"When Is An Order Not An Order?" from Decor Jan, 1930

Marc Lizer

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Jun 28, 1999
North Hollywood, CA
*When- Is An Order Not An *Order.?


N0 MORE *irksome problem confronts the art *publisher and framed picture and mirror manufacturer today than the many a slip there is twixt the buyer's lip and what the department store will accept and pay for. There was a time when department store buyers were actually buyers in the sense that they had the authority to place orders and their principals assumed full responsibility for the obligations which they contracted in the performance of their buying activity. Twenty years ago, a department store buyer might buy *too heavily or pay too high a price *for this or that, but once he had given an order, whether verbally or in writing, his employers felt that he had pledged /their /word in the transaction, and there was no question about accepting and paying for whatever he had ordered in good faith, so long as the merchandise came up to the quality of the sample or samples which had been shown him by the seller. Those days have gone forever. Today, the department store buyer is no longer a buyer. And there's the rub.

A buyer comes into a display room and takes up two or three hours of the sales manager's time or as much, if not more of that of a salesman. Mr. Buyer asks a hundred and one questions. He could sell any number of these pictures, if the price was right. As *will be explained presently, he has no authority whatsoever, to place a binding *order, but he assumes the privilege of haggling and of bargaining. He *selects a dozen of one subject, fifty of another and a hundred of a third. *Does he sign an order ? Not so that you can notice it. In fact, if he is of the cautious type and there are many of these-he takes extreme care, not to let even a blank form with the name of his store fall into the hands of the salesman.

As he goes along, he makes a memorandum of what he "buys." Please note the quotation marks. In fact, he doesn't buy at all. If there is a limited number of prints of a certain kind in stock, the seller holds himself in duty bound to consider them as sold to Mr. "Buyer," but does this obligation work both ways? Not by a jugful.

Mr. "Buyer" is warmly thanked by Mr. Sales Manager or by Mr. Salesman for his generous order, and departs monarch of all he surveys.

His order isn't even worth as much as that famous scrap of paper treaty that cost a certain, formerly prominent resident of Berlin his throne.

Only when a CONFIRMATION has been duly sent to the seller, signed by the merchandising manager, does Mr. "Buyer's" order become something like an order.

Very often such confirmation is not forthcoming. In many cases, the confirmation cuts quantities in half, although the price quoted was based on the number ordered by Mr. "Buyer." One New York manufacturer had unconfirmed orders running into five figures one month, and on many of these several weeks had elapsed after Mr. "Buyer's" call without a confirmation having been received.

Inquiry among legal authorities elicits the information that while the courts accept established customs of the trade as such, it is highly questionable whether such practices would be construed as "customs of the trade." Department stores can not, because they happen to be department stores, change the customs of the trade in the coffee or the cotton goods markets. They have to abide by whatever the customs of the trade are in the particular commodity or line of merchandise under consideration.

Of course, when framed picture or mirror manufacturers have in their past dealings with a department store submitted to the conception that Mr. "Buyer's" orders are no orders at all, and only become such upon receipt of confirmation, they have given clear proof that they are conversant with this practice, and will be expected to comply with it in all subsequent transactions.

Veterans among department store buyers-those who were buyers when buyers were buyers undoubtedly feel this state of affairs keenly. Some of these are sufficiently influential by reason of their many years of faithful service and ability, to cause a merchandising manager to think twice before he blue-pencils one of their orders or cuts quantities. But around themselves, ^- these veterans see another generation of "buyers" relishing the job of "buying" without the power to make good their word.

To one watching from the sidelines this farce of so-called "buyers" placing orders that are not orders at a11 until someone higher up has sanctioned them in writing or cut rlown the quantity ordered by the so-called "buyers," these practices appear as nothing short of a travesty on business. Either a buyer is a buyer or he isn't. If he holds the title of buyer and is recognized by rea son thereof as holding that responsible post, then his word should be as sacred as that of his employers. And if he isn't a buyer, why call him by that misleading title`' Why not dub him: errand boy, selector, or vice-president? And if that isn't fancy enou;;h, call him: "Assistant to the Chairman of the Board"!