Obsessive customer - how far to go


SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Jun 13, 2002
Fingerlakes Region of NYS
Okay. I try to help anyone who walks in my shop with anything resembling framing needs. And I sometimes go beyond that, cause that's the kinda gal I am.

A new customer and her husband brought 2 old framed prints in for new mats. As I took the packages apart the old package had 2 old mats adherred together along with being adherred to the artwork so tight - I could not get them apart - even with major doses of unseal. I finally had to cut thru the mats to get to the artwork which had an edge with tape that would have torn into the visable area. The art was mounted on heavy chip board (read lack of quality). I won't even tell you how thin and difficult to work with the old wood frames were! I did add on extra time/materials that I had informed her could happen since I didn't take it apart in front of her originally. She was ok with that.

She took forever choosing new colors for the new mats - but I am a patient person. She/husband left; about 15 mins she calls back - "oh, wait, can you hold that, I'm not sure. I'll be back to look again". So next visit - not quite as much time spent...

She is also looking for new print to put in existing old frame (not a bad frame) and I went to the poster database... We all know how much time it takes to "search"... so I directed her to Lieberman's so she could look at home. And she found art.com as well. She comes in to pick up the redone frames and we look at the prints she found. And I spend about 30 mins with them on this. She is so SO picky/fussy - that I am afraid to order anything in for her knowing she might not want to keep it. And I did advise that if I order for her that if she doesn't like it there is a 20% return/restocking charge.

I almost don't want to handle this... what do you think? I think it costs more to be overly picky and fussy

Think about the customers that drop things off and say "call me when it gets done, I want it to look real nice"...

This is where the PITA charge on your POS can really save the day. A charge for removing art from frame and levels of fitting charges are a couple of ways to CYA.
Sometimes, in order to have more patience with "fussy" customers, I remind myself that others are the "do-it-just-call-me-when-it's-done" type. They balance out. If I feel I need to charge more for the fussy customer then I ought to discount for the easily pleased customer. It's a tradeoff. Often a fussy customer discovers that you really do know what you're doing and have better expertise (taste) and become an "easy-to-please" customer.

Sometimes a new customer just has to learn to trust your judgement. Kill them with kindness and patience...up to a point, of course. If they never come around...make sure the door doesn't hit them in the arse on the way out!


Dave Makielski
After doing this for over twenty years you get to see a great cross section of the shopping public. It is something that you cannot change. We have to adapt to them. Part of opening our doors is that we generally have to accept everyone that walks in whether they be pleasant, quick and spend lots of money or are unsure and careful how they spend their money. We all know this but sometimes need a gentle reminder.

I really think that "PITA" is a truly unfair phrase that has crept into use. After all these are people that spend money with us and support our businesses. What a negative way to characterize them. How unfortunate.
We are prepaired to spend as much time as it takes with a customer. If I could get someone in and out in 15 minutes ( choosing color samples ) I would feel like I had missed something. Often it takes me more time with a customer to design the project than it does the whole job. Yeah we sit and yak and have coffee and all that stuff, so as I think about it we probably could save some time by shaving off the PR. part, but then what kind of sale would that be without getting to know the person on a first name basis???
Ok gfranted I am a small shop in Alaska, and I am the first to admit that we do things differently up here, but I never went into this type of busn.just for the money. So while I fully understand that "time is money ". I have more time than money..ha! That will change soon though as we get closer and closer to our tourist season and have to put in longer hours. Saw an RV yesterday...yahoo! :).
Oh, please don't misunderstand my question... I can deal with the fussiness... I am patient with that. I have customers that I take 1-2 hours to design 1 piece and I don't have a problem with that for exactly the reasons mentioned, whereas there are customers that say "just do what you want" and they pick it up!

My question is more about her indecision - and I think I have answered my own question. I will just have to deal with it. I was having a less than patient hour when she was in yesterday (see hairdresser thread!). So now that I have calmed down, I can go back to being patient and deal with her.

Seeing it written and reading responses helps SO much. Thanks.

This morning at HomeDepot, the electrial guy literally plugged in 15 different lamps for me to pick just the shape, color, and brightness that I wanted.

I'm not picky at all. Its just that this fixture is very important to me becuase its a centerpiece in the design area.

Maybe this piece is just particularly important to her like this one stupid $7 lightbulb was to me?

BTW I went with a 100 watt spiral flourscent lamp.
I really think that "PITA" is a truly unfair phrase that has crept into use. After all these are people that spend money with us and support our businesses. What a negative way to characterize them. How unfortunate.

It's a negative characterization, but unfair? With some people it's generous. Certainly it could be overused, but some people deserve the characterization. The fact that they are spending money at our establishment doesn't give them license to visit their general unhappiness with life on us. Some people are incapable of being happy; naturally they seek to find someone to blame for this condition.
I repeat - I don't have a problem with fussy customers. I treat them the way I want to be treated when I want something exactly the way I want it. If it takes 1, 2 or 3 hours to design a piece - I don't mind spending the time. I think it is important to understand a customer's wants and needs and hit the mark as close to 100% of the time as possible. For those times we don't - the guarantee of their complete happiness kicks in to correct anything.

This lady must have just gotten "under my skin" at a time (after normal business hours because she was anxious to see her pieces and I understand that), when I was not in the best mood (it happens!) and the most patient (happens too) and I am ready to step up (step back up) to the line to handle her indecision (I've been there as well!). I do not believe that she knew or felt that I was in a less than perfect mood or impatient as I put on my "customer service" demeanor and face!

And, Jay - the price isn't in question, although there are times when I go the extra mile for customers and don't charge extra for time or materials knowing it all "comes out in the wash" and comes back to you in other ways. And, how are those spiral fluorescents! They're intriquing.

Oh did I mention that she wanted to take my ink jet printed copy of the art print home to check colors after I repeatedly advised her the output from my cheap little ink jet printer were in no way close to the quality and colors that would be in the actual print she is considering ordering.

You have to take the good with the bad, and the very ugly.

Some are just like that. I spend major time with them and they end up having "to think it over" and they buy absolutely nothing.

Or when one my of favorite customers walks in, drops tons of stuff off, gives me her AMEX ("keep it with you Paul, but please let me know if you go shopping with it...) and asks me to call her whenever they're ready... ;) God bless her.

Both are customers, and we have to live with both kinds.

But you might be also surprised: The PIA one might come back another day and brings lots of business!