Is making stuff easier in the UK?

Is making stuff easier in the UK?

I want to talk to you about zips. Bear with me, because I totally promise that this will be utterly illuminating on one aspect of why people have given up making stuff in the UK.

The Beth basque uses a zip. This is unusual, and we very foolishly made the pattern without checking what we could get our hands on; I must have had a bad case of the Stupids that day because I know we’re too small to get things specially made!

The first run of them, we ordered zips from Fabric Land. Stop laughing, those of you that know them. Yes, they have a website that makes your eyes bleed and an email address that doesn’t match the website and you have to order over the phone anyway. But they were still way ahead of the rest of zip people!

The second lot, I’ve been searching for an improvement – I want a narrower, more delicate looking zip, but that can cope with the strain. In the process, I’ve ranted at a coder friend, pretty much in real time. Here’s the result.


Me: I may actually have finally tracked down the right kind of zip for the Beth basques! Whoo!

Them: Oh, awesome.

Me: I’ve basically spent hours scouring the net for hints of 14 inch open ended basque zips in cream or ivory

Them: I’m surprised there isn’t a catalogue or directory for these sorts of things.

Me: Fashion = IT unfriendly IT, even half the manufacturers don’t have a website, never mind component suppliers. Or they have one and it has no info on it cos they only want people in the industry to have access.

Them: *boggle*


The first guys don't show their products unless you are approved for an account and had to go look up what they had, which involved putting the phone down on me and then said they didn’t do samples. I said I don’t really want to buy 200 of he wrong thing, at which point they did free samples. The second guys, they have had to go away to look things up and will call me back in a bit. Maybe. If they remember.

(they never did, by the way)

Them: …wow These guys know they’re going to be dead in a decade, right?

Me: Listen, I’ve a friend trying to find a manufacturer at the moment and there’s one in Derby who I know is desperate for work but doesn’t have a website, and isn’t answering the phone, and anytime any of us talks to him won’t say anything positive about working with tiny brands, so . . .

Them: What the hell. How do these people survive?


Pretty much the conversation deteriorated from there.

Then I decided to order the zips! Joy of joys one of the samples turned out to be an improvement on the current ones.

I rang up the company who had supplied them and tried to order and yes, ended up typing it all up as I went again.


Me: I’m trying to open an account with the company that have got their heads round having a website . . . . but thus far opening an account has taken over a week after being told it was a simple online form. And involves faxes.

Them: Fax…es…?

Me: Yes, “because we need to protect our prices because we are wholesale”

Them: Those are the ones that arrive by horse, right?

Carrier pigeon?

Protect their prices

Against what?! Price bandits, roaming the internet?!

Me: “Yes, I do wholesale, we also password protect our site, but it is in fact perfectly possible to check out someone’s business credentials with absolutely no paper, faxes, or signatures involved, because all of the information is online these days, and since you insist I use your online store, I can’t imagine how much business you are losing this way”

Oh, and they cant set up an account ANY OTHER WAY

Them: That’s madness.

(for reference purposes, I do have a fax machine, but it regularly breaks and largely functions as a place for the cat to sleep. I use it so rarely for anything other than cat storage that it's not worth replacing)

Me: Next bit of madness

I search for YKK zips on google (because we need a zip that YKK make and I would like to avoid the fax issue)

The first search result is a paid for advert that google has bumped to the favourite sites at the top, you know how they do?

So I called them.

” We don’t do ykk”

“You might want to stop paying for it as a search term for your google ads then”

“We don’t, its google that have done that”

“Er . . . it’s coming up as a paid for advert”

“No its them, they’ve done that, we don’t pay for it”

(trust me if you have an ad in the top highlighted section, you have paid for it!)

Them: okaaaaay. There are a bunch of intermediaries services who will do keyword proximity analysis. Like, stupid of them not to know what they’re paying for. But *technologically* an understandable mistake.

Me: If you have a customer going “your ad is coming up for YKK” though – at least worth looking into rather than getting the hump with them.

Next result down doesn’t have an answerphone or an email address.

Next one down can’t check stock because the office isn’t in the warehouse. But they have a website. But the stock control isn't accessible



Eventually we found a working carrier pigeon from the 80′s and I made my zip order online. But yes still I have no zips. Because this:

Me: So in today’s zip saga!

“Hi, I’ve been sent an order. It’s to the wrong address and I ordered 200 zips and you sent 30″

” Yes, we don’t have stock control online, its very expensive to get a new website so we haven't got it yet, you’d have to ring up and do a special order”

“I did ring up, I got told to use the website. And you’ve not sent it to the address I wanted even though I emailed – there was no function on your website to allow me to set a different delivery address”

“Will you always use the delivery address you want?”

“I don’t know, we use several different manufacturers and I need the invoices to always come to me”

“Oh. I’ll have to get them to set up multiple accounts for different addresses linked to one invoicing address, but I can put the extra zips on special order now?”

“Great, please do that. Can I ask why no-one thought to tell me that these weren’t in stock at any stage?”

“Its all automated”

(*thinks, that doesn't really answer my question unless robots pack your orders, but fine*)

“and can you tell me, given that your payment processing clearly was automated even if your stock control isn't, how much I’ve paid for what was in stock?”

“We’ll have taken all the money at the time you made the order but then issued a credit note and so your card will only have the correct amount taken off it eventually”

I’m just going to go and quietly bang my head on a wall.

Them: I am seriously tempted to write a stock control web app + tablet app and trail around behind you selling these people access to the 21st century.


To date, I still don’t have all the zips we need, and my head hurts. So this is why your Beth basques are late, and also welcome to just how dull my job really is (I’m writing this in a slanket people, A SLANKET!) and also why it’s sometimes harder to make a thing here than in a country that has got its hands on a bit of the internet and is pulling at it for all its worth!