Types of Samples
There are three different types of samples we deal with in our industry: random sample, "spec" sample, or "pre-pro" sample. This article will help to define each one, so that you know what to expect when you hear one of these terms.
A random sample is, in the most basic terms, a sample of a product that you want, that the manufacturer takes off their shelves and send your way. Because there is no real regulation or direction to this selection, you may receive a product that has a random imprint already on it or be completely blank. However, we are normally able to specify the color of the actual item.
This type of sample is most commonly used to verify the quality of the product itself. If you have concern about size, fit, or functionality - we always recommend that you inquire about a random sample. To help insure you get the product you want, we do offer your first sample (up to $5) free of charge! We also provide additional samples for an additional cost - although we suggest consulting one of our sales reps to narrow down your focus if you end up trying to get a dozen different samples.
A "spec", or speculative, sample would be a sample that is complete with your artwork imprinted on it. The order would be placed with the manufacturer just like a normal order, but instead of printing off 500 or 10,000 of these products - they would only print off a single one.
This type of sample is most commonly used to gather more "buy in" from a decision maker or the rest of your team. If you have an idea of what product and design you want, but don't have final approval or consensus on one or both of those details, you can get a spec-sample sent to stir up activity.
This is normally the most expensive form of a sample. As our manufacturers are all set up for mass-production, it costs them extra time, labor, and materials to stop their assembly line for a single product - especially if there is no guarantee of an order associated with it. Typically, the factory will charge a spec-sample fee, a set-up fee, and a fee for the actual item.
A "pre-pro", or pre-production, sample is very similar to a spec-sample, with the addition of an association purchase order or payment. It, like the spec-sample, would come with a design of your choosing imprinted on the product. This type of sample would be sent out if a quote and design were approved, payment or terms has/have been met, but you want to verify the final design before the order goes into full-production.
Pre-pro-samples are required on all of our custom, overseas products, as well as most "high-dollar" orders. The cost of the pre-pro sample is often included within the the total cost of the order. As these samples only occur after payment or payment agreement have been made, there would be no additional charges added after your approved invoice/sales order.