The Jinxed Job

Not long ago I was exiting the freeway when I got caught up in a whirlwind of freshly printed brochures. There was a young man beside a large delivery van desperately trying to contain the mess. A skid had fallen out of the truck and paper was flying everywhere. I learned later that the printer had to pay a fine for littering, or failure to contain their load, or something. Whatever it was, it only added insult to injury.

Coming on this scene any print professional could tell you immediately what this was–it was a jinxed job.

Murphy holds its hand

Did you ever experience a situation that no matter what you did, you couldn’t make it come out right? From time-to-time printers experience the same thing and they universally call it the jinxed job. In the last post I told you that Murphy was a printer, you know, whatever can go wrong will go wrong. When a jinxed job appears Murphy walks beside it holding its hand. When it is going wrong, it is wrong every step of the way.

You start to get a sense that a jinx is coming when the bid is incorrect. Some important piece of information is missing, forgotten, or not conveyed. The customer expects the given price, but the sales rep has to eat crow, return to the customer, and beg forgiveness before giving them the new price. The most common error is paper. No, I’m not talking paper choice here, I’m saying that the estimator forgets to add in the paper. Since paper, as I’ve discussed in a previous blog, accounts for 30-60% of the job, forgetting paper could double the estimate. When that happens, the printers try to work with the customer and maybe give them the paper at cost. That should do it, right? The problem is solved so we move on. Don’t be silly it’s never that easy.

Remember this is a jinxed job and Murphy is in charge. Invariably the job gets written up wrong. The job jacket is processed normally and nobody catches the error.  Of course we don’t realize this until the job is complete and were doing a postmortem to determine what went wrong. The exercise in locating the source to avoid having the same problem  reoccur, is pointless. The blame is systemic. When Murphy is exercising full control, the mistakes happen all down the line, like Dominoes in a row.

Simple can be the worst

I recall a simple calendar we once printed for an insurance firm. The size was 18″X24″. It was a poster style rather than a multi-page calendar, so it covered the entire year. The art was simple, and the printing a breeze, since it was just one color. This job was a light walk on a summer day, a no-brainer. They had an upcoming event where they intended to distribute the posters to customers and prospective customers. No problem, the event was two weeks away. That was more than enough time to print the job. Ha! Jinxed job.

The first error belonged to the customer. There was a typo on their address. We fixed the typo and offered to reprint the job at cost, but, and this is where it really went wrong, the customer’s office was in a town some thirty-five miles away. They couldn’t make the trip to see another proof, so they told us to proceed without a proof.  We didn’t know this at the time, but Murphy was there and smiling that snide toothy grin of his. Don’t you just want to just smack him? We fixed the typo alright, but in doing so, introduced another error. The reprinted job was delivered with just two days leeway, but there was still enough time to fix our error, reprint, and make their deadline,  just barely.

This time we made sure that customer saw a proof. We were confident nothing else could go wrong. When nothing else can go wrong is when Murphy is at his best, don’t you know?  The customer came to the shop the morning of the event to pickup her job. She came in, we showed her what the printed piece looked like and we sent her happily out with a delivery person to help load it into her car. It had been raining that morning (you know where this is going, don’t you?). There were dirty puddles in the parking area. Murphy, Murphy, Murphy. Our delivery guy slipped and dropped the two carefully kraft-wrapped bundles right into the biggest puddle. We brought it back in, and tried to salvage a few “good” ones for the event, but the edges were mostly dirty. There wasn’t much to  save.

We get no respect

Finally on the 4th printing, we got it right. We missed their deadline, but we got it right. Do you think we were appreciated for all of our effort? No, we never saw that customer again. They were too nice to tell us what they really thought of us, but the message got through. They expressed loud and clear it with their feet.

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