Anyone can appreciate that a sign business needs to have established policies covering terms and conditions of sales in order to protect itself from less than principled customers who are out to milk every last cent and incentive they can. Whether a business owner is developing the company policies for the first time or just tweaking its current ones, one should consider all of the possible situations where a policy should be set.
Consider the following scenarios:
• Order Cancellation—Presumably, this is why it is common practice in our industry to collect 50 percent on all incoming orders. If the sign shop has already commenced work on the job, it should be entitled to full reimbursement for any costs incurred prior to the notification of the order being canceled. Most of the time, the deposit covers these costs.
• Customer-Furnished Materials and Artwork—If the sign media is supplied by the customer, but is unfamiliar to you or your production staff or is incompatible with your shop processes, you should be able to charge for any preparatory or experimental work necessary. If any “camera ready” artwork requires touch-up or clean-up, the customer should be aware that there will be a charge for that. Likewise, any customer property that is released to the sign maker will be safeguarded against the usual threats—fire, water damage, theft and so on, while in the possession of the shop; but if the work done on customer-supplied materials results in a reject or defective piece, only the cost of the embellishment will be refunded to the customer and/or the rejected item will be offered to the customer without charge. In general, it is wise to have a policy to dissuade customers from supplying you with garments.
• Proofs: Artwork, Color and Machine—Every sign and graphics professional should have a system for having the customer “sign off” on a proof—checking for correct spelling, dates, details, color matches and the like—prior to starting actual production of the job. If the customer does not care to approve the proof, have her sign and date a waiver of indemnity before the work is performed. Certainly, a sign maker regrets any undetected errors that may occur through production, but should not be held responsible for errors if the work is performed per the customer’s approval or if proof corrections were made verbally without signature or initials. If the customer requires machine proofs, rather than paper or electronic replications, the sign maker should expect to be paid for the production of such a sample.
• Delivery and Packaging—Unless otherwise specified in writing, the price quoted is for a single shipment, “bulk” packaged, without storage, freight-on-board the customer’s address. Any modifications to this standard—partial shipments, individual packaging, special “rush” priority pick-up or delivery, to name a few—may result in additional costs to the customer.
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