Buying Blindly

Jim Miller

SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
Forum Donor
Founding Member
Nov 5, 1997
Suburban Central Ohio
On the "You are way too expensive" thread, there are conflicting comments about how to respond to customers' expressed wishes. I guess all of them are right in one circumstance or another. Some say that trying to sell preservation framing for everything is a recipe for disaster. We should simply give customers what they say they want.

That seems simple enough. Is that all there is to it?

Customers may have carefully considered their needs & wants, but usually don't know as much as we do about the framing choices to be considered. How often does that happen in your shop? More than half of my new customers misunderstand valuable features we offer, or are blissfully unaware of them. Perhaps all they know is that they want a low price, so that's all they ask for. I call it "buying blindly".

The other thread had an analogy about cars, so let's carry it on. If a car buyer says to the salesman, "I want to buy a new red car for less than $10,000", and gives no other specifications, he/she proposes to buy blindly. If the salesman has a $10,000 red car that the buyer is willing to buy, should the sale be concluded without further discussion?

The buyer who happily drives home his new, red, $10,000 car might discover in the morning that he should have bought more carefully. If he has six kids, he should have bought a 4-door instead of the compact 2-door. If he wants to pull a trailer, he should have asked about options for that purpose. If he's concerned about the engine's service life, or wanted power to pass slower cars on the 20-mile long, 2-lane country road home, maybe he should have bought a 6-cylinder engine instead of the smaller one. He could not have bought such an improved car for the $10,000 he specified, but he might have spent the extra money -- if he knew what questions to ask the smiling, cooperative salesman who simply gave him what he asked for.

The salesman responded exactly to the customer's expressed wishes. Did he do his job well? I say no, the salesman should have recognized the buyer's lack of information and helped him/her make an informed buying decision.

I believe the same is true in framing. We can - and should - direct the frame design conversation so that customers do not buy blindly, but make informed decisions about the features we offer that might represent real value for them.

Should we send away customers who, fully informed, don't want to buy better framing? Certainly not.

Should we write up a stripped-down framing order for a customer who specifies only low price, if we can do that without wasting time on further discussion?

Well the problem with "points of view" is that they are laid out there as dogmas with no tolerance of varation.

I'm doubtful that many frames like that but we speak in those terms.

In the thread you mentioned there is two distinct sides. One suggested that we just frame the piece. How much consern for the piece could the customer have if all they were willing to spend was $50?

The other suggested that we should preserve this thing or lose the sell but to not preserve it is irresponsible.

This thread will likely follow that same example. People will line up on this side or that and throw mud at the other. Those with the most on their side will throw more mud and emerge as the victor.

I just want to suggest that in reality most of us frame somewhere between the two extreams. I'm very doubtful that many (opperating retial businesses) is some hack framer or the preservation pureist eventhough we will probably line up on some line anyway.
I believe Jim's analogy with the car purchase is a very good one. It could be used for a broad range of retail purchasing.

I totally agree with Jim that we need to educate our customers and at least put forth an effort to do things the way they should be done.

However, there are customers out there that will get angry with the car salesman trying to 'up sell' them into a more expensive car. They will go from car lot to car lot until they find a salesman that will put them in that 10k red car.

The real wisdom is in knowing the difference between when to 'educate' and when to just 'close the sale'.

I don't have the answer to that. I know for a fact that I have been guilty of closing the sale too fast and leaving money on the table.
This is another "picture perfect" example of how some argue for the sake of arguing.

I cannot imagine many (any) cases where anybody sells exclusively on one component alone. I also don't understand anyone that doesn't listen to the client and try and provide what we perceive the clien truly wants

I also think that where we feel "we" fit on that sliding scale is probably not as close to what the client wishes might not be as close

In truth, if we met that expectation as successfully as we all thought, we would never have walk outs and would be swimming wildly in mountains of cash

Why must we continue to paint these abstract positions in the starkest of blacks and whites.

If you sell on price, and price alone, You will miss opportunity to have greater sales and profits.

If you have no consideration or understanding of th edynamics of pricing, you will miss opportunity to have greater sales and profits

Perhaps every post forward ought to have a disclaimer that it is based on a Business Decision or an Emotional Decision.

Both are fine; we just ought to make sure which is which

It's that old Black and White thing again
I am not disagreeing with Jim’s statements at all, but taking your car analogy from another perspective …

Tonight I am plunking down a deposit on a new 2007 Toyota Yaris. After doing some research, I know what I want – a bare bones, standard transmission, no power windows, sedan.

After I took a test drive, the salesman tried to sell me on an automatic (it only gets 1 mile/gallon less mileage). Why? Because he had one on the lot – and it sells for a few hundred dollars more.

When that didn’t work, he tried to “put me into” a 5 speed sedan, but it was white. Again, because he had one on the lot. I will not drive a car the color of a kitchen appliance!

So, when that didn’t work. He tried to “upsell” me on a Camray. Nice car, but too big for me, more than I want to spend, and I can still roll down my own windows and adjust my own mirrors, thank you very much.

As an “informed” customer, I was slightly annoyed that he didn’t blindly accept my wishes and write the order as I wanted.

I have to wait a few weeks, but I am getting a five speed, bare bones, silver Yaris.

If one our our customers wants to frame a piece of his/her grandson’s refrigerator art, I don’t believe that the majority of them want or need TruVue Museum glass surrounded by a 4 inch closed corner frame. He/she simply wants to get out cheaply and display the finger painting so that the next time the grand kid comes visiting, he will see it on the wall. It will not likely be displayed forever, so, IMO, doesn’t need our “top drawer” framing skills.

As good retailers and responsible framers, I agree with Jim that we have to know our customers and respond to their wishes not ours. But, when they ask for a $50 frame, sometimes that’s exactly what they need.
Thanks Jim for restarting the topic .In this one however It seems that some of us where saying the same thing and some of us just couldn't recogize the similarities. Only problem is I am not sure who was who.LOL

However the original thread I read had a thrid position in it other than just do what the customer wanted ( UNLESS they were being TOTALY unreasonable) or preserver the work as we feel it needs preserveing and possibly loose the sale. I think it was ,make sure the customer knows what is availbale and why it is recommended before you agree to use the cheapest framing available and then if they understand and still want a purely decroative ,inexpensive job ,by all means make sure you have what they want.

But then IMO that sounds remakably like what the later part of Jim's analogy is trying to say and did say in the other thread,as well as a few other replies.

Some things don't have DEGREES ( they are either BLACK or WHITE) Like Total Conservation is the BEST and nothing less. But then everything ELSE is made up of degrees and various shades and hues. And therefore we should in good faith make sure that a prospective customer knows ( to the best of our ability) all the options available before we just BLINDLY comply with their low price wishes or worse ( when we can't REASONABLE give them what they want) suggest something cheaper which doesn't adress any of the possible needs ,because in OUR judgement it doesn't need it anyway.
Originally posted by Bill Henry-:
I will not drive a car the color of a kitchen appliance!

I have to wait a few weeks, but I am getting a five speed, bare bones, silver Yaris.

Bill, I hate be the one to tell you, but we've been looking at a LOT of silver kitchen appliances lately. Is it too late to cancel your order?

It would seem obvious that, if there is a serious disconnect between what we want to sell and what our customers want to buy, there's going to be a problem.

I'll bet your Toyota dealer thought he was "educating" you.
I saw an ad on TV the other night promoting a refrigerator. It was stainless steel and had <u>television</u> screen on the front. Good grief. If the ‘fridge got 40 miles to the gallon, I’d take it for a test drive.

… and, I think, I’d rather have my wife watch TV while driving, than trying to whip up a casserole. Talk about a car wreck.
I'll share an interesting situation that occurred yesterday. A woman came in (for her third visit) and was a dazed as confused as imagineable.

She was doing a project that inclded a 20x30 photo (professionally taken) of he rhusbands Harley and wanted it framed as a special gift. So, she had a lot of emotiion tied up in this project, not to mention expense of a professional photog (and you know they never hear that they are too expensive LOL). She wanted to float beteen two lites of glass but wanted a 1" suede mat to allow 2" of glass to create the float

She was so baffled and bamboozled by two other shops that she had no idea what was being done, but was most assuredly told by each shop that what the other two were doing was "horrible".

She came back to us because she felt we were not trying to "educate" (not her exact words LOL)her, but the she just felt that we seemed to know what we would do was going to be right.

And she had really been run around the maypole.

We were the lowest price, luckily, but that wasn't the real decision.

But, bet the farm, that we might easily be cast as the "cheapest" price and that we must be taking some unwise shortcut or use cardboard or something else

When, at the end, she was so blinded by the hyperbole that if she had "bought blindly" she would have saved a lot of time

And, I suspect that when she has something really important to frame she might come back

BTW This project was just under $700
Bob I am sure most of us have stories like that one.
Mine is a customer that after learning to trust what I did to her Cross-stitch pieces over the years she no longer picked anything.Not a mat or moulding or even the special cuts we employed. Now that I am no longer framing and we don't live in the same area, she has to go to another shop. She called to tell Marie she might pay us a visit soon. And she related that she had no idea what the other shops were doing when they asked her what kind of mat ,color combinations or mouldings and design she wanted .Much less to what degree of preservation she wanted it framed. She said she was toatly confused ,BUT IT WASN"T BECAUSE WE HAD NEVER tried to show her.

And since we have done dozens of these works before Katrinia and good many still exsist ,I am sure I will not hear any complaints from her in the future.

On the other hand I once had a customer from Jackson Barracks who brought in work for the barrcks regularly and we knew just what he wanted since it was almost always the same( as per the military).LOL

But one day he brought in telephone book on whose cover was a pictured of the parade grounds of the Barrcks. He was partcularly proud of it since the house he lived in was dead center . BTW it was the same house his father and grandfather ( all Quatermasters) had lived in. In fact the Telephone company had flown in on a helicopter and formally presented the first copy to him in the barracks.

So he told me to frame the entire book ( so all would know what it was) . I assumed he wanted the entire book to be seen so I created a shelf made from an iverted small shadow box and secured the book on it with straps so the whole book could be seen . I called him in to see the shadow box frame I was building with mats around it and behind and the shelfing. He viewed it and simply asked when would it be completed. I told him in a couple of days and he left.

When he returned he was toatly displeased . It seems all he wanted was to see the cover but to have the entier book in the frame. I told him no one would know but he said he would. I undid it and charged him for what he had seen earlier and not stopped me from doing.

My Points being ; even when looking at what we are doing and having it explained not all customers understand. But more importantly try as you may and expalin everything to the best of your ability it only takes one foolish misunderstanding to spread the word that you can't follow instructions or some other slur,which could end up in litigation ( even if and when you win).

So IMHO you had best explain all and then document what you said when doing what ever a customer says just do what ever.


But I definetly wouldn't have just assumed that the cover was good enough and done that.( even though IMO it **** sure was.)
Bob, just out of curiosity, what were the technical specs of that Harley project? How exactly did your staff achieve the floated effect she wanted on a piece that large and keep it safe and structurally sound? Was glass spaced away from the surface of the photo? What kind of frame was used, what kind of glass, and how was the photo mounted?
:cool: Rick
...If this order just came in yesterday, I assume it's not done yet, but what is the plan?
Its not a bit uncommon for me to take in pieces and while I have a design idea in mind, I have no clue how I'm going to mount it.

That harley project sounds like one of those.
Hey Rick-Heck, if I did that, I might as well hang one of those "Kick Me" signs around my neck (LOL). I would be surprised if there weren't a half dozen snipers out their just waiting to pounce on whatever technique we used (insert smiley face here).

Heck, when I offer "text book garden variety" business advice I get it (insert double smiley faces)

So, to offer up something technical (even though there might be half a dozen acceptable ways)? It's true I was born in the morning, it wasn't yesterday morning

In truth, like Jay suggested, I have an idea, but it will surely be up to the judgement of whichever framer actually tackles the project.

And, I'm sure it will be fine

But for fun, let's see how others would tackle this project
Originally posted by Bill Henry-:
...After I took a test drive, the salesman tried to sell me on an automatic (it only gets 1 mile/gallon less mileage). Why? Because he had one on the lot – and it sells for a few hundred dollars more.

When that didn’t work, he tried to “put me into” a 5 speed sedan, but it was white. Again, because he had one on the lot....

Unlike Jim Miller's scenario, your car salesman <u>was simply not listening</U>. Listening is a dying art form, but a key to good salesmanship.

...As an “informed” customer, I was slightly annoyed that he didn’t blindly accept my wishes and write the order as I wanted....
Our job on the salesman's side of the counter is to determine what the needs are of the client. In your case, you did your homework and were truly "informed", but as you know, this is not always the case.

...I will not drive a car the color of a kitchen appliance!....
Bill, My van is white and my appliances are stainless steel. :D

Originally posted by Jerry Ervin:
...However, there are customers out there that will get angry with the car salesman trying to 'up sell' them into a more expensive car. They will go from car lot to car lot until they find a salesman that will put them in that 10k red car...

The problem is that although it is a natural defense mechanism to assume that we are being "up sold", this is compounded more today with younger consummers who think they know exactly what they want. They've done the research online, they have income to make the purchase and the sales person is simply the clerk who has to make the transaction happen.

...The real wisdom is in knowing the difference between when to 'educate' and when to just 'close the sale'....
You are absolutely correct in that we need to listen and polish our skills on what to say, how to say it and when to say it.

You can explain, teach, or tell the customer all you wish to share with them. You have to remember that, above all else, we are "custom" picture framers.

People come to us to have something "custom" made. Seems to me, that in itself, would imply, " To the customers specifications."

If you are unable to handle that, you should probably be in another profession.

Originally posted by JRB:
... People come to us to have something "custom" made. Seems to me, that in itself, would imply, " To the customers specifications."

If you are unable to handle that, you should probably be in another profession.
John, maybe you have hit on a core issue. Do customers come to us in the first place because we will do what they want, or because we can do what they can't?

Should we assume that customers know enough about framing to make adequate specifications? It seems if they could do it themselves, our work means nothing more than convenience for them.

Customers's specifications are not often clear and complete. Should we assume that whatever the customer does not specify is unimportant?
Jim and John ,

The understanding I have of the definition of CUSTOM-MADE is that it is made to the express specifications of the customer. This would seem to necessitate that some understanding come to exactly what is desired by the customer before any CUSTOM or ANY work could be done.

However Framing can be achieved with out this requirement ( as in ready-made or pre-cut frames and mats) .But then these are also the trade of Non-CUSTOM shops. So some custom shops can and do supply both .As well we should. But it order to make sure we have precisely what the customer wants and needs we would seem to have to explore what their specifications are FIRST and it would also seem to exclude making any personal assumptions without the DIRECT input of that same customer at some point. It would also seem to necessitate a through Knowledge of any and all Framing practices and materials so that we could properly direct the customer in the many choices they may have available to them.

Other wise we would be operating as a purely Retail sales outlet ,where a customer could pick out what ever they wanted and assemble their own work much like is done in some Chain Stores.

The key difference would seem to be a personal attention to the wants and needs of the customer before they are directed to the selection of their chosen, while the other method forces the Customer to indeed Buy blindly unless they have had some previous Framing training and they have kept it up to date as we should .
My comment was aimed at the picture framing "experts" who are convinced that only THEIR designs count. If a customer comes into your shop with a 32" X 43" signed original litho, the real thing, not photo mechanical or a giclee, that is of a very low edition size, AND is by a very well known artist, who you personally admire, what do you do when their design ideas stink?

They want a metal frame, they want a one inch wide mat, all the way around, no bottom weighting, the mat is a very bright color that matches perfectly, the overall color of the print, and, they ask for regular glass, and they want it dry mounted because it might get wavy, like the one they saw in the gallery in New York.

If it was me, I would start educating my customer on proper framing designs, I would explain conservation framing to them, and I would show them samples of finished pieces that are in my shop. I would also make it very clear to the customer that what they are proposing would, in all probability, destroy the collectible value of the piece. I would lay out some realistic designs on the piece.

At that point, I would feel that I have done all the right things that would be in the best interests of my customer and the piece.

If the customer continued to request I frame it as they have indicated, that is exactly what I would do. I would also have them sign my disclaimer, just to be safe.

Like I said in my above post, educate them as best you can, the bottom line is still the same, THEY are the customer, WE, are the custom framers.

We are not design or art police, it is not our job to dictate how a customer should frame their stuff.

Fortunately, most customers will happily accept our recommendations if they are in doubt. For the ones who want it done their way, that is exactly what we should do.

John That sounds like Half dozen of one and six of another.LOL I have some deprivations about how secure any disclaimer may be if they Balk but it could ( if written clearly and completely and signed and dated) show that they were forwarned and chose to ignore your sound introductions before anything was done.

It also sounds remakably like Jim's analogy and my suggestions IMO.
I does not surprise me that we all pretty much think along the same lines.