Thread: Weird stringer
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Old 02-20-2013, 11:50 PM   #31
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A few points I should make: You need to decide and define who you are as a stringer. Are you someone who installs strings into a racquet, or are you someone who practices a craft (some would argue an 'art,' some would argue a 'science')?

I'll assume since you're asking this, and the general tone of your posts in this sub-forum that you actually give a damn about what type of job and/or service you are providing to your customer(s). The sad and unfortunate thing is: many, MANY stringers don't -- at least not to the same degree as many of us do.

To me, there are multiple issues within the thread, and there are some pretty simple ways of determining what you can do more/better.

The first issue with the "other" stringer:

This "new" stringer - is he older than you? If you're considered "just a kid" by adult terms, and the 'new' stringer is significantly older than you, you need to be sensitive to the fact that most adults don't want to be told what to do by a younger guy. Your communication style will require tact in order to get what you want. This is a life skill that you'll require regardless of your profession and/or occupation. This is especially true IMO if you are someone that is young and with skills/ambition. I'd also like to mention that you won't always be right, especially since you have limited perspective (i'll expand on this momentarily).

Juniors abusing racquets: So what, exactly? Frame abuse happens, and as a stringer, there's nothing you can do to control it. This is obvious -- so what can you do? Frames come in damaged, right? You can recommend a bumper guard replacement, but as you mentioned -- what happens when the frame comes back busted? What happens when a string rips through the frame (or vice versa) because of a grommet that was not repaired properly? The simple answer from a professional/business perspective is this: If you give fair warning, and something happens, the onus is on them, not you to deal with the repercussions. If you do not have an explicit policy in place, you need to get one in place ASAP. Written, in plain view. You can also refuse to string frames that are not structurally sound. This isn't an issue of being a pain-in-the-butt stringer, it is a PERSONAL safety issue. If the management staff does not see eye-to-eye on this, ask what happens when a frame breaks on the machine, and graphite shards go flying everywhere? What if a customer (OR YOURSELF) is in range of the frame? Someone's going to get sued if, lets say-- eye damage occurred. I think this one is pretty obvious. [As a side note, if you get frames with the graphite worn down, ALWAYS put some head tape on top just as a precaution before stringing. If it blows up {which, to be honest, is rare}, you've got some insurance. Safety glasses is always a good idea when you're not sure, too. I'm being a bit melodramatic here, but if you aren't taking care of yourself, no one else is going to make you].

Doesn't do bumperguards: Like I asked above, is this guy new(er than you)? If so, that's fine, but if it's a service that your shop offers, and I assume you have bumper guards in stock if you are making this point -- you need to resolve this one way or the other. Is it a service your shop offers? Is there a price per replacement? Is there a labor charge associated with it (on top of the bumper cost)? You'd better believe that if you are offering it as a service that he's going to be replacing bumpers OR not stringing the frames at all. To me, from a business/management perspective, this isn't even on the table for discussion. On top of the "CYA" policy above, I think you can improve your professionalism and approach by an order of magnitude with these simple suggestions.

Don't do teflon tubing: Same issue as above. If he inspects and sees a cracked grommet, he is on the hook for free labor on breakage. If he doesn't warn the customer, there'd better be a policy in effect. If he DOES warn the customer, and they opt out, that's their problem. If he DOES warn the customer, and they opt IN, then there should be a marginal fee for labor and materials (although if it were me, that'd be something I throw in for free - and I'd mention what I did to them when they picked up, so there's no miscommunications).

Perspective: You have to look at this (seemingly) simple situation from multiple approaches. You said management doesn't understand the stringing process? Well... if you want things to change, you need to realize that the only way to effectively communicate how and why these issues are important is to translate it into something a business can understand. Overhead, costs, ROI, margins, return customers, etc. Lay out how much it's going to cost, what benefit it provides, and bring up the safety issues. If they still do not see eye to eye, just buy some tubing and call it a day. Your job is NOT NOT NOT to "educate" management. Most managers, if they are removed from the grunt work DO NOT CARE. All they want to know is how what you're asking them to do/asking from them affects their bottom line. Like I asked above -- do you take pride in your work? Are you a craftsman? If the other stringer is taking the tools home with him every day (which is weird for a shared resource shop...) then you should get your own tools. Are you a labor monkey, AND are you taking this as seriously as it needs to be taken to guarantee a good job?

When I strung ITAs this last weekend, I brought almost 3 full tool sets with me, including weird/one off things. It pays to be prepared, and I never have to deal with other peoples' garbage tools that barely get the job done. It makes my life easier, and it's one less variable that I have to deal with. It's a cheap investment in the long run if you plan to generate some money stringing. Teflon tubing is a simple item to have on hand, and you honestly don't use it very much. I can see WHY a shop/stringer wouldn't stock it, so this one might just end up being on you. You mentioned the guy was given money to buy you tools, and he bought you standard cutters and pliers, right? That should tell you enough about how much he cares about his craft. Forget trying to get things right with this guy and just take care of your own.

(no offense) From your anecdotes about communicating with adults and/or juniors, your style of writing and getting your ideas down "on paper," I might suggest taking a more critical look on how you are perceived by others. This is another thing that you're really just going to learn with experience. If you talk about these things casually, an adult is just going to think you're BSing them. This is doubly true if you're young. Many industries always try to get these "add-on" upgrades snuck in with all orders. You need to point to store policy (see above) and articulate the repercussions if your advice is not AT LEAST considered. Pointing to store policy will make any recommendations feel more official, and make it more difficult to dismiss you because you are young. For instance: "I inspected your racquet, as it is a standard practice for all labor in our shop. I noticed you've got some graphite wear on your frame. It's a store policy that I at recommend a bumper replacement. The total cost is ~$X. That includes labor and the $~Y charge for the bumper guard. If you want to pass, I have to inform you that we do not make any guarantees on your equipment." I'm also going to make the holier-than-thou statement that if you're young, you need to consider (unfair) things like how you're dressed, and how you're standing. Improve your posture, and speak clearly and (more) formally. This is all soft-skills, and isn't really anything important from a hardcore "stringing" context, though...

To the guy referring to you as a "smartazz," I believe your story, but I have to ask HOW you told him. I think that modern graphite frames are EXTREMELY hardy, tough, and saying "sir, this is going to break any second" is hyperbolic to a certain degree. The guy might not have appreciated what he perceived as a "throw away your racquet and buy a new one" shtick. Especially if workers in your shop are known for working on commission...
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