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Printing Industry Exchange ( is pleased to have Steven Waxman writing and managing the Printing Industry Blog. As a printing consultant, Steven teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.

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Keep in Close Touch with Your Printer’s Customer Service Representative During All Aspects of Your Print Job

The following is a true story used to illustrate the importance of regular contact with your printer’s CSR (customer service representative). This particular incident is an especially pertinent object lesson if you are working with magazine printers (magazine printers), catalog printers (catalog printers), or book printing and publishing companies (book printers). In all three cases, you may be adding an additional vendor to the mix, a mailshop separate from (but under the direction of) your printing company.

A client’s job recently left the mailhouse and entered the mailstream two days later than agreed, and the printer wasn’t alerted, so the client found out late and was understandably distraught. What can we learn from this? First of all, here are some specifics regarding this actual print product:

  • The job was a directory for a local for-profit organization, and it was to be mailed in a polybag with a carrier sheet and a letter to subscribers. (The carrier sheet held postal indicia information and provided space for the subscriber addresses.) The mailshop had purchased 9” x 12” polybags for the job, but the book, carrier sheet, and subscriber letter comprised a large enough package that if a book had been inadvertently dropped while traveling through the mail, the polybag would have split open. The wrapped package was too tight. To remedy the problem, the mailshop ordered new 10” x 13” polybags, putting the job behind schedule.
  • The mailshop was not located within the offset printer’s building. Mailshop was a subcontracted component of the print job. This is not unusual. Many printers operate this way. But the mailshop neglected to inform the printer of the delay, so the printer assumed everything was ok and didn’t alert the client. The job, which could easily have had a critical mail deadline, went out late and the key players didn’t know.
  • The particular directory in question had a cover with a full bleed and heavy ink coverage. Although the cover had been coated at the printer (with film laminate), the mailshop did not want to send the job out covered with fingerprints. So they had all hand-workers wear cotton gloves while inserting the directory, carrier sheet, and letter into the polybags prior to sealing them. This small addition further slowed the process down.

Total time lost was two days, which could have been crucial. All decisions by the mailshop were valid and prudent—but they had not been communicated to the client.

What can we learn from this?

First of all, the intention is not to malign the mailshop. Supplies ordered (the 9” x 12” polybags) are sometimes not right. All aspects of printing are processes in which problems can and do arise. Vendors should always immediately communicate impending schedule changes to their clients, but sometimes this doesn’t happen.

But the bottom line is that as a print buyer, it behooves you to be proactive. This is particularly true when your print provider is subcontracting out the mailshop work for your job. Check in with your CSR regularly, perhaps even daily at the end of a job. Make sure all aspects of the job are completed accurately and on time. It is too easy to move on to your next job and not learn about a problem in the current job until it is too late. And this is doubly important when you have dated printed matter and are working with a printing company that may be subcontracting the polybagging and mailing of your time-sensitive material.

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