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Tuesday, 1 August, 2006

I have been a connoisseur of print and/or copy joints since I was about sixteen. Little punk rock kid, you know. I’ve used these facilities in almost every state I’ve ever visited … as opposed to passed through. Starting from when I was 20 and wandered in to the Kinko’s on Bardstown Road because they were just opening and I happened to be the first person hired at 17012, I’ve worked at such places in Kentucky, California and Texas. I know the history, an interest spawned when I was sleeping at the Extrom Library and thought I’d try to find out who Aldus, namesake of the desktop publishing application PageMaker [sic] was.

I’ve seen ’em all. From two little old ladies with three Japanese copy machines, a GBC binder and a stapler to the twelfth largest such company in North America who run 47% of all “clicks” on all Xerox-branded equipment between Dallas and San Antonio … who weren’t even on the national radar when I started.

Never, ever before have I witnessed an environment like what I walked into today. Not in Appalachia, not in the desert, not even at the crummiest Kinko’s near the silliest University in the middle of the night. Never. Nothing compares. Nothing. Worst of all they literally have no idea what to do with it. There was talk of “the Valero account”. Hey, Valero, big company right? No. The local distributor wants to run handbills to pass out in their stores. A one-time job. Maybe 20 kiloclicks. Four cases of 60# stock (which wasn’t on hand) and cut 4-up. Four hours run time and you can cut it while you run, as there’s nothing else to do. For these guys, this is a big order.

They’ve got good people who literally don’t know what to do. No one takes ownership of anything. Corporate provides inane forms that obfuscate more than anything else and for some reason these forms must be used. I’d order them and have them drop shipped directly to Balcones Recycling on East 6th Street. There’s no workflow which the manager somehow believes will be cured by moving things around. Workflow isn’t actually how stuff moves through space … it’s knowing what the hell to do with something once it’s handed to you, and, ideally, how to work it so the next guy down the line can readily do his thing with it, even (hell, especially) if that guy is you at another station.

That doesn’t exist.

I was handed three jobs today. With the jobs were the standard forms. No quantity, no paper type (although in civilization that means default to commodity white 20#), no other instructions, and with one of the jobs no information whatsoever, including “originals” as to what was to be reproduced. Just one form with the client customer name handwritten at the top. Perhaps this was a shorthand I needed to learn. No one knew anything about it. At 2 P.M., one hour past the pickup time.

I went through most of the day convinced that the shop had no staging area, but in fact one has to cross the sales floor (i.e. pulling a manual pallet jack with an inevitably poorly stacked pallet with multiple stocks on it) to get to it. We ran out of commodity paper. I asked the guy who runs around all day (sometimes in the logo’d vehicle) where it was. He volunteered to get some. I was left with nothing to do. He returned in about twenty minutes with one case. That’s like going to a restaurant ordering coffee and the server produces an eye dropper teasing, “Say when?”

They received a call from another store about an order they blew. Well, you know, it happens. They didn’t just blow the deadline. They didn’t just screw up in at least one of the million little ways we printers fuck things up all the time and make damn sure the customer never, ever suspects anything. They processed the paperwork. Only. As far as anyone could tell, they didn’t even open the PDF given to them by the customer. The job called for two special-order stocks, but of course, OMX can’t just send the guy who drives randomly around town all day to go pick it up from Unisource or Fasclampett or O-K or Xpedx or the dozen other paper vendors in town. They have to utilize a national contract and have it shipped in. Minimum three days, with express shipping. Neither was that fucking special of a stock.

“How long will it take to run this?”, asks the boss of the boss who somehow decided to relieve the other store of this responsibility. Two hundred “booklets” by which they mean signatures on 11″, which they call “eight and one half by eleven inch standard letter sized paper” of five leafs [sic] the top being a color cover on card running separately and scored.

  • ((4*2)*210)/5000 = 25 minutes run time on black
  • 210/3500 = budget 10 minutes color (run concurrently)
  • score covers = another conservative 10
  • fold black copies at 2 per second = not over fifteen minutes including set up time on a tabletop folder
  • hand collate at five seconds each, assuming one binder = 20 minutes tops
  • 2x blue lightening stitches per book, done slowly would be about 10 seconds each = budget forty-five minutes
  • packaging and presentation = ten minutes tops
  • add 20% for bullshit.

A rational, business-oriented paper pusher is looking at telling the customer they can have it in four hours if they come in, but we’ll have it at their door in five. If the driver goes home, the boss goes and delivers it all with as much sincerety as he can fake. The reply: “Do you think they can wait ’til Friday?”

In a dead, dead shop. Is it any wonder why?

I am awaiting a confirmation call from MD at Ginny’s. It looks like I’ll be there Friday night.


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