Advice on tact


PFG, Picture Framing God
Forum Donor
Nov 19, 2002
United Kingdom, West Sussex Coast. (Bottom centre)
I have about as much tact as an avalanche, sometimes.

So - a good customer - a relatively new customer, but a good spender. Buys art at local exhibitions, has it framed/re-framed by me, travels quite a way to me, then sees and buys more art, from me.

Commissioned an artist to paint his house (for want of a better word - looks like Southfork - but less wood - more flint and stone)

Brings in two paintings of his house - a watercolour for him an oil for his Mum.

"What if Mum does not like the frame?"

"No probs - we will change it - it's not welded in or anything"

He gets home - rings us - the frame is damaged - large dents in two sides. But this is not an issue as Mum hates the frame anyway and we said we would change it FOR FREE!

Now I never said that - but I also didn't say I'd NOT do it for free. SHOULD have said we CAN change it, but I'm not too worried here, it's a simple job - he has chosen a nice moulding that I have JUST enough of in stock.

This is a few months ago - Saturday he turns up, not with offending item, but with two more pieces from local exhibitions to frame.

Now I cannot see past these 'Large dents' which I KNOW were not there when we bubble-wrapped the thing in front of him and scrutinised it - AGAIN -as we always do with evey frame.

He says he will bring Mum's oil painting down when he collects these two pieces - and the moulding he now knows she will like is THAT one!

(Points to my new range of closed corner frames - have yet to sell one)

I'll swallow the difference and I'm sure he will accept that - but I know I will have difficulty - even in my very body language and general attitude - when I see these 'large dents' in holding back.

I have two options - hide and have him believe I have a day off (always insists on speaking to me)

Or - compose some sort of mantra - with your help - that will keep the 'Basil' in me at bay.
He's a good customer John, spends a lot, as you say.

I am sure you can make him pay for it somehow, someday, somewhere... ;)

And he'll be your art-slave for the rest of his days!
John -
Just let him know (nicely) that the replacement frame would have to be of equal value or if his choice is more expensive, deduct the price of the damaged frame with a nice discount thrown in. But, be sure you're not losing any money. Perhaps your cost + 15% or 20% would be fair. The customer has to realize this is how you earn your living. A reasonable customer would understand this completely. Just my 2 pence worth.
Interesting question.

I know what you mean. Like you, I am very particular about how completed jobs are handled and stored.
You could take the attitude that the customer is in effect saying your quality control and standards are so low that you allow damaged frames to go out undetected. I would find it hard not to feel that way but on this occasion I think I would say nothing about the dents.
As Paul said, if he's a regular you'll have plenty of opportunity to repair your damages (no pun intended) financial and otherwise.
I would keep him to the value of the original frame unless he wants to pay the difference.

Well thats my 2 pence or 2 cents worth.

You should absolutely NOT eat the difference if switching to a gold leaf frame. Everyone here knows you didn't dent the original and truly shouldn't eat any of it, but it's worth losing that much to keep a good customer happy. Surely he will understand that the FREE replacement would only be for the same amount as he originally paid.

in other words, what Eric said!
FAWLTY FRAMING - I think it has possibilities.

This man is shaping up to be a good and regular customer - I'd change the frame for him. At the very worst, you might have to replace the damaged leg on the frame Mum didn't like before using it on something else for sale in your shop.

We had something similiar recently. WE checked it out and the lady left with it.

Then she phoned us a couple of hours later and said that there were big chips of the frame that had come off.

It had a bit of a gold lip so we figured that the gold had rubbed off. When she brought it in we discovered that there was actual chunks from the wood missing. And what was more - the chips were still in the plastic bag (the same we sent it home in) but she was very demanding that she didn't do it........ go figure - so then why are the chips in the bag, lady??

but, we fixed it. I did let her know,however, that it wasn't like that when it left, but that we would fix it anyways on good faith.

Hopefully she told some friends that we fixed it without a fuss.

At least your guy sounds like a good customer. We don't mind so much if the customer brings us stuff often.

I'm like you though, I have a hard time pretending that I'm happy about stuff like that when I'm not, but you've just gotta grin and bear it to make an important customer happy sometimes....
John, you certainly won't come out the winner if you insist that the damage was the customer's. If he is a good customer, you'll make more than enough to cover the costs that you'll eat. HOWEVER, do make a note (mental, POS, or otherwise) since there are some folks out there who think that if they fool you once, they can do it again. Perhaps he damaged it without knowing so, OR he damaged it and knew it. If he didn't know it, then you'll never convince him otherwise. If he does know it, I'd be sure he doesn't try another exchange down the road.

I'd say give him an even exchange. If he still points to the closed corner, prepare yourself to chuckle as if he's telling you a joke. He may not understand the differences in price & value. Then you can tell him with a smile, "Now surely you don't think I could exchange an expensive moulding for a moderately priced one! But I'd be happy to quote you the difference between the two."
What bugs me is that it's always - well it seems always - the ones who are absolutely minted that won't admit to forcing the things into their DB7 (Yep that's what he drives - an Aston Martin) with their boot.

'Normal' people bring it back and say 'Oh, Im so silly, I've had an accident - I know I'll have to pay for it but I can't live with it like this"

And what do I do then? Well, (Usually) I replace it for free with a big grin, I get a big handshake (Sometimes a great big kiss too) charity box gets a nice 'clink'

So why worry about this guy? Well I just do, it's a case of I know, and he knows I know, and I know he knows I know, and he knows I know he knows I know. And I NEED him to know I know he knows I know .........
A guy gets lost on the moors, he stops on a verge to check his map, but when he trys to pull away, he can't - he's bogged in.

It's 1 a.m. - he needs a shovel - sees a light not too far away across the moor, heads for it.

He's gone what seems like half a mile and the light seems no closer, he thinks..

Oh God, what if it's NOT a house, and if it is, what if no-one is at home?

Then he stumbles, twists his ankle and falls in a cowpat.

"Oh **** **** ARSE AND **** " he says "Bloody place" He carries on, limping and smelly.

It starts to rain, rain rapidly turns into a storm.

"What if they don't even HAVE a shovel" he mutters to himself "and what if they DO have but won't lend it to me - I mean why should they, look at the state of me, covered in cow ****"

On he goes, through swamps, over drystone walls, barbed wire fences, now he can just make out a building.

"Oh ****, what a dismal looking place - it's like something from a horror film I bet there's some crazed inbred living there.....

Oh Gawd, I should have left my hazard lights on WHERE IS MY CAR - and what if this nutcase won't even speak to me - I'll be stuck out on the moors all night - I'll die of hypothermia JUST BECAUSE THIS BASTARD WON'T GIVE ME A SHOVEL AND SOME DIRECTIONS"

He opens a gate - a huge snarling dog leaps at him - it's lead stops it about a foot short of the guy.

"Oh ****, what sort of MORON keeps a dog like that, bloody country types I HATE them, first thing I'm gonna do with that shovel is batter that ****ing dog to death, right - let's meet Norman Bates.

He knocks on the door, eventually a kind-faced old man appears holding a candle.

"Hello" says the old man, "Terrible night ........."

The guy, soaked, stinking; injured - jabs a finger at the old guy, screws his face up and screams.


Now that's me that is!

The joke is well known in our place and our staff are always telling me to be careful of the 'Shovel syndrome'

So, for a day before this guy arrives I will practice in the mirror, big smile "Sorry to bother you Sir, but have you a shovel I may borrow"


("So's I can bury it in your skull for lying - PIG!)
John....repeat after me:

(Deep breath in)


I do this often because, I, too, struggle with this shovel syndrome you speak of.
We tell the same story here, but it is about borrowing a ladder in the middle of the night because the guy is locked out and the only window open is on the second floor. So don't go 'borrowing ladders' either.
I'm not much help, but one thing is clear to me, you should have sent home some samples or had Mum come pick out the frame.
Don't worry too much about what has not yet happened. Prepare yes, but don't happy.

Of course you should charge the difference if the new frame is more expensive. You kinda stuck yourself by offering to change the frame with an implication that there would be no charge, but not for a more expensive frame.

As far as the dents...

The next time you hand out a job to him be sure to point out that you take great care in giving work out in excellent condition and wrap each piece carefully to help protect the work in transit. However, tell him to still be quite careful as the wrap will not prevent damage if it is banged hard, it only helps to prevent any scratching of the finish of the frame.

He knows the dents were not there when he picked up the work (presuming you showed it to him prior to wrapping it). By tactfully avoiding any discussion of the past job, but bringing up the issue of being careful with the new job you have addressed the issue and gracefully relieved any anxiety he might also be feeling.

Dave Makielski
Dave is right on here, you simply must unwrap all items in the shop to show customers. Simply to save your butt. And it never hurts to check things over, for things you forget every once in a while...bumpers? It just keeps that whole set up out of it. They looked it over and now how can they say you did it? There will still be cases, but it should be much less.

What worked for me was - be nice to the customer, then unload on the unlucky soul I was working with that day. If I was working alone, I'd call my husband or mother. Or complain to the Grumbler's and get sympathy. Kind of like what you are doing.
Gotta laugh..or you'd cry.

Lady brings me a small silver oval photo frame with a velveteen mat. She needs the mat replaced.
I work about 2 hours on the bloody little POS and finally get something presentable. When she comes to pick it up she 1) Complains about the quality (after 2 hours I pretty much called it quits), and 2) complains about the price ($10.00). I relent that it isn't the best quality and return her frame and old mat, giving her the replacement matting. She leaves in a huff, gets off her huff and into a Silver Shadow, and has the driver take her home. No wonder I have high blood pressure.

Upgrades at their discounting, the trade out is good enough. Repeat after me..."No decisions on design can be made after the fact by those not involved". If they want to have input, they need to be active in the design process. :rolleyes:

I usually assist customers in putting the framing in the vehicle. That way I have stopped the guy from one-handing a piece home on the trunk of his Miata.
I ditto the help the customer to the car routine. Cuts down tremendously on damage when they see you properly handle it and how you recommend transporting it.

I also ask them if they are going straight home with it and tell them not to leave it overnight in the car (you'd be surprised).

Dave Makielski
Not that this should factor in as to how you will treat him, but . . . I wonder if the real story is that he simply damaged the frame and he knew that mum would not have it in that condition. So, he plays the 'distraction' game and points to the CC frame cause he hopes that in your excitement you will overlook the damage and just credit it toward that big ticket item. It might be that he'd rather spend the difference on a upgrade replacement than pay for a replacement frame of the exact kind.


Sometimes there is just no knowing why people act the way they do.
"help the customer to the car routine", that could also come back to bite us.

Happened to me: I helped a customer put her painting in her trunk, and made sure there was nothing there that would damage it.

She calls me within 5 minutes that something in her trunk damaged her painting (tore a hole in the canvas!). Brings the art back, sure enough, something square made a neat cut. Since I helped her, she was telling me it was my mistake! The object, whatever it was, must have landed "somehow" UNDER the large, heavy painting....

I sent the art to be restored, to the tune of $700!

We still help the customers load their the way.
I help people to their cars, but only if they are alone (keep their hands free to open the doors), if they have several frames to load. The elderly etc.

Hope that was a $700 insurance claim Paul.

Saturday is the big day!

Woo-sah....... Woo-sah
Our guarantee goes something like this....

"If you are ever dissatisfied with the frame or matting you have chosen, we will gladly replace it FREE with any other frame or mat of equal value."

"Should you choose a higher category frame or mat or larger size from your original purchase, there is only a charge for the difference and you receive a brand new frame and mat."

"And you can keep the old frame for something else!"

"We further guarantee the workmanship and quality of every frame that you have purchased from us. Your satisfaction is very important and we want you to be happy with every frame purchase."

When a customer is undecided, I will let them know this guarantee and that often helps close the sale.

We have only on a few rare occasions actually had to reframe anything. When we do, the customer is very appreciative. The cost to us is minimal and we have created a lifetime customer.


"And you can keep the old frame for something else!"

Why? You could frame something for the shop in this. I think your guarantee is plenty generous without giving them the original frame. Obviously it doesn't happen often, but someone unscrupulous could view this policy as a 'buy one, get one free' offer.
We have "Oops" and "Pre-Owned" frames and mats. Perfectly good, kept in a corner. Our starving artists appreciate them, and occasionally, when someone can't do custom framing, but doesn't want the cheap plastic readymades of somewhere else, these work well. Or if they need something with the custom look quickly. Decently priced, but not give-aways either. And because they're not generally standard sizes, they still generate sales of custom other parts (mats/glass/fitting, etc.)

Maybe this comes from my days at M's where we were required to THROW AWAY perfectly good frames when they came in the wrong size, or the wrong moulding (that happened fairly often). It just killed me to throw those away and we could be fired for not tossing them!!

Or maybe it comes from my Gramma Maudie who recycled everything, and I inherited this trait.Doesn't matter, the Oops and Pre-Owned frames and mats get recycled and I'm happy.

But I don't give 'em back to the customer, Hamster! Like Rick said...that could be a bad habit a customer could get into.
Originally posted by Kit:
FAWLTY FRAMING - I think it has possibilities.
There ya go "Basil".... just do a silly walk around the frame a few times...

Since everyone offered some good suggestions, I'll leave it at that!


We label and try to sell those as “Orphaned” Frames.

I think an “oops” frame would make them look too closely for flaws and “pre-owned” would make them want to take it home for a test drive.
Good idea Bill, I think we'll try that, although no-one's complained about either ...yet. I like "orphaned" better anyway. Thanks.
I like that!

Fostered hmmmmmm....

Anti- social......


Woo-sah...... Woo-sah!!!
Tact is something I have no business commenting on. So I won't.

Carry on.
Originally posted by Jay H:
Tact is something I have no business commenting on. So I won't.

Carry on.
ROFLMAO...I saw you had posted and had to look!!

At least you know it Jay!

Thirty-two responses and not a single one of these ***-***** knows a ******* thing about tact.

I could teach you about tact, John, but why should I waste my time? What'd you ever do for me?

Seriously, I have had to learn, quickly, to curb my sarcastic, and sometimes caustic, ways in my new job.

My last smart-*** comment to a caller was when an insured asked me to explain "medical necessity" and I told him that meant he couldn't have any more colonoscopies just for the fun of it.
Don't do it Ron - don't change. Your humorous comments are never* cruel or hurtful. If I were calling my insurance company, or anybody else for that matter, I would love to talk to a real person rather than some functionary reading the party line from a handbook.


*Well, hardly ever.