Junky picture frames...drives me nuts


CGF, Certified Grumble Framer
Jul 15, 2004
Frankfort, IN
I have one customer who brings me these nasty old crappy rundown good for nothing falling apart frames he buys at garage sales and then he wants me to put his old pictures in them for him to sell at sales, from ebay to garage sales he has. Naturally I spend more time on the frame trying to hold it together any way I can than on the picture itself. He mainly has me mat the picture and leaves the 80+ year old glass in there, no matter if it's all scratched up, paint on it, or whatever, and then has me glue, nail, or whatever it takes to hold it all together so he can sell it. After that, he tells me he doesn't care what happens to it. My problem is this stuff is so bad I wouldn't want anyone to know I had put it together. I'm afraid it will hurt my business more than help it if people think I do this kind of work on a regular basis. I'm thinking about telling the guy I don't want any more of this kind of junk. He's fairly insistant on me doing it the way he wants it, plus he's too cheap to spring for a new frame. But he pays good money to have me do the junk work. Go figure. I'm not sure the money is worth the trouble. How would some of you handle this situation?

Don't put a label on it.

Charge enough to repair the frame ( at least $5.00 per corner) so that you can live with it.
This doesn't sound the same as a one-time repair for a regular full service customer.

If the money is not worth the trouble, meaning it is not enough for you to profit from the work, then politely decline the business. Otherwise, you are contributing to his bottom line, not yours.
dont like the jobs...UP CHARGE! nothing like a a good dose of noticably HIGHER prices to get a customer's attention. Or simply tell him it's costing you too much in time/effort/supplies to justify your playing his game. do NOT sweat over this...play the game or pick up the ball and go home
I agree with the above posts.If you're not making money with this guy's junk I'd quit losing money on it. You don't have to put your label on the back of anything you aren't proud of so that shouldn't be an issue.

I would charge the normal joining fee for building a frame from scratch, plus any repairs he may ask you to do, plus any mats that he wants cut, plus any other work that he wants done at same rate that you would charge any customer. If that is too much for him, he will probably drift on to some other shop looking for some cheap prices and your problem is solved.

Too many framers are of the mindset that they are supposed to do these bargain hunters special favors simply to keep them coming into their shop. My question is, to what end?? If you are operating a business to make a profit you don't need to give your labor away to yard sale operators or eBay sellers, they are not (should not be) your prime target market in the first place. If your prices drive them to some other shop I would consider that a benefit rather than a loss from your description of this customer.

Charge a fair price, make a fair profit, and enjoy your work.

Send them to Jo,if she's willing to do them for $5/corner.

Jo has fallen into the same trap that keeps those frames coming in out doors. "We've always charged $5/corner to repair/rejoin/recut/take-apart-sand-rejoin/"just"
ever since our shop rate was $25/hr and labor cost $2.35/hr.

Shop rates are/should be about $60/hr [my mechanic is now $97.50/hr] and a "$5/corner" job needs to be done in 5-8 minutes FOR THE WHOLE FRAME.

Also there should be a "special fitting" charge which is about 2-2.5x of your standard fitting. And in the case of the clean-up and scraping and de-scunge-ifying that you have to do with these frames I would strongly suggest closer to 3-4x.

We have 3 "antique dealers" who keep me in a steady flow of these kinds of frames. One guy got smart and he brings us 6-12 empty frames at a time and I fix them at shop rate but that threads in with othere stuff going on.

The real "time" is when I go in at 6-7am and break them all down, clean up the rabits and backs, and shave chop the miters ready for join. This can run from 1-3 hours and this is what we charge for. The time in the glue vises and nailing goes on all day with a few minutes here and there which add up to only another 1/2 hour but we collect in the special fitting later when he brings them back.

He actually tried cutting mats and fitting himself.... he bought a black Fletcher gun and an Aldo mat cutter.... he gave me the Fletcher and three boxes of points and we laughed about the Aldo as we watched our Eclipes cut a mat... :D

The others I just get brutal and quote the repair in $$s. Sometimes they get repaired, and sometimes not.. but the REAL junkers stopped coming and all of our dealers became much more discriminate about what they are picking up for $5 at a lawn sale.

Good luck with your "junker" Rock. BTW, the reason he will pay "good money" to mend the old junk is he's really paying for the "patina" that no new frame [other than from Cornell] can match.
Originally posted by Framerguy:

Too many framers are of the mindset that they are supposed to do these bargain hunters special favors simply to keep them coming into their shop. My question is, to what end??
Very well said. It really doesn't make business sense. And this applies not only to those jobs from cheapskates who want to sell on eBay, but also to jobs from others, such as designers.

If you have to tie up the store for days on end to produce 15 farmed objects and make a minimal amount of money while the designer or whoever turns around and makes 20 times more, what's the point of being in this business?

Lots of volume, producing very little profit, is not good business sense.
When one of Mr. Cheapskate's customers asks where he gets his framing done, and he mentions your shop, how will the customer react?

If the customer's immediate, unknowing reaction is "That shop's framing is not up to my standards", then there could be a problem.

That issue aside, I will work with just about anything a customer drags in. If it is suitable junk, I charge enough to earn a profit on the time spent to make it work. If it is junk that will not work, then I say so -- nicely, but without hesitation.

And that sort of reinforces my point about your target market. If the customer was that interested in Mr. Cheapskate's framing that they cared to ask where he got it done then I would question whether you needed either one of them as your customers. I don't know if their rantings at a yard sale about the quality of my framing as they are holding a piece of Mr. Cheapskate's junk in their hands would lose many potential customers for me or not.

I go back to my point of why we are in business in the first place. If we want to impress Mr. Cheapskate with our prowess with framing problems that is one issue, if we are trying to make a profitable living that is quite another issue. I guess we all have to draw the line somewhere sooner or later. I would simply draw my line before Mr. Cheapskate. That would open up a slot in my workday for somebody who may bring something interesting AND profitable in to me.

I try to stay as neutral as possible.

I love old photo albums. There are some great deals on Ebay. Some are really great looking books for sure. The problem is that those old black pages are usually full of pictures and loaded with acid. I called a few bookbinderies to inquire about putting new pages in them to resell. They all politely told me that it would not be cost effective for them to rebind them and expect any margin for retailing them. In other words rebinding them cost more than the book was really worth.

I don’t have any ill feelings to these companies and I appreciate their honesty. Just share your concerns with the customer. He might be willing to fork up more money or choose a different hobby (like I did).
Originally posted by Jay H:
I try to stay as neutral as possible.


Screw you guys, I'm going home!
See, I figure "Charge a lot for whatever you hate to do, so you don't have to do it or else make enough money to assuage your annoyance." I don't mind doing these type of fittings when things are otherwise dull. Of course, I have an actual staff that I have to pay actual money to whether there is actual work or not, so I am pretty notfussy when it comes to what I will do for a cash infusion.
If it is in somewhat decent shape I will work with it as is, but charge an "old frame" refitting charge. Otherwise, I just say that I do not do repair work on old frames. Period. It is not something I am interested in - no matter the price.

I have a special PIA pricing procedure. Besides willingness to to do these jobs (within reason) often times has led to a full custom frame job inthe future.

It has happened to me more times than I can count. But I do stress the 'within reason' part.

Heck I'm no pushover either!