July '18

For the Business of Apparel Decorating

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2 0 1 8 J U LY P R I N T W E A R || 27 the customer will only be retained by the value you provide. This means that you must be cognizant of what you bring to the table and make sure that your customer understands the unique value you provide. Releasing files can mean extra unpaid work should the customer contact you repeatedly for clarifications or lost files and can create hassles when a competitor blames your file for complica- tions in future orders. THE CONS OF RETENTION Customers may see retention of their file as a violation of their rights. Though this isn't true, provided you don't use their digitized file to produce goods featuring their intellectual property, the per- ception that you are holding their work 'hostage' can make for a very unhappy customer. Even if customers don't take this extreme point of view, they may see artificial barriers to leaving as coercion, and attach the negative feeling of being controlled to your shop. Another drawback to the 'free' method that prescribes spreading the digitizing costs over the initial garments ordered in that your customer may unfavorably compare your item price against a rival decorator's quote, despite their inclusion of a digitizing or setup fee. If you don't disclose the cost, the customer may see the same commodity garment as deco- rated by you and your competitor with your unit price higher and assume that your decoration prices are always less fa- vorable. CLARITY IS THE KEY No matter what side you take in this debate, the most critical element of any remedy to file ownership frustrations is found in establishing clear expectations with the customer. Tempting as it may be to hide fees, delay the revelation that you'll be retaining files, or avoid stating that you won't be liable for the quality of any future shop using your file, it's far bet- ter to expose your terms and conditions with your customer from the beginning. Nothing creates an unresolvable conflict like a surprise restriction when a customer is already unhappy or tempted enough by the thought of leaving that they are asking for their files. LEARNING TO LET GO In my experience, the benefits land heavily on the side of releasing files. Though I see nothing wrong with requiring a fee that covers labor and profit, nor in restricting your release to the machine- readable file only, my experience has been that the relaxed attitude and sense of security a customer gets from 'owning' their digitized file paints your business in a positive light. As you have done the work of selecting thread colors, sampling, and have designs on- file for ready use, you already have the ease-of-ordering benefits of lock-in working in your favor. If you trust the value of the product and service you provide, releasing the files should be little risk. Besides, customers that constantly angle for bargains and hop from shop to shop aren't the core you want to retain. They are labor-in- tensive and thus light on profit. Build a product you can be proud to compare against your competitors, and you won't need control to keep them around.

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