What's my liability for this frame package??

Rozmataz

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
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Jun 13, 2002
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2,773
From
Fingerlakes Region of NYS
Had a customer drop off a huge older piece of great sentimental value - to look at and advise.

My original advice was to bring it into the 21st century and redo the entire piece.

The moulding was old and "wanky" and one corner was not completely together - so in trying to keep it together while in my shop was difficult. I proceeded to take the entire piece apart to provide a full evaluation of it's condition. (old)

The moulding was basically being held together with the dust cover (almost!) and I chose rather than have it fall apart and have the inner glass and art become damaged I took the moulding off. When doing this the other corner decided to let go and at that point it was evident that the piece was in need of updating. So I selected a few possible designs, presented to the customer but they just want it put back together the way it was - for sentimental reasons.

Well - the moulding is old and dry and has nails that are stuck in the corners.

My basic question is this: If in trying to put the moulding back together - it is totally damaged beyond repair - how liable am I. And how do I avoid liability for having already taken it apart? (I don't do this work here - I send it out)


I know there must be a reasonable answer about this. Bear in mind my customer is lawyer. h e l p

Roz
 

Dave

SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
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From
Edwardsburg, MI
This is one of those dilemas which I think needs to be handled head on with open communication with the customer. It would have been great to have let the customer know that you cannot accept responsibility for concealed damage or problems out of your control, but hindsight doesn't cut it now.

I've always found it to be the best policy to openly communicate any problems, damage, etc. that may occur during the framing operation. If you can fix it exactly like it was (for instance, a damged photo portrait where you could call the photographer and have a new identical photo made), then it may still be ethical to not bring it up to the customer, however...you can bet the photographer will say something and you just lost all credibility. I would consider all alternatives before calling the customer to make sure you have explored all remedies so that you can offer solutions and not just let them know you destroyed the last photo of their mother in existence.

I'm sure this next point is also true for all of us to...

Whenever you do something extra at no charge...such as, with the customers knowledge of course, touch up a damaged print with pastels, rejoin a loose corner on their own frame, etc...isn't that when something goes wrong and you end up wishing you had left well enough alone?

To answer your question about liability...I'm not an attorney and I'm sure the law will vary from state to state. My gut says that you would have liability if not legally, then ethically, if you did not at least verbally let the customer know that you would need to open the package up to determine it's condition and that it may not be repairable. I usually try to do this in front of the customer as there are many obvious advantages.

Most resonable souls would respect you, under the circumstances described, if you made an honest, open, apologetic phone call letting them know that the problem exists and even though it couldn't be forseen, you "probably should have made them aware" of the potential risks of working with old frames and materials.

Tell them you will put things back together as best you can and not charge them for this additional labor or materials. If they are not happy with the results, offer to re-frame the piece at a great price and kill 'em with kindness.

Another solution is to apologize stating you know that it has/had great sentimental value and ask them what you can do to satisfy them. More often than not a customer will be happy with much less than we would give of our own accord if you approach them in this manner. They may appreciate your honesty and not ask for anything unless they feel you were negligent. WOW them anyway with a gift certificate, theatre tickets, or any other item you know they would enjoy. Turn a bad thing into a good lasting impression.

You want to have the customer tell everyone how you handled the situation with honesty and integrity. Believe me, they will tell at least 8-10 other people so turn the focus to your concerned professionalism and the personal relationship you develope with your client won't be hindered.

Dave Makielski

"You can't change the direction of the wind, but you can adjust your sails."
 

Rick Granick

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Cincinnati, OH
Just calmly and professionally explain the situation to him as you just did to us. The fact that the wood is old and brittle is not your fault. Explain that this frame, if it can be retained and used, would need the attention of a professional conservator, and recommend one to send him to. Perhaps you could offer to construct a form-fitting cardboard box to help him in transporting it. That would show him the helpful and concerned professional you are.
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Rick
 

Rozmataz

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Thread starter
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Jun 13, 2002
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2,773
From
Fingerlakes Region of NYS
Dave, You raise many good points of dealing with this type of situation... I do not have any fear of approaching the customer with the input as it happened (It just intimidates me that the customers are lawyers!!)

It is certainly something I would bend over backwards to give back to them in as good condition as possible and if it requires a new moulding - yes a great price would be in the picture!! (pardon the pun....)

At this point I am waiting for them to call me back so I can discuss the recent findings!!

Thanks for the help, support and "script"!

Roz
 

Jerry Ervin

PFG, Picture Framing God
Joined
Jul 13, 2001
Posts
8,117
From
North Carolina ... The Picture Frame Capital of th
Good advice Guys! I bet there will be more to follow.


Here is my take.

I would re-glue and clamp the corners to make the frame structurally sound again. Something like that I only charge 1 hour labor. Put it all back together and make a list of all the things you found and suggestions on how to repair, replace, restore each finding.

The customer probably knew the corners where bad. That is why they brought it to you.
 

Rogatory

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
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May 8, 2003
Posts
1,077
From
Lubbock, Texas
I had a similar situation awhile back. The piece had hung over their grandmother’s couch since they were children. The frame was falling apart. So I talked them into reframing the art in a short, narrow metal frame with all new materials, rebuilt the old frame best I could and mounted it around the new moulding. It looked sharp, customer was happy and I felt confident it could last another 50 years.

Just an idea.
 

brian.k

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May 6, 2005
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From
san francisco
Personaly I think that if you explain to them what condition the frame is in you should be able to get them to buy into a new frame. I had a client with an original Matise that had a frame than needed to go. They thought it might be the original frame to the piece and were hessitant to let it go. I personaly felt that the frame was in such disrepair that they need to take it off (some obvious bug damage, gold paint to fill in the missing gilding, missing compo, etc...). Of course this case is diferent in that they didn't have me take it appart and have it disintigrate while I did it but I think the end result could be the same. In the end I got a $1500 order for a new frame for the piece. I do think it is important to note that I had them hold on to the original frame in this case just in case having it affected the value of the piece.

But it seems to me that the state of this frame had nothing to do with you and you shouldn't be liable for their poor care of it. They brought it to you for your professional opinion and your opinion should be that they shouldn't use it.

It's not the fault of the building inspector when he condems a building why should it be your fault when you condem this framing.
 

Dave

SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
Joined
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Posts
13,355
From
Edwardsburg, MI
Except for the fact that it wasn't explained to them ahead of time that the frame may need to be "condemned" after opeing up the package for inspection...

Your point that they brought it to a professional framer and it should be understood that they trust his judgement is quite valid though...however attorney's have the ability to see any side of an issue which has piles of green in the pasture. ...they really can't help it..."they're just trained that way". I completely understand the FOL syndrome (Fear of Lawyers). Framers make their living by physically creating something instead of taking it away from someone else.

Dave Makielski

"Bash Bash BASH!..."
 
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