Received in Good Condition (Except When it’s Not)

As a national supplier of large-format print to the print trade, the most effective way of getting our finished product to our customer or the end-user is using couriers. We’ve been sending out approximately five thousand separate items every month for the last six years, so we like to think we know a thing or two about couriers. I can confidently say that TNT, who we use, are among the best in the country for handling what is known in the industry as ‘ugly freight’ i.e. the large unwieldly packages we send out every day.

Of course, there are one or two ‘rogue’ depots that seem intent on smashing everything they touch but overall it’s a superb service.

Thankfully, this doesn’t happen very often, but today was a prime example: we are emailed a picture of a Foamex board hanging out of its shredded (yet considerable) protective packaging with the accompanying content stating that it has turned up damaged.

Our immediate response was to apologise on behalf of the couriers and get a re-print into the system, asking if—more assuming that—the recipient had signed for the delivery as ‘damaged’ or ‘unchecked’. However, the ruined package wasn’t signed for as damaged. It wasn’t even signed for as unchecked. In fact, when we looked at the courier tracking system, it had actually been signed for as ‘received in good condition’!

Now we have a problem. Because the customer has signed for a clearly damaged package ‘as received in good condition’, they have absolved the courier from any further responsibility for that package. We can’t claim back the cost of a re-print from the couriers, which is normal practice when an item is damaged and signed for as damaged. We can’t even claim back the cost of the delivery as it could (and would by the courier) be argued that the board was damaged at the recipient’s premises after they signed for it (in good condition).

There is no question a re-print needs to be produced, but now it’s going to cost someone money. And not the people that damaged the board—they’ve got a get-out-of-jail-free signature.

So who pays for the re-print and subsequent delivery? Venture Banners? The courier is our subcontractor and therefore our responsibility. But the original board left here in perfect condition, well packaged.
The customer? It’s not their fault that the board has turned up looking more like a jigsaw because their receptionist signed the courier’s PDA whilst on the phone and without looking at the package.

Answers on a postcard please.

The Print Show 2017

Earls Court 2002, the London Boat Show. I found myself sipping champagne on the top deck of an 80ft boat (should it be called a yacht?) with a very nice man in chinos and a blazer who was showing me how the flybridge barbeque worked.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t have afforded even the tender to this leviathan (let alone the yacht itself), but that meeting cemented my, albeit slightly one-sided, relationship with Sunseeker.

And that, in a nutshell, is the point of shows in general and trade shows in particular; to put companies and prospective customers together, to put a face to the company and encourage business to be done.

Every year we go to Sign and Digital as visitors and it’s rare that we don’t get an idea for an additional revenue stream or find ourselves a super-efficient new supplier. We once bought the demo GS series on the VUTEk stand at FESPA and spent the rest of the day smiling as we walked past the machine sporting a sign that said ‘Sold to Venture’ on it.

We are very excited to be exhibiting at The Print Show in October, and I am hoping it will be a chance for us to meet some of our existing customers and perhaps attract some new ones. What I didn’t comprehend is the hard work it takes exhibiting at one of these shows. I have a new-found respect for the organisational skills of anyone who exhibits regularly at shows. The Print Show has taken our working lives. For the last few weeks, we have been organising our stand, designing branding, ordering flooring and sorting out electricity and Internet. Also working out who of our staff is going to be on the stand and what they are going to wear. Writing risk assessments and method statements… the list is endless!

I am sure, however, once the organisation is completed we are going to have a great show and it will be a blast, but better than that, just imagine what it could do for the business!… “Hello, is that Sunseeker?…”

Scams And How To Avoid Being Caught Out

We’ve all laughed at the email from the wealthy African Prince offering a cut of his millions in return for help to get those millions out of the country. ‘Who an earth would fall for that?’ we snigger as we hit the delete key. Unfortunately that is the easily-spottable tip of a very large iceberg of cons.

Have you ever wondered what would happen next if you responded to one of these scams in the positive? What’s the scammer’s next play? At what point would they try to relieve you of your hard earned dough? It is reported that fraud costs small to medium businesses in the UK around £9.2 Billion in 2013, which is frankly an astounding sum of money and would suggest that the scumbags are getting away with it.

Worryingly, there are a number of scammers out there that seem to be targeting printers in general, and large format printers in particular. Out of interest and for research purposes, we at Venture Banners followed several scams through, and though most are shallow and easily identified, some are quite ingenious…

The Shipping Scam

We received a quotation request for 100 banners with the words ‘Arms to the Poor’ printed in black text on a white background. The broken English contained in the email and the content of the banner (we’re guessing that should have read ‘Alms’) immediately raised suspicions, however we were interested to see what happened next, so we responded with a ludicrously high price, which unsurprisingly was accepted straightaway. The ‘client’ then proceeded to give us his credit card details with instruction to take an additional £1000 which we were to pay to his shipping company, as the banners were going out of the UK and would be picked up by Agorie Shipping. Bank details were of course included for Agorie.

We did some checks. The credit card was genuine and would go through for the full amount including the shipping costs. So what could possibly go wrong?

Well, quite a lot actually. We’d already tracked the IP address of the original email to Ghana, which raised some red flags and basic enquiries found that the credit card being offered belonged to a gentleman who resided in Romford. More red flags.

So what would have happened if we had gone through with the transaction? Well it’s simple really: once the gentleman in Essex discovered his card had been used fraudulently, the monies would be clawed back from us by the card company and we would of course be unable to recover the one thousand pounds paid by us legitimately to the shipping company (which, incidentally further investigations showed didn’t actually exist).

The conmen would have ‘earned’ one thousand pounds for just a couple of emails. Easy and lucrative. We’d followed the scam through, seen what we needed to see, now all that was left to do was inform the poor man in Romford his credit card details were being bandied around the Web by a man in an Internet Café in West Africa.

The funny thing was, we were having lunch with an industry friend just a few short weeks after we had played this out and over lunch he told us of this amazing deal he had put together on a large banner order. It all sounded terribly familiar. His face was ashen as we explained the scam to him. Unfortunately he had paid the shipping company, and predictably, the credit card payment to him was clawed back. No-one ever came to pick up those banners.

The Overpayment Scam

This is brutally simple but very effective, and seems to be organised in this country. Someone requests a quote from you for ten roller banners. They agree to the quote and ask for a pro-forma invoice. You’re paid. In fact with online banking, you can see the money sitting in your account.

Only by mistake they’ve over paid you by £1000. Realising their error they phone you, ‘admin error!’ they say and ask if you wouldn’t mind transferring the thousand pound overpayment back to them. Obviously they’re new customer and they’ve just spent a lot of money with you so your customer service reflex kicks in. ‘Of course’ you say ‘I’ll do it right now’. Wrong!

If you look very closely at your bank account, you’ll notice that even though the customer’s money is showing in your balance, it’s not actually cleared funds.

Guess what happens next……yep you guessed it, the money paid in by the customer is actually a cheque paid in over the counter and is destined to bounce in five days time, giving them ample time to fleece you. You are then left one thousand pounds out of pocket and if you’re really unlucky ten roller banners down as well.

We’ve managed to save several people falling victim to this scam because the scammers are lazy and use the same artwork for the roller banners every time. We were explaining this scam to one of our trade customers who had been targeted and had asked us to produce the roller banners for him but he was convinced it was a genuine order, he had spoken to the customer who was a ‘really nice bloke’ right up until the email came in ‘we’ve overpaid you, would you mind…’ which happened whilst we were actually on the phone to him! He was obviously disappointed to ‘lose’ a lucrative order, but thankful he wasn’t a grand out of pocket.

There are numerous ways these swindlers can try to steal from you so the Met Police and Barclays have produced a booklet outlining how to avoid becoming a victim of the scammers. Download it using the link below and as Shaw Taylor used to say, ‘Keep your eyes peeled’.

The Little Book of Big Scams – Business Edition (2.6MB) – This booklet has been produced by the Metropolitan Police in partnership with Barclays Bank plc.

Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery

I am sure you are aware Venture Banners advertise a double page spread in most of the leading print trade magazines. We have long standing relationships with these magazines and advertise month in, month out, all year round.

In fact very occasionally one of the editors phones me for a 250 word comment on whatever subject is the point of discussion that month. I’ve usually got an opinion, so it’s no problem for me to whip up something half readable.

And I must admit, I read most of the trade magazines cover to cover, I am fascinated by some of the articles and insights. Though every now and again, whilst leafing through the pages, I see an advert that looks very similar to ours, but is never as good. It’s offering products very similar to ours and would you believe it… prices very similar to ours. Someone is trying to muscle in on our business!

At this point you might expect me to get annoyed or worry about a potential loss of revenue, but instead I roll my eyes and continue my search for the advert featuring the girl with the ‘wrapped’ bottom.

The reason I am so philosophical about these copycat adverts is that I can pretty much guarantee that they won’t appear in next month’s issue, or if they do, they’ll do the company in question more harm than good. You see, we are pretty unique in the wide format print market. We don’t have ridiculously high minimum order costs or a price calculation system so complicated you’ll need your Captain Midnight Decoder Ring to understand it.

We are true trade-supplier. We are setup to work in the background to make you look fantastic. This philosophy and company culture gives us the edge in terms of the consistency of our levels of service to the trade. Our equipment is arguably the best in the world and our prices are set so that you can make a tidy margin on them. We handle huge volumes of trade work so that all our customers benefit from the economies of scale and on top of that, our levels of service and turnaround are consistently superb. And if ever they are not, phone me, I want to know about it.

Banners with Pole Pockets

Pole pockets on banners are something that can cause a bit of confusion. This is compounded by the fact that some companies do things differently when producing banners with pole pockets.

Macy's Lamp Post Banners
Macy’s lamp post banners with wind-slits

What is a Pole Pocket?

A pole pocket is, as you would imagine, a pocket to slide a pole through. These can be on any side of the banner but is most commonly on the top and bottom so that it can be suspended between two horizontal poles.

A typical use for banners with pole pockets would be for lamp post banners or banners used on scaffolding.

Ordering Banners with Pole Pockets

The most common problem with pole pockets arises when ordering. Some people think that the pole pocket is going to be ‘added on’ to the size of the banner. However, this is not the case as the pole pockets needs to be included with the finished size of the banner – this makes things easier from the customer’s point of view if a banner is to bridge two poles.

Banner with pole pockets measurements
Measurements on a banner with pole pockets

As you can see by this example the final size of the banner includes the pole pockets. The pole pockets are inclusive of the banner’s size and not an addition to.

One thing that you have to bear in mind is that there may be minor fluctuations in the dimensions of the banner. This is due to the pole pocket being able to ‘squash’ its shape from circle to oval and even flat – this isn’t usually a problem on 99% of banners but if you think this may cause an issue please do speak to us.

Pole pocket diameter
The diameter of a pole



The size of a Pole Pocket

We will calculate the size of a pole pocket, required for each banner, all we require from you when ordering is the diameter of the pole going into the pocket. From this measurement we can then calculate the size of the pole pocket required.

How a pole pocket should look
How a pole pocket should look

The pole pocket should always have a bit of ‘wiggle’ (the very technical term we like to use), so that the pole can move freely within the pocket. This not only allows for easy fitting, but more importantly it distributes the stresses of the banner more evenly across the pocket and does not focus them on the join, increasing the life span of your banner.

How Pole Pockets Affect Artwork

Because of the un-flat nature of pole pockets it is best not to include any important information on the artwork where a pole pocket will be. Flat colour and imagery are fine, but you should steer clear of using any logos or text that you want readable in this area.

Another element to take into conisderation is the ‘weld line’. This is the transparent line that welds the banner to itself to produce the pocket. Although the weld line is transparent it does have a different appearance to the rest of the banner and if text crosses into this area it can hinder legibility.

The width of the weld line is typically 30mm in thickness.

Below are some example pole pocket sizes (based on the diameter of the pole) and how much clearance you need to give the text on your artwork. Please remember that plain colour and background imagery are fine within the clearance area.

Artwork clearance for pole pockets
Artwork clearance for pole pockets

These values work no matter which edge of the banner the pole pocket is situated.

The Summary

When ordering banners with pole pockets remember the following:

  • Provide us with the diameter of the pole going into the pocket
  • Give your artwork enough clearance
  • This applies whether it is a single or double-sided banner

This is only meant as a guide to help you when ordering banners with pole pockets and we are always at the end of a phone should you have any issues, on 0845 604 1030.

It’s Been A While

How have you been keeping? We’ve taken our sweet time in getting this latest post up and for that we can only apologise, but we have good reason… honest.

Way back in March we announced that we had moved down the road from Chelmsford to Witham. Well, the main reason for this was to house the latest addition to our printer-family and to have it located closer to home (traditionally the majority of our print was handled further north).

This purchase and subsequent move has proven to be quite timely with us having our most productive year to date. Thanks to the team at CMYUK our new printer has hit the ground running and with only a few blips, has been invaluable to the business. Because of this we have had to change the way we process orders behind the scenes.

We develop all of our systems in-house which meant re-writing the admin system used to process our orders from the ground up. We finished the first stage and started trialling the new system in early December, and we’ve been debugging, fine-tuning and crying ourselves to sleep ever since.

This new system has come with added benefits to our customers, most notably the dispatch notifications and tracking now available on 90% of our orders.

This, combined with the VB Media websites we’ve developed, took up nearly all of last year, hence our slack approach to the blog.

Well, it’s a new year and we are still looking to expand our material and product range. We are looking into large-format paper/poster printing and the products that come with this. Exhibition displays and forecourt signage are other products due for release. These should be available to our trade customers soon, and although they will not be on the current retail site, they should still be available if required.

So, as we move into the new year you shall be hearing even more from us.

Fingers crossed for 2013.

A New Home For Venture Banners

Venture Banners' New Location
Venture Banners’ New Location

We’ve been in our Chelmsford office since November 2009, and in that time we’ve seen exponential business growth. Our team has got bigger, we’re dealing with more customers than ever before, and we’re printing more than we’ve ever printed. As a result, we’ve outgrown our current premises.

So we’re opening a new facility to house our sales, studio, and accounts departments, as well as a brand-new VUTEk printer. This will be the new home and cornerstone of Venture Banners.

We’ve enjoyed being in Chelmsford and would like to take this opportunity to thank our landlords and neighbouring businesses for putting up with us for as long as they have!

The When

We’re aiming to move over the course of the 6th–8th April, so it won’t be long at all.

There’s only a small amount of work we need to arrange before we move in, including a shiny new network installation and giving the production area both a lick of paint and some new lighting. Other than that, it’s ready to jump into.

The Where

Our new address will be:

Unit 10
Waterside Business Park

Though we would’ve liked to stay in Chelmsford, and we couldn’t stray too far from it (for staff travel reasons), the options in Witham made most sense for us.

How It Will Benefit Us

Up til now, our sales, studio, and accounts departments have been located in a different location to our production teams. Now though, that will be changing. Having all departments under one roof from start-to-finish will bring some big advantages over our current setup:

  • Our sales, studio and production teams will be just metres away from each other, meaning better and quicker communication between all involved
  • The process from point of order, to studio, to printing, to packing, to despatching will be seamless
  • We won’t need to re-upload processed artwork for production—all files will be processed and served locally
  • We’ll have enough parking for everyone
  • We can be as noisy as we want!

How It Will Benefit You

Having everything together will bring improvements for our customers too:

  • We hope to offer an express service for those in a hurry (a much requested service)
  • We’ll be able to offer more real-time updates on most orders, including courier consignment numbers
  • The new printer should give an improvement in print quality in most cases
  • Pick-ups will now be possible if you would like to save on delivery costs

When we’re all settled in, you’ll be more than welcome to visit and have a full tour. We’re hoping this should be by around mid-May, and we’ll let you know when we’re ready for visits. We’ll be able to show you how much large-format printing can help you and your business.

And in case you were wondering, we won’t be raising any of our prices. We’re sure this will be one of those happy “win-win” situations for all involved.

With the all-round improvements this will bring to our (already growing) business, we can’t wait to get started in the new building—onwards and upwards!

Brand Refresh Update

When we first mentioned about our upcoming brand refresh, we were keeping a close eye on the progress of Exo Sans, a Kickstarter project by Natanael Gama.

Since then, the funding steadily grew and we were glad to see that on the 26th December, the project reached it’s funding goal. We’ve been sent our advance copies of the font, and are currently in the process of playing around with ideas for our logo and brand image.

If all goes to plan, we’ll hopefully see the font available on Google Web Fonts sometime during February.

So What’s Gonna Change?

Well, as we mentioned before, the biggest change will probably come in the form of typefaces. We’re aiming to make all our copy a little bit nicer to read—both in readability and appearance.

Though we’re still in the early stages of experimentation, we’re also looking at our image as a whole: colours, shapes and forms, icons, and overall design principles.

Venture Banners Colour Palette Ideas
Venture Banners Colour Palette Ideas

Of course, when you do anything like this, consistency is key. Our last major brand change was in 2009, and we’ve realised that some of our existing customer-facing material has become dissimilar in some regards, so we’d like to fix that. These are the areas we’ll be looking at:

  • Print
    • Stationery
      • Letterhead
      • Business Cards
      • Compliment Slip
      • Envelope
      • Presentation Folder
    • Marketing
      • Leaflets & Mailers
      • Magazine Ads
      • Trade Pack for new Trade customers
    • Letters from our Accounts dept.
  • Online

How and When’s it Gonna Happen?

As we always have done, we’ll be doing the design work in-house ourselves. We’re only dedicating a certain amount of time and a few members of our design team to this, so it may take a few months for our planned changes to be fully implemented and rolled out while any old designs and materials are phased out, especially while we’re working on other (exciting) projects. Some of the changes won’t take long at all, while others will likely depend on stocks of our current print material and when we’ll be needing more.

It’ll definitely be an ongoing process, but we’re building a set of design principles and constraints for ourselves to cover all future work across all mediums. This will aid the creation of new designs and help keep our image unified and consistent in the future.

We’re very excited with the ideas we’ve got floating around here, so we’ll be sure to keep you posted on any interesting news here on the blog.

Goodbye 2011, Hello 2012

Let me start by saying “Happy New Year everyone”.

Welcome to 2012, the year of the Olympics, UEFA European Championships and, if you believe the Mayan Long Count Calendar, the End of the World. Well, at Venture Banners we are going to have to continue under the assumption that the World is not going to end any time soon and look to what we can do in the large format print industry this year.

Last year saw us make some additions to our product range, including foamex and correx, flags and the Teardrop and Feather Flag stands (trade only).

This coming year we have even more developments ahead. These include:

  • Soft signage – The demand for single sided printed flag-esque material is increasing and is widely seen as the next ‘big thing’ in the industry. The benefits of soft signage are easy installation and reduced delivery costs. Indoor use only.
  • A fast turnaround service – We hope to implement an ‘I need it, like NOW!’ service in the coming months. We always get asked if we can turnaround a banner in the space of 12 hours, but because of our strict print-queue system this hasn’t been possible. However, with new machinery arriving this year we may now be able to offer this for a limited number of orders.
  • Consignment numbers for deliveries – We hope to be trialing this soon with some test orders, and then rolling out across 95% of the orders we fulfill. This will be provided in the form of a ‘Dispatched’ email notification.
  • Pop-Up display systems – One planned for later on in the year, but exhibition display systems are on the cards.
  • Brand refresh – A simple freshening up of the Venture brand.
  • New website – For the trade side of our business, giving increased functionality.
  • Website development service – We are developing a service which will give our customers (specifically print-trade) the opportunity to have a fully-controllable and professional, large-format print website. More to come on this in the very near future.

With these developments in mind (plus a few others we have up our sleeves), we are hoping that 2012 turns into the year we are planning for.

Proof Reading for Splelling Mistakes

You saw what I did there, didn’t you? …Or did you? Just testing!

Having been fortunate enough to work with websites and online content, it has become very easy to correct my mistakes. With just a few clicks, a mistake can be remedied, leaving no trace it was ever there. Unfortunately, with printed material, things aren’t so forgiving.


Back when I was producing mainly print designs, I had my fair share of embarrassing moments when the delivery from the local printer turned up. It’s a horrible feeling. Especially when several thousand pounds have been spent on having your design printed, to then be posted to thousands of customers.

There are, however, some important tips to help prevent that kind of situation happening.

Check, Check, and Check Again

I can’t stress how important checking your work is.

Don’t rely solely on your software to do all your spell-checking for you. Yes, they can be useful aids, but they’re still nowhere near smart enough to understand the complexities of human language. You may well have spelled all the words in a design correctly according to the software, but don’t forget:

  • Some software may be limited to USA spellings, or you might not have changed your dictionary language
  • Some industry/business phrases, acronyms and words won’t ever appear in a real dictionary, so these will require manual checking
  • Not all spell-checkers check for correct capitalisation
  • Context: most spell-checkers can’t tell you if a word is (or isn’t) in the right place
  • Correct punctuation is again related to context, and can’t yet be fully understood by our everyday software

Spell-checkers are named what they are, because that’s exactly what they do: check spelling. But there’s so much more to language than simply spelling. Think of it like a car—you might have all the correct individual parts, but if they aren’t put together in the right way, you won’t be going anywhere.

Two Pairs of Eyes are Better Than One

If you’ve been creating the design yourself, you’re likely ‘too close’ to the project to be the only proof-reader involved. This can easily blind you to your own errors. You can repeatedly miss an error in your own work, whereas someone else will immediately see it.

It’s always, always best to have someone else proof-read your work. It’s good to have a colleague available to check your work before it gets committed to print and seen out in the real world. Even if you think you’re the most competent person with the English language in the world, don’t underestimate how important it is to have someone else’s eyes giving your work the ‘once over’.

A real word with the correct spelling. But completely the wrong word for the context!
A real word with the correct spelling. But completely the wrong word for the context!

Even if you don’t have someone on hand to proof-read your work, it can sometimes help to print your design on your office printer. For some reason, seeing it on physical media can help you spot errors in your own work.

Mistakes Incoming, 12 O’Clock!

Because of the sheer amount of designs we deal with on a daily basis, we do quite often spot spelling mistakes on artwork supplied to us. In these instances, if we notice the mistake early enough, we notify customers of the error before it gets passed through to our production team, and allow the customer to make the call on whether to re-supply the design or go ahead. If the mistake has already been printed, there’s little we can do to help, sadly.

This is again another reason to have spelling checked: mistakes can be costly, especially when dealing with large-format prints. If the text is large, the mistake can be glaringly obvious too!

Mistakes: Learn From Them, You Must

If you’re in a position where you regularly churn out design work or create content, mistakes will happen—it can’t be helped. But as I’ve said above, things can be done to reduce the chances of mistakes happening.

The best thing to do when they do happen is to learn where things went wrong. Was it a mistake in the content supplied to you? Was it not passed on to someone for proof-reading? It’s worth trying to find out where the mistake occurred, not to apportion blame, but to help avoid similar things happening in the future.

Unfortunately, the blame for mistakes will normally be laid at the feet of the last set of eyes that saw the work before it went to print. However, having worked in that process for over five years in my previous job, I do have much sympathy for the designers. At one point, we got so fed up of being blamed for every mistake, we ensured a proof-read by the department manager was required before anything could go to print. It was another step in the process (albeit a red-tape-esque one), but it was important for both our protection and the improvement to the quality of the work we sent out.

Oh, and if you found any mistakes in this post, they were of course deliberate! 😉