Of course, minor inconsistencies aren't going to show up in a catalog, meaning distributors should do their homework and make sure they're comfortable with a given product before committing to an order. "Be aware that no two stress reducers are exactly the same," explained Aaron Bradley, sales coordinator for Chicago-based American Greenwood. "These are manufactured by hand so color, density and size will vary slightly. This is important to let the end-user know before placing an order."
Jennifer Torres, assistant national sales manager for Jornik Manufacturing, Stamford, Conn., recommended that distributors thoroughly test each sample's imprint retention after repeated use, in order to make sure that any branding remains intact. "Whenever possible, always order an imprinted sample of the product," she noted. "Play with the item as much as possible to see how well it holds up to the abuse."
Levin agreed, but took it a step further. "When you're showing the product to your client, order two samples, maybe even three," he said. "Say, 'Here are the samples, notice there is a slight variation from unit to unit, no two units are going to be exactly the same.'"
Still, it doesn't matter how well an imprint holds up if it doesn't look good to begin with, and achieving a high-quality imprint means choosing the right decoration process for a particular stress reducer. Of the two widely-used methods—pad printing and screen printing (silk-screening)—the latter is generally considered preferable. "As a rule, a silk-screened logo will have greater longevity because it requires a thicker coat of ink than pad printing," said Paula Shulman, vice president of sales for Prime Line, Bridgeport, Conn. "When stress relievers age, what appears to be cracking is actually the spongy material absorbing the ink," she continued. "Since silk-screening provides greater ink coverage, this process tends to stand up better to absorption and will look better over time than pad printing."