I was at a car dealer the other day.  The business manager sat at his desk while he dutifully went about his job.  All that I could see was his shirt.  It was awful.  It is virtually impossible to be kinder than that.  It was a (supposedly) white shirt with French cuffs.  He wore cuff links.  There were at least  three major pressing errors and the shirt was dingy and many shades away from white.  The French cuffs weren’t folded at the proper place and the cuffs themselves were hardly “off-white”, they were gray.  It was hard to believe that anyone would put that shirt on and wear it.   I can’t believe that I was such a geek to be paying that much attention.  But it really isn’t because I am in the garment care industry.  The shirt looked awful.  It was hard not to notice.  It was even a bit too small for him and that was most noticeable at the cuffs. I hate to mock this guy, but he probably felt like a pseudo big shot because he sent his shirts out to the cleaners.  His cleaner did him no favors.  I wanted to snap a picture, but I don’t think that the shirt would have looked as bad in print as it did in person.  So I will swap out the picture in exchange for the thousand words.  I was tempted to say, “Who does your shirts?”  But if I had asked him, chances are high that I would have heard of the cleaner (this occurred about 30 miles from my home) and I cannot imagine what my rebuttal to his answer could have been.  “Oh yeah, I know the guy.  He does a terrible shirt and you should be embarrassed.”  I was certain that whoever his cleaner is, he is definitely not a client because the shirt was pressed on an old-fashioned 3 piece unit and I don’t have any clients around here that still use a sleever, so I took some comfort in that.  Some of what was wrong with this shirt cannot be blamed on the cleaner.  It was old and spent.  I figure the shirt was 10-12 years old.  The lack of a good fit can only be attributed to the wearer.  So what were the defects?

There were numerous sharp, pressed-in wrinkles at the top of the sleeves, right below the seam.  This happens at the sleever press.  When the airbag inflates, the top of the sleeve (the part of the sleeve that is somewhat hidden from the presser’s view) rides up and bunches up.  On some cuts of shirts, this is very difficult to prevent.  Back in the old days, when you did not have two-handed controls on your sleever, you could press the actuator button with your right thumb and hold down the back of the shirt to stretch the sleeves until the heads closed.  Watch your fingers!!  I figure that this shirt was pressed on a Ajax CBS sleever.  It is notorious for this defect.

The measuring device on the sleever was either broken, miss-adjusted, or the presser did not use it.  The sleever pressed the sleeve plus 2 inches beyond that and thereby left numerous sharp, pressed-in wrinkles radiating from the sleeve seam towards the chest area of the shirt.  I had to turn away.  It was awful.  And the cuff clamp was ineffective, broken or ignored too.  The sleeve gusset area was a mess.  (If you do shirts in Rhode Island, have the aforementioned sleeve press and wish to defend yourself, please call me.  Really.)

This shirt needed to be soaked in 120 degree water and Sodium Perborate Tetrahydrate for a couple of hours.  It hasn’t been white in many years.  I’m going to guess that the shirt was washed loosely, in cold/warm water with detergent from Sam’s Club.  If the shirt had not had obvious machine-pressed defects, caused by a machine that I am familiar with, I would have guessed that the shirt was cared for at home, but it’s embarrassing that a garment care professional actually tended to this shirt.

Undoubtedly, there was no legitimate touch-up or inspection at this plant.  Ok, maybe there was, but if so, they completely skipped over this shirt.  And I certainly hope that this is a 99 cent shirt.  Those of us that do a good job and charge a fair price, tend to presume that the 99 cent shirt guy is a hack, doing a lousy bang-and-hang job.

So, enough beating up on the guy that had the courage wear this rag.  I did not embarrass him in person and the chance that he reads this print in this publication or on the internet is incredibly minute.  It’s probably far less than 1 in a billion chance.  There is no value in beating him up anyway.  The guy that pressed it probably doesn’t read this magazine anyway.  And the inspector is blind so no chance there either.

How, and when, do you judge the quality of your shirts?  There are 3 specific places in your plant where you can gather a very clear picture of your quality level.

  1. Hot off the press. As soon as the shirt is taken off the shirt unit and placed on a hanger, take a good look at it.  What do you think?  In my horrific example, every defect that I describe would have been very obvious at this point.
  2. After the touch-up person has handled them. Shirts have come off the press and been inspected by a touch-up person.  Sometimes, this person misunderstands their job as “touch every shirt and do something  to it.”  This leads to diminished quality.  If shirts look good directly off the press, but not so good after touch-up, it’s easy to find the problem area.  The exact cause could be:
    1. Too many shirts hanging around. This leads to hot-off-the-press shirts getting crushed among other ones.   When the shirts are hot, it doesn’t take much to make a mess of them.  The warmth in the fabric of a perfectly pressed shirt can wreak havoc in no time.  Also, because of all the moisture in the air in some plants, the cotton fabric can re-absorb it from the atmosphere and make a crisp shirt limp.
    2. Or it could be that the touch-up person is handling every shirt and making a mess of it while trying to make it better. I have seen a great number a touch-up people take and very good shirt and turn it into a pretty good shirt.  And you paid extra for that.
    3. And sometimes, the shirt looks good after touch-up but hangs around too long waiting to be assembled. It loses its crispness and gets rough-handled during assembly.  So the last place to check your quality is…
  3. After it has been packaged. All along the processes in your drycleaning department and in your shirt department, if someone miss something, then another person catches it.  If the cleaner misses a stain, the presser sees it and returns it.  If a presser botches something, the inspector catches it.  But what if the inspector (or the last person to see a piece before it is bagged) misses something?  Who catches that?  Who double-checks the inspector?

No one?

Wrong.

The customer does.  Don’t bank on your customer being anything like the guy at the car dealership.

“If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you always got.”