2C outlets have had a HUGE negative impact on the industry. I just cringe when I see customers using banners printed at 10 ppi because they uploaded a thumbnail png and vistaprint could give a crap less what they ship. The reality is that they could have had the same banners for likely the same price printed from full vector files on the same turnaround, and they would look beautiful. I guess it just provides an opportunity to explain the value of a local source who actually cares about what goes out the door.
     
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  13. WYLDGFI

    WYLDGFI Merchant Member

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    As a wholesaler, Id like to wade into this conversation. I know our pricing may not be feasible for some locales. I get that.....and we dont get every job we quote out. BUT we do put a premium on our quality of what we produce. I have a 6 person shop and we care. Im the owner...work prepress, printing and such. Im very much involved in my companies operations as I love this biz. I love what I do. I care about what we do here. If price is everything, I am in the wrong biz.
    You are 100% right Evan. You as the local source has to learn to explain...that you care just as much for how that clients business looks from the street and when their client walks in the door. You helped them get that person in that door for them.
     
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