Just Say NO


WOW Framer
Jul 24, 2001
Buffalo, New York, USA/Fort Erie, Ontario, Canada
I am VERY proud of myself - today I told a good and loyal customer that I would not touch her work with the proverbial ten foot pole and sent her to a conservator!

For years now she had been telling me about this ancient Chinese scroll that was deteriorating on her wall. Her husband was reluctant to "invest" in a frame - so it was exposed to the air, a leak from somewhere plus silverfish! This thing looked like the Dead Sea Scrolls it was so tattered and fragile. She noticed a piece was missing that had been there when they put it on the back seat so she sent her husband out to look for it - he found the piece on the sidewalk!

We discussed mylar encapsulation but I finally assured her that a conservator could deacidify it and stabilize it first and then I would be more than willing to tackle the job. The scroll was almost 60 inches long - I warned her it would cost a bundle to frame it with proper conservation but if it were to be stabilized it would be a worthy investment. She agreed.

Before I let them take it back with them flapping around in the breeze I cut a piece of corrugated slightly longer, covered it with Lineco scraps, and wrapped it loosely with foam packing material. Then I taped the wooden ends of the top rod to keep the whole thing from sliding around. They were VERY pleased, and I am so relieved!

I did it! I turned away an impossible job!

What is the best (worst) job you have ever refused to do???
Congratulations on your self-restraint! It is hard to admit that something is beyond your abilities.

I once sent someone to a proper restorer when the brought in an antique frame that had lost some of its embellishments. It was a pastel portrait of (I forget the name) the man who developed popcorn as a profitable crop in the US, and was in a unique frame with stalks of popcorn plants on it. The frame and the drawing were damaged.

That little "let's get in over your head" demon was whispering in the back of my mind, "you know how to do this, you've done restorations..." But I was firm with myself. I removed the drawing, wrapped it securely, and told them where to get it restored. I wrapped the frame in bubble wrap, and told the customer where to take it, too.

When they brought the two pieces back to be put back together, they were SO thrilled with the results! (and, yes, they were much better than I could have done)

So, all we got out of it money-wise was a fit charge. But, we also got a customer who believed we were the BEST place to take anything, because, if we can't do it, we know who can. We got a lot of referrals from her.
Just recently we saw a painting on velvet (I don't know if it was of the appropraite age to be a theorem painting or was just in the style of...). It had been carried home from Europe after WWII by a now deceased uncle and is considered a beloved family heirloom. It is in tatters, falling off the wood strainer, tears, bald patches, gaping holes, and clumps of compo missing from the "frame" laid on top and screwed into the strainer. In short, a nightmare.

Our business is new and we need every job. I had just been saying I need to close a sale with everyone who comes in. My partner was aghast when the very first thing I said was, "I'm simply not qualified." I did hold the piece here and contacted several conservators for her.
It IS hard to say "I can't do that". It strengthens my resolve if I remember the feelings of dread that accompanied me to work on days when I had let a customer talk me into attempting something beyond my capabilities.

The most recent example was a domed photograph that must have been very beautiful before someone took it out of its original frame and tried to flatten it. It is now concave, faded, water stained and ripped almost the whole way across the middle. The poor thing is badly in need of rescue.

I suggested that the customer contact the photo restoration people at the Mpls Institute of Art and/or have the original digitally scanned and retouched. It wasn't what he wanted to hear but, largely because of what I've read here on the Grumble, I knew it was the right thing to say.

The most recent work I declined was when a customer wanted about 8 of her antique family photos to be Plakit'd.

I have done this only if the customer demands it and also signs off on the risk factor.

But this time I said "no". I will not jeapordize the antique photos, but to have them copied and Plakit the copies. The customer almost demanded that I do it. But I said I wouldn't since it is an automated process and they could be damaged and we know it is not a reversible process anyways. The customer said "oh, these are pretty heavy prints - they won't get damaged" I said it had nothing to do with the quality of the print but the process.

It is much healthier for me to decline a customer's request/demand to do something beyond (way) my abilities and it is better that it get passed on to the next level.
Congratulations to all on their wisdom, revealed
here. Knowing when to say, "That is best done
by others." is one of the most useful and financially rewarding parts of one's vocabulary.

Is there a restorer on Cape Cod. I've had several persons who could have used one. Need info. Thanks, Howard
Originally posted by preservator:
Knowing when to say, "That is best done
by others." is one of the most useful and financially rewarding parts of one's vocabulary.

And sometimes one of the hardest things to learn how to say, especially to a good customer or someone who is real demanding. I think I really need to say no to more of those "could you just cut a mat and put this in this frame for me" jobs. Often the frame turns out to be more effort than it is worth to work with. :eek:
When I first went into business, I took in almost anything I thought I could handle. Then I learned that some jobs were just not worth the time it took to do them. I stopped doing anything where the time vs. profit ratio was not tipped to the profit side of the scale.
One of the things we do successfully for our client base is turn them down and send them out the door with a business card or two in there hot little hands. [Not our business card].

Over the years we have found very highly qualified professional conservators, restorers, and a photographer who does flat out amazing work.

We have a small box of all of their cards (about 50 of each persons cards). As we get low, we call them and they bring more, and a big thank you.

One of our most recent success stories didn't even get us a fitting charge.... but 12 other pictures instead.

The frame was missing chunks, and the guilding was getting greener. The bisque plaque was cracked and falling out of the back. She said that it had been her grandmothers and wanted me to "fix it all up". I recognized what it was exactly and told her that it was from England, the frame was in the style of early 15c Roccoco, and the plaque was after the school of Bushe. These were done during the Victorian era to sell to those foolish Americans who were traveling to Europe on the great steam ships. <font size=4>And that I wouldn't touch it.</font>

She pleaded, cajouled, said it look "horrid" in her dining room. And insisted that I was just saying all those things because I just didn't want her money. End of discussion and out she went. This as in May.

She recently came in with that big order, but before we got started wanted me to know in no uncertain terms what a fool she had been.

She had taken it to a mini Antiques Roadshow in Seattle where my twin had paraphrased me to a tee.
Suggested that in it's condition could go at auction for $6-10,000. But if she NEEDED to clean it up, take it to a concervator. She did, and the little Angel hangs in her bedroom. It only cost her $2,300 for a full restoration.

I think we have a customer for life. And I got a hug. Made my day.

I think I really need to say no to more of those "could you just cut a mat and put this in this frame for me" jobs.
One of the best lines in Jay Goltz's pricing seminar is his recommendation to avoid the most alarming 4-letter word a customer could utter. Then he writes on the board : JUST.

:cool: Rick

For canvas restorations and frame restorations and gilding you are about as close as you could be to a good one. Cape Cod Picture Framing on 6a in Dennis does a great job. Tracy Lindholm is very good. I think she is in Florence studying gilding right now, but her oil restoration is phenomenal.

For paper conservation I use a gentleman here in Worcester. Not too far for you. If you want more info give me a call.
Does anyone have relationships with conservators in which you can say to your customer "you know, I suggest that we refer your art to a conservator who specializes in restoring this before it is framed. It will look better, yada, yada, and why don't I contact my specialist and get his/her recommendations for you to consider before we proceed with the framing?"

In other words, rather than send the customer out the door expecting them to proceed with contacting a conservator, you simply do that part for them. The conservator could look at the piece, and contact the customer with recommendations, as well as explaining why the restoration, cleaning, stabilization, etc, is as important as "just" putting the art into a frame.

I've recommended a number of pieces see a conservator before framing, but often the customer is reluctant to follow through. They often backpeddle with the explanation that they really only just want to frame it. I suspect that they are afraid, unsure, pressed for time, and unfamiliar with what to do or expect when contacting a conservator.

What are the pros and cons to this approach?
I refer people to the Balboa Art Conservation Center in San Diego because I know they will do a good job. I have sent the people and I have taken the art myself. I've never lost a sale because I referred out . It's a service I can provide and I've found I gain loyalty and respect from the customer.

Nona Powers, CPF
My scroll customers took their piece to the Conservation department at Buffalo State College and they were lucky enough to gain a treasured spot on their list. The scroll is 200 plus years old and the conservators were impressed both with my packaging and my referral to them.

I sent another customer to the Albright Knox Art Gallery with what we both thought might be a real Chagall. The Gallery agreed and sent him to Sotheby's where it was determined that the piece is not only a Chagall, but a KNOWN Chagall! (plus it has a painting on one side and a ink drawing on the other side). So I get to do a nice fancy "anything goes" frame job!!! Yippee! I am so proud of myself! (usually when customers think they have something "very valuable" I send them to an area appraiser so he can deliver the bad news! LOL!)
Wow Mar. A real "known" Chagall.... THAT is cool. So you gonna go all out and talk 'em into that ILO?

I'm just jealous. That IS really cool.