Whose decision is it?

Richard Darling

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Feb 24, 2006
Bozeman, Montana
I had a fascinating framing customer yesterday. Actually, it was three of them. Grandma, Mom, and 9 year old daughter.

Grandma bought a print of a horse for daughter's birthday. Came back with daughter for framing. As we started looking at mats, mom joined the group. I usually go through mat color groupings looking for good possibilities, putting all the selections out on the table so that they can be compared and evaluated. As I started putting samples out next to the print, with each one, Grandma and Mom would say, "no", or "I don't like that". I explained what I was doing, but the quick judgments continued, and they would pick up the samples they had decided against and put them to the side.

It gets worse. I finally managed to find about four colors they thought they liked, and had them on each corner of the print. Grandma said to the daughter, "Which one do you like?" Daughter pointed to the Magenta color. I told her what a good selection it was made because it complemented the reds in the print so nicely. Mom immediately said, "But you don't want to see the mat!" Magenta was removed as a possibility.

I felt really sorry for the little girl. I don't think she was really getting a choice in the matter. Grandma was paying for the framing, Mom was deciding what would look good with the color on her wall.

I was stunned and wasn't sure what else to do. We ended up with Crescent Amethyst (purple), which was ok, but didn't go with the print nearly as well as some other possibilities.

I'd love to hear some ideas from your experience for dealing with demanding customers who 1) quickly dismiss options and 2) railroad their children's selections.

Ah! another reason to have a visuliztion program, you can so quickly show them the finished possibilities on screen with only a click or two. For that type of customer you wouldn't even need to put mat samples in their reach just click on color in the artwork itself, decide and then bring out the appropriate mat sample.
I've met nine-year-olds who have a good eye for color - and others who like anything, as long as it's pink. Decisive customers are not necessarily a bad thing. Much preferable to the one who want to spend half an hour in conversations like:
"What do you think?"
"I don't know. What do you think?"

As long as the customers are happy with their choice, what else matters?

Repeat after me:
<marquee>It won't be hanging in my house. It won't be hanging in my house. It won't be hanging in my house.</marquee>

You might start thinking now about what you will do if they get the framed piece home and decide you were right about the mat color. Will you charge them to change it?

The customer is always right. If the customer gets it home and made a big boo boo, remember that the customer is always right. Let them pay for their boo boo (change out of the mat) and allow them to continue to be right.
And the customer might hate it when they get it home and then take it to another framer and blame you for the color choices! Sometimes we write CCC or Customer's color choice on the backer or mats. ;)
The one who is right is the one that ends up paying for the framing! Or that's what seems to be the pecking order! But, there are exceptions...

I have a customer (the dad) like that. Just can't make up his mind, even with my suggestions. Finally he says "Claire (6), which one do YOU like??" Claire goes straight to the pink frame.Dad says,"But Claire I don't think pink goes with that picture" Last time, Claire won, after pitching a fit. The day after picking it up, Dad comes back without Claire. Mom hates it. Present for Gramma, family protrait. Pink frame doesn't work on the black&white portrait that Dad paid a LOT for. WHAT WERE YOU THINKING??Mom said.(I'm thinking Claire's got Dad wrapped!) Dad pays for a new frame.

I like what Kit said "Frame's not hanging in MY house." You can only do so much, then it's outa your hands. If it's that bad, I will often write, ON THE WORK ORDER, "Frame/mat customer's choice," if I think there's a chance, and then a verbal warning, "Okay, but if you get it home and it doesn't work with the red pillow, I'll be happy to replace it at your cost." Usually makes them think again. Didn't work with Claire's Dad.
If someone keeps rejecting potential mats for arbitrary reasons, or thinks there is some celestial law that is not to be violated ("But you don't want to see the mat!"), I would just stop and suggest another approach. Then I would get out a couple of coordinated looks that include a frame style with a couple of mats that present a unified design supporting (while not necessarily trying to match elements of) the artwork. Then I would simply but authoritatively explain why I feel that these designs work. If they don't choose one of those directly, It will likely be a variation on one of the themes. The key is to keep control of the design/sale by diplomatically demonstrating that we know what we are doing. Letting the cust. see every sample in the shop is losing control of the sale. Put away things that have been rejected. Don't let them pile up on the counter. Overstimulation will only lead to greater frustration. I find that simplification usually works best, bec. this pattern of arbitrary rejection is often a defense against fear of an unknown and seemingly complicated situation, and of being taken advantage of pricewise. Listen for any positive statements from the customer and gear your designs toward those things they have already said they do like.
As pointed out above, it is hanging in their house. But, it shouldn't take you an hour to find something that will work.
:cool: Rick
Originally posted by Janet L:
The customer is always right.
I disagree strongly with this statement! They are sometimes wrong!

If a framer has framed 10, 20, 30 thousand pictures (or more) and all of them look good or great, and the customer has had 1, 2 or 3 pictures framed, they are usually less likely to be able to select the right colours. Experience counts!

If a customer wants a colour that the framer knows isn't good, then the framer should explain why it will look bad and why another colour is better. It's really not that difficult to persuade a customer when the mat choices you show, "harmonise" with the artwork.
Persuasion doesn't always result in exactly the outcome that the framer wanted, but it should always result in a suitable choice.

Visualisation software is definitely a great way to show customers the difference between several choices. It is also a great way to show them why a double or triple mat is better that a single mat!

In 21 years, the only time a customer has had to ask for a mat to be changed is a couple of times where I have typed the wrong mat number into the computer....my mistake, I pay!
Agreed - the customer is not always right. When they come into your store and demand something at a major discount, are they right? When they take alot of time to pick-up their framed print, are they right? And if they fail to pay in the agreed upon terms, are they right? I really believe that the statement "the customer is always right" was coined by customers. And by the same token, goodwill doesn't pay the bills. If they bitch and complain to friends, the chances are their friends know the temperment of that person and take anything said with a grain of salt. If you doubt this, go to your auto dealer and ask for a car for half price, or ask the butcher to add a couple steaks for "goodwill". In case you haven't guessed, I have little room in my life for people that complain and want you to bite the bullet for them. I suggest those people would be better off in someone else's shop than mine. I am the boss and they are not.

Boy that felt good! OK come after me all you believers in the statement - The Customer Is Always Right. I'm ready.
Ok, chill out guys. My main point in making the statement that "the customer is always right" is to point out who is footing the bill.

We've all had at least one experience where a customer is determined to prevail in their mat selection. Doesn't happen often, but it DOES happen. No matter how much explaining, showing, etc. that we do, this particular customer is going to have what they want. In a case like this, I give them what they want and move on.

Sorry that some of you feel compelled to bring in comments that have absolutely nothing to do w/Richard's original question. It really clouds the simple question and it's answer.
Janet- I think what your first post boils down to is "The customer is always right that they want what they want." I notice you did not advocate correcting their change of mind later at no charge. Let them be "right" and then if they find it doesn't look as "right" as they had pictured it, let them be "right" again (a new order), this time probably with your helpful suggestions.
:cool: Rick
I saw a list of values for employees at a local warehouse club. One read: "No one ever won an argument with a member"(customer). I think that's the point of the statement about the customer being right, and I agree with it.

I think the root of my question boils down to this: Is there any way I can protect a young customer who is being railroaded by older customers who happen to be their parents/grandparents? Or do I simply have to grin and bear it?
Originally posted by Janet L:
Ok, chill out guys. My main point in making the statement that "the customer is always right" is to point out who is footing the bill.

Sorry that some of you feel compelled to bring in comments that have absolutely nothing to do w/Richard's original question. It really clouds the simple question and it's answer.
My apologies Janet for "clouding the issue", but I did offer two different methods to deal with customers who want to use poor choices of colours! I guess you might have missed those bits!

I disagree with you that my comments had nothing to do with the original question!
My apologies to you Ormond. My comment wasn't directed at you. I thought everything you said was a valid point directed at the question.
I agree with Jerry's grin and bear it answer.

Turn the situation around and imagine that you are shopping with your nine-year-old child for an outfit for that child to wear to a friend's wedding.

You are thinking khaki slacks but the child is pushing for the baggy crotch pair adorned with several pounds of dangling chains.

Would you really want a sales person defending your child's right to make his own decision?

Mother/daughter tag teams are among the most challenging combinations to work with.

Three generations would have driven me to seek other employment.
Originally posted by wally pasbrig:
OK come after me all you believers in the statement - The Customer Is Always Right. I'm ready.
First you must believe that Perception is Reality, otherwise skip to the next post.

For someone to be a customer, they must believe that they are right. If you make them feel they are not right then they will go elsewhere and become someone elses customer. Rarely have I shattered the illusion and drove away a customer. Sometimes it's not worth keeping someone. But realize that there is a price for being right.
Who`s name is on the back of the piece w/ the little gold foil label?
When it`s hanging on the wall and a freind asks "who Framed this ? The mats are terriable the colors are all wrong!"Who do you think`s
going to take the blame? The customer?
Guess who your not going to get as a customer.
I`m sorry but I`m in charge, I`m the professional,
I`m the reason that they are standing at the counter. I`M Right Just ask me.
I agree with Rick. Showing too many samples can backfire into sensory overload.

As for the daughter. Not much you can do about the way parents treat their child's selection... But you CAN compliment the youngster and show support for her ideas.

...Yet another reason why we should have a mental health testing program before some people are allowed to have babies.
I have a mother/daughter team that drives me crazy. The teenage daughter is the artist, a very good one, but has no say at all in how her art will be matted. Mother flat tells the daughter, "I'M paying for it!. When YOU'RE paying for it, you'll get to decide." Daughter and I just roll our eyes and Mother chooses. One time, Daughter brought it back with babysitting money and we changed it.

As for my sticker on the back of a yucky-mat job (IF I put a sticker back there!), I figure if someone is looking on the back, they probably already know Mother has control issues, and will consider the source and maybe not blame me, the framer, and may even agree with Mother!
Hanna, I think that's a Perfect approach. Hopefully the one who pays doesn't object.

Originally posted by Pat Murphey:
Is that what happened, Ron?

Pat :D
Not really, Pat.

But I did have this nagging fear, what with people living longer and all, that it would be only a matter of time before I'd get FOUR generations of women coming in together to select a frame.
Originally posted by Kit:

Turn the situation around and imagine that you are shopping with your nine-year-old child for an outfit for that child to wear to a friend's wedding.
You are thinking khaki slacks but the child is pushing for the baggy crotch pair adorned with several pounds of dangling chains.
Would you really want a sales person defending your child's right to make his own decision?
But when the child's selections were the best ones of the day, shouldn't the salesperson at least make some defense?
I'm with Hanna on this [kind of].

first I would establish who's paying. AND WHAT BUDGET. Then saying something like "Great. We can do some really fun things with that nice of a budget."

Now have the girl pick out what she wants... no one gets to kibbits...

This way, mom and gmom get to see what the girl wants. then [if it really is in the budge...] ask the girl if her mother or gmom may be seeing the picture occationallly? Yes...some...

So now a little bending can occure on mom and gmoms part ot basically go with what the girl will be happy with, but with imput in relation to their viewing portion.

Sometimes a concensus is just knowing or seeing what each other likes.. and how really close they really can be.. Like the neutral mat that mom and gmmom like, with the lime-orange mat the girl likes as the fillet.

But at least it gives the older the opertunity to learn some respect for the youngers mind, tastes adn opinions.
I enjoy it when people want to teach their kids that there is fun and value in choosing custom framing for something they care about. It's a lesson that, if learned early, can set a pattern for life. I've got a number of second generation clients, and it's very gratifying. Facilitating a design session with kids is building those "Gen 2" clients for the future.
I disagree. My customers take part in picking their own mats. Sure, I can lead them in certain directions and give input on what colors work best with the art, but ulitmately I make sure they are satisfied with THEIR decision.

Not everyone that walks though my door is uninformed or tasteless. I am here to give guidance and to educate...and to sell. I try to make it an enjoyable experience. How many times have we preached that choosing a custom frame should be a rewarding and fulfilling shopping EXPERIENCE.

If I feel bullied into making a decision by a salesperson, whether it's buying clothes or a car or a house, I will go elsewhere. (Okay, bullied is a strong word) And I really don't mind spending time with customers, even if it means and hour to get just the right mat. That's my job, that's what I am here for. And of course, to make money!
Got to say I almost got a little teary the first time I was in a shop and some parents brought their daughter in to pick her framing. I found that to be one of the most unique presents ever.

Mecianne- I agree about the EXPERIENCE factor. However, I would argue that most people don't want to spend an hour trying to make a decision about a mat. After framing for more than 30 years, I have to say that most of the time if the process is stretching out uncomfortably, it is because the cust. is nervous about the situation. This may be due to inexperience at having custom framing done, leading to fear of being taken advantage of (via "overdesign" or overpricing), fear of showing lack of supposed knowledge of art or design, or possibly the person is generally insecure for whatever reason.
I think one of the most important things we can do as salespeople and designers is to show professionalism, knowledge, and respect, and to try to create an atmosphere where the cust. can feel at ease. Then if we show the enthusiasm we have for the possibilities inherent in our craft, and even inject a little humor into the situation, the decisions about design, price, etc. will come more easily and readily.
Sure I have the occasional customer who may need to come back 3 times before she makes a final decision (had one today), but I can tell she is getting "psyched" and is ready to really make her art look great. Most of the time, though, the design process is pretty straightforward, and then the cust. can get on with the rest of his or her busy day. (And so can I.)
:cool: Rick
Despite the assault on sensibilities, challenges to good taste, and abhorrence for proper design, “He who pays the piper, calls the tune.”

Listen closely to the one with the credit card.