11 months of the year I wish I had more work. Comes Elul and I wish I had less work or another sofer to help me. I think many Chabad sofrim feel the same. The prevalent custom in Chabad is to check tefillin and mezuzos in Elul (while its brought down in kitzur, Chabad are the most vigilant about this custom). So the question is...is it really such a great idea?
I remember a sofer in New York bragging that he gets so busy in Elul he checks 12 sets of parshiyos an hour. That's one every five minutes. ( I assume he does not unassembled and reassemble them himself). For a guy who's personal best is 6 pairs of tefillin and 40 mezuzos in one day, I was horrified when I heard that. The fact is that everything is done extra fast during Elul and this means the chances are that mistakes will be made and vital issues overlooked.
I think that in Chabad communities, the volume is up to 10 times of that of the normal year. During the year I get about 4-5 pairs of tefillin to check a week. During Ellul I do that much in a day. And it's not like theres 10 times more sofrim working during Ellul. So something's gotta give. And if sofrim are under so much pressure that they are not doing a proper job, perhaps it is not advisable to check ones tefillin and mezuzos during such a chaotic time.
Personally I have developed the following ideas to assist coping with the Elul rush. Perhaps this could be of benefit to others on the forum, so I share them here:
1) Early Bird Special. From 15th Av until Rosh chodesh Elul, give a discount to those checking in those two weeks. This will ease the demand in Elul itself.
2) No major repairs. If someone's tefillin needs major work, like all the tagin have faded or batim need work, tell them to bring it back after Yom Tov. (This is assuming its kosher meanwhile).
3) Take bookings. This will prevent too many people coming on one day. It will ease the pressure.
4) Again, take advantage of Aseres yemai teshuvah and offer a discount for those who wait until then.
5) Get as much non sofer help as possible like someone to help with the invoicing, scanning, painting retzuos - whatever you don't really need to do yourself but you do anyway during the rest of the year. An extra pair of hands means for stuff like that will mean you will get more checking done and be more productive at what you do best.
Good luck everyone and Ksivah Vechasimah Tovah