Just a Bad Batch?

I was in a newly opened Staples store the other day, where they had a couple of big displays of Moleskines. I don’t recall seeing Moleskines in Staples in the past, so perhaps they’ve just started carrying them. But what I was very happy to see was that of the stock they had on hand, most did not seem to have terribly wide cover overhangs. Over the last few months, the Moleskines I’ve seen elsewhere have been lousy in this respect, with the corners sticking way out– see this post for more details, though that example I bought was far better than others I left on the shelves. I was despairing that I’d never again find a Moleskine without this problem, but seeing the stock in Staples has given me hope that they’ve made some efforts to correct the problem. Maybe it was only particularly bad in a few print runs.

Moleskine is the notebook brand that gets the most flack for quality control corner cutting, mainly because they are the biggest upscale notebook brand out there, and their corporate ownership changes and marketing strategies are so high profile. They’ve made such a big deal of associating themselves with the European artistic and literary tradition that people are really shocked and angry to discover that they’re mass-produced in China. But what about other notebook brands? Surely they have quality control issues too? I recently spotted a rather shocking example.

For many of us notebook aficionados, Rhodia is the anti-Moleskine. It’s the brand that can do no wrong, beloved by fountain pen users and revered for its paper quality. According to everything I’ve read, Rhodia notebooks are still made in France. (Sometimes the wording makes me wonder if it’s just the paper that is made in France, with the assembly of the notebooks done elsewhere, particularly the Webnotebooks, since they are more complex than all the other Rhodia pads. But I will take their word for it and assume they really are made in France.) France obviously has a better reputation than China when it comes to quality of manufacturing. And I don’t think I’ve ever seen a single complaint about Rhodia’s quality control. So I was very surprised to see some very sub-par examples amidst a shelf-full of Rhodia webnotebooks at a Manhattan store called Envelopper (if you are looking to buy Webbies in NYC, they seem to have the widest selection). Unfortunately I didn’t have a chance to snap a picture, but the differences were shocking– the outer wrapper was a very dark reddish orange, very noticeably different from the usual signature Rhodia shade. The cover overhangs, which are always a bit bigger on Webbies, were WAY bigger than usual. The printing on the packaging looked a bit off. Everything I could see about the notebook from outside the shrinkwrap just looked a bit off. I’m tempted to go back and buy one just to see if there are other problems inside too.

Perhaps these just slipped through their usual quality checks. Perhaps they’re cutting corners a bit. Perhaps Rhodia’s French workers were on strike. Perhaps some counterfeiter is sneaking cheap imitation Webnotebooks into the market. Who knows. Has anyone else noticed similar issues? Please tell!

5 thoughts on “Just a Bad Batch?”

  1. I’m glad to finally hear that other brands are getting some flak. I love my moleskines and have been disappointed in the quality and the continued high price point although we know they are now being mass produced and that has to cost less. However, I can’t give them up. They have the perfect line spacing, an envelope in the back and they are just the right size. I know that other brands must have some QC problems because no one is perfect and if they are, their notebooks would be 5 times the price of a moleskine. I think it’s just that moleskines have been so popular, when they make a mistake, everyone knows it.

  2. I’m in the “Rhodia can do no wrong” camp but have never really been disappointed in the Moleskines. I don’t write a tremendous amount so I don’t buy alot of any brand but my last two Webbies have had annoyingly short page markers. How hard can that be to get right? They are black so I can’t vouch for the bad coloring. Not to start a country war but China is very capable of making high quality goods, the problem comes in when the manufacturing customer wants to hit a particular price point (Low).

  3. I am a moleskine lover but finally gave in to try the rhodia pocket size staple notebooks. I always carry a grid pocket notebook for daily use (pocket cahier) and while the paper in the rhodia in obviously of a better quality, I find myself annoyed that the page grids do not line up. I know this may seem trivial, but I find starting my writing on different heights on every page makes it look sloppy. It also is frustrating when I use the grid for diagrams and use successive pages to create layers.

    Obviously there are things that each company can do better than the next, and other that they do not so well.

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