Tuesday, December 30, 2008

It's more or less an exact science!

Many of you who read our blog on a regular basis will perhaps already know of my frustrations regarding the sometimes seemingly casual approach to business here in Spain. No matter how much careful planning and forethought you put in, the sad fact is that it is quite normal for at least one of your suppliers to let you down. To illustrate the point I thought that I would quickly tell of my most recent experiences....

We recently received our first order from one of the UK's most prestigious retail chains, so naturally we wanted everything to be perfect. The order was for a finite amount of wine, so in terms of 'dry goods' we knew, down to the last label, exactly what we would need. I should mention that, in the case of the labels and cartons, these would both be printed with lot numbers, and so too little would render us short, whilst too many would simply go down as waste.

We therefore specified very clearly (confirmed in writing) to both our label and carton producers the exact numbers that we would require, but that they should also allow a small margin for error over and above our actual order - we did suggest the amount that we would consider acceptable.

Of course you can guess what happened, but as always, the logic left me scratching my head.

In the case of the front label, the over-run was more than 15% (which was far more than we had suggested), whereas the back label over-run was 0%. Yes, they actually sent the exact number that we needed for the order, so in effect, we could not damage or lose one single label during bottling! Now, anyone who knows anything about bottling will know how difficult this is to achieve, and more especially with a label that we have never used before.

The cartons were actually worse. Despite telling our representative that he should personally supervise the production run himself we ended up with very nearly 25% more cases than we actually ordered. All printed with lot numbers and vintages that cannot be used for future orders.

Now I can imagine the response that we would get if our US importer ordered 400 cases of wine, but we actually sent him 500 - I don't think that we would stay in business for too long!

I know for a fact (because I have seen them) that the machines that produce these goods all have electronic counters, indeed, some are computer controlled, so in my opinion I am not sure how they can possibly justify such mistakes. No doubt I will find out!

Monday, December 22, 2008

It's Christmas!

They say that the older you get, the quicker time passes - well, I must be getting very old! It seems like only a day or two ago that I started my Christmas preparations, when I sat down and wrote my Christmas cards, planned my Christmas gift list etc. And now it's here - we are just two days away from the start of the festivities!

We are of course reminded of this by today's singing of the Spanish Christmas Lottery, or 'El Gordo' (Fat One) as it is known - and yes, I did say singing. To be strictly accurate it is more a very monotone Gregorian chant that goes on for several hours - Madrid schoolchildren picking the numbers and singing them out to an expectant Spanish population. Probably the slowest, most complicated and monotonous prize draw you could ever witness. Although the total prize fund is the world's largest (this year estimated at some 3.2 billion euros), the top prize is actually only a miserly 3 million euros. The reason that it is the biggest lottery is because there are some thirteen thousand prizes, and so, in theory at least, you have a better chance of recouping some of your losses. Now, I don't know if this figure is completely accurate, but I have heard that the average spend on tickets is actually 72 euros per capita - the only thing that I can tell you with any real accuracy is that I have won nothing, and so will have to continue working tomorrow. Bah, humbug!

And so finally, on behalf of Angela and myself we wish all our friends and customers around the world a very merry Christmas, and a healthy, peaceful and prosperous New Year.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Pants down politicians

Holy sh**, it's Christmas!

I hope that you are not too offended by the caption to this picture - indeed, if you are easily offended then probably best to stop reading now!

On a recent visit to Cataluña we were reminded of a very strange Catalan Christmas custom. Added to every nativity scene is the little defecator, or 'caganer' as they are known locally. Traditionally this character would be dressed in a Catalan costume with traditional red stocking hat, and hidden away in the corner to be discovered by the children as a sort of game. The part that I have never really understood is the explanation of what this figure supposedly represents, which is fertility and equality. (Answers on a postcard please)

Anyway, strange custom aside, the idea of the little pooping Catalan has now been expanded to include world leaders, politicians and celebrities - so if you're visiting Barcelona this Christmas and you spy Barack Obama with his pants around his ankles, please don't be upset - it's just a tradition!