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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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The Printing Industry Exchange (PIE) staff are experienced individuals within the printing industry that are dedicated to helping and maintaining a high standard of ethics in this business. We are a privately owned company with principals in the business having a combined total of 103 years experience in the printing industry.

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Custom Printing Case Study: Delivery of a Damaged Print Job

I recently brokered a calendar printing job for a client of mine. I received my sample copies today and they were breathtaking, so I contacted my client who was not at all happy. A portion of the 200 copies had been damaged in transit.

Specifications and Background of the Job

To give you a bit of background, the job was a 200-copy run of a 4-color calendar bound with white metal Wire-O binding coil. The commercial printing vendor had produced the job on an HP Indigo to accommodate the short press run while ensuring brilliant color for the large images in the calendar.

My Immediate Response to My Client and the Printer

I called the custom printing supplier immediately and explained the situation. The printer was supportive and not at all defensive, asking me for a description of the damage and its extent as well as photographs of the damage (small JPEGs that could be easily sent as email attachments). The printer needed these to substantiate a claim to the third-party freight carrier that had damaged the three cartons of calendars in transit.

At first my client just sent me photos of the boxes. It turns out that the printer had double boxed the calendars for protection, but the delivery carrier had dropped the boxes and in one case punctured the cardboard of both the exterior box and the interior box.

I asked my client to take some additional photos. Apparently, when the boxes had been dropped, the edges of the calendars had been bent, and the Wire-O binding coil had been pulled out of its holes in some calendars. I wanted my client’s photos to reflect the type and extent of the damage, so she photographed several stacks of about ten calendars each.

Interestingly enough, in reviewing the damage, my client found that the calendars had been stacked on end in the cartons rather than flat. Granted, since each carton of calendars had been placed in a slightly larger carton for protection, it was not possible to determine whether the calendars in the interior box had been intentionally or inadvertently placed such that the calendars were upright. That said, it seemed that when the boxes had been dropped by the freight carrier, the weight distribution caused the edges of the calendars to be damaged. Had they been flat (parallel rather than perpendicular to the ground) the damage might not have been as great.

As I was composing a letter of explanation to the commercial printing supplier, describing the damage to the calendars and substantiating this with my client’s photos, I heard back from my client again. Out of a press run of 200 copies, she had found 47 damaged copies and 153 salable copies. I passed this information on to the printer.

Two things are important to note. My client is a professional photographer. Therefore, the quality of the final custom printing job is of utmost importance. Less than perfect calendars cannot be sold. In addition, my client had a backlog of orders for the calendar. Fortunately, she had 153 salable copies with which to fulfill these orders, so the commercial printing vendor would have a little time to reprint the 47 copies.

What Will Happen?

This is actually a fortunate (or, at least, less dour) occurrence for the printer. It would be significantly more expensive and time consuming for the printer to go back on press and reprint damaged copies of an offset printing run. Reprinting 47 copies digitally will cost the printer a certain amount of money, but he will undoubtedly recapture this from the freight carrier that damaged the boxes. In addition, it is fortunate for the printer that my client has enough copies to fulfill advance orders for the calendar for a few months (although I’m sure the custom printing supplier will still want to remedy the problem immediately).

What Can You Learn from This?

  1. First and foremost, this is why developing relationships with printers works better than just buying printing based on price. Printing is not a commodity service. Things happen. The cheapest printer might not step up and correct the problem when he has made a mistake.
  2. Respond immediately. Check selected samples of a job once the cartons have been delivered. If you see any sign of damage, alert the printer at once.
  3. Check the entire press run. If there are thousands of copies, randomly check a number of copies within each carton.
  4. Both describe and quantify the damage. Then back up your claim with photographs.
  5. Ask the commercial printing vendor for what you need to be made whole (a discount, a partial reprint, or a full reprint). Also, negotiate a schedule based on when you will actually use the product.
  6. It is human nature, if you are angry, to ask for more than you actually need. This is why the first item in this list is so important. If you have cultivated relationships of mutual trust with your custom printing suppliers, you will have confidence that they will correct any problems that arise to your satisfaction.

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