View Full Version : Can't Believe that people are willing to work for free........

Steve Clarkson
01-18-2012, 1:46 PM
I just bid a job cutting out some basic shapes (about 4" x 3") out of baltic birch (takes about 1 minute each on my 45 watt)........no minimums were even discussed yet......so it could have been 2 or 200 or 2,000 (but I'm guessing closer to 50). I bid $2 each........and I find out he is paying $0.50 each. That barely covers the cost of the wood!

Joe Hillmann
01-18-2012, 1:58 PM
How are they cutting them though? I have ordered wooden shapes for much cheaper than I could make them on the laser and it looks like they turn the shapes on a duplicating lathe then slice them on a band saw. Even like that I don't see how they can be so cheap, but they must be making money on them otherwise why sell them?

Mike Null
01-18-2012, 2:15 PM
You were cheap, he is going to be out of business if he is a business.

Scott Shepherd
01-18-2012, 2:57 PM
I get 24 in 4:30 or so at 75W, so it might not be as bad as you think. I could do 50 of them in 10 minutes. 50 x .50 cents each, $25 for 10 minutes work? Baltic Birch is cheap. That's like $2 worth of material.

Howard Garner
01-18-2012, 3:12 PM
I get 24 in 4:30 or so at 75W, so it might not be as bad as you think. I could do 50 of them in 10 minutes. 50 x .50 cents each, $25 for 10 minutes work? Baltic Birch is cheap. That's like $2 worth of material.

Closer to $12 for the birch ply.
Not much margin at 50 cents.
Howard Garner

Scott Shepherd
01-18-2012, 4:24 PM
Closer to $12 for the birch ply.
Not much margin at 50 cents.
Howard Garner

$12 for a 5' x 5' sheet. Many people have it in stock and use it all the time so you can charge by the sq. ft on it rather than having to charge for a whole sheet.

Steve Clarkson
01-18-2012, 5:41 PM
It was 1/8" thick BB which I can't find in a 5' x 5' sheet.

James Rambo
01-18-2012, 6:52 PM
kencraftcompany dot com
They have BB/BB 12.15 a sheet

Joe Pelonio
01-18-2012, 7:45 PM
Woodcraft is $5.29 for 12"x30".

For a small quantity of 50 at .50 each it's $25.00, not worth turning on the machine for that.

Maybe he's looking for a local source because it takes too long to get them cut in China. Remember that people often fake a better price elsewhere to bring your price down. On the other hand, he may have found a new laser
owner desperate for work.

Terry Swift
01-18-2012, 8:09 PM
Don't we hear this all the time. There is always somebody out there that can do it cheaper, maybe not making any money on that order or hoping to make more in the future with them. Sometimes lowballing one job leads to larger more lucrative ones; but I would consider that more the exception than the rule. While I don't have all of the overhead for a "storefront" operation; I can't sell for 50% off either and make a living / profit. While I don't sell for MSRP or retail pricing, I can't / won't cut my throat either. Eventually the Chinese way of life (CHEAP) will go away for a good portion; as even they can't continue to pay $.10 an hour either.

Most customers will get it as cheap as they can or say they can; but many engraving shops have gone out of business with that model and mostly only the MSRP people still have storefronts - at least here locally that I can see. My business is finally growing as people become aware that there aren't as many games in town. I don't soak them either. But like Laserbuzz talks - what happens in your city may or may not work in mine. If you're the only game going; then you can charge what you want or they can go on-line.

Steve Clarkson
01-18-2012, 8:20 PM
Quick update......I asked the guy where he was buying them at that price and he just told me it was a local high school......but they are closed during the summer, so he was looking for a backup supplier............lol!

Dan Hintz
01-18-2012, 9:11 PM
You could make a stink about that, Steve, if you really wanted to, and get that operation shut down. The taxpayers should not be put in the position of subsidizing a sweatshop.

Dee Gallo
01-18-2012, 10:32 PM
I was under the impression that in NY State anyone who gets money from the State (like a school would) is not allowed to compete with local businesses. They can do work for free or low prices for non-profits only. We ran into this many times in the prison with local groups asking for the inmates to do free work for all kinds of things from Boys Scouts to cemeteries to local theater groups. In the event that work was approved, they had to provide all materials.

~ dee

Mike Null
01-19-2012, 5:14 AM
I have always viewed laser engraving machines as teachers toys not teaching tools.

Martin Boekers
01-19-2012, 6:31 PM
No doubt he is paying cash, probably some student or teacher making some "beer money"
Dee is correct that unless it's a private school, no gov funding they could be in trouble doing
projects like this.

Steve at least he told you it was a school, now you know not to waste time figuring out a price
next time. :)

Jeff Wilkins
01-19-2012, 10:07 PM
Do you feel a computer is a toy and not a teaching tool? Do you feel a woodshop in a school is a bunch of toys and not a learning tool? Those are items that we teachers train students on to be productive citizens. We use them to show students the possibilities of prototyping, entrepreneurship, and creative design. I doubt you would say that if a woodshop class decided to build swing sets and then sell them to pay for supplies and equipment. How is it any different? Because you feel they are stepping on your toes because it is your business. I know many high schools that build full houses and sell them at auction. I don't see any contractors whining and complaining. They are excited to have a work force that knows what the heck their doing so they have employees. Maybe reach out to your local high schools, see if they have any creative students that want to be apprentices and teach someone your craft. Novel idea... Then again not everyone can teach.

Michael Kowalczyk
01-19-2012, 11:00 PM
My quick observation is that the person had the school doing work that he was profiting from and then tried to get Steve to fill in the gap at a unprofitable rate. It is one thing for a school to do projects as fund-raisers to help offset materials and teach the kids true capitalism and a segue into entrepreneurship but to solicit (if that's how the school got the buyer) local or beyond businesses at cut rate prices does nothing but harm in my opinion. And since schools do not pay any of the taxes or other operating costs associated with running a business, they can't see the unintended consequences of what they do today and how it will effect those in the business community.

Don't get me wrong, I think it's great for the kids to learn but not at an even greater expense to the local businesses than they already have to pay in business property taxes and lost revenue. People complain about how the Chinese have such low wages and send cheap products over here and how it hurts US businesses but no one forces any one to buy them. I look at the label before I buy and try to buy as much made in the USA and locally sourced as I can but now that so many have gone overseas sometimes you can't help it and other times we just don't make the product here; like the Baltic Birch we get.

If the school is going to sell something they should sell their (the students) own designs and on the school property as a fund-raiser not a competitor. This way when the kids come out they can get a job/internship at a local business or start their own business. This way the school has truly made a contribution to the community.

I think it's part of the Doctor's oath but it should apply here also "Cause no harm".

Just my .0034832 cents (adjusted for inflation:eek:)

Martin Boekers
01-19-2012, 11:03 PM
I see I may have stepped on your toe Jeff, not intended. Yes teachers ARE a valuable asset to
communities. I am single and have no kids yet my taxes go to pay others education. No whinning on
that, that's part of society. Now to the real issue is it a school or a business? If it gets Gov funding
it's a school, if its a private facility it is a business. Was/is the equipment purchased from tax payer funding?
Then by law they can not sell products that they make. If it's a private school they can do what they want,
but they have to be licensed, they have to pay taxes. That too I believe is law, If they don't make money
they can write off the losses. This isn't about teachers and teaching. You may be surprized how many here have
taken someone under their wing or donated items (maybe gave them or did them at cost for charities)
One question, since you teach. Can you make and sell products to those outside of the school system? If
so how do you deal with the accountability of funds? (Again this isn't a knock on you or teachers) Is there
a systematic was for accounting or would this just be put into a fund to buy consumables? Not being in the education
aspect I am just curious about how the school system lets you work with selling items and accepting funds.
Sorry if I offended you, not my intention.

Mike Null
01-20-2012, 5:33 AM

I think industrial arts classes have an important place in the education of our children and have no problem with equiping those facilities properly. I don't really have a problem with laser engravers used in the same context but from what I can gather they aren't being used that way. Realistically, a laser engraver will have application for fewer than 1% of students in the long term.

But it would be interesting to know how many students you have in that class and how many you have in your CorelDraw class.

Dan Hintz
01-20-2012, 6:58 AM
Michael has expressed my thoughts on the matter pretty well, so I won't repeat it here. I applaud the schools that are teaching their students practical and business skills, but I take issue with those same schools using their students for what amounts to low-wage or slave labor (regardless if the student is enjoying themselves) in competition with other businesses, particularly because in essence my tax dollars are subsidizing that labor.

Fundraisers are fine, the money goes back to the school, and that means less tax dollars are necessary to keep the school/program running. But another business using that labor force to keep an advantage on surrounding competition? I cry foul, and I'll cry it loudly until it is changed.

Jeff Wilkins
01-20-2012, 7:48 AM
I guess I am most offended by blanket statements that the majority of teachers that have laser engravers in their building are using them as "toys" with sweatshop labor. That is like going to a bad doctor and saying that all doctors are bad. We have ~200 students in our pre-engineering program, all of them have access to use the laser for projects. We have a robotics club which has its own account through our school treasurer where all of our fundraiser dollars are deposited. We also buy materials with this money to enhance our robotics club with equipment, tournament fees, transportation and lodging if needed. All of these things would not be available to students unless we do our own fundraising, which the laser has helped a ton. My laser engraver was not purchased by any tax payer money and is therefore not officially the property of the school. We raised the funds through grant money and corporate and private donations to our robotics club. I do not actively go out and solicite business from anyone, but I have had several teachers come to me asking if we could make them a custom plaque or item. I believe that it is within our scope to offer these items to our faculty and staff. I do agree that people coming into the school to get items for "cheap" or schools going out and finding business is inappropriate use of equipment.

Mark Ross
01-20-2012, 8:59 AM

That is too funny! Another thing is prison labor! Be careful what information you give to a call center as it may be staffed by people doing hard time. Oh yes...prison labor...so cheap. The problem with things from China (other than being radioactive and full of lead...lol) is the playing field is not level. I can purchase some of our products at a fully landed cost to our building for less than I can buy the raw material for here in the states? How? Well, China is not floating their currency properly AND they give tax incentives for assembled items leaving the country. So I could buy the same raw material in China and ship it in and build it here, or I can buy the same raw material in China, let them build it at their labor rates, and when they ship it they get a tax break and split it with me and I save more money.

Is it right? Absolutely not. Is it fair? Absolutely not. Is it a sad fact of life today. You betcha. If I didn't do it someone else would. Luckily we have some things that can't be done over there and we have our 30 people working still...

Dan Hintz
01-20-2012, 9:15 AM
I guess I am most offended by blanket statements that the majority of teachers that have laser engravers in their building are using them as "toys" with sweatshop labor.
Until your first post (and I didn't look at the posts after yours), I saw no one who made a blanket statement about all (or even the majority of) teachers. The teachers who don't use them that way are a-okay in my book... the ones who do should have that capability removed from their hands. Where the money comes from to purchase that machine is irrelevant. If the work is subsidized in any way by tax dollars, including running the machine on school property or during school hours, any work done should not be used to the benefit of outside parties (and the guy coming to Steve's door obviously fits that bill).

Richard Rumancik
01-20-2012, 9:52 PM
I think Jeff had good reason to object to some of the words used terms such as "sweatshop", "beer money", "teacher's toys", "have them shut down", "slave labor". These terms are a bit loaded and were unfortunate, especially when we did not know the entire situation. We don't know who-approached-whom regarding the initial transaction with the school. If the customer approached the school saying they needed a widget that they couldn't get anywhere else well, perhaps they should have refused but on the other hand maybe they were thinking that they were doing the fellow a favor. I can imagine a lot of scenarios where it was all very innocent, and unintentional that a business could be negatively affected. Regardless of who initiated it, I would not go charging into the school with the objective to make a stink and shut them down. If I really wanted the business, I'd probably talk privately to the teacher and let them know my concerns, and I'm 95% sure it would be resolved then and there.

A lot of people here have said that they don't even want to start their laser for $50 or $100 so I wonder if a little job like this is really worth such a fuss.

As far as who will use laser-engraver knowledge in their future - it would be a minisule number that ever touch a laser engraver again. But I don't think the point of having one in a school is to train future laser operators. I'm sure many of the kids who learn to use the router in shops class will never touch a router again after high school either, or screen another t-shirt, or sew another garment. But what they learn in the process can be significant.

Jeff, sounds like you have a good program running at your school. Congratulations and keep doing what you are doing. I'm envious of what you are accomplishing in the school - if I had another lifetime I'd like to do what you are doing.

Brad Ports
01-21-2012, 11:56 AM
It's hard to compete with that. If we could only find a way for the taxpayers to purchase the equipment and get free labor, think of all the profit we could make.

Dee Gallo
01-21-2012, 12:25 PM
I fully agree with Richard. I DID teach commercial art for 30 years and with or without the "toys", there are a thousand things students learn. They learn the same things everyone expects them to learn from any subject, although in my classes they had fun too. You cannot separate subjects if you want to be an effective teacher. Math, reading, writing, biology, geology, history, weather, formula/recipe/measuring, design, color theory, tool control, scheduling, time management, it's all in there. I did lots of cross-subject projects using the English classes or Electrical Trades classes or whatever. My students also learned how to interview a client, estimate a job, supervise a newbie, work on a team, order supplies and work outside the shop on their own. They learned how to speak appropriately for different situations.

Education is all encompassing and anyone who does not see that does not understand the true sense of education. Unfortunately a lot of teachers operate in a vacuum and they lose the kids in the process. I wish schools would use a project based model for teaching all subjects, it would show the kids how to use all that boring stuff they were force fed.

that's my two cents, dee

Gary Hair
01-21-2012, 1:28 PM
I DID teach commercial art for 30 years.

I didn't know you were a teacher, your helpfulness and willingness to help here tell me you were probably a fantastic teacher, one I would have loved to have! I wish schools had more teachers like you, this would be a different world if it were so.


Dee Gallo
01-21-2012, 3:08 PM
Thanks Gary. I like to think I did some good in this world in my own small way.

bruce cain
01-21-2012, 3:30 PM
I agree that there might be more to the story. What will the customer use these for, something that he is making and selling for his own profit or a group of kids that he is working with; 4-H, Cub Scouts, Special Needs or some DHS kids?
All the Tech-Ed teachers that I have met have been great people, willing to share ideas and not afraid to ask for help. They only have a short amount of time with each class and a large amount of paperwork. I don't see schools as a threat to my business but an opportunity.
Around 50 pieces?
I would do them cheap if the customer would mention my business to the teacher then use that as an opportunity to visit with the teacher and offer my help with any questions or problems concerning the laser or designing items. Word of mouth goes a long way. Then with a contact inside the school, I could start meeting the rest of the faculty and hopefully, start selling awards to that school. If not to the school,, well, a lot more people know me and my business.


Martin Boekers
01-21-2012, 4:43 PM
Richard, that was me with the "beer money" remark, it was in quotes as to refleck sarcasm. It no way
way intended as I remark to degrade teachers or the trade as a whole. There are some good and bad
in that profession just as any other professions (police, fire, politicians :) I am a NAF worker. (AF Base)
There are certain laws about the work I do, pricing schedules and who can purchase what I sell. I have
to keep accurate records on this. I could lose my job if I took on work from someone who wasn't a qualified
buyer. The profits I make support moral and welfare activities on base. Activities are not fully funded so this
is how we can keep them going. So I imagine the same is true for schools that get funding from the Government.
The teacher that is (ok alleged) doing this may not even know there may be limitations to this. They too might lose
their job over such an infraction. I see this from Steve's end pretty clearly that if you followed his postings
since he joined SMC he has worked hard to develop his business and find a niche that allows him to survive. If
he has to compete with someone who has no overhead, no investement in equipment and can produce a product
to sell without paying any wages or salary, how could anyone compete with that?

Again this is not about all teachers. How many times have we heard "those that can, do, those that can't teach?"
When someone tells me that I toss it right back, "How did, you learn what you do? Be grateful that someone taught you!"
I take this another step further, in my shop. I don't train co-workers how to do this business, I TEACH them, you train and
animal you teach people. So I hope you can see where I come from.

It's been a long time since my high school days, even then I wasn't taught to operate equipment I was taught how
to work through the process logically so that when something goes wrong I can understand why. Their are good
teachers out there that will do this. sorry for the rant, but I saw Steve's posting to be about someone taking advantage of
their situation as I am sure the others did. I'm sure they were offended by that, and it came out in the remarks.

This is the first I have seen a school being adressed on this issue as it usually is, dare I say the word?, ok "hobbist" :eek:working out of their
garage or basement.