Everyone loves a little drama, especially when it’s not their own. Well, here’s the latest Handsome in Pink drama for you to chew on. Are you ready?… Here it is… it’s a little embarassing… but we were fired. How could HiP possibly be fired you might wonder. Who can fire us? We are our own bosses! That is true, and yet we were fired by our screen printers. That’s right, the people who we pay to screen print all of those beautiful, non-toxic, water-based images on our tees. We will not name names. But we have worked with one and only one screen printing company, based in our own hometown of Oakland, since the very beginning.
If you revisit my blog entitled “the Social Worker Starts A Business”, you will remember that we (er..I) made every mistake in the book in starting up this business. I won’t go back into all of that. But our screen printers certainly did not help matters. I remember at our first Holiday craft fair, my business partner Helena and I were unloading tees to display at our booth. We were so giddy and nervous being our first public event and all… didn’t even have a HiP website yet. But as we unloaded our tees, we saw that a handful of them had what looked to be skid marks on them. We couldn’t imagine how those marks had gotten on our shirts that hadn’t been touched since we picked them up at the screen printers. But I hadn’t gone through each shirt at pick up and had assumed that if the ones on top were good, they were all good. (Never a good assumption.)
Since it had been a couple weeks since we had picked up our shirts from the screen printers, when we called them about the skid marks, they said it had been too long since we had picked them up for them to take responsibility for damage— after all, we could have driven over them with our car!
Now we were already displeased with the screen printers because we felt we had not been properly informed about the pink brightness factor in their “house pink” that we had used on the majority of our first order of tees. But, speaking of bright pink, Tickled Bib, anyone? You could be the first customer ever to order one! They are very soft and organic and even have Handsome in Pink printed on the other side of the bib! They will be a collector’s item someday so please buy one while you can )
We should have stopped our relationship with the screen printers at this point in the game. But for some reason unbeknownst to me, we did not heed to the red flags. And the situation did not improve. As we continued to put in new orders, the shirts were coming back with different subtle and not-so-subtle oopsy daisies from burn holes(!) to smears of ink on the insides of shirts that showed through the shirt, to smears of ink on the outside of the shirt.
This is all leading up to our final encounter with these screen printers. I was heading in to pick up our newest addition to the Handsome in Pink family, the “Forget Princess, Call Me President” tees. There was a new employee at our screen printers who helped me when I arrived. When he asked for my payment, I told him that “I did not want to pay for mess ups, and there were often mess ups. I would need to check the tees before I paid.” That was the entire interaction. It actually felt friendly to me. I did check the tees and they looked great! I was so relieved. I paid the bill and went home.
A couple days later, I received an email saying that due to my comment to their new employee, and our “somewhat rollar coaster-y relationship”, (our history of us not wanting to pay for their messups and them wanting us to pay), they did not want to do business with us anymore. I knew this guy was right that it was time for us to switch screen printers, but was my comment to his employee that controversial? I returned his email verifying what my comment was that he was so insulted by and indeed, with an angrier email, I was told it was about the mess ups comment in front of a new employee.
I called Helena and told her we were fired. She was quiet for a moment. And then asked me, “Do you think they would have had the same reaction if we were men?” I thought she raised a good question. Are men given more elbow room to communicate directly and advocate for themselves and their businesses than women? Did Handsome in Pink experience some good ol’ fashioned sexism? Or are we just too whiny to work with? Who knows?
Finally, to bring you up to speed with things. We are currently about to try a new screenprinter! Oaklandish makes these awesome Oakland, CA tees and they have just started a screenprinting company called Corsair. So we are going for it. Our “Call Me President” tees for older kids should be coming out next week and our fingers are crossed that Oaklandish is our new screen printers! Stay tuned…