Watch for these six “red flag” customer comments

By signcraft

Posted on Sunday, March 5th, 2023

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There are some comments that sign customers make that should put any sign maker on alert. Mike Jackson has spent decades in the sign business and once put this list together to help others be aware of the potential problems they may signal. You can save yourself a lot of headaches by listening for these six comments from customers.

“We need a price for 12 signs.”

I explain that I give a price for one sign at full price, then discount orders only if placed 12 at a time. If the same sign is ordered over and over, but not at the same time, we still price the sign at full price for each one. Repeat orders of the same sign may keep us from having to raise prices later due to materials or overhead increases, but individual signs still take about the same amount of time to make as the first one.

“Can you have it ready Friday?”

When you hear this, you may be thinking they want the sign by the end of the day on Friday. But they may well be expecting it for the opening of the business day on Friday and may want to pick it up on Thursday. If you say yes to Thursday afternoon, they will then want to pick it up right after lunch. Now the sign has actually to be done by Wednesday afternoon instead of Friday afternoon. My kids had a book called If You Give A Moose A Muffin, which comically plays out a similar tale.

“I’m ordering the sign but send the bill to another person.”

Look out—this one can be costly. Have that person call the other person for their approval while you are discussing payment. Make sure you can get a deposit from the person who will pay the bill. In a large corporation or government agency, at least get a signed purchase order.

“Can we get some sketches so we can show them to the committee [or boss or spouse]?”

If you do this one without a design deposit, you are doomed. They will run you ragged, and you probably won’t get the job because they are going to show your sketches to a half dozen other shops for a bid.

“If we make the sign about six inches shorter, how much is it?”

Once I establish a general price for a sign, the price is usually set, whether they increase or decrease the height or length by a few inches. In most cases, the sign style takes exactly the same amount of time and effort. Cutting six inches off the sign might save $5 in redwood but all other costs remain the same. If the sign was originally priced at 48 inches, and you cut off six inches, you still have to buy a 48-in. board. Cutting six inches off a 4-by-8 panel is actually more work.

I often use a cookie analogy. I ask the customer’s wife how much she would charge me for two dozen cookies. After the answer, I ask how much she would charge me for 22 cookies? There is an immediate understanding. If they need another price for the same sign without a phone number or with a phone number added, the price remains the same. A nickel-and-dime approach to pricing can drive you crazy.

Remember, too, that making a sign twice as big as the original quoted sign actually makes the sign four times as large. Say the first sign is 2 by 4-ft., which is eight square feet. Increasing it to 8-ft. long makes it a 32-square-foot sign.

“How much does a 4 1/2-by-8-ft. sign cost?”

If you have been making signs for very long, you’re aware of the industry standards for supplies and materials. The customer may have no idea. The old adage that the customer is always right isn’t always correct. In many cases, they are only asking for something similar to what they are describing and will adjust to a size that either looks better or saves them some money. Once they realize that they can save $100 by buying a 4-by-8 instead, they will usually do it. (Unless they are an architect!)