Is it possible to buy a GOOD/CHEAP (Insert Product Here)?

Proven Business System

If you spend any time on the industry message boards or Facebook groups, the overwhelming theme for most people’s questions about equipment or supplies revolves around “I got the cheapest press I could find”, or “what do you think about this cheap ink?”. Unfortunately engaging in a conversation about the “cheap” item will end up poorly, and there will be someone who has made it “work”. I tend to move along and just worry that we will have another person in our industry who is going to struggle to create a successful business long term.

Here is an example:

I know its bad but why doesn't it work???
I know its bad but why doesn’t it work???

I understand that none of us probably have unlimited budgets, but at the end of the day, this piece of equipment or supplies is going to be your livelihood potentially, so you need something that will work repeatedly and be consistent and easy to operate. And if you can’t afford that, then honestly you can not afford to be in business as you will just be throwing money at trying to make things “work”.

It is possible to buy a good product and it is possible to buy a cheap product, but rarely do the two mix. I know it happens in other industries as well and we are all guilty of trying to get the cheapest price possible, but there is a reason that there is a saying for this. “You get what you pay for.”

Good: Excerpts from dictionary.com “satisfactory in quality, quantity, or degree. Of high quality; excellent.”

Cheap: Excerpts from dictionary.com “costing very little; relatively low in price; inexpensive. Of little account; of small value; mean; shoddy. Embarrassed; sheepish. Stingy; miserly”

So after looking at those definitions, it seems to me as if those 2 words should not be used together when asking about equipment or goods. Buying the cheapest model doesn’t always save you money and if you want something good, sometimes you have to pay for it.

All too often I have heard the horror stories of customers who have just looked at the price tag and invested their hard earned money into the cheapest model. The problem is they get that cheap item back to their location and it doesn’t work, doesn’t hold up to the normal expected use or just downright SUCKS. So was that item actually cheap? Not really! It is now an expensive mistake and an even larger headache to eliminate the problem since you have probably sold your customers the service based on that piece of equipment.

When making that purchasing decision, you have to look at the whole picture of the actual value of the product, especially on something like a heat press which will be the center of your heat printing business. So let’s compare 2 scenarios of someone getting into sublimation. Then look at the value of each and then you can make your own decision about the return on investment and how you want to base your businesses purchasing decisions.

  1. Initial Investment = $500 ($250 All in One Press, $250 on a High Temp Ink system and printer)
  2. Initial Investment = $2,500 ($500 for a Mug Press, $1,400 for a Heat Press, $600 for a Sublimation System.)

Scenario #1 – The purchase was made from an online location with the equipment originating from Asia. A week or so after spending the $500 the items arrive. The Instructions are hard to read if there are any at all and there is no phone number to call to get any help. You get it set up as best you can and then start making things. Only about one out of every 10 items comes out the way you wanted it. Then you go work on another part of your business and you have a huge opportunity show up to make sublimated products. You make a commitment to the customer to deliver coffee mugs for their event. You go to start making them and again after ruining lots of blanks, you finally have half the order done after several late nights. Then you see a spark and smell smoke. The press has stopped working and you need parts. You try to reach the person you bought it from but they never respond. You frantically go to the message boards or Facebook groups looking for help. you get some suggestions but realize you are SOL. You have to let the customer know that you can’t deliver on time, but in hopes of saving some face, you give them the half that you got done free of charge. The customer has to go to your competitor because they have to have these done in time.

Recap: $500 spent in equipment, $250 spent in ruined blanks and supplies you could not sell, $1,000 lost order and a lost customer. 20 hours spent trying to get it to work, on the message boards and watching YouTube videos. Also, the lost time where you could have been producing something that did make a profit for you, and the bad name your previous customer is now giving you with their friends and family.

RETURN ON INVESTMENT – Negative $750 in hard dollars, $1,000 in direct lost business, and bigger losses in the overall name for your business, plus looking at having to invest more money to get back into sublimation.

Scenario #2 – You make the purchase after spending some time with the sales representative at a trade show. You work out a great deal with them and take the product right off the trade show floor. They give you a sample kit of blanks to get you started o you can begin learning the system. You put the $2500 on a credit card and head home. you are so excited about your new purchase that you stay up late making cool items for your kids, the neighbors and yourself. you then decide what products you want to offer and buy those products from the supplier you bought the equipment from, again talking to the same rep you meet at the show. You watch some videos, talk to the company’s technical support to get your mug press pressure and time dialed in and you make a bunch of samples for your shop to show off. You feel really good about using the equipment and you are ready to take orders. All the sudden someone runs in that has a rush job they need to be done. The explain to you that they had previously given the order to someone else, but they could only deliver half of it and the half they got didn’t look very good. You calm them down, confidently tell them that you can take care of them and take the order for $1,000 worth of mugs. You order the mugs from the supplier and they arrived the next day, costing you $250 total. You follow the instructions from the supplier and produce the $1,000 order of mugs and deliver them in 2 days time to the customer. They are ecstatic and tell you they are moving all of their business to you, which is about $25,000 annually of decorated products.

Recap: $2,500 spent in equipment, $250 spent in blanks and supplies you sold for $1,000 and also gained a new customer. 10 hours spent setting everything up, making samples for yourself and family and friends, talking to technical support and actually producing a paying order.

RETURN ON INVESTMENT – Spent $2,750 up front, but have a business opportunity you can see going forward. You already made $750 on the first order and you expect that new customer to be worth about $10,000 in additional annual profit. NOW YOU HAVE A BUSINESS!

I hate these posts as there is really nothing that can be done.


I no longer have a dog in this fight. I no longer sell equipment or supplies, yet I still feel very strongly about this from the consumer’s side. This is how you fail at business and I hate reading these type posts.

So let’s all try to start looking at how we shop for items in a different way. Let’s replace words like good and cheap with; valuable, sturdy, efficient, useful, return on investment and my favorite; bang for the Buck!

Leave a Comment