What kind of quality control measures are in place for shirts?

Few things would be more annoying than going to put on a clean shirt in the morning, buttoning it up almost all the way, and then noticing that you can’t wear the shirt after all because it’s missing the last button to hold it together. So you have no choice but to start unbuttoning the shirt to put on a new one, all the while muttering in disgust at that damn dry cleaners who failed to replace a button they should have.

Obviously, we at Battiston’s never want you muttering in disgust at us. That’s bad for repeat business.

So how do we make sure to get your shirts right every time? That’s the part of the process we call the inspection stage. Every garment, both shirts and dry cleaning, must pass inspection before it is cleared to the next stage, the assembly stage (where items are matched to a ticket). We have employees in our shirt cleaning unit and our dry cleaning unit whose primary responsibility is to go over every item that passes by them and go through a checklist - there is an actual physical checklist that our employees are trained with when they begin, though in regular duty they’ll just be rattling off that checklist mentally - of possible problems to make sure everything is right.

In the shirt inspection process, our folks are looking for a few things. First, they’re going to have to scan over the shirt to make sure that there aren’t any stains that got left behind after the first cleaning and pressing - if there are, we’ll have to make a decision at that point, based on how much time we have left before the item is due: Do we have time to simply spot-treat the item once more and try to clean it again? Would this stain come out at all, or is it something unlikely to ever fully come out? Might we be able to get the spot out via dry cleaning instead of laundering? After making a decision here, we’ll either immediately re-clean the item or attach a note, both to our front counter employees and to you our customer, apologizing for not being able to remove the stain initially and suggesting what might be done next.

While checking for stains, we’re also checking for wrinkles. The mechanical press used for shirts is quite effective, but a shirt may still come out with a wrinkle that needs to be manually ironed out. We’ll specifically check the collars and cuffs, since those are the areas most likely to end up with something uneven.

And then it’s on to the buttons. We have to check every single one to make sure it’s present, tight, and not chipped or broken. If any buttons are missing, loose, or cracked, we have to replace them before the shirt can pass inspection.

The inspection process might be the most interesting element of our work to an economist. Economists love talking about incentive structures. We’ve already discussed, way back at the beginning of this series, the incentive structure of shirts: we want to do good work on your shirts, a low-margin item, so that you’ll also do your dry cleaning with us, because that’s where we make more money. But there’s an even more obvious and direct incentive structure in regard to the inspection process: how well they do on inspection helps determine how much our employees make.

See, every once in a while Battiston’s management makes unannounced visits to all of our stores to do their own inspections. They will, in effect, inspect the inspectors, taking that original physical checklist of all the things to look for in a completed garment and checking finished shirts or dry cleaned items that have already passed the inspector. They’ll deduct points off the maximum grade for any checklist items that are inadequate, and then assign a numerical grade to the inspector’s work. If our inspectors are judged to have done excellent work based on this grade, they’ll be eligible for pay raises or bonuses. If they get a failing grade … well, there are negative incentives too. It’s the cleanest type of incentive structure you can create: do good work and you’ll be recognized and rewarded for it; do inadequate work and you’ll be penalized.

And that, in the end, is the same strategy we hope to pursue writ large: we want to do good work so that you’ll reward us with your regular business. Inspections are a vital part of making sure that’s the case.

  1. Why are shirts laundered rather than dry cleaned?
  2. What shirts can be laundered, and what must be dry cleaned?
  3. Why do women’s shirts sometimes cost more than men’s?
  4. What’s the value in putting a bar code on your shirts?
  5. What is starch, and should I get it on my shirts?
  6. How do we remove those nasty collar stains from your shirts?
  7. What machinery is used in cleaning and pressing your shirts?
  8. What kind of quality control measures are in place for shirts?
  9. What is 'finishing,' and what does it mean in regard to shirts?
  10. What's the expected lifespan of a shirt, and how can I prolong it?