Friday, April 26, 2013



Display of various carbonless business forms


What Are Carbonless Business Forms?

Carbonless business forms at their most basic are simply ink applied in planned repetitive patterns on specially treated paper. Or as I have heard some dismissive printers say, “It is just ink on paper.” The way we choose to look at things has a profound effect upon how we actually perceive them. It is only by great effort that we can look beyond the caterpillar and see a butterfly, glorious in its painted wings, floating effortlessly through a clear blue sky. Carbonless business forms seem to be merely a commodity that is sold without much thought about what they are and how they are used.

On the SEF, Inc. Website, (Click Here), you will find this definition:“A business form at its most basic is a document that is used to collect, store, or transfer information that can be used to manage business or other processes. It is usually printed on paper and has collection fields printed upon it for information to be entered in.” It is a cold and lifeless definition that needs to be expanded upon.

I became involved in the business forms industry at the tender age of 16, operating a New Era press and manufacturing computer punch cards. I moved on to various shops and types of printing, but we were always putting ink on some type of paper. Fortunately, I was taught to take pride in my work and see it not only as a representation of my customer’s image, but as a reflection upon myself as a craftsman. A carbonless form not only represents the company that uses it but also the individuals that produced or procured it. Consider what type of carbonless forms or other printing that you are putting your dealer imprint on. Do they not cast a reflection, good or bad, upon you and your company by the quality of the item produced at your behest? Should they not be the best, as they not only identify your customer but also yourself?

When I pick up a carbonless form or any other printed matter the first thing I look at is the quality of the copy. Is it clear and crisp? Or is it a form that has been shot by cameras and scanned until it is skewed and the letters are starting to fill in? Are the images clear? From this perusal I begin to form an opinion of the company that the form represents. Many times companies are content with quality that is inferior to what can be produced today. They do not perceive that the inferior form is a reflection on their image. They see it as a necessary evil, or only a piece of paper with ink on it.

I remember a medical form that we were printing around ten years ago for a distributor whose client was a hospital in a small town in Alabama. The quality of the form was terrible to the point that I decided if I was in the vicinity of that hospital, I would do all in my power to stay out of it. We gave them a quote to reset their form but the customer refused it. I marveled that a medical facility had no concern for clarity and accuracy in its medical forms. Carbonless forms may be at times all that stand between you and life or death. Is it clear? Is it legible? Will the doctor or the person in the lab understand what information is being conveyed? The answer is, we all hope so, when the patient in need of care is us. Complacency in small details often belies a contempt for greater things.

In a carved wooden box on my dresser, where various memories are stored, for many years lay a canary second sheet from a carbonless business form. It was from Friedman’s Jewelers in High Point, North Carolina. It was hand written and recorded the purchase of a certain diamond ring many years hence. This was to be the engagement ring of the young lady who would one day be my wife. Often times I would take that form from the box and I was transported back in time as a young printer standing at a jewelry counter trying to pick out the perfect ring. A ring that could be bought with his limited resources, and yet be appreciated by his bride to be. Thirty two years later the ring is still there, the symbol of our happy years together. A symbol that began as an agreement with a jewelry company on a carbonless business form.

Carbonless business forms are more than ink on paper. They are the image of a company or organization and even of those who produced or procured it; they are life or death; they are a memory that brings pleasure or pain. When a customer hands you a form to reproduce, remember these things. It is more than ink on paper because we choose to see beyond the necessity to the possibilities that exist in that simple piece of paper. Cast off complacency, and become an advocate for excellence in carbonless business forms and all other types of printing. What are carbonless forms? More than you ever imagined.

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