Help! demon customer opinions


Grumbler in Training
Jun 5, 2004
Canton, CT
We rematted and refitted a piece, touching up the falling-apart frame (with black acrylic paint) for no charge in the process. It's what we do. The customer now claims that she got the "black shoe polish" onto her hands and then onto her white furniture and that we are responsible for having it cleaned. Any comments????
No good deed goes unpunished.

Acrylic paint dries fairly quickly, so are you sure that it is the paint?

If you backed the frame with black Kraft paper and her hands were wet, she might have gotten black fingers from that.

It's a tough call but I would probably bite the bullet and have the sofa cleaned for her. But contact the cleaner yourself so she doesn't try to do all the furniture in fifteen rooms and stick you with the bill.

In any case, you've probably lost this customer, but by cleaning it you might limit the damage she can do by blabbing to all of her friends.
I wondered where that customer went...

I had someone do something similar to me a few years back. Brought in her rummage sale find to have a new frame put on. The one she picked was an antiqued gold. She got it home and decided to "clean" the antiquing off it thinking it was dirt. Unfortunately, instead of taking it to the basement or some other appropriate place for cleaning, her husband laid it on the white carpet and wet it down with a strong cleaner. Of course it wound up on the carpet. She tried to lay the blame on me, I was able to convince her to settle for a different frame and blame her husband for the carpet! :rolleyes:

Besides repainting, did you use black frame putty on the frame? It stays soft virtually forever and unless blended well or mixed with wood glue to serve as a hardened can definitely rub off.
Could it be black wax/putty from the corners?
Ask her to set up an appointment for you to come inspect and photograph the frame and the couch. If you have a good relationship with a cleaning service, tell her that they will be coming with you to provide their professional opinion.

Regardless of you making an insurance claim or not, treat it professionally. Your CPA will be glad for your documentation should it turn into a large expense.

Does her story make sense? If not, something is up. This is a weak area for 'do what it takes to please the customer'. If she is making this up I'd hold a very hard line in the resolution.

If you are on the hook, remember, you are only liable to return her to what she had at the time of the loss. i.e.- if the fabric has to be replaced, and the couch is five years old, a 10 year life expectancy means you pay 50% of the cost. If it gets that far call me!
This is why Jay Goltz warns in his seminars to watch out for the most notorious four-letter word in our business.... JUST...
It is not our responsibility to help people save a few bucks by reusing bad materials at our own peril. To quote another mentor, Vivian Kistler, "We are framers, not magicians."

:cool: Rick
Thanks for all of your input!
Update: the black stuff was indeed putty. The furniture is painted wooden furniture with a protective coating. I checked w/the manufacturer (Ethan Allen) and adhesive release on a cotton ball will do the trick. Tomorrow I'll go "save the day". Anybody want a new cheap customer referral? - George

Yes, No good deed.....
I've often thought of having a "WARNING" sticker made to put on the outside of my packaging for the times I've had to use materials that might 'rub off' onto prescious objects. I tell my customers about it and instruct them to be careful where they put it, but I suspect a "Demon Customer" would vow they never heard it. :eek:
Good idea,Sherry.
We never put our store stickers on the backs of frames that were purchased elsewhere or brought in for repair work, lest the customer forgets that we didn't do the bad job or that their old frame wasn't purchased from us just a year ago, when all it was was a mat and refit. We've learned to make notes about existing conditions so that old mounts and glass don't come back to haunt us. You are probably right about "demon customer" never reading those things. some things are a no win, suck it up situation, like this one. Is it still illegal to shoot customers?

Sorry Nash, but... I would fight that one. You can not be responsible for a customers dirty hands regardless of how her hands got dirty. And what space-case would put a dirty old frame on a white sofa. This one is in left field, you are not an insurer of her stupidity. They could take me to court on that one.

Also if you try to clean it and fail you might be responsible to have it fix. Don't touch it.

Avon, CT is the hometown of my craziest-customer-ever. I wish I could remember her name. She took two hours to pick out a mat, ignored all recommendations, and then demanded that it be replaced when she decided she didn't like what she picked out. She probably would've played the same game over again, but I asked her to sign a statement that said she was responsible for her choices. Whereupon she decided the original color was fine after all.

George, may she never darken your door.
It really does come down to where does our liablity for our work end. Just what should we be responsible for? In the case I referred to before, it really wasn't my problem that her husband had decided to clean the piece while it was laying on the rug. Unfortunatly, it took a while for her to see my point. She really was a demon and yelled and screamed at me for over a half hour. We still refer to her as the customer from he**. I've seen her doing the same thing at the grocery store and other places. :rolleyes:
I really don't put too much stock in these customers anymore. I figure if they are screaming at me and making a fool of themselves, they pretty much do it elsewhere, too. Of course, there is always the "fact" that they will tell all their friends about how bad we are, etc. etc. Frankly, if that customer is the customer from he**, either their friends already know what they are like or I don't need their friends as customers either.

Right now, I have three names in my computer that I will never do anything for again. I had the sister of a customer stop to see how the customer's order was coming. She decided to make some changes. When I thanked her for stoppin by, I also said that I would have to check with customer before making any changes. Wrong thing to say to sister (who wasn't even paying for the order). Anyway, that whole episode really blew it all out of proportion. I feel sorry for the next person who has deal with them because it won't be my shop.

The third person was eleceted mayor of a small town. Six months later she was recalled. 'Nuf said.

"I figure if they are screaming at me and making a fool of themselves, they pretty much do it elsewhere, too. Of course, there is always the "fact" that they will tell all their friends about how bad we are, etc. etc.

But by now all of her friends know what kind of person she is and her words will carry very little weight.

Nice day isn't it?