How low can you go?

Jay H

PFG, Picture Framing God
Dec 8, 2003
I’m sure this has been covered before but not recently. Maybe its time again.

Do you have a minimum fee for custom framing? This is rarely a problem, but occasionally I get customers who try like heck to get framing for free.

Customer today has 2 photos one 7x17 and another 11x17. She wants them this week. Matting is not an option as this actually cost money. So I pointed her to my poster frames and said well both of these comfortably fit into the “Any size up to 20x28” category for $39.00 each. In her attempt to get this for free she said “well these are half that size.” I priced out the smaller one at $37.00.

Then I realized that I have to have a minimum fee because with this method of pricing a postage stamp would cost about $1.50. I like having some “concrete” prices in my store. I have a wall for mouldings that have priced for a frame and a separate price for double matting in standard sizes. I also have 3 posters framed (22x28, 24x36, and 32x40) with prices from $39.99 to 59.99. But the real bargain shoppers put you on the spot when they equate size with price. It doesn’t work that way as it takes an hour (average) anything including a postage stamp.

Today I am making a sign that says, “50% deposit required on all custom framing”, and “All custom orders have a $XX.XX minimum.” I will do this just as soon as I decide what that minimum is.
You can't price labor by the square inch or united inch.

As I was reminded a few weeks ago, a very tiny frame is a LOT harder to cut and join than a 16x20.
From time immortal most custom frames (and pricing charts) are established with a minimum footage charge. Some charge a 4 foot minimum. Some custom finished corner frames have a 6 foot minimum.
The same thing is true with glass, fitting and mats. There has been some change in thought due to Jay and others that charges should have a fixed and variable element. In the case of a mat, the time needed to process the order, select the raw materials from the rack, layout an opening and actually cut the mat are rather standard (fixed). The the size of the board is determined by the size of the mat (variable). This is simply the application of standard "cost accounting" that is learned in the first year of college by all people taking accounting corses.
Personnaly I load into every mat, fitting charge, lite of glass, assembled frame a fixed dollar amount (say from $3.00 to $15.00 depending on the catagory) and a variable per U.I., lite, sq ft, running foot charge. I also do charge for a minimum size ( 8x10). So the charge for a 4x5 is the same as a 8x10.
I also have FrameReady set to an 8 x 10 minimum. Meaning anything smaller than that gets charged for an 8 x 10. I know that I should have some minimum dollar amount for the stores but I don't. Whatever the work order comes up to is what the price is. My prices are lower than anywhere I have personally price shopped, or had someone else price shop for me. That is not bragging, I just don't charge a fitting charge. No more than you are making on the "special", I wouldn't drop the price for any reason. If you are using an OEM or NDN metal on these, your really not making a lot. That customer could try Hobby Lobby. The work order would be around $125 but hey, they get 50% off. Still much higher than you. If you want to have a minimum, make it on fitting.
I forgot to add...........
The customer was looking at ready made frames and wants a custom size..........
Can we say: The custom frame price will be $$$$!
Well for my advertised prices, I too know for a fact I am below HL by exactly $6.06. When you start altering the sizes I'm not sure where I rank but to tell you the truth I don't care.

My software has an “add on” amount. Not exactly like a minimum but serves the same purpose. That is why they came out so close when I priced the pieces outside my poster frame rate. I guess my response is fine. However I just didn't have a good...... I mean nice response when she said "well these are half that size." I guess I could just do what I did and say "Ok let me price these as regular custom framing instead at the poster rate and see where they fall." I rarely see anything go through my POS software that cheap so I knew that was safe!
My prices are lower than anywhere I have personally price shopped, or had someone else price shop for me. That is not bragging, I just don't charge a fitting charge.
<u>WHY?</u> It sounds like you are leaving money on the table... Is your strategy to be the lowest price around, and "make it up on volume"? That doesn't seem commensurate with custom work. Why should you be paid less for your work than someone who doesn't even bother to read the Grumble and go to seminars to keep their standards up to date?
Just as your vendor has minimum charges (lke 4.5' length) so should you. I just don't know how customer-friendly it would look to have a "minimum charge" sign hanging -- "Does glass replacement mean custom framing? Will my new piece of 8x10 glass really cost $xx.xx? I'll go down to Hobby Lobby".

When I go to the lumber yard, if I need 14' of 2x4's I usually end up buying 16' and eat/burn the rest.

LABOR is LABOR and minimum costs are still minimum costs. You're right - it takes just as long to frame a 2x2 stamp as an 11x14 photo. It's just that on a small job the labor component is higher, percentage-wise.

Labor + mats + glass + moulding + mounting = THE PRICE.

Don't feel compelled to cut your price because someone's price shopping. It's a dangerous and slippery slop to start down. Give them a fair price and stick to your guns. They'll find out soon enough how fair yuour price really is (wait 'til they go down to HL!)

I have been running a "Poster Framing Special" for over twenty years.

Our current prices are any poster up to and including 24"X 30" $49.95, up to and including 24"X 36" 59.95, up to and including 32'X 40" $69.95.

If the customers needed size goes over in either direction, goes to the next larger size. 12"X 40" is $69.95. 12"X 40 1/2" is not on our poster special offer, it's custom framing prices.

All discounted work has to be paid in advance.

We recently stopped advertising any discounts, so far, so good. We may, in the near future, stop offering the " Poster Special" altogether. I haven't decided yet.