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Dishonest finish.

Finishers are like atomic scientists -- they provide the technology and what their customers do with it is none of their concern. The technology is |morally neutral'. But if we are honest with ourselves, aren't there some coatings which are, by their very nature, dishonest?

Virtually all coatings, we are told, are either decorative or functional. Clearly, its the decorative ones I'm thinking about now. Year after year, we hear about poor souls, usually on holiday in Southern Europe or the Mediterranean, who buy a nice bit of |gold' jewellery, only to find, when they get home, that it's just plate. Up to a point we should sympathise with such dupes -- but then every layman knows about gold plate and should beware of being swindled. So -- perhaps to your surprise -- I shall not nominate honest gold plate as a |coating designed to deceive'. But gold flash -- that's another story.

This week I was shown a ballpoint pen which is designed to be ticketed around 60 [pounds] (and then no doubt |discounted'). The body is of mild steel, over which is around 3 microns of nickel, with 0.7 or so microns of gold to finish. You know, and I know (as does the wholesaler of this rubbish) that the gold will wear away in a matter of weeks and that even if you don't use the blessed thing, given half a chance it will rust. For the same money or less, you could buy a good plastic pen or one made of stainless -- with a range of interesting finishes. Watches are another consumer item (especially when bought off a barrow) competing for the title of the world's thinnest gold coating. As you probably know, there is no mandatory trade description to indicate to the would-be purchaser what they are getting, even if they know it's |gold plated'.

The same is true for silver plated cutlery and decorative items. Seen historically, one can understand why this is so -- the Assay Offices didn't have the technology to cope. But today, as thickness measurement techniques not only improve, but get much cheaper, there is no excuse for dodging this issue. We've no shortage of august bodies pontificating on a range of issues and topics. Why don't they address this one -- or are they scared of antagonising their members? The indisputable truth is that everyone who purchases one of these golf-flashed items will (sooner rather than later) be kicking themselves.

But hold on -- I haven't actually nominated |the most dishonest finish'. The Matthew Coates prize goes, not to gold, but to brass! And here's why. If you buy something |gold', you must be an idiot if you don't somehow seek to satisfy yourself as to what you are getting. (And even then, the most cautious person can still be deceived). But brass is a different kettle of fish. Being itself a relatively cheap metal, if you or I see something |brass', we might reasonalby assume that it is just that -- solid brass. In fact, however, it could be either mild steel or zinc alloy, brass-plated or even electrophoretically lacquered to a |brass' colour.

These, for my money, are the most dishonest coatings. And what set me off on this track? The sick recognition that those nice hinges on my garden gate were not brass but brass-plated mild steel. Brass plating is not particularly corrosion-resistant. Those hinges deceived me -- I thought they were solid brass -- a splendid and highly appropriate alloy for the job. They were, I suggest, intended to do so. The steel of which they were made could have been nickel plated, cadmium plated, and I would have known and understood.

Now Matthew Coates is famed for his sense of fair play -- so let's let the other side get a word in! Oh -- I see -- they were meant for indoor use only and, with a fair wind and a reasonably well-heated house, they might give at least 10 years good service on the living room door. On an outside door, or in the kitchen or bathroom, lets better make that five years. And of course the oldest excuse of all -- the customers wanted the |brass' look but wasn't prepared to pay for it. Sometimes the packet is discretely marked |brass plated' -- if you're lucky. But not to mince words, if you are in the business of |gold flashing' or brass plating of items which are themselves often made of solid brass, you may not be guilty of any offense, but I'd say you were party to a cheap and tawdry deception.

Congratulations!

Matthew Coates congratulates this month a supplier of electroplating equipment. They were asked to supply a very small item -- a small polypropylene barrel, little more than 300 [pounds] worth. It took enough nagging to get the ordering details from them. The order was then placed. Their office phoned up asking for banker's references (yes, I did say 300 [pounds]) and finally settled for a 30% deposit up front. (Thinking about it, why did the customer not then ask for banker's references from them). The barrel was in due course supplied, though substantially later than the promised order date. A nicely made piece of kit -- with what seemed to be a nylon drivewheel, which effectively negated the whole point of using polypropylene with its high temperature capability.

Back it went for rectification. Not a word of apology to the customer and overall delivery time was roughly the same figure in months as was promised in weeks. From what I gather, companies in this line of business are not exactly overwhelmed with orders at present -- so if this is the sort of shoddy performance they put up when they are slack, heaven knows what its like when they are even half-throttle.

The customer could have had the item air-freighted from the States in two weeks -- and the cost would have been little different. For God's sake (and the guilty parties know who they are) -- get your act together and count your lucky stars I haven't mentioned you by name. You wouldn't have had a legal or moral leg to stand on!

Escape or escapism?

One of the nicest guys I know in finishing has enrolled for a three year part-time management course. After a heavy day's work, instead of evenings by the fire with wife and children, he is either at the Poly or up in the bedroom with his books. Now who could cavil at that? Well I for one! If I now tell you that his MD is well past retirement age and not in best of health, that the company may well lose their best and biggest (not the same thing) customer by the end of the year, and that the lease runs out not long after, and that the long hand of COSHH is beginning to feel its way into their plant, I have to ask myself what dear Peter thinks is the point of mastering the finer points of management when the wolf is so clearly at the door. Is it an exercise in escapism? Or is he already convinced the ship is doomed and simply sewing himself a lifejacket?
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Title Annotation:On Reflection; corrupt trade practices of electroplating
Author:Coates, Matthew
Publication:Finishing
Article Type:Column
Date:Jan 1, 1992
Words:1191
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