"I want to spend as little as possible..."


PFG, Picture Framing God
Jul 10, 1999
Howards retired
I am collecting things to say to customers who think that $75 is an outrageous amount to spend on framing a 16x20 piece of art. I usually say, "We don't judge the cost of the lamp by the cost of the lightbulb, but without the bulb the lamp would be useless." What do you say?
Does an appliance repair person charge less (house call) to replace a plug back into the socket when it falls out?

What is the difference in the charges of an attorney if they do ont win your case?

Does a tow truck operator charge more or less if you run out of gas or have a flat tire?
Ellen-My response might be "Let's see what we might have that will fit into your budget". Possibly a simple metal frame, or perhaps a ready-made. Or, how about that 9ft stick that you had leftover?

I think the key is that not everyone wants to spend as much as we would like them to on every project. May I suggest that the friendliness and accomodation shown on this project might resonate strongly when they do have something that requires (and they want to)spending a lot closer to what we want.

And rest assured, that they will equally (no, more strongly) remember poor, condenscending service. If I had someone make a crack about what type of car I drive, I would pretty much guarantee that it would be the last thing they would say to me. And, bet the farm that they would never get to utter those famous words "how would you like to pay for that".

We simply don't have enough customers that we can qualify (or disqualify)them so cavalierly. If they take the effort to make it into one of my stores, we better meet them with the same effort to take their money.

We all need to have some materials that will fill a larger group of clientle. Price it profitably, give them choices, use some good salesmanship and leave the humor(?) for the Grumble.

One sale a day at $75 (that you wouldn't touch now)means some real serious dollars at year's end. And, who knows how many times that satisfied customer just might come back for your "better" quality framing later?

Now, this only works if you are not maxxed out on your capacity. But, I haven't met a person yet, that coudn't always do a few more pieces
When a customer says, "I want to spend as little as possible,", I say "Why?"

Usually, consumers want to buy framing on price because they think nothing else matters. That is, they have no idea how to judge the value of framing.

If cars were bought the same way, they'd all be driving Yugos. But they're not, because they recognize the value of the better choices.

So, we need to help our customers understand the value of our better choices.

If price REALLY is their only consideration, then they're in the wrong store.
We have a whole wall of custom framed posters and prints, all in the $15-30 price range of the poster. We have custom framed them for the picture, with absolutely no consideration of the original cost of the piece. One of them we spent over $350.00, our cost, framing it. We also have a wedding photograph we put an AFP closed corner frame on, our cost a little over $400.00. We have made all of these "pictures" look as best we possibly could.

When a customer makes that comment about the frame being WAY to expensive for his cheap print, we give them a tour. We explain that it is not the cost of the art that counts, it's the appearance of the completed piece that really counts.

If, as Bob says, it is still beyond their budget, we have tons of closeout mouldings, scrap mat boards, etc.

It actually depends on our volume of work to be done, how far we will bend to get to a customers price comfort zone.

Sometimes it's just better to let them walk during peak work loads. I do not want to offend someone who is spending a thousand dollars by making them wait because I had to get all the bargain framing completed. This does not happen all that much, but it is taken into consideration when I am trying to accommodate some customers.

Drives me crazy when they say that. I don't know what "as little as possible" is, really. My little and their little are probably two different things. If they ask for an estimate, or make the "I don't want to pay much" statement, I will give them an estimate based on minimums, and tell them that is as low as it gets, and goes up from there. If my estimate is too high, I ask them how much they thought the job might cost. Usually their idea of what the job should cost is way too low for me to even get into saving the sale.

Sometimes they proceed with the job, sometimes they don't. I really doubt that no matter what kind of comparison's, quips, or jokes I come up with will change their mind. People who shop price are only interested in "how much?".
When we have a customer that tells us that they don't want to spend much money, we just work up a quote like normal. If they like the design, they might send the money anyway. If it is too much money, then we work it down bit by bit... they usually end up with the more expencive design anyway. (They saw something that they liked, and don't like the look of the thinner mats, or smaller frame.)

If they don't want to spend more than $10, I offer them push pins. :D
Originally posted by Pamela DeSimone, CPF:
...People who shop price are only interested in "how much?".
Certainly, some people truly are interested only in price, and they are the ones I referred to above, as being in the wrong store. But in reality, they are a small minority of our potential customers.

Most people who come into a custom frame shop (mine, anyway) are looking for something better than the cheapest thing available. I think they brace themselves for sticker shock, because everyone seems to misunderstand that "framing is expensive". (My puzzled response to that commonly heard statement: "Really? Compared to what?")

I submit that a custom framer's success may be measured by the number of those sometimes-difficult, unknowing consumers that are converted into loyal customers.

And the way we do it is to educate them on what custom framing is all about. It doesn't have to be preachy, and it should never be condescending. It should be informative and delivered in terms they understand and relate to.

At worst, we could spend half an hour talking about value to a customer who walks away -- but takes with her a new understanding that often brings her back later.

Bob's right as usual, that we should make every effort to meet the needs of our customers. However, we leave money on the table if we assume every customer knows what their needs really are -- they often don't, you know. Customer education is what separates us from the order-takers.
Do you have prices displayed on the framed pieces? Do they show the price of the art unframed and framed as you show it?

A point my sister has made to me that I have shared here a few times is that in the frame shops she's visited (including several I've worked in) there isn't any way to set your price expectations without going through the whole design process. In other types of stores you can pick up a few items and see prices marked and decide if you're in the right store for you.

Ellen, I haven't got any good reply to the "$75?? That's ridiculous!" people. Your light bulb/lamp example is one a friend in California used successfully.

If someone leads by saying "I don't want to spend a lot on this" I ask for a sense of what they think is a lot.

About a week ago people were walking past the front of my shop and I overheard these words, ". . .the most overpriced frame shop in America." In America? Not in town. Not in New York. The most overpriced frame shop in America. Beat that!
My approach is to first, respectfully, work with the art, then the customer. This is why:

1)The art: I design the framing package the way it SHOULD be done....to complement the art, taking into consideration the customers tastes.

2)The customer: Once it is worked up, I then tabulate the price. If, after the customer has seen the possibilities, they can't afford it, I work with them. That way, it is THEIR decision! Some customers HAVE the money, but it's intended for other things. At this point, it is their discretion. They choose to change the look in order to lower the price, or not.....as it should be.
I previously had my shop located in an art gallery with agreement to wait on gallery customer,etc. as part of my rent. (rent free - can't beat a deal like that) I knew the labor, sweat and tears involved in creating the art as I was also part of that process.

It always amazed me when cusomters would asked "What would you put in this?" I usually said, "It's meant to hold only your attention and imagination." Then as they mulled that over I added, "Or anything you want or nothing at all. I think it could stand on it's beauty alone." Then as they nod in agreement and deep thought I'm thinking 'if you have to ask then you don't deserve the honor of it's presence.' BUT I NEVER SAID IT!

My point - there has to be a congenial way you can make people understand the importance of quality, and the satisfaction of beauty. Without being condensending - true.

Customers just don't know. This point was driven home by my mom. She hangs out at my shop often just to visit. At first she commented "I had no idea this involved so much!" She helps me with mat choices when the customer leaves the decisions up to me and soon grew to appreciate a well framed piece.

The week before Christmas a lady brought me two cross stitch pieces and wanted me to cut mats before Christmas. When I asked how wide, what size,etc. she said "Oh, the frames are 8x10 and 11x14. I told her to bring me the frames and I would put them together for her because I knew this was headed for disaster. She hadn't thought of that. She brings me two $2 frames from you-know-where. Now I'm sorry I offered.

How do you cram a mounted cross stitch, mat and glass in a frame from you-know-where? Thank the framing gods for off-sets.

Any way, only one frame size would work. The other didn't leave enough room for any kind of a mat border but a scrawny little thing. I called to tell her she wouldn't like the looks of the narrow mat border. "Oh," she says, "It will be awhile before I can get out of town again to get another frame. So just go ahead and do the other one." I said, "Okay. If you can't find what you need I can get any style, any color, any size. Just let me know."

I could have been livid - but I wasn't. Using scraps I fixed up the one 11x14, sink mount, rag mat, off sets (the back was not very pretty and I couldn't seal it off because it was just too thick) Charged her $25 wondering if she'd even pay it. She gladly paid it and said, "Next time I'll have you do the whole thing. I didn't know you had frames too." ???

Just like in the art gallery - the customers don't know/understand. After they saw the potter at the wheel or the glass blower in front of the ovens full of molten glass they apprecited the pieces even more.

I like to let the customers 'catch me' working. My one-person shop is one big open room so it's easy to see work in progress. Sometimes when problems/challenges arise I tell the customer about them in a conversational way (after I've solved them of course) when they are picking up the pieces and oohing and aahing. I'm not making myself sound like some framing hero just laughing it off and saying how I like a challenge,etc. I've even had some offer to pay extra after hearing the 'war' stories. I say, "Oh, no. Just what I quoted you before. It's all part of my continuing education."

After all this, what I'm saying is: Be nice. Don't under cut your self. And explain even the most simple (seeming to the framer) things to the customer. Stamping out preservation/presentation ignorance one customer at time is all framers can expect to do.

Smile. Relax. Do the best you can with what you've got to work with - wether it's by your own design or someone else's.
Meghan, yes every thing is clearly priced. We arrive at our price for framed prints by figuring out the normal custom price, then discounting that price by 30%.

At my old store we would just frame anything with whatever was on hand in order to keep the walls full. It looked like heck, but the stuff kept selling, we made money.

My present store I do not do it that way. I decided that whatever we frame for the shop, should look it's absolute best, no matter what it cost us.

I do not sell as much framed art anymore, we still move a fair share of it, but our custom framing sales have gone way up as a result of this policy. Plus it's kind of fun to be able to frame anything the way you want it.

As far as people thinking that we are expensive, they are right, we are. At least to those folks who buy their frames at garage sales and flea markets. People who are unfamiliar with custom framing will always think we are expensive. There is not much you can do about it other than making your examples look as best you can. You know, stuff they would never have in their homes because it costs too much.

I'm still waiting for someone to come in and say, "I would like to spend as much as possible to frame this." Maybe today will be the day.

I do have a fair number of people that will say something like, "I don't care what it costs. I want it done right."

Often, it turns out they really do care, but they just thought it would be a cool thing to say, especially if they didn't come in alone.
The best response I've gotten was this:

C: "But it's just a poster."

F: "It's just a beautiful poster. You bought it because you like it, and it's worth showing off."

C: (smiling) "Yeah! Let's do it, then."

Pointing out that it is the beauty they are framing, not the ink and paper, can help a customer make a choice they will be happier with. I have had several customers who "went cheap" and then didn't really enjoy their piece.

If they just aren't able to pay for a good frame for something, I will sometimes suggest an alternative. "Instead of cutting corners on this, why not get a $15 poster frame across the street, so you can hang this up, and have it protected. Then you can save up to frame it the way you really want it to look."

I keep track of what other shops have to offer. There is one in town that offers package deals on standard size metal frames. Another place has the really cheap poster frames. That way I can refer customers to somewhere that has what they are looking for, if price really is their only concern.

I hate to just turn someone away flat. I'll say something like, "Well, this is the sort of thing we do here, what you need is what they do there..." I'll even give them directions.

I had a customer who had just bought her own house, and brought a stack of prints she wanted to frame and hang. She was aghast at the price framing all of them at once would be, and admitted she had simply never thought about the cost. I measured all of them, and told her where she could get poster frames for the standard sizes, and we picked out custom frames for the two that were not.

She liked the way the custom ones looked, and did bring the others in, one at a time, as she decorated her house, for custom frames. She also said that the poster frames were a great idea, because she could hang them up and see where she liked them, but the frames were cheap enough, she didn't feel bad about getting rid of them later.
Pointing out that it is the beauty they are framing, not the ink and paper, can help a customer make a choice they will be happier with.
That is an excellent way to describe it. Without that, even a fine mezzotint or an antique Japanese woodcut print is "Nothing but ink and paper".
Also, I completely agree with the idea that if I can't or don't want to do a particular service, I will give the customer some information to help them solve their problem. Then they see me as a knowledgeable resource, and when they have a need for what I do, they will come to me.

:cool: Rick
I know if these price-shoppers/hedgers, whatever you want to call them would bite the bullet JUST ONCE and let me frame what they brought in, the way I want to, they would probably become customers for life. Those that have trusted my judgement have become just that-good customers.

What gets the most attention on my walls are my competition pieces. They are not cheap to duplicate, but I have had the opportunity to adapt some of the designs for my customers. I also have items framed in 22k gold closed corner frames. Not cheap to use as a sample, but it helps sell frames.

Price objection is really hard to overcome. But when I have, I don't think anyone has ever been disappointed. Isn't it great when someone says "that looks better than I thought it would"?
I just have no come back. I am speechless sometimes.
This is my take on this.
They say something like "I only want to spend $70.00 to $100.00" on this print. We have all had it happen.
You pull out everything you are polite and work a long time with them. You find many things that look great in their"price range" even readymades.
They still walk away.......

You are left wondering what could I have done differently?

I have met Ellen and I know she is a very friendly person and a great framer and designer.

You know what I think?

Sometimes you just can't worry about it. I think there are times we just do not "click" with some people. Maybe it is bad carma or something who knows?
I usually start with the mat and frame I think would look the best on the print. Then if my customer tells me it is too much, I have room to downgrade. I can go to paper mat( I always explain why this isn't the best idea), regular glass and some in stock mouldings I buy by the box and can discount if I have to. I will also offer a discount if I have the mldg in stock, which in my case means a stick or two I have accumulated. I don't stock a lot as I am trying to get a handle on my inventory and I am only one day out from several vendors. You will be surprised how many times the sell down look bad next to the original look and the customer will buy the original. I also will let them pay on lay-away. I have a couple of good customers who have the financial status to buy anything you put out no matter the price. However, the nicest compliment I received from one of them was that they really appreciated the fact I offered them a choice. I gained these customers from a competitor who "saw them coming" so to speak and they are bright enough to realize it.
Originally posted by JudyN:
...They say something like "I only want to spend $70.00 to $100.00"...
Among the first objectives of framing design are to determine purpose and budget. We should find out as soon as possible what he/she intends to do with the project at hand, and how much he/she intends to spend.

A reply such as "...$70 to $100" is very helpful in setting our course of conversation.

If there's a realistic hope of meeting that customer's budget, then we should point it out as quickly and accurately as possible. In low-budget situations, design time is at a premium.

If there's no realistic hope of meeting the stated budget with a suitable frame design, we should say so immediately.

At that point, the customer will demonstrate a willingness to consider more pricey options, or not. Either way, we avoid wasting time.
Jim always brings the topic into crystal-clear clarity. It is about time-yours as well as the clients.

Can you imagine that for all of us going to WCAF this week, we had a conversation like this with the reservation clerk at the Hilton in Vegas:

You: Hi, I'd like to check room rates, please

Hilton: Absolutely. We have a wonderful 7 room suite on the top floor. It has a gorgeous view of the Strip, comes with a Jacuzzi, workout room, a personal valet...

You: Whoa, I don't think I want to spend that much...

Hilton: (under their breath to the operator next to them)It must be one of those cheapskates. To you: But, this room will provide the ultimate in hotel experience. Your complete satisfaction and comfort is the important thing we are talking about

You: Yes, but I'll bet that costs a lot more than I want to...

Hilton: We prefer you not look at what it costs, but what you get. And we provide only the finest in guest accomodations and it's only $2200 a night

You: But, I know that much more than I want to spend-it's just a room and all I'm going to do is sleep there...

Hilton:We see your stay as so much more than just sleeping in a room. We offer a total experience that can't be measured by money alone...

You: (Major frustration-kind of what you are experiencing reading this thread)Look-I just want a room, I don't want to spend a ton of money and if you can't take care of me, I'll just go elsewhere

Hilton:(Thinking to themselves- It must be time for the Picture Framers convention again-And to think what they charge for what they do.) To you: We do have a $59 a night special for the convention for a deluxe room

You: Thanks, that will do fine (Thinking to your self:Why didn't they just tell me that first? Geez, next time I'll just book it on the internet)

Sometimes we want the suite; sometimes not. But we know what we want and no amount of talking was going to get us to get that suite. We simply didn't want to spend that much.

As a provider, Hilton knows that and probably has their operators trained to not waste a lot of time on people that don't want the full experience. It's why 90% of their rooms are designed to take care of 90% of the clientele at a rate 90% of their clientele is willing to pay.

But, they do offer a complete range of options to offer the widest possible range of clientele at profitable room rate structure.

They too have the $29 a night client and sometimes you just can't satisfy everyone.

But, bet the farm, they will put you into a room (at a profit) in a minimum amount of time.

Like Jim said, they don't waste your time or yours
Originally posted by Bob Carter:
...You: Hi, I'd like to check room rates, please... Hilton: Absolutely. We have a wonderful 7 room suite on the top floor...You: Whoa, I don't think I want to spend that much...
Bob, that's the perfect analogy to put us in our customers' shoes. May I quote you on that?
Jim-Of course, you can. I'm not trying to belittle the fact that we ought to show our best. We should.

Just like in this hypothetical, Hilton should offer top of the line. Some clients will jump on it.

But some won't. In fact, most won't. We need to have something for all that make the attempt to give us money. Only you know your market best. What is the high end and what is the low level can really only be answered by you.

How many of us are staying at the Bellagio? Not many, I'll bet.


Because it's too expensive, maybe? Do you think they have any $59 rooms there?

They don't and really don't want to sell any rooms for that amount.

But, here's the difference between Bellagio and us.

They look like they should be more expensive and they provide all the "necessaries" to complete the image.

The problem is too many of think we are "Bellagio's" but really are more like Hilton (that isn't all bad). The consumer's can tell the difference.

I'll just bet that not many people call Bellagio expecting a $59 room. They have established through marketing and image what they are and who they want to attract.

If you are getting more than your share of the $59 room crowd, look inward. Something about you and your look is attracting that type of client.

And, if that is what is naturally being attracted, you might as well have something for them. And if that means a $59 room, just make sure you can make money at $59.

I'll bet Hilton does