price check


True Grumbler
Mar 2, 2002
I had a customer come in yesterday. He placed the order, called today to see why I was alot higher priced than other places, (i.e. - BB).

I was wondering if I could get a price check from the grumblers on what they would charge.
I know when I get comments/questions like this, I always start to feel paranoid that I am way overpriced - but I should'nt!!! :confused:

Larson # 410BL
matt B8585
Conservation clear glass
this is for grain sacks (needs to be sewed down)
frame size 23x13

Thanks for any input!!
You have to charge what you need to in order to make a profit. What someone charges in South Carolina or New York has little relevance to what you need to charge. Especially taking into consideration overhead market conditions, etc, etc, etc. What you might consider doing on a regular basis is price comparison shopping other frame shops in your area.
The best thing you can do is have someone go around to the BB and other competition every year or more frequent if you want and price out a standard frame. Then you can sleep well knowing your customer is just trying to get your price down. There is no better thing than having the confidence to answer comments like that, and you only get that confidence by knowing what your local competition charges.

You're so expensive!
Nope, we do price checks to make sure we're competitive.
How could he know you were higher priced? Did he have a detailed order ticket from you that he could take and compare elsewhere? How did he know he was pricing the same moulding (if he priced it at all). How does he know the other framer was quoting conservation framing, or even the same size package for that matter.

I'm guessing he's blowing smoke. Tell him you'll be happy to compare if he has a quote from another framer.
As you know, the three big framers in town have breakfast every week.
A guy calls, wants to know what it will cost to drymount, mat, glass and black wood frame a piece for the next day's delivery. We tell him. WHAT!?!? I will go to Paisley Print. They were half that! Funny thing. Paisley Print didn't give him a price, but had recommended us as they don't keep moulding in stock.....
Originally posted by Richard Darling:
How could he know you were higher priced? Did he have a detailed order ticket from you that he could take and compare elsewhere? How did he know he was pricing the same moulding (if he priced it at all). How does he know the other framer was quoting conservation framing, or even the same size package for that matter.
Does any of that really matter? Fact: the customer doesn't feel like he is getting a great value for their money.

From here this is two approaches. 1. Get your tap shoes and talk about all the great techniques you have to preserve these....ummm were they grain sacks? Anyway I'm sure they are quite valuable (sigh) and just rave and rave about your spacers and CC glass (I like to ad a salsa dance too).


2. Try to find out what they have in mind on price and frame the things.

-Exit Sarcasm

Your prices might be perfectly fine and competitive for what you’re selling. But isn’t it also possible that you could (gasp) not go all CP on this thing and sell a lesser product. Add museum glass to that baby and I would have a hard time making grain sacks more expensive than the design you describe. The answer could quite possibly be “yes” but do we really need to be preserving grain sacks? Did these come off the Santa Maria?

-Sarcasm enters stage left

If there are more than 3 people in the store you might want to get the other customers in on the CP line dance. I keep the Electric Slide in the rotation just in case! You just can't be too prepared. A 4' wide sombrero is a nice touch also.

¡Continúe a mi amigo!

PS. I do keep some competitors prices on my POS program. So when I get that line I can quote them to the penny what this “other framer” charges for everything except the frame.
First, I agree that my price does not have any DIRECT bearing on what your price should be.

But, since no one wants to be specific, I will.

For the package and mounting you describe I would charge about $190.

HOWEVER!!!! I stock a black moulding that's a little wider and equally as deep that would have run about $120. And, my gross margin % would have been better and my actual gross margin would have been very close.

Unless the customer insisted for "matching a previous job" or other such reason, I would have shown them the less expensive version. Probably would have tried to show a "less expensive" conservation board (all I carry) to shave another few dollars and no loss of margin to me. Why not?

Did your competitor??

And Jay, to go non-CP wouldn't have saved them more than $20 bucks. I really don't care what the "art" is, I think if it's worth have a custom design for, it's worth using the right materials. My analysis shows the bulk of the cost on a custom job is my labor or the moulding.
Our price would be $110, 10% less if they are a member of WHRO (public broadcasting). We are one of three frame shops in town. We have the largest frame selection. We also do not charge extra for more involved mounting and everything is conservation. We are a very small, independant (I am only employee) gallery and frame shop, so do not have franchise prices I have seen elsewhere. The owner has another completely separate business upstairs. Hope this helps.
I will be specific as well. My price would be $191.50 plus the Government's share of course.

However, like Cliff, I too have an in-stock moulding and mat that would get the price down to about $130.00 The margine would be better for sure. The gross $$$$ would be about the same. Not to mention, I have no time in ordering materials. Love in-stock stuff......

Cliff, once again, we are in the same ballpark. Hmmmmmmm. Are you shopping me again?
My price would be within $10 of Cliff and Harry.

Carol, why don't you charge for more involved mounting? It is extra labor and should be charged accordingly.
My two cents.
Cliff we all draw various lines in the sand. I fight it in my shop but still impose a few “I just won’t do that!” It sounds like a Meatloaf song doesn’t it?

This might be a perfect example of one of those times where we shoot our self in the foot with these self-imposed handicaps.

One of my “won’t do’s” is cream core paperboards. So can compare say a white core board, reg. foam core, reg. glass, and no spacer, sewed to a board and the package described above?

Looking at some wholesale costs I spot almost a $4 difference in matboards and a $5 difference in glass (give or take a buck or so depending on what size glass you stock etc.) Say a $1.50 for AF foam core and a few bucks for the spacers and we are conservatively over $10 difference. If we are to keep a minimum of 30% COG then that’s a $30 difference on the retail end for materials only. I saw where some people are charging upwards of $7 for scrap foamcore spacers between mats. I could only imagine what they are charging for the spacers but let’s say $7 extra labor for the spacers. Now we are up to $37 more for a job you quote at $120 with a lessor frame.

We aren’t exactly hashing out quarters here. Judging from the original post, this could make or break this sale and all sales to follow. I haven’t yet adopted an absolute maximum level of conservation because that doesn’t make any more sense than a “minimum” level. The final vote on that should lie in the hands of the customer and its very conceivable that a minimum level is all they would want for grain sacks – or not?

Keep in mind that my volume level hasn't reached a point yet where I can start imposing broad lines in the sand and letting customers walk. When it does, I hope somebody jerks a knot in my tail!
Originally posted by Jay H:
Does any of that really matter? Fact: the customer doesn't feel like he is getting a great value for their money.
Actually, I think it does matter. If the customer really had a price from another framer, it's not going to be exactly the same framing package. If it's not the same, the prices are going to be different. The only way to get a quote that is truly comparable is if he had a detailed description of the framing he was sold.

Which leads to my 2nd point: Would you give a framing quote when you didn't have the item to be framed in front of you? I don't. Sure, I may give a price for a certain size mat over the phone, but never a quote on an entire framing package.

I agree that the customer may need some kind of reassurance, or walked away with some kind of remorse and really wants to pay less for framing. With a customer, I would deal with him on that basis. But the situation described points to an attempt by the customer to get the price reduced on the basis that "other frame shops are charging less."
In some instances we can give an accurate price quote without seeing the items.

I have had several price shoppers come into our store with detailed, itemized quotes from Michael's’ (giving the moulding, mat numbers, etc.) from their POS system.

In every case, my quote price was within $10.00 of theirs (but mine was always higher) even after their perpetually running 50-70% off “sale”.

But, in every one of these situations, I got the sale. (Obviously, because of my good looks, winning smile, and sparkling personality).
"My price would be within $10 of Cliff and Harry"

Me too. I DO charge extra for more involved mounting, especially sewing. Repeat after me..."Time is money...time is money...time is money..."

I just did a bid on, and was chosen for, a 10-frame job in a commercial office. They said my pricing was about what my competitors were, a little more than one. I "borrowed" one piece to match frame color and returned it with a new mount (it was cardboard and no dust cover), sawtooth replaced with wire, frame cleaned up, and a corner sample (so they could see an example of our workmanship) of the moulding I chose in the bid. Plus, a typed, itemized bid. They said they chose us because I went "the extra mile" and because of that, knew we would also provide good customer service for "future framing". They said the BB told them "It'll be around $$, but we're having a sale in a couple of weeks, come back then and we'll give you a quote". They decided against going back there.

It isn't always about pricing, is it? But, as has already been mentioned, you do need to explain what is included in your quote/bid, and give other options when necessary.
Thanks everyone for the responses! My quote seems to be in line - $130.00. The qoute ? he told me was $65.00. I do realize that areas will be different in pricing. I just needed some ballpark figures, to help ease my mind.

I did discuss the difference of materials I use and quality framing, etc. etc. I asked him to get me a printed estimate from where he was comparing, but did'nt seem to really have one. I felt he had called them on the phone,(or not)as he could'nt tell me if the moulding was shadowbox, or what kind of matt, etc. I don't mind if they price check, just compare apples to apples!!
The only reason I have the order, is by the time he called back,I had ordered the moulding. He was nice and said it wasn't fair to me to cancel his order, since I had ordered the moulding.

Anyway, today is another day, I need to get busy with the other orders that appreciate quality framing!!! :D
Have a good Day!!!
My guess is that they heard of the perpetual "50% off" big box promo and just divided your price in half, assuming everyone works off the same fixed retail price. (Unfortunate, but probably common, Perception)

In reality, the local big boxes here would be in the $350 neighborhood, before the 'promotion'.

Just a guess

Originally posted by Mike Labbe @ GTP:

Just a guess

I really think that you have more than just a guess. You are probably very close on the hypothesis. (A hypothesis is an educated guess, Mike is an educated guy).

That 65 bucks could also be a ready made and add a paper pulp mat and spray glue the bags.
The idea of shopping the competition for pricing seems to make a lot of sense to me. Even though in a past thread there were those who found this to be dishonest and wasteful of people's time.

I recently took on a part-time job with a franchise in Northern Virginia. The owners are really terrific people (husband and wife). But in my opinion, they are quite passive when it comes to sales, marketing or any other matters of business development.

Anyway, several weeks ago Mr. Owner asked if I would mind shopping the competition. And though it's not something I've done before, I had no problem with it.

I shopped three locations, a Total Crafts, Michael's and a place called Adler's. The trailer trash employee at Total Crafts was so rude I didn't even wait for a quote. No offense to any trailer trash who might read this post.

The quotes from Michael's and Adler's showed that we were a bit high by comparison. Mr. Owner was quite shocked. He claims people always tell him how low our prices are. Just goes to show that you can't believe the customers for good or bad.
Find out for yourself and sleep easy.

And if you feel ill at ease shopping fellow independent framers, just ask them if they wouldn't mind sharing their pricing info with you. You never know. They might not look at you as if you'd lost your mind.
Pricing on custom framing is very nebulous except for the most basic of frame jobs. It is near impossible to compare apples to apples when comparing custom work done by two shops unless EVERY detail of materials is listed. Of much more importance to most customers is the feeling they have of trust that they are getting value for their money.

Val hit in on the head. She got the job because she showed the customer that she:

a.) Could be trusted to provide quality work
b.) Wanted the work
c.) Was willing to go the extra mile to take care of her customer


d: Was price competitive. (Notice, I did not say cheaper!)

I will not cut my price to match a competitor because I already charge a fair price for the value I give the customer. If price is the most important factor to a given client...let them walk. The customer who shops on price is more often than not the most difficult customer to deal with on all levels.

Many may disagree with me, but we are not selling a commodity here. Custom framing is a service and image business unless you are operating as a quantity oriented commercial framer.

Sell the sizzle along with a quality uniquely designed and finished product.

Dave Makielski

I agree completely with you. Did you happen to read the article by Vivian Kistler in this month's PFM?! Nails this topic on the head!!

Do most people that patronize businesses that provide CUSTOM work think only about price. I don't think so.

They are looking for design, quality, service, someone they can trust and I truly believe price is the last on the list deal makers/breakers!

"And if you feel ill at ease shopping fellow independent framers, just ask them if they wouldn't mind sharing their pricing info with you. You never know. They might not look at you as if you'd lost your mind."

Have you ACTUALLY done this?? I consider that to be the height of arrogance ( as well as huge brass ones!) to ask your COMPETITOR for their prices so you can match them or beat them. In reality, I think that is called price fixing and is illegal.

After I laughed in their face, and asked what drugs they were on or were supposed to be on, I would escort them out the door with an admonition to never step foot in my store again!

It's one thing for the people on the G to offer price comparisons, but another altogether to actively enter into a collusion with your competion to set the price in your area.

I think studies have shown us that price is not the primary motivator in custom framing. I can live with that. Keep in mind it is still a major factor for many that do visit us.

“They are looking for design, quality, service, someone they can trust…”

When I buy a vehicle I want style, quality, service, and a dealer I can trust. Sometimes I just need an old work truck to haul my tools (not any more) and sometimes I want something nice to haul the fam around. In the case of my work truck price was a very primary concern and for the family trickster it was not. Sometimes the exact same customer can be motivated by very different things and if you think that price is never or even “rarely” an issue in custom framing, you are fooling yourself.

This thread was started because of a customer that apparently did put price rather high on his list of concerns. The shop that can address those concerns and still make a profit will prosper.

On a side note its good to see that Vivian is back in the business working with customers on a daily basis. I haven’t read the article but will soon.

Carry on.
I think Jay is right on with the price comments. Yes, I agree that a significant percentage of CURRENT custom framing customers are not price sensitive "most" of the time, I remind you all that we are ONLY hitting less than 8% of the potential customer base.

I suggest that a large reason for this is that they ARE price sensitive. If we could hit better price points and still maintain sufficient profit margins, wouldn't we get a larger market share? I think I learned that in Econ 101. Of course there is a saturation point where price isn't a factor, but I just can not imagine that 8% is that point!

Don't misunderstand me, some shops, as always, will thrive with the "exclusive air." "Urns and Ferns" as Vivian refered to it once. But, to imagine that that is "THE" way to run a frame shop is silly.

Tapping those "price sensitive" customers will be critical for many of us.
mid $200. Since you mentioned "sewing" or "stitching" this now becomes more labor intensive which is why I'm a tad higher.

Low $200 if I ATG or other cheapie way of doing improperly

I beg to differ - grain sacks are a natural for "proper" mounting with Attach-Ez. Labor is then quite low. If the weave is open, it might require an appropriately colored background mat. Even with that, I would be hard pressed to get the price over $200.

Pat :D
I came up with 207.27 before taxes.

If there is a bit of hesitation I can offer 10% off and hand them a direct mail card I sent out a while ago and ask them if they got it in the mail. When they say no, I give it to them and apply it to the current sale and let them keep it for the next time they come in.

It fosters good customer service and gets them back.
Pat: HUH????? Don'tcare how I do it--attach-ezm, needle and thred or whatever. There is more labor charge involved than simple ATG And I read "labor" as not only time used, but cost of material used
I fully agree with Mike on this! I've reviewed this thread a few times to see how in the world some of the costs were as low as they were.

If I didn't charge for my labor (and sewing or using Attach-EZ is full of labor), I'd consider myself a hobbyist.

I just took my van in for scheduled service - trust me, THEY charge for labor!!
OK, here's another. Customer just picked this up and a very happy camper she was.

It's an oriental print. Nothing rare or sacred, just interesting.

Stacked two LJ frames with a fillet, 5" bainbridge black fabric mat with fillet repeated around the print. Acid free backing and UV glass.

here's the statistics.

Frames --outer to inner--

Black fabric mat B4099
Fillet 134093 around mat

Pic size is 23 x 18--overall size of finished piece is 33 x 28

Price was $900.

Interested to know others' estimates on this
My price was about $20 higher than yours, Mike.

I priced using conservation clear glass and mounted by hinging onto acid free foam core.

Funny, that I'm higher on this one but lower on the original topic thread pricing.
It's always very interesting to see how some people get all lathered up over comments in these threads. And I suppose everyone does from time to time.

Some people get carried away with these ridiculous ideas of price fixing and how they would throw someone out who comes in and offends them in their place of business, whatever.

Obviously, there are those on the grumble who by their own admission love what they do whether they make any decent profit or not. Most of us would probably agree that it isn't easy work. And the few optimists believe that you can make a fairly decent income from this line of work.

Well for the business minded, the bottom line is the bottom line. No matter what anyone says in whatever magazine or anywhere else, different factors apply under different circumstances and with different demographics.

So if you're able to do well without worrying about price adjustments, more power to you. But in the end, whether you work from home, work for someone else, or own your own business, it's up to you to figure out how to handle your business.

There are a lot of people here like Bob Carter, Jim Miller and many others that offer sound business advice. And those that understand and apply the provided sound business principles will more likely adapt and prosper.

One of my primary objectives is to close every sales opportunity that comes through, penny pincher or big spender. I'll leave the high and mighty road for those who can afford to ride on it.

I'm coming in at $821.10, but that doesn' t include a mounting charge which you didn't describe.
Originally posted by Mike LeCompte CPF:
Interested to know others' estimates on this
$946 + tax
Looks like I'm about $965 + tax with Nori hinge mounting.

BTW, Harry is on the other side of the city from me and we bouce price quotes off each other fairly regularly. Especially if it's an odd job and we want to make sure we're not insane. Not that that actually has anything to do with our sanity, but it's kind of calming in a manic kind of way? .... oh never mind ...
$ 913.24 + tax

...using UV clear glazing and hinging with linen tape and two fillets.

Dave Makielski
Mike, I came in at 1005.43 before tax (7% in NJ)
I came up with $750.68 plus tax. Again if a member of WHRO they get 10% off. Looking at Jerry's price it seems those of us in the mid-atlantic states are less expensive than those on the West Coast and New England. All our mats and foam cores are acid free. We use Larson Juhl's Suggested Retail Charge Schedule to figure and an old one (2004) at that. We do not include and hourly labor. The owner did not want to up our prices. I would be curious as to how others of you figure prices. We do not have any of the software.
I nominate Carol J for this years "Most likely to open a can of worms" award.

Sorry Carol, at 9 posts you could not have possibly been ready for the response. Suffice to say that the question of pricing is one of the most frequently flogged dead horses on the grumble. You might want to research it in the archives. Go to the search button at the top and look for pricing threads.
There are many opinions, but pay attention to those that are successful at what they do.
I use FrameReady 5.0v5.

I've raised the mat pricing slightly and have a last price addition called "PFD" usually about 10%.

I also add a fillet fitting charge, a stacked frame joining charge, a charge for filling the frame package with AF fom board or Cor-X.

Oh, for those who may wonder what "PFD" stands for...

"PFD" = Profit For Dave


Dave Makielski
You know Carol could have an expensive price in her area. Every area is different, you need to know what the competition charges. You should not be out of line with them. Sometimes you will be less, sometimes more-but never more than $50.00 (in my opinion). At that point someone is getting a little far off.

"PFD" I could use me some of that...should I give you the address so you can send it to me Dave?


Pricing can sometimes be a touchy subject here. Don't worry about it. The bottom line is you have to charge what your area will accept.

You can't charge California prices in Carolina. Inversely, you can't pay rent in California on Carolina prices.
In regards to the "most likely to open a can of worms" nomination. Periodically we have a bit of foolisness called "The Grumbler Superlative Awards" with catagories like that and others equally playful.
I woke up with a headache. Today is not a happy framing day. Drugs and a chair massage at the farmers market this morning has done nothing to help it. I am grumpy. I gladly accept the nomination.