Atrocious Framing!

Rick Granick

SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
Forum Donor
Resource Provider
Jun 30, 1999
Cincinnati, OH
A couple of times within the past week we've had the "opportunity" to open up frames created by a gallery here in town that opened about five years ago. The quality of work is shockingly atrocious, far surpassing the kinds of methods and materials that were commonplace 30-odd years ago before we all knew any better. I'm talking original multi-media painting on paper heavily masking taped all the way around to the back of the cheapest quality, miscut, 100% lignin Berkshire mat. I'm talking recycled grocery bag paper dust cover.
How could a shop that opened this recently, and is located on the fringe of an upscale neighborhood, within walking distance of a very popular expensive gourmet restaurant, use materials and techniques like this? It's got to be either misguided cheapness or total ignorance. I honestly don't know which. If you look in the window of this shop it is obvious they are serving a "downscale" market, which is an oxymoron for a custom business. I figure they are going to be fallout sooner or later, just on sheer business folly alone. In the meantime, though, it pains me to see this kind of treatment happening to unsuspecting people's artwork. I feel like writing them an anonymous letter and giving them an eyeful of what I think of their work and its consequences. I suspect it wouldn't change their behavior, but it would at least make me feel like I tried.
Do you think I should bother?
:mad: Rick

P.S. Maybe I should write to the President instead, and ask to have them added to the Axis of Evil.
Pictures are nice to have. :D

Sometimes, they are called Doc-u-men-ta-tion.
Reminds me of something recent... One of the artists that had prints in my store on consignment (hard to sell), has all of a sudden run a full-color ad stating "custom framing" OR a watercolor of your home. I have taken her framed work apart and she had literally stapled down the watercolor to a board; it was so bad, I just put it back together, papered the back and did not hang it in the store (she had dropped it off when I had no room, so I used that as the reason for not being hung). I saw the ad and said "what the %$@#" ranted a little more and my husband told me that I am not the framing police. I still don't know how to react to this - my first thought was to call her up and congratulate her on her new venture, my next reaction is to ignore it and let her find out the hard way (she has no clue - she gives meaning and basis to the blond jokes). Either way, I'm concerned about the quality and craftsmanship going into a product that will be local to my shop - I guess if anyone takes her up on it, they will find out. What concerns me also, is that I know she doesn't have the equipment for "custom" and will be plugging everything into the standard size frames that she uses. I wonder who she will buy her matboard from now (it was me) even though she can't cut a mat to save her life.

I had already gotten the other guy in town to refer framing to me and we cut his mats for his photography (his framing used electrical tape to apply the dust cover and masking tape to hinge). He wants to take pictures and not deal with customers - okay by me.

thanks for the grumble

Originally posted by Elaine:
[QB] Reminds me of something recent... One of the artists that had prints in my store on consignment [QB]

I hope that means that her inferior product is no longer in your shop.
Instead of sending an anonymous rant, send The Grumble address, maybe they'll take the hint. If not, then you have at least saved yourself a good "finger wagging" aimed at someone who wouldn't notice anyway.

I would say the competition is a hobbyist who decided to go pro. The problem would be that they may decide to continue!

The best customer is an enlightened customer. Pt up a display in your shop of a proper frame job and a poorly done frame job. You don't have to point out their workmanship, or even say their name, just point out your use of quality, conservation materials and let them shoot themselves in the foot.

TruVue has a free Framing 101 display. Contact their rep, or your distributor and get one in your shop. Customers do pick them up and read them. They'll tell their freinds, and word will spread that you can frame and care about their work.
Originally posted by Rick Granick:
...If you look in the window of this shop it is obvious they are serving a "downscale" market, ...

That sentence explains the entire topic you brought up. They are going for cheap. Fine quality and cheap usually does not coexist. The shop is going after the cheap 'niche'.

I totally agree that it is hard to educate your customers when another shop's retail prices are much less than yours.

Time will tell. I bet you are still in business long after they have been gone.
"Fine quality and cheap usually does not coexist."

And to think thats what I'm shooting for?
I have had a number of similar experiences...

Recently a couple stopped in and almost the first thing out of his mouth was "We stopped to get a quote and we're going down after this to "such and such" (my nearest competitor) and whoever's less expensive (he may even have said "cheaper" will get the work. It was a L/E print by the guy who's on coffee cups and bedsheets...ya'll know who I'm talkin' about.

I should've showed him the door right then, but, being professional, proceeded to spend about 45 minutes picking out consevation mats, moulding, etc...about a $400+ ticket. I made sure I educated him all along the way, didn't give him an itemized quote or mldg. and mat selections, but wrote down the type of treatment...UV glass, A/F backing, consevation mats, etc...and made sure he understood he needs to compare apples to apples...

Needless to say, he didn't come back and I kicked myself for taking the high road when I knew I was probably wasting my time.

The next day a customer brought in an original ink drawing framed 3 months ago by this same shop to be reframed for esthetic reasons. From the outside, the craftmanship appeared to be up-to-snuff. When I took off the dustcover I was shocked to see the drawing hinged on all four sides by scotch tape and something a step up from corrugated board for backing which I tested acidic with my Lineco ph testing pen.

No, I did not tell the customer. Yes, I did rehinge the drawing and removed the scotch tape with my heat gun and reback with A/F fom-cor. No, I did not charge the customer for this extra treatment. Yes, this customer did bring in more work when they picked up this piece and are my customer now.

Anyone have any great comebacks, not to condescending or insulting, that I should use to respond to the original price shopper type of customer? I want to remain professional, but not waste my time on deaf ears.

I realize that the price shopper is not my customer nor do I try to compete on price. How could I gracefully tell this couple not to waste my time? Should I respond on their level and tell them I charge $ 60.00 an hour for design time and the clock is ticking???


Dave Makielski

"...Papa always said...The more you do for some people the more they expect!"
If you try to educate them into the best way to do things, they will become better framers and stiffer competition for you.

Let them choke on their ineptitude. If they are as bad as you believe, they will … eventually.

MrKink includes a card telling his "collectors" how to insist on UV glass, Acid free mats and backing boards and all the services and products we try to push. Its the one thing I like about him. He tries to educate his "collectors" and makes the upsell easier for us.

If the "collector" opts for the cheaper of two framers, then the "artwork" will not be worth collecting. (Its a KKade for gods sake! the "collector" may be right!)

You could ask the customer to go to the other store first, and let you compete with their price. Or you could send them to Rick's neighbor!
Rick -
Why not invite them to join your local (or National) PPFA chapter? It is a good way for them to learn correct framing methods, FACTS, etc thru seminars conducted locally and at the shows.

You are a member aren't you? ;)
I totally agree that it is hard to educate your customers when another shop's retail prices are much less than yours.
Jerry- It's not their prices I'm thinking about. I have no idea what they charge (probably not much). They aren't even located near me. There is another nice framer/gallery in their area.
I figure it is a hobbyist who opened a storefront, and I doubt they will be around 5 to 10 years from now. It's just that I hate opening up frames and seeing that kind of thing. I guess what it comes down to is that I'm looking for the satisfying feeling of grumbling right to the offender. :rolleyes:

Dave- If someone came in and declared themselves a price shopper immediately, I would tell them right away that we don't claim to be the cheapest in town. I would explain our philosophy that value is more important than price alone when you are purchasing something you intend to keep for years. If they don't accept that proposition it may not be worth the time to give them anything but a cursory "ballpark" quote.

Mike- I do belong to PPFA, and have since I opened in 1977, but we have no local chapter. (Everyone's too suspicious of one another around here.) Maybe I should encorage them to join Kathy's brand new chapter...out in Colorado!
:cool: Rick
Unfortunately, you can't keep bad framing from happening.

Maybe you would feel better if you had a special event at your store. Have a speaker (or give the talk yourself) talk on "Decorating on a Budget". Announce it in all the community calendars. The idea would be to give information to help people make better decisions on when "going cheap" will and when it won't save them money. Going cheap on a poster for your teenager's room that will wind up being thrown away in six months when their popstar loyalties change makes sense. Going cheap on a picture that you really like to look at, which is going in your living room, does not.

Among other things, you can tell them how to decide what size frame something should go in, and to take a tape measure to yard sales with them. Give them some ideas on what kind of frames to look for. That way, you at least can cut down on the number of "can you make this fit in this?" orders.

After all, you don't have to go all out on archivalness to have something last until you are through with it. But you do have to use at least decent materials. Masking tape, duct tape, electrical tape, cardboard, and grocery bags have no place in the frame package.
Hi Rick-This is only a suggestion, as I wouldn't tell you how to run your business.

But, try this when you have that customer that "declares" themself a "price shopper". My impression is that you become very defensive and go for the "value over price" attitude.

We have to acknowledge that a large portion of clientele is, in fact "price conscious". Be glad they came to you at all when the Big Boys have taken that segment so effectively.

So, how about instead of sending negatives, you show them some products that just might fit their needs? Say you pick up 20-30 samples that offer great "value" at the lower end of the market?

I promise, it will not cross-contaminate the other 95% of your product line and you will not lose a single sale that would have otherwise selected that handwrapped mat with filet, 24K leaf frame with Museum Glass.

They really are two separate markets

We do have these clients, all of us, and we need to understand they do shop and might come back with their more demanding projects.

Imagine you go into your favorite meat counter and want to buy some groud round or other lesser meat. And the guy behind the counter starts telling you why you really need is that Prime RibEye and starts "educating" you on the importance of a quality piece of meat. And, then when you hold your ground (most just walk out and go to a market where they can get what they want without the "education"), they go to the back and bring out a tray of ground with all the disdain they can muster.

It doesn't sound much different than what so often we hear from framers

For us, we are just so glad to have all stripes of customers and it just makes good business sense to have the things that meet their needs.

We wouldn't dream of not offering Museum Glass, even though it might represent less than 1% of our glass sales
Yet, we often snub our noses at those poducts that might save that "price shopper". And before someone tells me that they successfully convert those price sensitive customers through education and great salesmanship, I'm saying "Baloney". Thank my wife for working on my language,you know what I used to say
You are right, of course, Bob. I do have a selection of value-priced mouldings, some of which are very nice looking too. That gives me something to work with once I've qualified the potential customer to some degree. I really just meant not to spend time at the counter disproportionate to what this person might be interested in. We can at least explain that we don't use masking tape etc., which at least in some measure helps to establish value and diferentiate ourselves from the oranges to which they may be unwittingly comparing our apples.
:cool: Rick
Hi Rick-I knew you had some offering to capture that sale, I was just trying to make a more universal point that we often spend way too much time attempting to "educate" when we do understand what the customer wants.

I can't let your masking tape comment go, though.

Give yourself enough credit to belive that there is a reason that this client came to you in th efirst place. I think Ron has an expression that has to overtake most clients when you start the masking tape commentary; it is "counting ceiling tiles".

Come on, put yourself in this clients shoes. We've all been through some insufferable presentation from some saleperson that was doing nothing more than trying to justify their "outrageous" price, haven't we?

Remember the sage advice from our good friend, Jim Miller: Sell the Sizzle.

For the client that really doesn't want to spend $400 on that Scarface poster, the "Sizzle" probably might be that you can frame it for $89.95 and it will be ready tommorrow.

I'll climb out on a limb, here, but I'll bet they don't give a whit about masking tape. They already expect that much from you, don't they? Why do you want to sell the real estate twice?

The problem really isn't they guy down the street and what kind of miscellaneous tapes he uses (I'll bet he uses pretty much what you do), it is all about Satisfying your Client's Needs..

Way, way too often we wants some self-validation of our own practices rather than the most empirical validation of all-a profitable sale to a happy customer

We sure let the clutter get in the way of a clear vision, don't we?

Rick-you mention the apples v oranges comparison. My friend, if you haven't set that distinction way before they walk into your shop and reaffirm it with your ambience and retail atmosphere, then the spiel at the counter is wasted effort.

And never forget that, if you are like most shops, we do see a very wide demographic. Unless, of course, you have established your shop as the "high-end mecca".

Then, the masking tape tale is really a wasted effort

We hear, from surveys, that framing shops can be a little intimidating to consumers. Using my meat analogy, how inclined would you be to go back to that market that gave you an "education" on meat?

Consumers have choices and they exercise those choices in resounding clarity and powerful volumes.

How come so many of us just can't see what they see or hear what they hear?
One more thing,

When I get a cheap person in my shop, It's usually because they want to feel important. They know they can't afford it but they really "want" to. Sometimes just so they can say they shopped here.

What I do is try to have something in thier price range (if possible) and make them feel like they are the most important customer I've had that day. It may only be a $30 sale but they walk away feeling like they shopped at Macy's and I usually get a good reference from it later.

And if they have friends who are like them (Cheap) it makes me seem more affordable to them.
Never under estimate the power of "Keeping up with the Jones".

Beleive it or not that really is our bread and butter business. The big sales are just what puts us over the top and gives us our gravy.

The more diverse you are with your sales the better your business will be.

One more thing, When you have this additude it keeps you from pre-judging your clients, Which usaully ends up costing you money.
My biggest customers look like bag ladies or homeless people. There is one lady in our town who dresses down when she shops just so people won't take advantage of her wealth.

Just something to think about,

In my many years of experience working with the public I've found the price shopper is generally the hardest to please and ends up often costing you money.

I disagree that we should try to serve all strata of customers. Do you see K-Mart selling Mont Blanc?

When a customer comes to me for custom framing, I want to satisfy the customer profitably, but not at the expense of compromising professional picture framing principals nor my reputation for quality work. This doesn't mean you have to do each job with the absolute best materials known to man, but they must be of a quality to hold together long enough for the intended purpose and not damage anything considered valuable.

Dave Makielski
Originally posted by J Phipps TN:

One more thing, When you have this additude it keeps you from pre-judging your clients, Which usaully ends up costing you money.
My biggest customers look like bag ladies or homeless people. There is one lady in our town who dresses down when she shops just so people won't take advantage of her wealth.

Just something to think about,

So true! My favorite customer came by twice for a "quote" before she made a purchase. She looked unkempt and drove a ratty car with a ratty dog inside. She has so far bought (and paid in full at time of order) 3 custom frames in less than 3 weeks. I have 2 more prints in the shop now that belong to her....she just hasn't had time to stop in to approve my designs. Her husband is a surgeon and they recently moved here from Minnesota. She was "so happy to find a local framer". I thought she would be a nuisance and a tightwad! Proved me WRONG. Price has NEVER been an issue and she always loves what we do for her. And I love to take her money ;)
What I do is try to have something in thier price range (if possible) and make them feel like they are the most important customer I've had that day.

I totally agree with this approach. As JPhipps said 'that is really our bread and butter...' The higher end stuff is what puts us over the top. Most people out there can't afford a $500 frame job, but can comfortably pay $89. I try to look for bargains on length moulding (closeouts, etc) and have that stock in the back. When a customer comes in that really can't afford (or won't) a $12/per foot moulding, I take them to the back room... this makes them feel special too, like they're getting to pick from stock not on display and therefore not offered to the general public. I usually make some comment about the stock being for some personal projects or something like that. They feel special, they become a customer, they will tell their friends, and I've made a few more dollars.
When a customer comes in with a special painting, knows it's value, knows the value of good custom framing, and when I sell them a 'top of the line' moulding....... that's the icing on the cake and I get to eat it too! (not the painting...the cake)
Everyone is making good points here. As usual, Bob has some real jewels. It's true that your positioning is probably already established when they walk in. I sometimes have people walk in, take a look at the creative framing examples and the decor (which is nice but NOT opulent) and say, "I'm probably in the wrong place- you guys are too fancy." That's when I get to cheerfully explain that we can do a variety of different things, so let's take a look at what you need.
The "Meat Analogy" is priceless!
:cool: Rick
She looked unkempt and drove a ratty car with a ratty dog inside. I thought she would be a nuisance and a tightwad! Proved me WRONG.
Nah. The tightwads drive brand new "status" cars, like a Lexus, or a Hummer.

Sometimes the difference between a sale or not on someone [who percieves themselves to be] on a tight budget is the payment options.
I usually say something like, "Do want to just pay half today, and the rest when you pick it up?"

And, if the item they are leaving is valuable, (i.e., something I wouldn't mind getting stuck with) I'll tell them the piece itself can count as their deposit, and let them pay in installments, like layaway.

That way, they can have it both ways, getting what they really want, and being "frugal".

It's something Franklin Mint figured out years ago. Four monthly payments of $29 seems like less than $100 in a lump.
I don't know about you all, but I have found the big spenders drive Suburbans and Tahoes and the ones that won't spend a dime drive Mercedes and Lexus.

BMW drivers are hit and miss. But If someone pulls in with their muffler dragging it's a sure sale.

Honda and Toyota people are also usually big spenders around here.

Just a theory, What have you found?

I agree wholeheartedly that you can't judge a book by it's cover. Never underestimate a customer's resources by their appearance.
Quite often a person who doesn't wear the fanciest clothes or drive a new car has values that reflect a taste in fine art instead of a desire to present an affluent image. Hey, if they don't spend it on the outwardly visible things, they often have the resources to spend on the finer things like quality framing of wonderful artwork.

The natural thing to do is presume a customer doesn't want to spend much on framing. More often than not, unless they immediately portray themselves this way, you would be wrong in this assumption. Don't sell them or yourself short by starting with the budget materials. It is much easier to sell down than sell up. If your presentation is too salty for their pocketbook, gracefully suggest alternatives less pricey which still represent proper treatment of the work.

Dave Makielski