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Question Can I Sell Framed Pieces that a Customer hasn't Picked Up?

Discussion in 'Picture Framing Business Issues' started by Ruby, Jul 20, 2016.

  1. Ruby

    Ruby Grumbler

    A customer brought three fabric pieces to me on 3/21/15 to frame that she had purchased on a trip overseas. The framing total came to $1012.42 (or $1075.70 including tax) and she left a 50% deposit of $525.70. She has not responded to phone calls or letters and it has now been one year and four months. Can I sell the framed pieces? What are my options and how do I proceed?

    Thank You!
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  2. Jeff Rodier

    Jeff Rodier SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God

    Laws vary by state and county where you do business. Call someone at the county and I would start at the county treasurers office since if they don't have the answer they will be able to tell you which office does.
  3. Ruby

    Ruby Grumbler

    Good information...
    We are in Massachusetts if anyone is already privy to the laws in this state.
  4. simplymatted

    simplymatted SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer

    I once framed a high school grad photo for a woman. She paid for it up front. In fact I had framed at least 15 pieces for her. It took her 4 years to pick it up. She was mad at me for not wanting to date her. My excuse was that I dont date customers. She was really mad. But in time it was forgotten. LOL good back story, but she was a wonderful woman, an ER Nurse.
    shayla likes this.

    GUMBY GCF SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer

    I am not an attorney check with one also check with www.mass.gov
    But this is what I have been told for Mass.
    You have to give notice with description,where it can be claimed, how long they have to claim it 30 to 60 days is reasonable, what will happen if not claimed, how much it will cost you to store it .
    Either hand deliver or mail certified to last known address .
    If property goes unclaimed then if worth more than 300.00 sell property at public auction with competitive bidding or or it is worth less than 300.00 you can keep it or dispose of it any way you wish.
    If you have a public sale you must post a notice in local newspaper . From sale proceeds you can recover your cost of storage and holding the sale. The balance is to be given to the treasurer of the county where the sale took place if it goes unclaimed for one year you may claim the balance
  6. CB Art & Framing

    CB Art & Framing SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer

    I would google her name check facebook etc first.
    shayla likes this.
  7. cjmst3k

    cjmst3k SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer

    Government really knows how to make things simple.
  8. Bob Carter

    Bob Carter SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God

    Gumby law in AZ very similar without dollar distinction.In AZ, at public auction shop is allowed to bid. Shop able to retain owed balance, atty fee and auction costs only. In all years in biz, we did it twice bidding $1. One was saleable, one was total write off
  9. Paul Cascio

    Paul Cascio SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer

    IMO, whatever you could sell them for is likely to be less than what she owes you. Therefore, I would suggest you file suit in small claims court to try to remedy your matter.
    John Ranes II CPF GCF likes this.
  10. shayla

    shayla WOW Framer

    I think checking FB is a good idea, or if possible, trying to find yet another way to contact her. Could be she blew it off, but it could also be she moved and forgot, someone else tossed out the messages/mail, or, as happened with one of our customers, went into a coma, had to learn to walk and talk again, and we didn't find out the reason for a couple of years.
  11. David Waldmann

    David Waldmann SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer

    I'm not suggesting you purposefully attempt to circumvent the law. And, I know that Ignorance is no excuse.

    But if you just do what seems reasonable (and document it), they are probably never coming back. If they do, explain what happened, what you did and why. If you "made" any money on it, show them and offer to return up to that amount after deducting the total cost (price) of the work you did. Worst case they will sue you, but unless it's something really valuable they aren't likely to go to the bother.
  12. Ylva

    Ylva SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God

    I am in MA. From the little I know, you are not allowed to sell it. I would send certified letter. If you use Square, send her an emailed invoice and a reminder that of such and such date storage costs may be added. It has worked a few times for me.

    Talk to an attorney before you do anything.

    However, no matter what the law is. What if this customer has a valid and maybe very painful reason not to pick this up. Death in the family, severe illness. How good would you feel if after 5 years, she comes in to pick it up, fully apologetic and you have to tell her that you sold her pieces?

    If it's a storage issue, take it out of the frames and sell the frames. If they're nice enough, use them as samples in your store. I would just put it away and hope they'll come back one day.
    FramerCat likes this.
  13. prospero

    prospero SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God

    As said, the law varies from place to place but in general you can't (legally) just sell it.
    In the UK you have to have be seen to have made a reasonable effort to contact the
    owners. Ads in papers, all that. For fairly recent ones you could go down legal avenues
    to get your cash, but not only is this a big pain it doesn't do your reputation any good if word
    gets around that you are in the habit of suing your customers. Better to factor in a small percentage
    to your hourly rate to cover yourself. Stores do the same thing to offset thieving.
    Older stuff? Just sell it or junk it.
    A court isn't likely to be sympathetic to someone who has essentially reneged on a contract,
    verbal or otherwise. And then turns up years after demanding reparation.

    Like everybody else in the biz (unless they are very lucky) I've got a few orphans.
    I once had a sale of very old stuff which had been lingering for 5 years or more. No
    comebacks on those. Of course not all abandoned items are actually saleable. I have a school
    photo going back to 1987. No interest to anyone. Not even the owner apparently.....
    A mate of mine once ran a bed-and-breakfast business when he had a huge old house. I let him
    have an assortment of uncollected pics just to have something on the walls. On the understanding that
    I might want them back pronto. Better than cluttering up my shop.
    I did get one back - a painting of a falcon which the owner rang about one day. About three years after he
    brought it in. That was a good ten years ago. Still not picked up. :rolleyes:

    One strategy I thought of but never tried is to send the owner a letter stating that their stuff has been sold
    to defray expenses. Of course you haven't actually sold it. A small porkie there...... ;)
    Send it it a form that needs signature to acknowledge receipt.
    1] It will be returned 'not known'. You got that it writing then. Wait three months and then dispose.
    2] It will be received, but no response. You also got that in writing. Same as 1
    3] They will be round rapidly, full of belligerence. Possibly with lawyer in tow. You got them. :D
    Melinda Tennis likes this.
  14. CandyB

    CandyB True Grumbler

    I have had two of these that were not picked up. One was a Bev Doolittle print with $500 of framing. It was 2 1/2 years with no response. One day her daughter came in to see if something was there. Her mother had died. The other was a really good customer. I called him when it was ready and the phone lines were out. It was several months later when his daughter came in, he, too, had passed away. They ended up selling me their mother's almost $9000 sewing machine for $600. That was a good deal. Another one was a small piece. It just needed glass, I told him it would be ready the next day. He paid for it so no big deal. I waited a couple weeks, but he didn't come in. After a year, I started to see if I could find out what happened to him. I found his wife's obituary which gave me family information. I located a daughter in Utah, she gave me the phone # of a son who was local. I contacted him, his father has Alzheimer's and is now living with him. The son said he would stop by, they were looking for that picture. It was a picture of the customer's deceased wife. Son didn't come by. Another six months passed. Finally, my husband took it to him.
  15. IFGL

    IFGL SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer

    I have had customers pass away with items still to collect, unfortunately it is just part of life, I had one couple who were and still are very good customers, not pick up an order for a couple of years, their daughter had been in a horrific car accident, she had been paralysed, they had to spend a long time with her for rehab and also had their house completely redone to accommodate their no disabled daughter, when they did eventually come back to pick them up, they were vere apologetic and have since placed many more orders.

    I have removed items from frames to get back storage space.
  16. Andrew Lenz Jr.

    Andrew Lenz Jr. MGF, Master Grumble Framer

    Here in California, I've never gotten a good answer. I called up the state once years ago and they told me we needed to send any deposits for abandoned items to them! Yeah, right. That ain't happenin'. I have materials and labor sitting in those abandoned items. We have stored framed items, quite literally, going back 30 or more years. I think the record for pick up is about 7 years.

    I would think that there would be some correlation between us and dry cleaners. Dry cleaners have warning signs of items needing to be picked up within 30 days or else!

    If anyone has California legally figured out, please let me know!

  17. John Ranes II CPF GCF

    John Ranes II CPF GCF SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer

    As folks have shared... it gets complex, varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, and you might end up with less than all the effort put into this $500+ you are trying to recoup.

    Being aware that to some people this 16 months is only a "few weeks" in their head, I would proceed with basic logical steps, that don't cause you angst nor upset the customer too much. Start with a Certified letter that you are demanding action within 30 days. In that letter, hint that if financial issues are a concern that you are open to accepting partial payments over time.

    Follow this up with a Certified letter in 30 Days if you get no response, that the debt is headed for Small Claims Court (as Paul Cascio suggested). And then in 60 days, have the same letter come from an attorney (Typically cost for a demand letter from an atty is $50-75).

    Finally take them to Small Claims Court, but my guess is that you will have this resolved before that happens.

  18. Larry Peterson

    Larry Peterson PFG, Picture Framing God

    I might be mixing apples and oranges here but I'm not sure how this is different from storage auctions. In both cases, goods of a person are stored. Why can a storage place auction off a unit and we can't?
  19. prospero

    prospero SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God

    I was just thinking that Larry. On UK sat TV it's practically 24 hrs Storage Wars. :p

    I think there must be a clause in the contract to allow them to dispose of stored goods after a certain
    time if the storees default on the rental. Framers usually don't have that in writing so not quite the same
    from a legal standpoint. Maybe such a thing could be implemented, although it wouldn't really create a favorable
    impression if you presented a framing customer with a bushel of t&cs when they bring stuff in for framing.

    It's still annoying though. Even if you have actually been paid for the work, you still have the stuff blocking up
    your premises. If you only have a small amount of space it can be a real problem. I had a quick look-see and at the
    moment I have over 800GBP in uncollected work. All but about 300 worth over a year old. It mounts up. o_O
    All up my stairway I have the 'rogues gallery'. This is a selection of stuff that is very old - 10 years or more. Not a
    great deal of moneys worth, still maybe 200GBP worth. I keep it there to remind me not to be so trusting.
    It hasn't worked though. :rolleyes:
  20. Rick Bergeron - CPF

    Rick Bergeron - CPF SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer

    It could be the same thing depending upon your local jurisdiction and the wording of your terms (signed by the customer). That was our attorney's opinion when he reviewed and edited our terms on the backside of our invoices to comply with the Idaho statutes governing storage facilities should a customer's pickup delay extend into "storage" instead of "waiting for pickup".
  21. David Waldmann

    David Waldmann SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer

    Storage places are a lot easier. You're selling Storage over Time. If you can't collect $$ from it you are losing your livelihood, and will never get it back. With a product, you (theoretically) still have something of value. Especially if you have a deposit.

    Not to say it isn't or can't be a pain, and that it doesn't cost you money.

    Our orders all have an addendum that gets signed, and part of the agreement is to pay storage fees. We've only charged them a couple/few times, but I'm about to exercise it again. We had one order for 3000 SF of flooring that was held up over 3 years. It was for a very good customer (the holdup was the end client, not our builder customer) so we held off the storage fees for two years.

    I've considered talking to our lawyer about adding a phrase to the effect that "If storage fees exceed the value paid we reserve the right to sell the product to recoup the cost of storage".

    Kind of on the flip side, we took in an order three years ago. Got a $1000 deposit. It was for product that we always have available, so we didn't spend any money on inventory. In this case, they were supposed to pay all up front, but didn't have it, so I made an exception and said that as long as they paid the balance before we made it we'd be good. Time came to run it and they hadn't brought the rest. Calls and emails went unanswered so we never ran it. Now I have an extra $1000 sitting in my bank account (and a $1000 liability on the Balance Sheet).
  22. Jeff Rodier

    Jeff Rodier SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God

    Then you also run into the problem of market pricing of raw materials. I don't know how things have gone in your industry but the everyday products in framing is where we have seen the largest percentage of price increase.
  23. David Waldmann

    David Waldmann SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer

    Yes, well that's another story. If he ever comes back he will have to pay current price. Or I could give him is $$ back, although he also agreed that his Deposit is non-refundable.
  24. Jeff Rodier

    Jeff Rodier SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God

    David, have you found that the everyday basics are where the largest price increases are occurring in your materials. I know in the framing supplies as the consumer headed toward the lowest priced items the manufacturers have had to make up for the loss in high end items by really pushing the bottom prices up.
  25. wpfay

    wpfay Angry Badger

    Twice was mentioned small claims court, and I'm not sure if it is applicable. If the customer were to take the work on terms and failed to adhere to those terms, SCC would be a viable option to recover your fees, but when you hold the thing of value, and a deposit that in reality more than covers your costs, how does that offset the claim? Besides, a decision in your favor in a SCC does not guarantee payment.
    Like Andrew, I have some pieces that are legacy from before I moved my business to the current location some 27 years ago. Most of it has little value to anyone other than the customer that brought the piece in.
  26. John Ranes II CPF GCF

    John Ranes II CPF GCF SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer

    I've only had to use Small Claims Court once or twice in 38 years. And it does work...

    Typically the threat of having a judgement against a normal person is enough to generate action on the client's part, however there are exceptions where it would be a waste of time.
  27. David Waldmann

    David Waldmann SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer

    With us it's not so cut-and-dried as "basics and high-end". While most of what we use is commodity-class, the different species are distinct and susceptible to changes in world-wide demand. Some years it's Walnut (high end) that is in demand and high prices go even higher. Others it's Maple (relatively low-end) and something that used to be really cheap becomes mid-range. Then, next year it goes down. We have actually reduced prices on certain species at least 2 or 3 times over the years. And once we had a mid-year price increase (and it was pretty large - around 15% IIRC). Basically, the raw material we use has a potentially pretty unstable price structure.

    However, COMS is only about 40%, so there the impact of other costs not related to material can have a pretty large effect as well. Such as insurance (especially Health), fuel, utilities (we just got a notice from the electricity supplier in our area that rates will be phased into a "new, fairer way of charging for power" over the next 6 years...). Even the cost of equipment, since most comes from Europe, can go up dramatically depending how poorly the USD is doing against the EUR.
  28. Jeff Rodier

    Jeff Rodier SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God

    We are seeing price increases in what most framers use as bread and butter several times per year. Some is the result of fluctuating currency but many factories heavily affected by currency fluctuations shuttered their doors several years ago. In speaking with the owners of several manufacturers/distributors much of the price increase has resulted from the health care/insurance changes. Since most framers are buying from people who are several levels down the food chain it results in multi level price increases as each rung in the ladder attempts to address their individual increase.

    Not a week goes by that some component in framing does not have a price hike. I've seen many items double in price since the last time it was purchased.
  29. IFGL

    IFGL SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer

    I am sure storage places will have it written in your contract, if you don't pay it gets sold, I have it on my invoices, if items are left uncollected for more than six months, they may be disposed od, as we have limited storage space. We don't dispose of them but I do believe it makes people collect on time, also if it does go over the six months you can bet they just don't want it.
  30. Jeff Rodier

    Jeff Rodier SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God

    Storage spaces have laws written specifically for their business model in every state. Many warehouse spaces here in SC rent to businesses as storage spaces because it allows them to lock out the tenant and sell the contents where a business space does not allow for either of these things to occur.
  31. Sierraz

    Sierraz Guest

    Storage auctions occur because of liens. They put it in the contract that in the case of... all goods become the property of storage company. It is very similar to a mechanics lien. Which means if I tow or fix or store your car and you dont pay then I can sell your car to recoup my loss. I would think a lien would be an option but it would require some paperwork and trip to county clerk probably. So... if its worth it could be worth googling. The lien creates ownership and protects you and the person you sell it to from being sued by the original owner. This is just what I have found.
    John Ranes II CPF GCF likes this.
  32. cjmst3k

    cjmst3k SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer

    But wouldn't someone need to sign paperwork OK'ing a lien? I'm assuming its buried in the language when you drop off a vehicle, etc.
  33. Sierraz

    Sierraz Guest

    Yes but lets say that you had a roomate and he left without paying the rent and has left his car parked at your house. You cant get ahold of him and you dont want to house his car indefinately. One solution is to file a lien on the vehicle to recoup your rent. He never signed anything authorizing it but that doesnt matter. If you file for the lien it will likely be stamped approved as long as you filed all the right paperwork and until he comes in to say otherwise you would become the owner and have the legal right to dispose of it as you choose including selling it. I dont know why I used the car example again. Maybe because ownership is recorded. Whereas art ownership generally is not. So.... I dont know. I just like to ramble on about laws I have researched for one reason or another.
  34. Kirstie

    Kirstie PFG, Picture Framing God

    We don't have time to meticulously deal with this problem, so after documenting a couple of attempts to reach the customer, we store the framed items for a couple of years. Then someone decides to do a clean out, and we make a last attempt to contact the customer, and then we unframe the art and store it indefinitely with a copy of the POS order. This way if the customer ever returns, we can reframe for them. We use the frames for ready-mades. I have a few sleeves and tubes of unclaimed art, but they take up much less space than frames do.

    Having a 100% advance payment policy has almost eliminated unclaimed orders. Those that don't pick up after a year or so will most likely never come back.
    John Ranes II CPF GCF likes this.

    GUMBY GCF SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer

    Brings up a policy change we did about a two years ago
    100% up front payment.
    We just ask; "Will that be cash, credit card, or check?"
  36. ali

    ali CGF, Certified Grumble Framer

    Our invoices come with a disclaimer on the bottom so after 30 days we are no longer responsible for their artwork.

    Of course we wait much longer than 30 days for them to pick up but i have sold a lot of pieces that have not been picked up and if they have a problem with it i point them to the disclaimer printed on the bottom of our invoice
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