Glove Terminology

Glovemaking is an old art and has some terms that may be unfamiliar to even the most ardent glove enthusiast.



Buckskin: Leather from deer and elk skin is used for shoes, gloves and clothing. Only the outer cut of the skin from which the surface grain has been removed may be correctly defined as “genuine buckskin”. Leather finished from the split or under cut of deerskin must be described as “split buckskin”.



Buffalo: Buffalo leather is made from the hides of domesticated water buffalo of the Far East, not the American bison.




Calfskin: Leather from young cows. Calf leather is finer grained, lighter in weight and more supple than cowhide.

Camel Skin: Leather from camels has a high wear resistance and is soft.



Clarino: The highest quality synthetic leather in the world. Clarino fibers are thousands of times finer than silk, making it extremely tough – yet supple, dexterous, lightweight, breathable and comfortable to wear all day long. Unlike typical leather, Clarino Amara is breathable and washable, and will not shrink, stretch or harden. Clarino repells wind, water, stains and mildew, and can be machine washed.

Clute Cuff

Clute Cuff

Clute Cut: A glove style with a one piece palm and no seam at the base of the finger. There are seams along the fingers on the inside. Its design is a flexible and good for cotton, synthetic and economical, lightweight leather gloves. Clute Cut is not recommended for heavy gloves.

Color Coding: The glove trade color codes are:
Yellow Extra Small 7
Red  Small 8
Green Medium 9
Brown Large 10
Blue Extra Large 11
Black XXL 12

Corrected Grain: Corrected grain is grain leather that has had an abrasive used on the finish for more uniform appearance. (to hide scratches etc.). Also used to give a soft feeling on grain, then called buffed, snuffed or fluffed.

Cotton: Cotton gloves are made from a natural fiber at an economical price. Cotton is soft, breathable, absorbent, lightweight and durabile. Cotton gloves are used for basic abrasion protection.

Cowhide: Leather from full-grown cows. Cowhide is the most popular leather because of its availability. It strikes a good balance of durability, dexterity, abrasion resistance, and comfort. It can have a smooth or rough finish.

Cuff: The cuff is the material extending beyond the palm of the hand to give extra protection to the wrist and forearm. See Knit Wrist, Safety Cuff, Gauntlet.

Deerskin: Deerskin has high flexibility and is soft, but strong. It is regarded as the best leather for gloves.

dyneemaDyneema: Dyneema® is the world’s strongest fiber. It offers maximum strength combined with minimum weight. It is up to 15 times stronger than quality steel and up to 40% stronger than other man-made fibers. Dyneema® is extremely durable and is resistant to moisture and chemicals. It provides the best cut protection.



Elk: Elkskin is supple yet tough. It dries soft.

Fiber: A fiber is the smallest visible piece of tanned skin (smallest visible by the eye). The skin is no more than thousands fibers, three dimensional, woven together, in the grain almost vertical (80%-85%), in the lowest part of the skin almost horizontal (30%). The degrees of the fiber play a very important role in the wear and tear resistance.

Flock Lined Nitrile

Flock Lined Nitrile

Flock Lined: A glove lined with fine cotton fibers for moisture absorption and easy donning.

Full Grain

Full Grain

Full Grain: Full grain leather has the original grain surface of the skin. It is the finest raw material for gloves as the clean natural hides have not been sanded to remove imperfections. Only the hair has been removed. The grain remains in its natural state which allows the best fiber strength, resulting in greater durability. The natural grain also has natural breathability, resulting in greater comfort. The natural Full-Grain surface will wear better than other leather. Rather than wearing out, it will develop a natural rich texture and grow more beautiful over time. The finest gloves, furniture and footwear are made from Full Grain leather.



Gauntlet: A very long cuff to protect the forearm.



Gemsbok: From the deer family. Economical and soft.



Goatskin: Goatskin is more hard wearing than other leathers and is both durable and supple because of the natural lanolin produced by goats. Mostly available in thin cuts, it gives a pleasing tactile finish with an interesting grain. This leather is highly recommended for applications requiring tactile sensitivity with light to medium protective needs



Grain: The outer, smooth surface of the hide. provides a superior wear resistance compared to split leather. (Grain is also known as Epidermis).

Gunn Cut

Gunn Cut

Gunn Cut: This durable design provides better wear and comfort, especially for heavier gloves. This is the standard construction for leather gloves, featuring the benefits of a single piece seamless back and the finer seams set further away from the working area of the palm. It is also characterized by the two middle fingers sewn separately onto the palm piece.



Gusset: The piece of leather sewn between the fingers, very often used in dress gloves. Also called side wall or fourchette.

Heatlok: Heatlok is a blend of hollow and micro fibers that create a very effective, yet economical insulating material.



Hem: The edge of the cuff finished with a textile, plasticized material or leather.

Impregnated Vinyl

Impregnated Vinyl

Impregnated: The plastic (PVC) does not merely coat the material, but actually penetrates the textile. Used where improved grip and dexterity, or low level cut protection is required.

Interlock Lining

Interlock Lining

Interlock Lining: The inner glove is made of lightweight cotton interlock knit fabric.

Jersey Lined

Jersey Lined

Jersey Lined: The glove is lined with brushed cotton fabric.

kevlarKevlar: Kevlar® is 5 times stronger than steel, yet, at the same time, is lightweight, flexible and comfortable. Its resistance to chemicals, heat, flames, cuts and breaking makes it one of the best protective materials for gloves.

Keystone Thumb

Keystone Thumb

Keystone Thumb: This classic ergonomic design of the thumb results in superior movement and comfort. Found mostly on driver’s gloves

Knit Wrist

Knit Wrist

Knit Wrist: A knit wrist is a stretch knitted material, mostly from cotton, to protect the wrist. Also excellent protection against particles falling into the glove. Length is usually 2 – 2.5 inch.

Latex: Latex is a natural rubber product that offers barrier protection to guard against contaminants and chemicals. Because it stretches, it is comfortable. Synthetic materials are frequently stiffer than latex, and less comfortable to wear. Latex gloves are usually less expensive than synthetic rubber gloves that provides chemical resistance, economical price.

Leather Gloves

Leather Gloves

Leather: Excellent protection for abrasion and cuts, breathable and comfort at an economical price.

Lock Stitch

Lock Stitch

Lock Stitch: The lockstitch is the mechanical stitch most commonly made by sewing machines. Lockstitch is so named because the two threads, upper and lower, “lock” together in the hole in the fabric through which they pass. Unlike chain stitch, lockstitch does not unravel easily and is usually used on higher quality garments.



Neoprene: A synthetic rubber with a high chemical and heat resistance. Famous for its use in wetsuits, Neoprene has proven its superiority for decades with support, flexibility, warmth and impact protection in water sports and medical applications.



Nitrile: Nitrile gloves are manufactured using synthetic latex, contain no latex proteins, and are three times more puncture resistant than natural rubber. They offer superior resistance to punctures and abrasions and are also used for protection against a variety of chemicals. Nitrile material also has a naturally low coefficient of friction, making them easy to don (put on).



Nylon: Nylon is a synthetic fiber which is lightweight, exceptionally strong, resilient and abrasion resistant. It is easy to wash, fast drying and resists shrinkage, wrinkling and damage from oil and many chemicals.

Pattern: The design of the glove. Most common patterns are Gunn cut and Clute cut.

Pig skin


Pigskin: Pigskin is known for resilience, holding up well against abrasion, staying pliable with wear, and better withstanding stiffening after exposure to moisture. Pigskin offers the greatest breathability due to the porous texture of this hide. Pigskin is economical and becomes softer with use.



Polypropylene: Polypropylene is an economical tough, heat-resistant, material that offers high tensile strength (tear resistance). Polypropylene possesses excellent resistance to organic solvents, degreasing agents, acids and alkalies. It is light in weight, non-toxic, resistant to staining, retains flex and has a low moisture absorption rate.

Polyurethane Gloves

Polyurethane Gloves

Polyurethane (Poly): A synthetic material with high abrasion resistance. It is chemical resistant and very flexible. Polyurethane offers the elasticity of rubber combined with the toughness and durability of metal. Urethanes have better abrasion and tear resistance than rubbers, while offering more strength. Polyurethane offers excellent wear properties, flexibility and elastic memory. It is resistant to oils, solvents, fats, greases and gasoline. Polyurethane will remain flexible down to -90°F and in hot water up to 175°F.

Powdered: A glove that is dusted with corn starch for moisture absorption and easy donning.

Puncture Resistant: Due to their inherent construction, conventional materials such as cotton, leather, aramids, and nylons are unable to stop sharp objects from penetrating through the material. Puncture resistant products provide superior puncture protection utilizing a variety of different technology.

PVC Gloves

PVC Gloves

PVC (Polyvinyl chloride, known as Vinyl): PVC protects against a broad range of low hazard chemicals.PVC has high strength, good weather resistance and retains its shape. It is non-toxic and has good electrical insulating properties.

Rawhide: Rawhide is cattle hide that has been de-haired, treated with lime, oil or grease but has not been tanned.

Safety Cuff

Safety Cuff

Safety Cuff: A cuff with a slit opening on the side enabling the wearer to throw the glove off.

Shoulder Split Gloves

Shoulder Split Gloves

Shoulder Split: This comes from the shoulder area where the hide is less uniform in density and appearance. The result is a less durable, but more affordable leather.

Side Split: This comes from the back and side portions of the animal. The hide is densest here, yielding a consistently durable grade leather.

Split: When a thick piece of leather is split into two thinner pieces, the top piece will have grain (Top Grain) and the bottom piece will be suede on both sides. The bottom piece is the split.

Tanning: The process whereby the skin or hide of animals is treated to prevent decay and to impart flexibility and toughness.

Tensile Strength (Tear Resistance): In leather, tensile strength is important. You may have a beautiful looking piece of leather but it may not have any tear resistance. Leather has its tear resistance in the split portion of the hide due to the three dimensional woven interlocking fibers. Also very important in the tear resistance is the flesh side (bottom of skin where the leather meets the meat). Other factors also play an important role such as how well tanned the leather is (not too loose), type of animal, part of hide (belly, shoulder, side), etc. Grain leather has a bad tear resistance due to the vertical fiber structure.

Terry Cloth

Terry Cloth

Terry Cloth: This poly/cotton material blend is tough enough to hold up to the rigors of a work glove, yet is soft enough to wipe sweat and debris away from your face. Terry cloth can absorb up to 27 times its own weight in water.

Thinsulate: The fibers of Thinsulateâ„¢ Insulation are fine, making them ideal for trapping insulating air and reflecting back the body’s radiant heat. Tests have shown that Thinsulate insulation’s ability of an insulation to keep you warm remains relatively unchanged even after repeated machine washings. When you compare equal thicknesses, Thinsulate insulation offers almost one-and-one-half times the warmth of down, providing more warmth with less bulk.

Thread: Thread can be divided in two types: cotton and synthetic. The synthetic threads are usually stronger but in certain applications (like welding gloves) cotton is preferred because a synthetic thread may melt because of the heat. In welding gloves Kevlar might be used as well because it is very strong and heat resistant.

Top Grain

Top Grain

Top Grain: Top Grain Leather is fuzzy on one side and smooth on the other. The smooth side is the side where the hair and natural grain used to be. Top Grain leather is a lower quality material than Full Grain leather. It has less tensile strength because all the natural grain is sanded off, and an artificial grain has been applied.

Unsupported Glove

Unsupported Glove

Unsupported Glove: A glove made by dipping a mold into liquid latex or plastic. The glove is created when the material dries and is removed from the mold.



Welt: A thin piece of leather sewn into the seam to strengthen it. Often a welt is used in the seam at the crotch of the thumb and the base of the finger.

Wing Thumb

Wing Thumb

Wing Thumb: The angled construction allows good flexibility with no seams on the palm side to obstruct work or cause fatigue. Found on welding, drivers, leather palm, and ergonomic gloves.



Wool: Wool is a natural fiber and an excellent insulator. It keeps you warm in winter and cool in summer. Wool retains its shape and resists tearing, abrasion, soiling and flames. It can easily absorb up to 30% of its weight in moisture without feeling damp or clammy.

History: Latex Gloves 1

Charles Goodyear and the Strange Story of Rubber


In midsummer of 1834 a bankrupt hardware merchant from Philadelphia, Charles Goodyear, walked into the New York retail store of the Roxbury India Rubber Co., America’s first rubber manufacturer. He showed the store manager a new valve he had devised for rubber life preservers. The manager shook his head sadly. The company wasn’t in the market for valves now; it would be lucky to stay in business at all.

He showed Goodyear why: rack on rack of rubber goods which had been melted to malodorous glue by the torrid weather. In the company’s factory at Roxbury, Mass., he confided, thousands of melted rubber articles were being returned by outraged customers. The directors had met in the dead of night to bury $20,000 worth of stinking rejects in a pit.

The “rubber fever” of the early 1830s had ended as suddenly as it had begun. At first everybody had wanted things made of the new waterproof gum from Brazil, and factories had sprung up to meet the demand. Then abruptly the public had become fed up with the messy stuff which froze bone-hard in winter and turned glue-like in summer. Not one of the young rubber companies survived as long as five years. Investors lost millions. Rubber, everyone agreed, was through in America.

Goodyear disappointedly pocketed the valve and took his first good look at rubber. He had played with bits of it as a child, but now, at 34, he experienced a sudden curiosity and wonder about this mysterious “gum elastic.” “There is probably no other inert substance,” he said later, “which so excites the mind.”

Returning to Philadelphia, Goodyear was clapped into jail for debt. It was not his first sojourn there, nor his last. He asked his wife to bring him a batch of raw rubber and her rolling pin. Here, in his cell, Goodyear made his first rubber experiments, kneading and working the gum hour after hour.

Charles GoodyearIf rubber was naturally adhesive, he reasoned, why couldn’t a dry powder be mixed in to absorb its stickiness — perhaps the talc-like magnesia powder sold in drugstores? Out of jail again, he tried, with promising results.


He talked a boyhood friend into backing a modest venture. Charles, his wife and small daughters made up several hundred pairs of magnesia-dried rubber overshoes in their kitchen. But before he could market them summer came, and he watched his footwear sag into shapeless paste.

Neighbors complained about Goodyear’s smelly gum, so he moved his experiments to New York. There a friend gave him a fourth-floor tenement bedroom for his “laboratory.” A brother-in-law came to his squalid quarters, lectured him about his hungry children, advised him that rubber was dead. “I am the man to bring it back,” said Goodyear.

He was adding two drying agents to his rubber now, magnesia and quicklime, then boiling the mixture and getting a better product all the time. Impressed, a New York trade show awarded him a medal.

Goodyear lavished all the arts of decoration on his dingy samples, painted them, gilded them, embossed them. Running short of material one morning, he decided to re-use an old decorated sample and applied nitric acid to remove its bronze paint. The piece turned black, and Goodyear threw it away.

A few days later he remembered that somehow the blackened scrap had felt different. He retrieved it from his trash can and found he was right. The nitric acid had done something to the rubber, made it almost as smooth and dry as cloth. This was better rubber than anyone had ever made before.

A New York businessman advanced several thousand dollars to begin production. But the financial panic of 1837 promptly wiped out both the backer and the business. Destitute, Charles and his family camped in the abandoned rubber factory on Staten Island, living on fish he caught in the harbor.

In time, Goodyear got new backing in Boston and again seesawed to momentary prosperity. His partners wangled a government contract for 150 mailbags, to be manufactured by the nitric-acid process. After making the bags Goodyear was so sure of himself that he stored them in a warm room and took the family away for a month’s vacation. When he returned, the mailbags were melted. Underneath their “dry-as-cloth” surface lay the same old sticky gum.

After five futile years, Goodyear was near rock bottom. Farmers around Woburn, Mass. where he now lived, gave his children milk and let them dig half-grown potatoes for food.

The great discovery came in the winter of 1839. Goodyear was using sulphur in his experiments now. Although Goodyear himself has left the details in doubt, the most persistent story is that one February day he wandered into Woburn’s general store to show off his latest gum-and-sulphur formula. Snickers rose from the cracker-barrel forum, and the usually mild-mannered little inventor got excited, waved his sticky fistful of gum in the air. It flew from his fingers and landed on the sizzling-hot potbellied stove.

When he bent to scrape it off, he found that instead of melting like molasses, it had charred like leather. And around the charred area was a dry, springy brown rim — “gum elastic” still, but so remarkably altered that it was virtually a new substance. He had made weatherproof rubber.

This discovery is often cited as one of history’s most celebrated “accidents.” Goodyear stoutly denied that. Like Newton’s falling apple, he maintained, the hot stove incident held meaning only for the man “whose mind was prepared to draw an inference.” That meant, he added simply, the one who had “applied himself most perseveringly to the subject.”

The winter after Goodyear’s discovery was the blackest of his life. Dyspeptic and gout-racked, his health broken, he hobbled about his experiments on crutches. He knew now that heat and sulphur miraculously changed rubber. But how much heat, for how long? With endless patience he roasted bits of rubber in hot sand, toasted them like marshmallows, steamed them over the teakettle, pressed them between hot irons. When his long-suffering wife took her bread from the oven he thrust in chunks of evil-smelling gum.

At night he lay awake, afraid that he would die and the secret die with him. He pawned his watch and the household furniture.

When even the dinnerware was gone, he made rubber dishes to eat from. Then the food was gone too.

That spring he went to Boston to look up friends, found none, was jailed for nonpayment of a $5 hotel bill, and came home to find his infant son dead. Unable to pay for a funeral, Goodyear hauled the little coffin to the graveyard in a borrowed wagon. Of the 12 Goodyear children, six died in infancy.

At last he found that steam under pressure, applied for four to six hours at around 270 degrees Fahrenheit, gave him the most uniform results. He wrote his wealthy New York brother-in-law — who had once lectured him about his parental obligations — of his discovery. This time the brother-in-law, a textile manufacturer, was interested, for Charles told him that interwoven rubber threads would produce the fashionable puckered effect then much favored in men’s shirts. Two “shirred goods” factories were rushed into production and, on the ruffled shirtfronts of dandies, rubber rode to worldwide success.

As soon as he could, Goodyear disposed of the manufacturing interests which might have made him a millionaire and went back to his experiments. He wanted to make everything of rubber: banknotes, musical instruments, flags, jewelry, ship sails, even ships themselves. He had his portrait painted on rubber, his calling cards engraved on it, his autobiography printed on and bound in it. He wore rubber hats, vests, ties.

Goodyear saw rubber as what we know it is today: the first and most versatile of the modern “plastics.” He perceived in it a “vegetable leather” that defied the elements, an “elastic metal,” a wood substitute that could be shaped in molds.

Some of his ideas still turn up as “new” uses for rubber. Many food packagers, for example, now wrap their products in Pliofilm, a rubber-derived plastic; Goodyear suggested the same application in 1850. Rubber paint, car springs, ferryboat bumpers, wheelbarrow tires, inflatable life rafts, and “frogmen” suits are other recent innovations he described a century ago.

Goodyear’s business deals, licensing manufacture under his scores of patents, were ridiculously bad. Shirred-goods rights, for instance, went for royalty of three cents a yard; the licensees made $3 a yard.

Against “patent pirates” Goodyear was forced to prosecute 32 infringement cases all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. In one famous 1852 case, his advocate was no less a personage than Secretary of State Daniel Webster. Goodyear paid Webster $15,000 for temporarily doffing the robes of Cabinet office — the largest fee ever paid an American lawyer to that time. In a two-day speech Webster won a permanent injunction against further patent infringements. It made headlines, but it didn’t stop the piracy.

Goodyear was slow in filing foreign patent applications. But he had sent samples of his heat-and-sulphur-treated gum to British rubber companies without revealing details. One sample was seen by famed English rubber pioneer Thomas Hancock, who had been trying for 20 years to make weatherproof rubber. Hancock noticed a yellowish sulphur “bloom” on the Goodyear sample’s surface. With that clue, he reinvented vulcanized rubber in 1843, four years after Goodyear. By the time Goodyear applied for an English patent he found that Hancock had filed a few weeks earlier.

Offered a half-share of the Hancock patent to drop his suit, Goodyear foolishly declined — and lost. A friend of Hancock named the contested process “vulcanization,” after Vulcan, the Roman god of fire.

At the London and Paris world’s fairs of the 1850s Goodyear installed great pavilions built entirely of rubber, floor to roof. When his French patent was canceled on a technicality and his French royalties stopped before he could pay his bills, he was seized by gendarmes and hustled off to a 16-day stay at his familiar “hotel” (as he called it) — debtors’ prison. There he received the Cross of the Legion of Honor, bestowed by Emperor Napoleon III.

When he died, in 1860, he was $200,000 in debt. Eventually, however, accumulated royalties made his family comfortable. His son Charles Jr., inherited something more precious — inventive talent — and later built a small fortune on shoemaking machinery.


Neither Goodyear nor his family was ever connected with the company named in his honor, today’s billion-dollar Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., the world’s largest rubber business. In 1898, almost four decades after his death, the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company was founded and named after Goodyear by Frank Seiberling. Goodyear’s only direct descendant among modern companies is United States Rubber, which years ago absorbed a small company he once served as director.

Today there is a cultivated rubber tree for every two human beings on earth. Three million tree “milkers” harvest the crop. The United States alone imports almost half of it, and synthesizes as much or more from petroleum. Nearly 300,000 Americans earn their livelihoods in rubber manufacturing, this year will produce $6 billion worth of products.

The whole huge apparatus owes its existence to the invincible little fanatic who might have died a bitter man, but didn’t.

“Life,” he wrote, “should not be estimated exclusively by the standard of dollars and cents. I am not disposed to complain that I have planted and others have gathered the fruits. A man has cause for regret only when he sows and no one reaps.”

Reprinted from the January 1958 issue of Reader’s Digest ©1957

History: Latex Gloves 2

William Stewart Halsted, the Father of “Safe” Surgery


In 1878, Caroline Hampton, the niece of famed Confederate general Wade Hampton III, and graduate of New York Hospital, became a scrub nurse to the famous Johns Hopkins surgeon.
Caroline Hampton worked for William Stewart Halsted, who is for many medical and surgical achievements. He is the father of “safe” surgery

Nurses and physicians had to scrub for a long time with harsh soap and then dip their hands in mercuric chloride. Many proved to be hypersensitive to the procedure, including Hampton; she soon developed dermatitis on her arms and hands. Hampton was an excellent scrub nurse and rather than lose her, Halsted contacted Goodyear Rubber Company which had been experimenting with new rubber products. The result was a specially made pair of thin rubber gloves which eliminated the necessity for Hampton to dip her hands in the mercuric chloride. She soon became so adept with the gloves that others, following her example, began using them.

Halsted wrote the following description in a 1913 review article on surgical technique.  “In the winter of 1889 and 1890 – I cannot recall the month – the nurse in charge of my operating room complained that the solutions of mercuric chloride produced a dermatitis of her arms and hands. As she was an unusually efficient woman, I gave the matter my consideration and one day in New York requested the Goodyear Rubber Company to make as an experiment two pair of thin rubber gloves with gauntlets.  On trial these proved to be so satisfactory that additional gloves were ordered. In the autumn, on my return to town, an assistant who passed the instruments and threaded the needles was also provided with rubber gloves to wear at the operations. At first the operator wore them only when exploratory incisions into joints were made. After a time the assistants became so accustomed to working in gloves that they also wore them as operators and would remark that they seemed to be less expert with bare hands than with the gloved hands.”

Infection dropped from twenty percent to almost nothing, and by 1894 all operating surgeons at Johns Hopkins were ordered to wear rubber gloves. Rubber gloves soon became standard equipment for medical and nursing personnel and, of course, as a suitable climax for the story, Hampton and Halsted were married.


Billhead of a Goodyear Rubber Gloves Distributor

Bonnie Bullough: The care of the sick: the emergence of modern nursing. 1979

History: Latex Gloves 3

Neil Tillotson, The Wizard of Dixville Notch

Neil Tilotson

Tillotson Rubber Company was founded in 1931 by entrepreneur Neil Tillotson, or “Mr. T,” as he was affectionately called. Synthetic rubber had been invented only 20 years earlier by Russian scientist S. V. Lebedev, and latex (rubber in its liquid form) had just been introduced in the 1920s. Those breakthroughs, combined with processing and vulcanizing technologies developed earlier and improved during the 1910s and 1920s, initiated a new era for the rubber industry. During World War I, particularly, demand for rubber surged as warring nations sought substitutes for limited traditional rubber supplies.

Tillotson got into the latex and synthetic rubber industry just as it was dawning. The 16-year-old Tillotson left a commercial trade school early, forgoing a probable future as an accountant to pursue his interest in technology and engineering. He answered an ad for a position in Singapore with the United States Rubber Company, but a concerned uncle arranged for him to take a job closer to home with the Hood Rubber Company laboratory in nearby Watertown, Massachusetts. His experiences at Hood, a processor of natural rubber, eventually led him to become interested in emerging synthetic rubber technologies and to form his own company.

From the start, the adventurous, ambitious, and forward-thinking Tillotson was destined to run his own unique and successful enterprise. And his background had prepared him well for the challenges he would face. His ancestors had thrived in the Northeastern United States before the French and Indian Wars, and Tillotson was raised by frugal, independent Yankees in northern Vermont. His upbringing taught him that “the simple solution was often the best one and that an open mind was the seed bed of successful solutions,” and that “if you own things at the ‘right price’ you never have to worry about being able to make a profit.”

Tillotson had shown his entrepreneurial bent at the age of ten. He saved enough money to buy a 1,000-mile book of commuter railroad tickets, for which he paid only two cents per mile. The cost of a single ticket was three cents per mile. The enterprising Tillotson was able to rent the books to other travelers at a rate of two-and-one-half cents per mile and turn a quick profit. According to his son Tom (in a 1990 speech to the Newcomen Society), that “fifty-fifty sharing of the benefits between the participants in a transaction became the cornerstone of his business philosophy.”

By the time he was in high school Tillotson was anxious to be on his own. He left home and high school early, in his early teens, and managed to find work on a chicken farm for room and board in Lowell, Massachusetts. He began attending the commercial trade school to prepare for a career in accounting. Shortly thereafter he left to take the job with Hood Rubber. He would work for Hood Rubber for several years before starting his own business, but not continuously. Shortly after taking the job at Hood, he quenched his desire for adventure by enlisting in the cavalry during World War I. The underaged recruit–Tillotson lied about his age to get in–expected to go to Europe, but was sent to Texas instead. Interestingly, Tillotson served as a cavalry trooper under General Pershing, chasing the infamous Pancho Villa through the hills of northern Mexico.

In 1918 Tillotson returned to Boston, and to his job at Hood Rubber. He studied engineering at night school, but his boss at Hood quickly realized that Tillotson’s problem-solving abilities and lab skills were largely innate. Tillotson, a high school dropout, in many ways was outperforming graduate engineers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In fact, Tillotson’s lack of formal training was a plus in that he often reached solutions based on intuition–Tillotson later adopted a lab technique championed by rubber industry guru Harvey Firestone of not taking any lab notes and minimizing formality in an effort to enhance creativity and problem solving.

After latex was invented in the 1920s in Germany, Hood Rubber assigned Tillotson to a team of researchers that investigated uses for the natural liquid rubber. Tillotson quickly realized that a big advantage that latex had over hardened natural rubber was that it could be used to create products without heavy machinery. Although Tillotson was fascinated by latex, Hood Rubber showed little interest in the material because it had already invested heavily in hardened rubber technologies. So Tillotson worked in his attic lab at home, along with his unemployed brother and father-in-law, to develop a product that they could produce with latex and sell.

True inspiration to develop a product came to the threesome early in 1931, when fallout from the Great Depression forced Hood to shut down its Watertown plant for a few weeks and to furlough its workers. The entire Tillotson family worked almost endlessly during the downtime to perfect their first marketable product: a balloon made with ears and painted with a cat’s face. A Boston novelty company named C. Decieco & Son was Tillotson’s first customer. Decieco purchased more than 2,000 of the balloons and was able to sell them the next day at a parade in Lexington.


The Tillotson family went to the parade to see how their product was received. Neil Tillotson was sure that they had a hot product on their hands when he saw a little girl pull her balloon down and kiss the cat’s face. The next day he sunk his entire savings of $720 into his new venture. He rented a factory for $25 per month and started what was first called Gardner Rubber Co. and soon dubbed Tillotson Rubber Co. Incredibly, the fledgling business churned out a whopping 5 million balloons during its first year of business. The company generated sales of $85,000 that year and turned a tidy profit of $5,000, which was an impressive sum for a business started with only $720 in the midst of the Depression.

Tillotson left his job at Hood in 1932 to devote all of his time to the new company. He paid $8 for a Greyhound bus ticket that would allow him unlimited stops on a trip from Boston to St. Louis. For five weeks he jockeyed from town to town. When he would get to a new city he would get the names of wholesale novelty dealers out of the phone book at the bus station and then visit and try to sell his cat-faced balloons to them. True to his frugal upbringing, he cut costs by sleeping on the bus, washing in men’s rooms, and eating sparingly in small-town cafeterias. He returned from the five-week trip with a bounty of orders for the upcoming year.

Tillotson managed to grow his company throughout the early and mid-1930s, despite the rough economy of the period. In 1937 he moved to a larger manufacturing facility. He also began developing and manufacturing a few other latex products, including latex-coated gloves and aprons for chemical workers. During World War II, when demand for latex and other rubber products soared, Neil Tillotson served as a consultant to the War Production Board, identifying sources of rubber to replace depleted natural supplies.

It was not until after the Second World War that Tillotson’s sales soared. Balloons continued to be the company’s mainstay, but Tillotson began experimenting with other products. Among other successful offerings, the company developed and manufactured latex girdles, baby pants, and latex-coated ink sacks. Tillotson Rubber secured its niche by staying on the cutting edge of technology. The company built the first high-volume automated dipping conveyor, which allowed a single operator to produce large volumes of balloons and other goods at a rapid pace. The high-tech machine was a major advancement, as most companies at the time still performed latex dipping by hand using racks. The conveyor was still in use in the early 1990s, producing boots that kept windshield wipers from freezing in the winter.

Tillotson Rubber’s big breakthrough came in the early 1960s, although the company would not fully capitalize on the breakthrough until the 1970s. Neil had hired a part-time lab technician named Bud Consolie. Consolie, who was a full-time fireman, became known in the company as a development genius. He was instrumental in helping Tillotson Rubber to develop the first latex medical glove. The chief advantage of the glove was that it was elastic, so one size easily fit all hands. With gloves and balloons as its core products, Tillotson Rubber managed to post average annual sales of about $1 million throughout the late 1960s and into the 1970s.

Neil’s sons, Rick and Tom, became involved in the business in the 1960s and in 1971 the family restructured the company as a partnership composed of all three men. Rick took charge of plant operations and Tom assumed responsibility for sales. The brothers started moving the company’s manufacturing operation to Dixville Notch, New Hampshire, where their father had purchased a hotel called The Balsams. The hotel had been a successful resort near Neil Tillotson’s grandparents’ home when he was a boy. It went bankrupt in the 1960s and Neil purchased it with the intent of running it as a hotel, or even as a factory for his company. It eventually became both; the Balsams became a premier ski resort in the 1970s and was also used to house part of the company’s manufacturing operations.

Tillotson Rubber flourished during the 1970s and much of the 1980s under the direct guidance of Tom and Rick. Rick took control of the balloon business, diversifying from conventional novelties into new markets for balloon bouquets, balloon sculptures, and mylar foil balloons. The company was eventually churning out more than 100 million balloons per year, and it was still producing the original cat-faced balloons. Tom oversaw the medical glove business, which grew rapidly. By the mid-1980s Tillotson was operating the largest examination glove plant in the world. A subsequent plant expansion gave the company a production capacity of more than 1 billion gloves annually.

Meanwhile, Neil Tillotson remained active in the business and pursued related interests. In 1972 he engineered the purchase of the former Firestone Tire & Rubber facility in Fall River, Massachusetts. It became the foundation of the company’s manufacturing expansion in the Northeast. In the late 1970s Neil pursued a goal he had set during World War II of developing a commercially viable source of natural rubber latex in the Americas. He bought 35,000 acres on the east coast of Nicaragua on which he planned to build a plantation, but the property was seized a few years later by the rebel Sandinista government. In 1979 Neil purchased an experimental plantation in Guatemala from Firestone. He nurtured the plantation and by the late 1980s all of Tillotson’s latex glove operations were being supplied by the local source. Neil even bought a freighter and built a latex processing plant as part of an effort that resulted in full vertical integration for the company.

Aside from innovative products and manufacturing technology, Tillotson Rubber Co.’s success throughout the mid-1900s and through the 1980s was largely attributable to Neil Tillotson’s partnership philosophy. Tillotson believed that any time the right people were brought together with the right products, success was imminent. Thus Tillotson’s organization was essentially composed of a number of partnerships that gave responsibility for different aspects of the business to different people or entities.

For example, Tillotson marketed its latex examination gloves by forming numerous partnerships with medical products distributors. To set up that marketing stratagem, the company formed a partnership with a respected Tillotson employee named Cal Robinson. The Tillotsons helped Robinson set up his own company, which ultimately assumed responsibility for all aspects related to marketing the gloves. Meanwhile, Tillotson handled all manufacturing-related duties. As with all of the company’s partnerships, the arrangement created a win-win situation in which all parties benefited.

Tillotson’s partnership strategy eventually resulted in a network of companies centered around Tillotson Rubber Co. Those companies, by the early 1990s, included the following: Best Manufacturing, a top producer of industrial gloves; Tillotson-Pearson, a maker of fiberglass sail and power boats and industrial fiberglass products; Textile Rubber and Chemical Company, the largest independent supplier of backing compounds used by the carpet industry; and Borden and Remington Chemical, which was a leading New England manufacturer and distributor of industrial chemicals.


Among the most prosperous of Tillotson’s segments during the late 1980s was latex gloves. The fear of contracting and transmitting AIDS in the medical community, and in other markets, spawned massive demand growth for hand protection.  Remarkably, the company’s 97-year-old founder, Neil Tillotson, was still active in the company in 1995 after nearly 65 years of service. He died at age 102 on October 17, 2001.

Principal Subsidiaries: Best Manufacturing.
Source:  International Directory of Company Histories, Vol. 15. St. James Press, 1996.

Boss Gloves


PalmFlex is pleased to announce that we have added Boss Manufacturing (Established 1893) to our list of vendors. Boss Manufacturing Company has the illustrious claim of being the oldest glove company in the United States.

History of Boss Manufacturing
In 1887 a farmer in Kewanee, Illinois by the name of H. H. Perkins invented a unique corn husking tool which he called the Perkins Boss Husker. This instrument, also known as a corn shucker was worn on the hand with the metal hook facing the thumb. The hook was thrust into the lower end of the husked ear and twisted, tearing off the dried husk. and leaving only the delicious cob, or seed rack of the corn for cooking.

Original Boss Corn Husker

Original Boss Corn Husker

In the nineteenth century, corn was a staple of the American diet, as it is today. It was from the Native Americans that the first European settlers learned about corn. In Native American usage, the word for corn means “our life,” or “our mother,” or “she who sustains us.” It was the cultivation of corn that turned Native American tribes from nomadic to agrarian communities.

In May 1890, Mr. Perkins patented his instrument and started making husking pins in a very small room, not more than fifteen feet square. They manufactured four styles of husking pins. These pins became known for many years thereafter as the best hand held utensils for husking corn. Their use extended around the world.
In the early 1890s, it was common practice for farmers’ wives to purchase cloth and make work mittens for their husbands. Mr. Perkins hired some of these women to manufacture mittens for farmers to wear in husking season. They used Canton flannel, which is a soft cotton fabric, and is still used in some of the work gloves that Boss makes to this very day.

Mr. Perkins purchased some basic machinery to manufacture the mittens which the farmers’ wives had until then made by hand, and in 1893 Mr. Perkins organized his business as Boss Manufacturing Company. In the same year the new company purchased forty acres of land in Kewanee and built their first factory, which was a landmark for decades. The company grew exponentially and factories were established in Galesburg Illinois, Fort Wayne Indiana, Findlay Ohio, New York City and Beatrice Nebraska. By 1910 the company had nine factories and employed one thousand, six hundred people, most of them young women.

Boss Advertisement from 1920

Boss Advertisement from 1920

Boss Manufacturing Today

Boss Manufacturing Company Warehouse

Today, the Company’s headquarters are still in Kewanee with distribution centers and sales personnel located throughout the United States and Canada.  Boss has kept up with emerging technology and sophisticated distribution techniques to meet the needs of a complex and ever changing marketplace. They import, market and channel gloves to global markets with an extensive product selection. Some of their gloves are still made in the USA and they still have a reputation of making the best chore gloves in the world.

Boss is not a company inclined to sit on its laurels. In its pursuit of excellent, Boss Manufacturing Company has been the recipient of numerous awards in recent years.

  • 2007 New product runner up – Distribution America & Pro Hardware – Boss Muddy Mate & Boss Dirt Digger
  • 2007 Vendor of the Year Distribution America
  • 2006 New product runner up – Distribution America & Pro Hardware – Frosty Grip
  • 2004 Vendor of the Year Pro Hardware
  • 2004 Vendor of the Year Distribution America

When you wear a pair of Boss gloves, you are not only protecting your hands, you are wearing a piece of American history.


View Our Boss Gloves

Copyright © 2009 Darryl Abrahms

History: Worshipful Company

glovers coat of arms

Glovers Coat of Arms

The Worshipful Company of Glovers of London is a guild of glove-makers that was formed in 1349. The company still survives today, although now it is primarily a charitable organization. A ceremonial link, though, is still maintained; the Company formally presents the King or Queen of England with gloves upon his or her coronation.The Company’s motto is True Hearts and Warm Hands.

Gloves for the Coronation

Gloves for the Coronation

Following is an ordinance of the The Worshipful Company of Glovers of London from its inception.

“Also – that no one of them shall sell his wares in any house at night by candle-light, seeing that folks cannot have such good knowledge by candle-light as by day-light, whether the wares are made of good leather or of bad, or whether they are well and lawfully or falsely made, on pain of forfeiting to the use of the Chamber the wares so sold by candle-light.


Ralph W. Waggett: A History of the Worshipful Company of Glovers of London 2000

The Worshipful Company of Glovers of London web site

High Visibility Gloves


2,500 injuries per year are visibility-related

Nearly 100 road construction workers are killed and more than 20,000 are injured in highway and street construction accidents each year, according to NIOSH. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that 2,500 of those 20,000 injuries are visibility-related.

Hi-vis apparel acts as a first line of defense to protect workers from being injured or killed in these visibility-related accidents. Brighter and safer: that’s the thinking behind the new standards and the products being produced to meet them.

Introducing hi-vis gloves
Hi-vis apparel is also important in work situations where being seen is not necessarily a life or death question. In these instances that do not call for the use of reflective vests, the addition of hi-vis protective gloves can be a key safety enhancement.

For this reason, hand protection manufacturers have begun to introduce specialized as well as general purpose hi-visibility gloves over the past few years — even though there is not yet a specific ANSI rating for these gloves.

Hi-vis gloves are being manufactured in the fluorescent colors (yellow, green, orange and red) known to provide contrast with prevailing ambient backgrounds found in daytime urban and rural situations. Fluorescent materials contain certain pigments that are activated by ultraviolet and short wavelength visible light for enhanced daytime contrast. The maximum effect of fluorescent materials is apparent during twilight and overcast conditions.

Some of these hi-vis gloves have special sponge nitrile palm coatings to provide oil and grease absorption in oily, slippery conditions. Research continues to make these gloves more and more comfortable and utilitarian.

Already hi-vis gloves are providing extra visibility on construction sites and in warehouses. They may also prove to be the answer for workers who only occasionally need extra visibility. For example, a truck driver could carry them in case he needs to step out of the truck on the roadway. A maintenance worker might have a pair of hi-vis gloves at the ready for those occasions where visibility is lessened.

Hi-vis lingo
The following seven terms are key to the discussion of hi-visibility materials:

  • Hi-visibility material is any material or device that generates its own light in an active or primary light source format to a brightness level that allows it to be seen easily. In a passive (or secondary light source) format, high-visibility materials reflect light generated by an active light source.
  • Reflectivity is the measure of a material’s ability to reflect light in an efficient manner. Hi-vis materials absorb less of the radiant energy that falls on them, and thus reflect a greater degree back.
  • Fluorescent materials are materials containing certain pigments activated by ultraviolet and short wavelength visible light.
  • Candlepower is a term used in the brightness measurement of retroreflective materials, and one that is useful in comparing products. One candlepower is a brightness level approximately 2.5 times greater than the brightness of white cotton fabric.
  • Decision sight distance is a term used in traffic engineering that assumes a 2.5-second reaction time, followed by a deceleration of a vehicle under human operation.
  • Angularity pertains to the ability of a material to act in a retroreflective manner when light is striking it at angles. A high degree of retroreflectivity is desired at angles of 30 degrees or greater.
  • Observation angle is the angle created by your line of sight to the reflective material, and the line from the reflective material to the light source.
Atlas 317 Hi-Vis Gloves

Atlas 317 Hi-Vis Gloves

What do you need?
If you are wondering what hi-vis apparel is appropriate for your workplace, ANSI/ISEA 107-2004 provides requirements for jobs that fit into one of the following three performance classes:

  • Performance Class 1 - For occupational activities that permit full and undivided attention to approaching traffic with vehicle and moving equipment speeds not exceeding 25 mph.
  • Performance Class 2 - For occupational activities where employees are performing tasks that divert attention from approaching vehicle traffic with vehicle and moving equipment speeds exceeding 25 mph, or work activities taking place in a close proximity to traffic.
  • Performance Class 3 - For occupational activities where workers are exposed to significantly higher vehicle speeds and/or reduced-sight distances, and the wearer must be conspicuous through the full range of body motions at a minimum of 390m, and must be identified as a person.

Smart business
For every dollar spent on safety, a company can save money on workers’ compensation, lost-time due to accidents and lower insurance premiums. In short, investment in hi-vis gloves and other apparel is smart business for most companies. As with most workplace safety initiatives, investing in preventative measures such as high-visibility apparel is significantly cheaper than losing workers to injury or even death.

While no product makes a wearer inherently safe, hi-vis apparel enhances the wearer’s visibility. In the end, the user’s behavior remains the key to safety.


Article written by Dave Shutt.

Dave,  product manager, coordinates Showa Best Glove’s new product development in general purpose, disposable and chemical-resistant glove lines among research and development, field sales and marketing teams, as well as distributor and end-user customers. A 20-year veteran with industry players such as Reichhold, he most recently served as Best’s Central Region Manager. He holds a degree in business administration from Malone College and is a Carnegie Graduate.

Reprint from Industrial Safety and Health News July 2009
ISHN is a business-to-business monthly trade publication targeted at key safety, health and hygiene buying influencers at manufacturing facilities of all sizes. This publication is designed for the busy professionals. They pack each issue with vital editorial on OSHA and EPA regulations, how-to-features, safety and health management topics, and the latest product news.  For more information, visit

View our High Visibility Gloves here

History: Glover’s Dreams

In the late 1800s thousands of immigrants came to New York to pursue the American dream. Many landed up working in sweat shops under horrendous conditions. This is an excerpt from a book about one of these dreamers. At an early age this man left Warsaw on foot and penniless. In 1898, he emigrated to the United States, but fearing refusal of entry, he got off the boat in Nova Scotia, Canada, before moving on to New York in January 1899. With a thick Polish accent, he was barely able to be understood. He found work as a glove cutter in upstate Gloversville, New York, which was the center of the bustling glove business in America.


The biography continues

After five years, Goldfish had “taxed” the glove business. He figured that of the thousands in the industry, only the six or seven major producers were taking big money out of it. A dozen successful smaller producers, the independents, were making a little less. Everyone else took home small change. Everyone except those drummers (traveling salesmen) who sat with their feet up on the windowsills of the Kingsborough Hotel. They worked on commission, and the sky seemed to be their limit. Goldfish realized that he had travelled as far as he could within the factory walls of the Elite Glove Company. If he wanted to get anywhere in the business, it would not be by moving up in Gloversville. He would have to move out into the world.

Kingsborough Hotel, Gloversville

In 1904, Sam Goldfish went to Ralph Moses and announced his desire to be a glove salesman. The request was so brash, it took Moses a moment to compose himself and say no. “I know gloves inside out” Goldfish argued. “I’ve made them. I can sell them. I don’t want any money except enough to travel from town to town. I’ll go on streetcars instead of trains and I’ll stay at YMCAs instead of hotels”. Moses was not interested until Goldfish said, “Give me the company’s toughest territory where it has never sold gloves before.”

Moses gave him a list of small New England towns, starting with Pittsfield, Massachusetts. “The leading store there has never carried our goods,” he explained. “If you can sell them you can sell anyone, and I’ll make you a regular salesman.”

The next week, Goldfish rode interurban trolleys forty miles to Albany and another forty miles due east, across the state line into the little city of Pittsfield , in the Berkshires. When he arrived at the target store, a secretary informed him that the buyer was out. Goldfish returned the next day and received the same message. Goldfish returned a third day, and the buyer finally met with him. He explained that he had done business with another firm for twenty years and that the Elite representative was wasting his time. “Maybe I am,”Goldfish told him,” but I intend to sit here until you look at my gloves. You don’t have to buy them, but you shouldn’t turn me down without seeing what I’ve got to sell. You may be missing a bargain”. Inside the office, Goldfish opened his sample case.


“Is this the way they will look when they are delivered, or is this just a special?” the buyer asked. Goldfish explained every detail of the gloves’ construction and said that if the man did not like what he received, he could send them back. The buyer began by ordering six pairs of ladies elbow-length gloves (which sold for twenty-four dollars a dozen). Goldfish left the store with orders for another three hundred dollars worth of merchandise.

Sam Goldwyn

Several years later Sam Goldfish changed his name to Sam Goldwyn, an original founder of the Hollywood movie business, and one of the most powerful entertainment tycoons in the world.


A. Scott Berg: Goldwyn – A Biography 1989

History: Glove Legends

Excerpt from a Book about Gloves, Published in 1945


Because gloves were first used as a hand protection or shield, they were synonymous with protection in the first traditional meaning. From the first faint etchings of their dim beginning, they have travelled through periods of history with little diversion or hesitation, continually growing in importance by their accumulation with more and more meaning with the years. They have become a solemn pledge of loyalty and friendship; a symbol of love; a bond of security; an emblem of high honour and integrity; a tenure by which estates and lands were held or transferred. Sadly enough, the glove came to signify hatred; was used as a challenge, defiance and the loss of one’s glove was a mark of degradation. Unquestionably, the worst disgrace to befall this honorable symbol of antiquity has been during the present century; just as other beautiful objects or worthy symbols have sometimes been grotesquely turned to the devil’s purpose, so too, the glove, when used by felons to hide their finger prints while committing major crimes. Nevertheless, even to this day, gloves have also kept their dignity and their customs of being used as treasured gifts on occasions of joy and sorrow.



Certain tribes in East India actually worship leather gloves!! They believe that gloves symbolize good fortune and that leather is a sacred object.



The savages of the Belgian Congo, in Africa, wear gloves on festive occasions, made from the skin of their enemies!



Gloves are one of the oldest articles of dress! They were first worn by the prehistoric cave-dwellers, who lived more than 200,000 years ago!



During the 17th century in Europe, when a woman presented her glove to a suitor, it indicated that she accepted his marriage proposal!



King Charles VI, of France, was so fond of gloves that he wore out more than 255 pairs of gloves a year!



To shake hands while wearing a glove is considered a grave insult in Ethiopia, where it frequently results in a deathly duel!



In parts of Greenland, gloves are made from the hair of departed relatives as a symbol of respect!


C. Cody Collins: Love of a Glove 1945

Selling on Amazon

david goliath

Don’t get me wrong. I like buying on Amazon, and I do so frequently because Amazon is good for consumers, as long as they have merchants to support them. The problem is that it is hell for merchants, that’s why we no longer sell there.

Recently there was an article in the New York Times comparing eBay to Amazon. The author proclaimed that Amazon had taken the advantage in the ecommerce wars by investing in new technology like the Kindle (which is an amazing appliance) and mp3 downloads. eBay, meanwhile was stagnating. It had spent billions on Skype and was distracted by failed initiatives like eBay Express, while trying to migrate from its core auctions business to retailing. Amazon, the newspaper wrote, was a tempting platform for third party merchants who were seeking visibility to its millions of members. Don’t be fooled. It’s a loser’s game.

Several years ago, one of our glove suppliers asked me to represent them on Amazon. Being a manufacturer, they were not set up to ship or provide service to retail customers, and as a result were booted off.

We enthusiastically signed up and found a technology that enabled us to download orders from Amazon into our order system. As our sales picked up, I found myself obsessively trying to gain positive feedback ratings. That is one thing I will say about Amazon’s customer feedback system: it really motivated us to provide a high level of service out of fear of getting negative feedback. My moods swung daily from the sweet rush of a positive rating, to the agony of a negative review. I was surprised how vulnerable I felt to the capricious and sometimes unfair “oh, so unfair“ assessment of my patrons on Amazon.

During the first week of December, our download application broke and the developer abandoned us. This happens more frequently than you would think. In some ways, the internet economy is like the Wild West, with rogues and vipers slithering under nearby nooks and crannies, but that’s another story.

We were left swinging in the wind, and then frantically scrambled to enter hundreds of transactions in the $20 range into our order system. Our data entry employee in India gallantly worked eighteen hour days, trying to catch up, but it was a losing battle, and as Christmas drew nearer, we started shipping out orders by FedEx 2nd day express to ensure delivery before December 25th. As more and more anxious customers inquired whether their gifts would be delivered in time, we escalated our shipments to overnight courier, which often cost us more than the value of the purchase. The negative ratings rolled in. Finally, with our backs against the wall, and the sands mercilessly passing through the hourglass, we resorted to giving refunds; not that this gesture would remedy the hurt feelings.

The next year we promised ourselves we would be better prepared, but once again, we shipped products overnight and gave refunds when orders fell through the cracks or we could simply not get them out the door. Although it took us two festive seasons to learn this lesson, it finally dawned on us that most Amazon customers are not repeat customers and they do not buy in volume. Not to mention that Amazon was carving 12% commission out of our sales, including shipping.


This system is great for customers, and I still buy things on Amazon because of the convenience, security and low prices. Despite the problems, we had actually performed reasonably well. Our feedback improved considerably, and we had the most popular winter work gloves and garden gloves on the site. As a result, our products were listed first under key words associated with “winter work gloves” and “garden gloves”. However, unscrupulous merchants tried to push us out by stealing our Amazon stock identification numbers and then switching to a lower quality product. I was amazed at how grudgingly Amazon technical support accepted our pleas for fairness.


The next development was that Amazon started selling the same winter work gloves that we had done so well with. Not only that, they pushed us out of the featured merchant spot, even though our gloves were priced lower. When we complained, Amazon explained that if the customer purchased over $25 in merchandise from Amazon, they would get free shipping whereas we charged for delivery. Therefore Amazon had the better deal and was entitled to be the featured merchant.


Ah, but we still had the best selling garden gloves. Not only that, I owned the trademark on the name, and paid for and owned, not only the UPC code, but also the images. Imagine my horror one morning when I discovered that we were no longer number one on the list for garden gloves. We were displaced by a competitor who was selling our gloves, with our name, our UPC code and our image at a higher price! After toiling for years to establish our gloves as the most popular garden gloves on Amazon, and losing money in the process (remember the overnight deliveries), with one flick of the digit, we had lost our position.

I phoned Amazon technical support and firmly asked them to put me back where I belonged. They explained that it was out of their hands as there was an “algorithm” – a mystical and omnipotent “algorithm” – that determines who is the featured merchant.


“Algorithm meet Hal”. That was it. Enough is enough. I promptly notified Amazon that I was canceling my account and removing my products. They sent me a form letter telling me that I had been a good merchant, and would I reconsider? “Never!” I said to myself, and with a determined push of a button, obliterated all my products that we had spent months entering into the database. With a sigh of relief and futility, this episode had come to an end. I could now focus on my own web site and my own customers.

About a week later, I decided to see what had happened to my Amazon competitor who had pushed me out as the featured merchant for garden gloves. When I clicked on the link to view the product detail, there was my garden gloves image, in all its glory, with my trademark name and my UPC code, selling briskly, I’m sure.

“They can’t do this”, I said to myself through clenched teeth. I fumbled for the phone in a panic, and with a short breath, told the Amazon technical support person that I owned that trademark, the image and the UPC code for the gloves on sale, and they did not have permission to use them. The representative, in a steady, confident tone referred me to the Amazon merchant agreement. When I signed up as a vendor, I had granted Amazon unlimited rights to use my products as they deemed fit, in perpetuity.


Several weeks later, after I had partially recovered from this trauma, I realized that I had never reconciled my Amazon commission checks with my sales reports. As I had closed my account, I no longer had access to that information, and I could no longer phone the support line. Actually, you don’t phone them. You send them a message and request that they phone you. I sent an email to everyone at Amazon I had on record, humbly requesting my records. I needn’t have bothered. I received an email from an Amazon technical representative a week later telling me that my information had been purged.


Copyright © 2009 Darryl Abrahms