• Welcome to the largest and friendlest resource for picture framers! Please LOG IN or REGISTER a free account.
    Once logged in, you will be able to SEARCH our archives.
    Forget your password? Click here to RESET PASSWORD Trouble? Click the CONTACT US link.

What should be my R E P L Y


SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Mar 26, 2003
Alberta CANADA
The Framing Nook
"How come you are higher than the other guy in town?" How should we respond?

I had a customer come in today who said "You are higher than the other place(s) in town"

I responded by asking if the other place had included the V-groove, non-glare glass, same wood frame & drymounting. "No but you are twice as much" I took out all the goodies & now we were 30% too high"

I responded by saying: "A lot of businesses are cheaper because they do a poor job and they don't offer the same complete customer satisfaction guarantee that we do"

(Meanwhile, I am wondering why they come to us if they know we are more expensive)

How do you treat these customers?
You hit it on the nail...they are standing in front of you because they know you have the reputation of doing the best quality work. If they didn't already know this from having work done by you before, they have heard it from others. Otherwise, why would they be standing right in front of you???

I understand how you can feel put on the spot, but your response should be because you are the best in the area at what you do. You wouldn't have been in business for X number of years if you were overcharging for the quality of work you do.

Custom work is an art and within the arts there are various levels of expertise and craftsmanship.

Do you know for sure that you are actually higher than your competition? This customer may have been just blowing air in an attempt to intimidate you into lowering your price. Even if you are higher, it's no sin. You evidently can command a higher price.

By the way, did the customer leave his work with you? I'll bet he did. :cool:

Dave Makielski
I had a guy seriously say that to me...

I wasn't having a good day and I snapped....

"Great" I said "then I can take your work down to him, have him do the work, and still charge you enough to take my girl out on the town." then I just stared at him with a deadpan face....

He was horrified that I would say such a thing.

"How much would you charge me, if YOU do the work?" he ask in desperation.

"Double". Again with the dead pan. I truly didn't care if this guy walked. I was tired of getting grinded on about price.

"Could you see your way clear to still do the work yourself, for the price you just quoted me?"

"No." Dead pan. "But I can let the new guy in the back take a whack at it."

We actually became friends.... and even talk to this day. But I still charge him double. :D
>"How come you are higher than the other guy in town?"

"Well, you _could_ go to him, and in a couple years when his inferior materials start to manifest themselves as yellowing, etc you can bring it to me and I'll see what I can do to salvage it, but that would be much more expensive than if you just had me do it right from the start."
If a customer has enough nerve to say that to me, I have enough nerve to ask for their quote. I would certainly like the opportunity to quote apples to apples. Most of the time, it is paper mats, regular clear glass, much cheaper frame. I may then suggest that we could go with a cheaper frame, if they can find one they like, but I won't go cheaper on the mats.

My best one to this day is the couple that came to me for a second quote. $89.00 for their limited edition print was way more than they wanted to spend. I told them about archival mats, UV glass, and conservation mounting. They left my shop without their art and paid me $145.00 to boot. I am still trying to repeat that sales skill to perfection!! :D :D :D
I responded by saying: "A lot of businesses are cheaper because they do a poor job and they don't offer the same complete customer satisfaction guarantee that we do"
I think its better to keep this in the positive not "they do a poor job" but "we ensure our quality workmanship is as high as possible". Its saying the same thing only IMHO better. The difference being is your bagging the compitition whilst the other is you are complimenting yourself. A lot of people think if you bag the competition it is unprofessional. Concentrate on what you do better not what the others are doing worse.
A lighthearted respouse maybe to ask the customers to go back and ask why the other is so cheap. Dont the other company think that the customers work is worth better attention and workmanship?

[ 09-02-2005, 08:33 PM: Message edited by: OzDave ]
I'm with Candy on this one. I ALWYS ask for their written quotation to see if we're compring apples and apples. usually we're not. Unfortunately sometimes we are and I cannot for the life of me explain why my overhead is higher than the guy working out of a garage. So I don't.

Jay Goltz once said if 10% of the prospects don't walk you aren't charing enough. So I quit long time ago explaining overhead costs and all that. They just don'tget it and don't care about loyalty.

Mike-I agree that we often worry needlesly over such things; some folks will think you expensive no matter what you charge.

But, I do think that we often kid ourselves that the other guy being less expensive means they must use inferior products or sub-standard service.

The recent thread of buying computers is a great example of how much price plays in other buying decisions. We kid ourselves that our industry ought to be exempt from the exact same dynamics present in virtually every other retailer no matter the product.

Bottom line: You need to be sure that you really do understand the pricing within your market and make sure that you do offer some products that can effectively compete. Just like we do when we purchase items, we do look at price as an important part of the decision. If everyone else sells widgets for $20, you better have a compelling reason to charge $40
This Bob Carter character; he's a wise ****.

"We kid ourselves that our industry ought to be exempt from the exact same dynamics present in virtually every other retailer no matter the product."

It couldn't be more true.

Not to say that framers ought to be working for nothing, but moderate pricing is important. If you're not in Carmel CA or some similar ritzy place, you need to come to grips with the buying public. It's all about value. People who think they're getting a $200 framing job will stretch it to pay $120 when they expected to pay $80. Sell them on the quality of the materials and the attention to detail. They need to know why it's not a bargain to wait for the 50% off couple from Michael's.
Originally posted by TheDoctah:
This Bob Carter character; he's a wise ****.
Bob & several other professionals on this forum have forgotten more than many of us (myself included) will ever know or appreciate about the art and business of framing.

Words can have power, even negative power - choose them more wisely...
I say "I don't know what their work is, but I know what mine is. I guarantee everything we do, and I do it in writing. Do they?" PS: You DO guarantee your work in writing, don't you? I designed it on my computer. I buy parchment paper by the ream, run them off on my copier, put it in a cheap envelope that says "Howard's Framing Guarantee" on it (also printed on my copier) and every custom order gets one. Not readymades, though... I didn't make those.
bob: that's why I like to see the written quote, not some verbal comparison. we all know Larson makes some fine mouldings, butother companies have "knock offs" that look like Larson. So am I competing against a knockoff that's 50-75% less than what I'm using? And yes, not prominently displayed but there nonetheless, are those 6-9/ft mouldings that we can always pull out as "order savers" That said, however, I feel there are always those who will walk regardless.
Originally posted by TheDoctah: This Bob Carter character; he's a wise ****.
Open mouth, insert foot. Deaconsbench said it all. Bob Carter is very well respected here. Opinions are one thing, but calling someone like Bob a wise**** is not an intelligent one.

I'm sure Bob is gratified to have Grumblers rushing to his defense. It's nice to be appreciated.

But read TheDoctah's post a little more carefully. I think he's agreeing with Bob. The ambiguous **** could be some harmless, but forbidden, term like D U D E.
Originally posted by HB:
"How come you are higher than the other guy in town?" How should we respond?

Let me see:

- Because we use the finest materials to insure that your art is well taken care of
- Because we have very high quality control standards
- Because all our work is guaranteed
- Because we pay our employees good salaries so they can do a good job
- Because we have expensive insurance & security in case of fire / theft, etc
- Because we take our time and offer free advice
- Because we don't charge for stupid questions...
Being that there are 4 asterisks after wise, I'm sure it is not the common 3 letter word that follows wise. I have to agree with Ron, I'm betting it was D U D E.

Anyway, back to the thread. You will always have a certain percentage of customers that shop on price. Depending where you are located will effect that percentage. I have mouldings that I retail for $1.99 a foot. Not a lot of them, but a fair amount. When the customer starts the price whine I offer the cheap alternative. All of us need a small amount of cheap moulding that we have bought really well as sale savers. If you are not willing to go that low, how about 3,4, or 5 dollars a foot range.
Some people look at framing as a commodity item - the way I think of DVD players. I would never expect to have a DVD player serviced or have someone teach me how to use it. If it breaks down after the 90-day warranty (unlikely) I'll replace it.

Some people look at framing the way I look at veterinary care for my dog. I get the best I can possibly afford (and maybe a little better.) I want good advice and personal attention and I expect the vet to add a year or two to my dog's life.

There's probably nothing you can say to the person who buys framing like he buys a DVD player. Instead, pamper the customer who wants good advice and personal attention.

Those of you who can sell DVD players and vet care under one roof: More power to ya.

Really, I mean that.
I've never actually had any one say those words to me, but get this: A customer I thought would never stray in a million years took a needlework projest to Jo Ann's because of the 60% coupon. She came into my store with a very sheepish look on her face and asked if we would redo the work. Ahlene graciously took the piece to fix and our customer said," I thought it was going to be a really good deal, too good to pass up, but now I've learned my lesson".
I don't want all of my customers to have learn the hard way, but now at least she knows what her hard earned dollar is getting her, our experience and quality.

Yeah, I thought TheDoc was agreeing, also

But, let's not miss the point that we need to understand that this customer that questioned your prices just might have been correct. Your prices might have been the highest on planet earth.

Does all the rationalzation the we see really make up for that differential?

Just some good ol' common sense ought to tell you that if you hear this only once in awhile, it probably isn't a problem.

If you hear too often it is a problem that needs addressing.

The only thing worse is if you never hear it
I think anybody honest will tell you that they don’t want the negative stigma that comes with a customer thinking your are the most expensive (over valued).

The way I decided to battle this was to quit guessing. I personally collected estimates from competitors. . If I were matching a piece, I would ask what they paid for this one. When people were “just getting prices” I would ask what prices they have gotten so far.

Once you know for fact where you rank in pricing, you will be much more confident about your prices. I even took all those estimates and gave each competitior a spot on my POS. So if I so desired, I could give you a comparison quote from other competitors on the spot. I’ve never done this but isn’t there a HUGE insurance company doing this right now??????????
Yes, I was agreeing, and yes, it was d u d e. Not sure why that word is verboten here, considering some of the other stuff that gets past the censor daemon. In fact, I'm baffled as to why that word would be problematic here or anywhere.
It's a story best told over drinks at the Omni in Atlanta. Maybe not even then.

The first time I noticed it was bleeped, I was as puzzled as you are now. I independently quizzed three of my then 17-year-old's friends about possible hidden meanings of the word.

They each told me that a D U D E was an ingrown butt-hair of an elephant. Since they had no opportunity to collaborate ahead of time, I was inclined to believe them, though I wondered how often such a term would actually serve a conversational function.

Now, three years later, I am skeptical.
In the mid 80s, I managed a small shop that did mid to higher line of work.

Before I took the job, I took a picture around to the 6 other framers in the area....

Then I took the job and restructured the pricing to be the highest (minutely but highest) priced framer in town.
So if someone ever told me that, I could look them in the eye and with all honesty agree, and even tell them that I HAD shop my fellow framers and that indeed they were cheaper. A couple were very much cheaper....

More than a few times, that very conversation came to pass..... always with the same result.

They didn't walk. Precieved Value.

There are four brain surgeons. Do you go to the cheapest one?

A lawyer from one of the big buildings down the block came in one lunch. A friend whom I had taught framing to about 10 years before was visiting.
The lawyer said "I'm looking for a guy named Baer".
I'm him.
"I understand your middle name is expensive?"

"No." I said, still not getting up. "We need to come to a very clear understanding about my middle name; it is Very Expensive."

He smiled and said something about needing to get to lunch. And he turn to leave. As his hand rested on the door handle, he stopped and looked back. "Why?"

"Because I'm worth every thousand dollar that you will spend with me in the next few months."

"Hmmmpf." he said as he slowly opened the door while he was mulling that over.

"We're going down town for lunch, so I'll see you about 2:30." He turned back, thought, and nodded his head.

My friend Pat looked at me with a horror smacked face..."You can tell him that".

"Sure I can. He has some nice art hiding at home and he and his wife have nice taste. Stick around this afternoon and watch him spend some nice money on some nice art that he's been collecting for the last 30 years or more".

That afternoon went well over $3K, and the next week one evening with his wife and my girlfiend, we went to dinner, then they worked on the nice art for an additional $12k or so.

Pat asked me how I knew.... Patick Phillipe watch instead of Rolex, Bill Blass slipons, and Armani slacks. The shirt was Custom Shirt Shop 1347 with a french cuff.... I owned two of them.

Now adays, I keep watching peoples shoes.... you can tell a lot about who they are, and whether they are WalMart customers.
I have done quite a few art and craft shows and many exhibitors use the quality of shoes as an indicator of the potential customer's income.

In those settings one may have several people in the booth and sizing up the customer can be crucial to making a sale. Unless there is a more obvious qualifier, Bill Blass slipons will get the attention over scruffy sneakers.
Originally posted by Baer Charlton:

Pat asked me how I knew.... Patick Phillipe watch instead of Rolex, Bill Blass slipons, and Armani slacks. The shirt was Custom Shirt Shop 1347 with a french cuff.... I owned two of them.

Now adays, I keep watching peoples shoes.... you can tell a lot about who they are, and whether they are WalMart customers.
Hilarious and very good sense of observation and deduction, Baer!!

Where I work is a bit trickier. The town is very affluent, and people drop by in all kinds of outfits. And to make things more complicated, they all drive Audis, LandRovers, Mercedes, Lexus, Porsches, and the occasional Ferrari / Lamborghini.

Many don't even ask about the price, they just droop the black AMEX card. But you'd still get someone who wants a discount on a $150 framing job while his Dom Perignon is getting too hot in the convertible SL500 Mercedes outside!

PS: Somebody yesterday wanted a discount because her friend is a designer in Florida, 1500 miles way. She didn't get it.
Paul, Love that kind of area. And usually the crusty old guy in the beater old Cadillac with the beater pants and t-shirt... has the beat up old Rockport Pro Walkers and 40 year old Omega or PP or MOx watch on....

they may nose around about a discount, acting the not-affluent that they think they are portraying, but the reality is, they want to buy lasting value. And THAT is fine custom framing.

I'll take the dueling with that guy, over the flash of a newbie rich any day.
That’s a fascinating story Baer. The fact that it’s even worth telling lets me know that it’s an oddity to say the least.

I learn more everyday that running a business is a balancing act like the freaky Asian plate spinning ladies that spin like 30 at a time. Price is just one aspect of that act. You would never be able to drastically change your prices (and survive) without 20 other plates spinning just as they needed to be.

Your story leaves out way to many details that explain how you were able to pull of the price change so flawlessly. How many shops could be so casual about pricing and not have the whole act come crashing down?

While interesting, your story is very dangerous ripped out of context. "There is no God." Psalm 14:1. See what I mean?
If I remember correctly Jay, the increase was less than 10% anywhere across the board. The spread amongst the framers quotes were about 6-8%.

The reason was that most were dealing with Victor (the big guy) and LaMarsh (the second big guy). Which leads to 6 walls looking woefully similar. Looked like the reps got together and went to town with a rubber stamp.

I didn't set myself that far spread apart from the rest... mostly the division was made in increasing the standard of what we offered.

I had a little sign that I would put in the window every few days that said "They will frame any poster for $39.95, but we'll make it look GREAT for $139.95."

Had another that went out on the 21st of the month and down on the 25th. "We'll frame any 16x20 for under $17,000."

Silly, yes. Eye catching definately. We were on the main street in the financial district of Glendale, CA. From 11:30 to 2pm I watched hundreds of people walk by with a glazed look in there eye that told me that they didn't even know the frame shop was there and had been there for 7 years.

Everything I did was about getting attention.

I printed a letter about how custom framing was about "the personal touch" and that if the recipients receptionist hadn't felt that "personal touch", they wouldn't be reading the letter.

I printed 500 letters and stuck them and two of my cards in an unsealed envelope.
I bought 500 roses wrapped in celephane. On Wednesday of Secretaries Week, the busiest "Boss taking Secretary out to lunch day", I went to work kicking open doors.

On Secretaries Week, guess who gets forgotten.

I walked up to the receptionist of every company.
"Are you the receptionist?" They would nod.

I would hand the rose to them "Then, this is for you." Then the envelope. "And if you think they deserve it; this is for your boss."

We did over $3,000 in sales before I was able to finish and get back to the shop.

I had put together a set of diploma frame jobs such as Cherry frame, antique satin or linen mat, gold fillet. for $XXX, and so much for the legal set of 4, or doctor set of 3....blah blah blah.

All they had to do was point and say, yes, I like that one.

They sent, their receptionists. I gave them, a little thank you card that was for 10% off. (they don't get paid enough either)

Over the next 2 months we took through the front door half of the previous years gross, and it didn't end there, because now they knew that we were there and we/I would deliver it back to their office if prepaid.

Was it 20 plates spinning out of control... some days it seemed so. And I was glad when I finished that contract and moved on. The owner sold it three months later, and in 4 months it was gone.