Wednesday, July 20, 2005

12. PATCH COMPANIES

In these days of low cost internet advertising almost anyone can start up a patch company. And if you search the internet you'll probably think anyone has. There are tiny little one person companies to the behemoths that make patches for every kind of customer. With so many companies cluttering the market, finding a good patch company can be like mining for gold. There's are only a few nuggets in a whole lot of dirt. So, here are some tips to help you find the best patch company for your special patch needs. Caveat emptor!

• Specialization - A company that specializes in Girl Scout® patches will be spending most of their time at the cross-roads of Girl Scouting® and patches. Whatever your requirement, they will probably have made similar patches before. They'll be able to understand you and your special needs because they've spent most of their time being there, doing that for people like you. They'll speak your language too, making the whole process easier for you.

• Big Fish - Girl Scout® volunteers generally buy what patch companies consider small quantities. Most companies have practical minimum orders of about 100 pcs. And you'll probably be buying 200-300 pcs, the average volunteer order. That's quite small compared to councils which buy for thousands of girls at a time. So, if you want the clout of a big fish in a small pond, avoid the bigger patch companies. Big does not mean good. Big only means big.

• Credibility - For obvious reasons you'll want to avoid the Fly By Night patch company. In other words, you'll want a company with a history of providing good service and good products over a long period of time. Since there is no place to go for a list of credible patch companies, look for the Girl Scout's® equivalent of the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval....the "Licensed by GSUSA" vendor statement. Although GSUSA is not in the business of rating patch companies, you can be sure that if a patch company has a lot of customer complaints, they won't be a GSUSA licensed vendor for long.

• Product Quality - Browse patch company websites and look for not only good art but good embroidery too. Differentiate between pictures of artwork and pictures of real embroidered patches. If the website does not show you big clear pictures of both, beware.

• Price - As with most other markets, the Girl Scout® patch market will have prices which vary from the very cheap to the very expensive. And, as with most every other product, you get what you pay for. So, be penny wise but don't be pound foolish. Get quotes and beware the low bidders.

• Delivery - What could be worse than finding a company which meets all of the criteria above only to have them miss your event deadline by a few days? Delivery, especially when you have to have your patches at the event, is crucial. And, when this applies to your patch purchases you should get an early start, allow plenty of time, and be sure your patch company will deliver on time. A good rule to remember here is, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. So, if you're in a time bind, beware the patch company that tells you they guarantee their delivery. After all, they are not bringing the patches to you (assuming you're buying mail order), so how can they guarantee delivery? Look for realistic delivery commitments and beware those who make rash guarantees.

• Terms
- You may not know it, but if you're buying for Girl Scouts® with a Girl Scout® account, you have AAA credit. And, if you're doing business with a patch company that specializes in Girl Scout® patches, they will know that and be happy to give you time to pay. Beware those patch companies that ask for money up front. You should not have to pay until you receive your patches and can make sure they lived up to their commitments for product quality and delivery time.