Saturday, June 16th, 2012

Notes from Bangladesh: Elephant shakedown

Filed under: business,elephants,Notes from Bangladesh,protection — alison @ 13:05

Patrick is in Bangladesh, taking the philosophical view.

*** *** ***

Picture from the Internet, not taken by Patrick.

Picture from the Internet, not taken by Patrick.

Yesterday I was waiting in a long, slow-moving queue for a government service. The queue was an everyday affair, so small tea stands and coconut carts had set up parallel to the shuffling crowd. After I had been there an hour or so an elephant came along with a mahout and passenger astride. The elephant stopped at a stand, ate some of the discarded coconuts shells, rose on his hind legs, waved his trunk around, and shouted. It was clear there was mayhem on his mind. Every merchant understood the drill. Very quickly and with obvious trepidation, each approached proprietor held out a ten taka note (about ten cents), which the elephant took with his trunk and passed up to the mahout. The apparent alternative was to have the stand’s product consumed, dispersed, or destroyed.

The whole operation was enormously entertaining for the people in the queue, was carried out efficiently, and took very little time. A model for the rest of us.
Kuda habis (take care),

Saturday, January 3rd, 2009


Filed under: business,consuming,economy,sewing,unwanted knowledge — alison @ 19:44

I went on a little stroll today to buy sewing notions. The fabric store I hit first was out of what I needed, so I headed up the Plaza St-Hubert. One of the three dressmaker supply stores on the strip had disappeared; another was closed (for the week?) and the third was open but also out of what I needed. So, onwards and upwards to the fabric stores above Jean Talon, where I found what I needed and more.

I love the Plaza. It’s four blocks of stores with glass-roofed sidewalks, known throughout Montreal as a centre for wedding dresses, white shoes, and MOBs. There are both a Salvation Army store and a Renaissance. You can get furniture overruns; $20 shoes and $300 shoes; slutty underwear and medical foundation garments; luggage; clothes for men and women, kids and grownups, skinnies and fatties; electronics; housewares and kitchen equipment; handmade items from India and Africa; sewing machines. You can mail a letter, get your legs waxed, sign up for driving lessons and send money overseas. You can duck through an alley and go to a peep show before you start work in the morning. North of the Plaza are the remains of the old needletrade sector, with fabric stores and jobbers supplying and buying from manufacturers. There’s a Vietnamese restaurant and a Roi du Smoked Meat, but it isn’t really a place for strolling and munching aimlessly; it’s for people who have a purpose.

When I first moved to the neighbourhood I found the street a bit sad, a bit soulless. In the past few years though it’s picked up, a busy place for working people. But today I noticed something had changed.

On the way down I counted:
– Between De Castelnau and Jean-Talon: two empty store fronts, one going out of business sale.
– Between Jean-Talon and Bélanger: two empty store fronts, two going out of business sales.
– Between Bélanger and St-Zotique: four empty store fronts.
– Between St-Zotique and Beaubien: one empty store front.
– Also about five signs advertising commercial space available for rent over the storefronts.

I think this is the worst I’ve ever seen on this street.


Tuesday, December 27th, 2005

A weblog I’ve been following with the adulation of a star-struck teenager

Filed under: Aspies,business,mental illness,parenting — alison @ 20:16

Kathleen’s site is a resource for designer-entrepreneurs in the “sewn product” field. She’s passionate, extremely bright and rides her hobby-horses (pattern cutting and lean organisation) with the single-mindedness that is the gift of Asperger’s syndrome. She wrote the book that you can buy through the site – and that is used as an essential text in fashion schools all over North America.

This particular entry documents the application of a business management approach to a potential domestic crisis.

Thursday, August 12th, 2004

Classic question and creative solution

Filed under: business,sewing — alison @ 23:45

I belong to various sewing lists and there’s a question that comes up regularly on them (as it tends to in life generally). It came up again today, in the following form:

To: “Fashion for the Plus size Woman” [______]
Subject: [fullfashion] Question regarding sewing for a friend

Hi all,

I have a question regarding sewing for friends and I was hoping you all might have some insight. I just completed a costume for a friend (the weird coat I was asking about a few months ago) and I’m not sure how to handle costs. I’m a sewing novice but I offered to make the costume to help my friend out. Now, the project is done, and he told me to total up my costs and “add in something for labor.” I was only expecting him to pay for materials, but it turned out to be a very time consuming project, so I appreciate that he’s willing to pay for my time. However, I have no idea what a reasonable amount is.

To complicate matters, we work together and see each other 8 hours a day, so I don’t want to strain our friendship/working relationship by haggling over money.

So, how do you handle the costs when sewing for friends?


This is usually a very slow list but for this question there was a flurry of eager answers. Lots of reminiscing about having been taken advantage of when younger and less experienced and suggestions to write this off as an expensive lesson. I had been going to suggest that Laura heave the ball back into her friend’s court and simply ask him to pay her what he thought she was worth. If he really had no clue, he would give her $25 and she would know he had no clue. And she could keep her mouth shut and save everyone’s pride that way.

But I didn’t, because someone beat me to the punch with a far better answer that I just had to share with the world:

To: “Fashion for the Plus size Woman” [_______]
Subject: [fullfashion] Re: Question regarding sewing for a friend

Hi Laura —

This really is the kettle of fish you think it is….

My 2 cents are this…

List materials:

Then list your hours times hourly wage (feel free to not cheat the hours) and put in anything from min. wage to your hourly wage at our real job to the $50.00+ an hour, the custom creation job hours are worth. Then we do a series of discounts: 10% for being a learning example; 25% for not having a deadline; 5% for bringing me coffee etc. until you “price it down” to what you’d like to be paid in labor. (I’m sure in your heart of hearts there is a dollar amount you’d like to be paid for labor.)

This method while sounding silly lets people that don’t ahve a clue (and even some that do) how much a “non-friend” could have/would have charged them. This method has saved me friendships (in my opinion) though I will tell you that I typically go down to something really tiny for labor as I had offered to do it for free, and then many people will kick in more, but again you can’t expect it.

Heather in wisconsin

Much better than pretending to everyone that your time, skills and labour have no (or minimal) worth. It even factors in the value of friendship.

[originally transmitted by e-mail August 12, 2004]

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