She finally picked them up!

Cliff Wilson

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Industry Vendor
May 14, 2002
Worcester, MA
Had a customer frame two prints -- Beginning of January. I dutifully called once a month for the past five months leaving my normal message ... "Your prints are ready ... my hours are ... etc." A month ago I also sent her a letter.

This week I decided I would just leave a message like this ... "Hi Jane (not her real name
), it's Cliff, call me back at 508 770-1270." She calls and says "who is this and why did you leave a number on my answering machine." I explain it is the frame shop and her pictures are ready. "Oh, I forgot. I'll be right in." And, she comes in within an hour and pays her balance in cash, pleasant as can be.
She acted like I'd never called before. I wasn't about to argue with her!

Guess ya gotta trick 'em!
Good for you!!!

Most recently, after TWO YEARS they come in to pick it up, and we've sold it, unframed it, or are trying to sell it. Or, they come in after two years, asking to pick it up, then don't come back for weeks and weeks, yet!

Does it really depend on the message you leave them??

I'll leave more vague messages in the future, I think.

P.s. How long do you hang on to a job? Paid or unpaid?
In the shop where I apprenticed, we always held on to stuff. Once we had a customer move away and then move back, drop in, and sure enough, we still had her work! We keep everything forever. We have some stuff that was inherited when we bought the shop and will no doubt pass stuff on to the next owner. I just can't justify disposing of someone's stuff. Storing just the art is no less of a PIA than storing it framed. But, then, we are lucky enough to have a huge basement. Plenty of corners for storage.
Lorrel Mae, this is only the second time something has gone for more than a couple of months. I have only been open about two years. The other time, the customer called on a couple of occasions and said she was very busy and would get in "sometime." This time, I was clearly being ignored. At this point, I plan on the same policy as Ellen, but we'll see.

The vague message seemed to get her attention!?
I didn't keep things forever, and at some point I had to consider it abandoned. I don't have scads of room. Usually the stuff is unsalable, ugly, and I would wonder why the person had it framed to begin with. When I got sick of dealing with an item and the person who brought it in, usually after a few years, I would unframe it, store the art, use the frame if possible, and put the slip in a "deadbeat" file. After a couple more years, I throw the "art" out.

I'm glad your persistance paid off, Cliff. See you Monday!
Before you consider art work abandoned, you must make an honest, good faith effort to notify the owner of its fate, whether you sell it, dismantle it, or use it as a place mat.

You must send them a certified or registered letter notifying them of your intentions and, in the letter, give a date certain as to when they have to claim it. If they fail to respond, or the letter gets returned, go for it.

But, technically, they still own it even though you are in possession of it.
How come it's only the ugly stuff that gets abandoned and never anything that would look nice hanging at my house?

Couldn't you ask them to pay a deposit? That they give up over an amount of time? and deduct it from the bill if they do come in?

I know here if you leave it after a certain amount of time(6 months), they keep the artwork as payment? or we have to pay upfront in full. At least then you know they are serious about getting it done and getting it back?
The record here is 7 years. Didn't have it anymore.

Got one guy came back 2 years after picking it up, said he never did. I showed him his 2 signed charge card receipts. One for the deposit and one for the balance when it was picked up. He said he doesn't see it around his house so I must still have it and he paid without picking it up. I said sorry, no. He went to the police saying I stole his picture. Never heard anything of it, though.

Then there is the guy, 1 year, comes in to get his picture and sees it for sale on the wall - demands the lower price I had on it to try and get my money back out of it.

And yet, some guys still get insulted when we ask for a deposit - laugh, shake their head, flip the credit card at you like you're not even a human. God I hate retail.
I went out tonight to get dinner since I didn't feel like cooking and ran into one of my lost causes (whose art was decorating my workroom after four years of it not being picked up). He wrote out a check (overguessing the amount), I went across the parking lot and wrapped it up for him and delivered it back to him.
My record is seven years, long time ago,worked for another company.

We have our terms and conditions printed on all our invoices. Among those terms is a item that requires customers to pay a $25.00 per month, per item, storage fee for items left more than thirty days past completion of work. We notify every customer when work is completed. Most I've gotten for storage was $2,500.00, lot of stuff, left for over a year.

We do not always enforce this policy, but it is there to take care of those nice folks who use us while they are remodeling their homes. Lot of that going on in our neighborhood. The only time I strictly enforce it is when people drop off a lot of stuff, have us write up the framing order, then say they want to think about it. They generally show up after the remodel is complete and say they have decided not to re-frame all their pictures after all. They do get charged.

Every invoice no matter how small a project gets signed and dated by the customer. As a side note, our invoices are labeled, at the top, in large bold type " WORK ORDER "

We have a similar set-up, where in bold lettering at the bottom of the customer copy it states that after three months after the due date that we assess interest charges and we sell artwork after one year. Haven't had anybody use us as a storage locker since.
Sometimes I feel the store I work for is a storage company. I especially love the people who pay an extra rush fee for their work, then let it sit for 2 months before they stroll in and collect it. I would love to toss a lot of the unclaimed art, but as Bill mentioned, we've got to go through a process to get these people to pick up their work before we can sell it or toss it.
Deposits serve several functions.

1.) Customer actually wants to have the job done if they leave 50% down.

2.) It aids in cash flow.

3.) If a customer has a $ 300.00 job to pick up and they've already paid $ 150.00, they are much more likely to come up with the money to pick it up than if they had to come up with the whole amount.

4.) Work gets picked up quicker because the customer feels they have (for lack of a better term) an investment in the work which serves them no benefit until they pick up the work.

5.) If they don't pick up the work, at least your materials plus a little extra are covered.

It's difficult to ask an old time customer for a deposit if you never required it before and commercial customers aren't used to it either. However, when was the last time you had ANY custom work done that a deposit wasn't required.

Quite often when I ask for a deposit the customer pays for everything up front. Being human, I often won't take the full amount because my Pavlovian work ethic creates a need to get a reward when the works done.

Having said all this, I'm the worst one at requiring deposits from my customers. I need to post the reasons for a deposit in BIG LETTERS where I can see it everyday. I often think a customer will be offended if I ask for money up front or think I'm hard up for cash, but no one has ever reinforced this fear by word or action.

Another reason I neglect sometimes to get deposits...The majority of my customers do not ask "How much?". I'm blessed with a clientelle that honors me by trusting my judgement after giving me the information about where the work will hang, etc. and often leaving it totally up to me to decide design, etc. When I say "I'll call you with the price", I often hear them reply, "Don't bother, I'll find out when I pick it've always treated me right".

Scares even me when that happens!

Dave Makielski
What is wrong with being hard up for cash? If you are a small operation, most people expect you to be "hard up for cash". If you have never charged a deposit before, it is easy to start.

Explain to your customers that times have changed, you can no longer afford to purchase all your materials unless you have an even cash flow. Explain how lack of a deposit have caused many of your customers, but not them of course, to be tardy in picking up their work. Explain that this has put you in a real bind, and that you now MUST get a deposit from everyone from now on.

Your customer will understand, you can take that, and the deposit, to the bank.