Navigating The Ship "Quality" In An Ocean Of Snake Oil

Buying Work Uniforms shouldn’t be a heroic deed. I mean how can Aqua Man fight the good fight if he is using up all his super hero mojo struggling to maintain basic Aqua Man life-support. He can’t be bothered with helping and defending if he is just struggling to keep it together swimming in an ocean of snake oil. Right!!!

At the bottom of this post is a link to a scanned copy of an invoice for the purchase of 12 XL long sleeve t-shirts all with different manufacturer labels. Haynes, Fruit Of The Loom, Champion etc… Talk about a loss of productivity and time waste. After three separate T-shirt deliveries all flopping the washer/drier test I got tired of fooling around and instructed my t-shirt lady to sell me every long sleeve extra large brand available (notice the scanned receipt in the bottom of this post). Including the three different XL’s I purchased earlier the total number of XL long sleeve t’s ordered and tested were 15. Twelve of the fifteen were absolute helpings of blatant crap (XL piles that is). Two were bearable and one shined. Please read on….

We have allot of  bodies, they come in all sorts of different sizes, rolling around in dirt, hanging on greasy hydraulic cylinders, climbing on lifts and cranes, crawling under tour buses etc… and since we are a mobile only repair facility, we have to buy work wear for varied weather conditions.  Needless to say when we  order work wear, they are large orders always in the range of  $1200 – $3500 increments.

You see nothing more horrible than wrenching on a big Manitex Crane, or some Cat 416B Extenda-Hoe, and along with the hoe failing to extend the technician’s arms are also failing to extend. The sleeves on some of the junk shirts are so unyielding and are so tightly pulled halfway up the technician’s arms that he is losing all circulation. So Instead of focusing on performing quality work for my customers, growing a quality business, upgrading our diagnostic knowledge base, etc… I have to sacrifice a ton of the Mobile Diesel Medic mojo making sure we don’t fall victim to the short sleeve scam, by some manufacture hoping we will be naive enough to trust that the T-Shirt Man will honor the unwritten rule of XL.  Many of you have fallen victim to this scam and just need a little defining of the unwritten XL rule to help you feel outraged when the scam gets played on you. The rule we all take for granted goes as follows… A somewhat large mechanic (or Web Designer – it’s a pretty universal rule) needing an XL shirt to cover his/her XL frame will by default also be equipped with somewhat above average XL arms.  Go figure right!!? Sadly my repair business has been burned out of a $1200 bulk order of long sleeve XL work shirts that were unwearable due to the overseas manufacturer deciding today that he was going to save a tenth of a cent and sew medium sleeves onto the XL shirts. There was no financial penalty dictating otherwise and a financial reward for doing so, irregardless of all the millions of XL consumers getting ripped off. We (short armed small framed consumers as well) are sooooooo disconnected from the shirt source (or toaster source, mood-ring source etc,,) that essentially the evil villain factory owner is untraceable and therefor given the green light to break the XL rule and screw all the unfortunate souls that came equipped with XL arms.

Well I’ll have you know this long arm mechanic needs to play in the sand box where no one has a special kick sand in your face and we will still buy your crappy substandard product pass.

I successfully just finished finding the right work shirts (long sleeve) for a $3000 bulk purchase of uniforms for our team of Diesel Technicians. The only small glitch is that instead of spending 15 minutes on the phone with Pat our T-shirt lady, it now takes us an average of 6 weeks to finalize a purchase. We now never order blindly without first purchasing a sample and washing it on hot and drying it (twice). We base our sample choices on shirt brands that fit from purchases several years ago. But just because the brand and model fit a few years ago does not guarantee a slam dunk now. Quality and constancy is a moving target in the arena of competing foreign factories and the factories have zero loyalty to the original label specifications once the MBA’s from Haynes leave the factory. So even though it is the same model and title your Beefy Tee of five years ago most likely taste like chicken today. This is what happened to us and some how it has become OK to put up with this. Lets just all be OK with fraudulent behavior from our producers like there is no changing the drift away from quality and honesty. Instead lets waste all sorts of time dealing with the salesperson screaming on the phone, and choose not to remember it was possible to get quality only a short 10 – 20 years ago right? Wrong!! What I did with the purchasing of all these shirts may seem excessive for the everyday consumer but for my repair business this is just the normal arena of quality control. I posted the results of the winning T-shirt brand below from my tests and just for the record my company, Mobile Diesel Medic goes through the same headaches for my customers when it comes to making less money but doing the job correctly. As well with parts when it comes to accepting a lower profit on the markup in order to supply the customer with the correct (honest) part. Take a look at these blogs on starter solenoids and heater cores if you want to see how much money we are willing to lose just to make sure repairs are performed with parts that have the same quality of twenty years ago.

T-shirt Results…
Because I am so “country of origin” sensitive (neurotic) I had made a special point NOT to look at the country the shirt came from because I knew it would effect my decision. Also I chose not to match the shirt with the price until after I found the winners. Essentially testing totally blind. I also knew just from looking at the purchasing invoice of the shirts that most of the shirts were priced at a bulk order rate of $9 and $11, one was $13.50, and there was a $16.50 sample that was way out of our budget and definitely, no matter what the results, was not going to be ordered. Finally in my handling of the shirts from the UPS box to the washer, dryer etc… One felt exceptional and I assumed this was for sure going to be the $16.50 beast. The shirt had an amazing tone of blue, and no matter how high the dryer got, the shirt remained soft and wasn’t scratchy and crumpled. Yet it was 100% cotton. I had heard some where there are actually different grades of cotton and I guess this shirt proved it. It was so above average over the rest of the samples that even though mentally I wrote it off as the $16 beast, hopefully it was going to pass the dryer test and just maybe I was going to have an amazing shirt to throw in my drawer at home.

Well I was wrong and pleasantly surprised with how wrong I was with everything.
First off the amazing shirt was the only one that passed the dryer test. Of the 15 tested this one was it. In other words a 6% chance of choosing the right shirt.
Secondly the shirt fell in the $9 -$11 range. It was one of the affordable ones and not $16.50. Talk about a slam dunk and no I have no special sponsors.
Finally it was actually the only one made in the USA. Hell my taxes pay cotton subsidies let me reap the benefits along with the rest of America. The shirt is produced by a company called Canvas.
The results were so spectacular that we finalized the $3000 bulk purchase and since have ordered two additional short sleeve purchases. As long as Canvas passes the dryer test and keeps the factories in the US we will keep ordering from them until mechanics no longer need clothing. A sad day that will be, trust me.

Incidentally the two runner ups were produced in Honduras and Vietnam.  One for Haynes and one for Augusta Shirt Company.   And yes the mediocre shirts were the $16.50 and $13.50 shirts. I guess the CEO’s need a 300% profit margin in order to justify a 20 million dollar a year bonus. Finally the rest of the shirts were from Asia and were just crumpled scratchy lost messes. I gave them to whoever would take them.

Snake Oil Article Apparel 2000

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