Once upon a time, when I had my publishing company, we decided to reduce our printing costs. Every six months we used to print 10,000 copies of the booklet containing the Honey & Mumford Learning Styles Questionnaire. We got a number of different quotations from suppliers for the printing and delivery of the booklets.  A big printing works in Croatia emerged as the clear winner; nearly 50% cheaper than any supplier in the UK.  So, we placed our order with them via an agent based in the UK. 

The printing works were very efficient. They had many customers in the UK (comforting to know) and every two weeks a lorry set off from Croatia to the UK to make deliveries all around the country.  The day came for the first batch to be delivered.  I had received a message saying they were due to reach us at 7am so I was up early and braced for the excitement.

The lorry arrived on time.  I knew it had drawn up outside because the early morning sun was blotted out and the whole house became dark.  It was rather like a total eclipse.  The lorry was a vast Mercedes with an equally vast trailer. It was by far the biggest vehicle I had ever seen venture into our residential avenue.  I was pleased that it had arrived early because it meant that there was a good chance our neighbours were still in bed, oblivious of the obstruction.

The driver spoke not a word of English.  However, it was clear that he was extremely disappointed.  He had expected to be delivering to a factory that owned a fork lift truck.  Instead he found a residential house and one man (me) with a trolley that could only accommodate about 10 boxes at a time. The canvas side of the lorry opened to reveal a forest of pallets, stacked high with printed matter ready to be delivered to numerous customers. ‘Our’ boxes were clearly labelled, stacked neatly on their wooden pallets, encased in polythene sheeting and secured with straps.  Scissors were needed to cut through the polythene and straps and each box had to be manhandled off the lorry and onto my trolley. 

It took an hour working flat out to unload and store the boxes in my double garage.  Throughout the whole process I expected the police to arrive and arrest the driver for parking his enormous lorry in a residential avenue and me for being an accomplice.

Despite the difficulties, we kept the arrangement with Croatia for about three years, always opting for an early morning delivery before neighbours were inconvenienced or even aware. Eventually we decided the hassle wasn’t worth it and, despite the extra cost, switched to a local supplier who could deliver the boxes in small batches on a just-in-time basis.  Far less dramatic – and much better for my blood pressure.

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