Saturday, March 29, 2008

Who do you want answering the phone in the middle of the night?

Just when I thought it was safe to go to sleep last night, 1a.m after loading up a truck full of blank t-shirts, I was going to put my thoughts down aboout my "Cold Fusion" experiments and how to solve the plastisol ink verus water based ink problem, when I when to my pages and found a "we are currently moving our website". Insert "WTF" here as my heart starts to beat rapidly thinking that my domain name was sniped. Low and Behold my server company, IX Webhosting, is up and moving their damn servers and will be down for up to 2-days. Two friggin' days is an eternity for loss of sales and indexing as my entire world can be dumped from indexed servers. My images are all stored on these servers that are being moved so the sites that I use for my web business were either down completely or looked like a jumbled mess of unloaded images.

Luckily may main shopping cart was on a Yahoo server and my son has a site on another server with FTP so instead of sleeping and solving the world's problems I had to upload new generic image links and substitute headers into my web pages. It's a good thing I didn't have a few drinks or my internet world would've been crashed around my head in the morning. The point here is that you never know what is going to happen with running an internet business. Mostly dumb things happen that screw up everything and it is the dumb things that take up most of the time. I can't say I was working all night, because there is nothing on my main website at that can prove it. As far as my wife knows I was probably up all night looking at porn. Sure if you had an IT department these things could be solved by others, but you can't count on it so it is better to do it myself.

These two sites are still down, and, so none of the fancy things I wanted to work on and update will be functioning this weekend, but my basic operations are working at Still how many backups do you need? You can't count on indexing to stabalize your business, because being down a few days can change everything and even switching to a new server company for my websites would mess up my ip numbers. There isn't an easy answer as the web is more akin to voodoo than practical mechanics. The only good news is that this will force me to go back to basics and rebuild the site and hope that the site still has some traffic.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Hold the pickles, hold the lettuce. Special orders don't upset us...

This jingle from Burger King comes to mind since custom printing is my biz. The customer my always be right, however, kissing ass isn't my fortay unless I am being well-paid for my efforts. I try to be nice, pleasant and happy-go-lucky about what I am doing for a living and understandably we are trying to give customers the ability to produce printed garments in small quantities with their own designs. This is seemingly a simple task, just like Burger King can leave off the mayo and not complain. The problem is if the customer keeps changing their mind or doesn't know what they want. This week has been excruciating with almost every customer deciding after the fact that they want different artwork or to modify the design size. I consider this ridiculous since it means that I have wasted screen after screen on jobs that will never get printed.

Why can't people just print out their design, hold it up to a shirt and decide on the size before they committ to having it printed? I don't want to waste my life making samples for people who won't don't seem to have a ruler in their universe and who can't decide on the dimensions of their artwork ahead of time. To me a screen is like a special piece of film, cleaned, prepared with light-sensitive chemicals and stored for use in duplicating designs, not to be wasted because the customer can't estimate and stick to their decision. Most of these designs aren't exotic or interesting, so that makes it more frustrating. If I had the proper technology I could show how each design size looks on different shirt sizes, but I could also spend that time enjoying my life. Ok, I've talked myself into a new project, shooting photos of shirts with rules next to a bunch of designs, like that will work.

The good news is that we have trimmed cost on warehousing and the stores are being re-stocked with decent inventory for the spring, which starts today. The new store in SF is breaking even and strangely Tuesdays are our strongest day of the week. We haven't figured that out yet, maybe that is the day that tourist arrive on cheap flights from Europe or something. I was looking at a place in Berkeley for a new store, but the deal fell through. The landlords aren't desperate enough yet and I must require too many favorable terms for before I move in. Triple net is a fraud, making the tenants pay the taxes for the landlord is a rip-off. I'll wait until the summer when school is out and the stores start closing on Telegraph avenue, then I should be able to get a decent deal on rent. There isn't any point in opening stores that aren't going to be profitable, except for exposure, and there is no reason to be in business just to pay someone else's mortgage. The internet provides a way to market products without having to pay excessive rents, but the real-estate agents of the world haven't caught on yet. Once building owners realize that business's can't stay in business without making a profit then they may consider charging affordable rents. This will only happen after neighborhoods go down and the larger corporate stores start defaulting on owners. Sad but true. Email us if you know of any reasonably priced areas that could handle an Y-Que retail store. Small and cheap.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

All Your T-shirts Belong To Us!

Click here to print your own "When Monks Die" Boycott the Olympics 2008 Poster. Nobody gets it, but this is a take off on the Prince song, "When Doves Cry".

Grammer schammer, t-shirts aren't known for being gramatically correct, so spellin' shouldn't matter none either. "Shit Happens!" "Frankie Say Relax". "Free Winona". All classic t-shirt slogans that mean very little on their own, but when combined with cotton and printed very large on the front of a t-shirt then they take on a life of their own. Such is this blog, poorly written, but with good intentions. I barely have enough time to finish answering stupid questions, so I have started using this blog as a place to flush the silliness out of my head before I go back to the endless stream of email that keeps pulling me back in. The point here is that pardon my grammer, but I have to write quick or not write at all. Eventually this could be used as an FAQ, so for now just consider it random notes from a t-shirt madman.

The Organic shirts are coming in and I am creating a rack with the different colors so that I can photograph them and give an accurate representation of the various shades that are available. Softness, Made in USA or Organic? Who would win in a fight? Are people more concerned about the soft fabric and smooth it feels on their skin? Do people really care about protectionism, or is it just something to talk about while they are in the store? Isn't all cotton organic? These are the issues that we will deal with in 2008 through our retail stores and with the product line of tee shirts that we offer for sale. Style and comfort are dominating factors, but as the t-shirt population becomes more educated about the clothing industry everyone has become a critic and every problem in the industry has become a marketing opportunity.

Clearly the internet has become the arena for t-shirt marketing and it is one of the few commodities that people have successfully developed into businesses. Which hopefully means that the T-Shirt is here to stay for another 10-50 years. T-shirts are the Burqa of Western society, the Kilt of the young, the Kimona of the masses, the cloak of the proletariat. Where the t-shirt goes from here depends more the population as a whole since t-shirts engineered in design by production and cost concerns, not cultivated in the world of haute couture, but made for the real world.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

T-shirts are like Hamburgers

My first job as a teenager was at a Hamburger place in North Carolina. Sure I wanted to work in the Cotton Mill spinning denim or as a floor sweeper at the Cigarette factory but those jobs were beyond my skill level. Like all first jobs it taught me everything I needed to know even though I walked around in a smiley faced smock smelling like grease and had burn marks on my arms from the deep fryer. Those things are fond memories now, it was the akwardness of a spastic kids that was being turned into a production machine that seems like the lessons that were important when it comes to t-shirts. T-shirts are like Hamburgers in that each one ends up on a specific person, but the methods to make them have to be streamlined to the type of product that you want in the end.

The relevance of this is that if you want more than 2-3 colors on less than 144 shirts then it's a pain in the butt and if anything it is going to be so expensive that you won't want to do it. I don't think people really pay for gilded Hamburgers in fancy restaurants as has been noted in the news. The average price of a Hamburger is $2-6, about what you want to pay for a blank t-shirt. Even Carls' Six Dollar burger is $4, but it isn't very good. There are different processes that can get you a multi-colored design on a few shirts, but they are typically digital processes and there are varying degrees of quality.

This is why you hear a sigh in the voice of the t-shirt screen printing manager when you start listing the number of colors and print locations for a 24 shirt job. Most people assume that my pricelist is a mistake when it says n/a for 3-colors at lower quantities so they call to only hear the words "We don't do that". One company that I work with is withdrawing from the internet sales market because of all the time their employees have wasted working on fraudulent and unprintable orders. When they asked how we dealt with the problem the answer is, "Most of my time is spent saying NO". Computers can do a lot of exotic artwork these days, but everything can't just be put on a small run of t-shirts without spending $1000 and turning a six-dollar shirt into a Gilded Hamburger.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Tear Away tags for the Anvil - finally

Who needs a tag anyway. For a while we were removing tags and inserting our own label, but then we progressed to printing our logo inside the collar of the shirt. This works and there has been a modest demand, or at least request, for this service. Often when I inform the customer that it is the same price as printing the design they change their mind and decide it isn't worth it. The problem with removable tags is that you have to resize each category of shirt when printing your own label inside, which means anywhere from 2-5 different logos, as we need one screen setup for each size category. It sounds easy, but it is a pain to sort and print the different sizes into shirts to only have to print them again with the design. Secondly the care instructions aren't really going to be printable on the inside collar of shirts, but who cares? It's only a t-shirt anyway not a friggin' fur coat.

I've been using the Alstyle 1701s for the tear-away tag and now that Anvil is jumping on board the other companies should follow suit. Although I don't suggest the inside label thing it does look cool and now we won't have to cut the tags out meticulously trimming the stray threads which never completely go away. The other problem with printable tags inside the collar is that the customer can never get rid of the logo that is scraping up against their neck in all it's glory. Good for branding and good if you can't remember where you got the shirt and you need another. Some companies used to like to print a small tag on the back, high up near the collar. Not bad, it works for the same reasons as the other tag only it lets others know where you got the shirt. Still it is another print cost for the other location and the size and care instructions can remain in the shirt where they belong.

Web addresses under the design is another option. Not so bad. I don't do it, too cool for that type of advertising, but I think it works for organizations and such. If I had the time I'd like to put a sticker on each shirt for the design that is printed on the front of the shirt. This would allow the customer to advertise the design in some other sticker worthy location and we could put the web address on the sticker. Time is the issue here, plus every added step simply slows down the time it takes to get a design out the door, so I'll save that idea until later.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Transfers and Dark Garments - Numbers on Shirts

I have never really given up on bad ideas. No matter how lousy transfers are I have always tried to keep my eyes open hoping that someday, somebody would actually create a workable solution. I attended a tradeshow in January and picked up all the basic info, as well as, paid $100 for a sample pack of some transfer paper that would do drop outs for the color and work on dark garments. Since the show I have been too busy, setting up the store in San Francisco - Lower Haight, to even read the instructions. While I drove to LA today I read some of the details and made sure that I had all the stuff to do some samples. Basically it is a 3-4 step process ( I once saw a Chinese YouTube video of a guy doing something similar to this) the involves a heat press, a color laser copier and a mask output that helps the separation of the white underbase from the paper. It seemed like it would work if for no other reason that to create a simulation of a color print for customers, but the stuff is expensive, like $5 per shirt not counting the cost of the copies themselves. It's bound to get cheaper over time, but the first step is to determine if this stuff works.

Lastly, I found a card for a Numbers transfer company that provides stupid numbers, which I hate, but kinda like the idea of random numbers on shirts. I'm going to order some just for fun. I will definitely feel like I've sold out if I start allowing customers to order shirts with numbers on them. Just shoot me now for even considering it. Ugh.

Compared Organic Cotton T-shirts by American Apparel, Alstyle and Anvil

Organic T-shirts in a variety of colors are finally available. will be offering Wholesale Organic T-shirts at and distributing through Y-Que.

After ordering sample orders from American Apparel, Alstyle and Anvil I compared the 3 brands based on style. I ordered one of each size from Small-2XLarge in both black and white. Although the hue of the black was off on the Anvil, the color doesn't seem to be an issue. The American Apparel was the softest, but they run small. The Alstyle has the best price and is the right fit for the American market. The Anvil felt like paper and was a little stiff, plus the fit seemed to be a bit boxy like their other shirts. The main benefit of marketing the organic cotton shirt is that now we can get a variety of colors in these styles and the companies seem to be taking it serious enough now that they are stocking inventory so that we could fill orders instead of just talk about the benefits of organic. Currently I am going to move my store designs in both white and black over to Organic and most likely offer our own YQ Brand of organic cotton shirts. The prices can finally be competitive and I plan to list these at a low-markup to push the website with a focus on value and quality. I'll shoot some pictures later, but those are the basic facts about the 3 available organic t-shirts that I will be selling. You can also order them blank or get use organic tee shirts for custom printing.

Monday, March 3, 2008

My sanctuary is complete. Now I can begin, anew.

Add ImageOn my last visit to this blog the world was different. The grass seemed greener, taller and the world was difficult to comprehende from my place in the sun. Bhutto was alive, albeit a captive, Obama wasn't the presumptive next President of the United States and Google was near $700 a share. My how times have changed in the last few months, I could've expected no less. I've put over 10,000 miles on my new van in the last two months moving things around in the Devil's triangle, SF to LA to LV, creating a new trading path that can last to the end of the century.

Most importantly I have created my long sought after laboratory where I can work in silence, crafting, cultivating my talents in a more mature way than I have in the past, with discipline, so that I can complete some major projects that represent my work from within my time. It could be a series of books, or phamplets, titled such as "Pushing Cotton" or "The Zen of Cotton Management" or "Ambiguous Society" or "Economic Purgury the Crimes of Illusion" or "How to Not to Make Money on Ebay" or "I'm Big in Panties"...but I digress, writing is but one of the projects I need to accomplish in my new cave.

Making Photo-Frescos of the photo-archive that I have accumulated would also serve a purpose for this den, travel images, street photography and even some friggin' sunsets need to be archived in plaster for others to see. I love this technique I've developed for putting photos back into the interpretive mix and re-newing them within plaster. I'll link to some of the images so that you can see what I'm talking about later.

Organizing my product line and updating my website to properly represent the items that I feel are fun and profit-making so that I can sell a few things to keep the lights on. Most importantly I have recently found available inventories on Organic Cotton t-shirts in colors which I will offer through, as well as, I've re-formulated my T-shirt Design Interface at