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June 10, 2006

Chess Retailing and Buying from a Third World Country

Filed under: Chess Miscellaneous — Baron Turner @ 5:24 pm

India Chess
It’s no secret that the vast majority of decent chess sets are made in a small area of India. The country that claims to have invented the game has the ‘privilege’ of supplying the world with it’s excellent designs. Whether it’s Pleasant Times, JS Arts, Ivory Works, Checkmate (and many others), the demand for excellence at a price that purchasing countries can afford is met through people working for a  lower salary than the developed world. If USA or European salaries were required for a typical chess set sold in the same countries, that chess set would be at least five times as much.

But dealing with a country that just doesn’t have the same way of thinking carries many problems, especially when it comes to that over-used, under-served word that may well be a contender for the most common word on eCommerce web sites: Quality.  Despite suppliers claiming high quality, the plain fact is that shipments contain blemishes, missing items, inconsistent finishes, the list goes on. Is this why Camaratta set up his own manufacturing outfit in India? Why is consitent, high quality such a problem? Try thinking of it in western salary terms. You work for three days straight on a chessboard, everything is fine, until a blemish is caused or realized. It’s a tough call. The end customer will probably notice it and will probably want a discount or want to return it. You might get away with it if it’s Christmas and the chess retailer is so busy that he lapses in his QC and if it’s a gift from a customer to someone he or she may not see for another year. And after all - you’ve been working on it for three days which represents a substantial part of your much needed salary.

So, ya can’t blame them - but neither can you allow the practice to continue. What to do? Training the supplier that  you won’t accept blemishes is a start. Making them feel the pain is another policy too (by credit/replacement demands). Suppliers hate this! They want to get on with volume work instead of the fiddley task of making a single rosewood Queen that was blemished - and if it’s a carved knight it’s particularly painful. Hopefully the message gets through.

In a meeting with one of our suppliers, I was reminded however of a truth that easily escapes a chess retailer. Out of a large shipment, it is often true that maybe just 1% or so is blemished. Even we Westerners make mistakes - right? So there is a tolerance. What have you found works well in dealing with this problem? Leave a comment and your site gets a link if the comment is worthwhile.

1 Comment »

  1. […] It’s no secret that most fine chess sets are made in a small region of India in The Punjab state. Well, if it was a secret, there we are, the genie is out of the box – no secret anymore. Other areas make sets too – Poland, Pakistan and of course China – but objectively, everyone recognizes the superiority of Indian made chess sets – often described with a touch of melodrama as chess sets with soul. As the largest chess retailer in Europe and growing quickly in North America, we at ChessBaron haven’t yet seen chess designs made outside of the Punjab that have the presence and chess quality of a set originating in India. Not that they don’t have quality issues – as this chess quality blog entry shows – they certainly do and need to overcome them to integrate fully with the richer ‘West’. But they are the best available chess sets in the world.All of them? But what about Jaques? Surely this is a fine English design. They’d like you to think so. It really could have a ‘Made in The Punjab’ label – because it is. The same sets that are sold in many chess outlets are the same as Jaques and are sold for a fraction of the price. They just can’t call it Jaques – but it’s the same model. Jaques has become kinda passe. The design of so many other staunton sets are beter quality, better design and much more beautiful to the eye. Small tweaks to the pawns, a little ingenuity to the queen, a splash of artistic licence to the knight with a glorious mane and facial expression brings a chess set that is majestic and wonderful, excellent quality and fit for a family heirloom. Hence the saying – ‘You never really own a ChessBaron, you merely look after it for the next generation’. These are the new style of chess sets that will be coming up in antique roadshows of the future as the style of sets that supplanted Jaques as the predominant chess style.Where are the differences? The knight steals the applause, takes the limelite and acts like the Prima Donna. The Queen might be the most powerful piece – but ‘she doesn’t turn heads any more’. It’s not that she has become less of a dignified beautiful lady, it’s more that the Johnny-come-lately Knight has been dressed to impress – and impress it does. Once you’ve finished gazing at the wonderous detail of the knight, stop though and examine the two least likely pieces of the sets to really see the enduring quality of a chess set. The pawn and the rook. The classical, slightly innovative lines of these two siblings are the real labels of a set that will endure through generations just like the Jaques used to. They should have stature and presence with a little superior attitude, knowing that their stable is thoroughbread! […]

    Pingback by Which Chess Design and from where?   | chess set — May 7, 2011 @ 11:40 am

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