View Full Version : Just a rant, for your entertainment, Signs of others kinds.

Barb Macdonald
02-08-2008, 10:29 PM
Got a e-mail RFQ from a Project Management Company, referred by our jewel of a customer Property Manager, December 21st, wanting 4 quotes,drawings.layouts,etc. all for completion by 2007 year end:rolleyes:. We do close once a year, so we answered Jan.2/08, with pricing on supplying/installing 4 signs. They had assumed we also would quote on repairing/painting walls, as well, but we mentioned we don't do such work in our quote. Total quote $3500.00 round figures. This company is in the states. Our Property Manager is of course here in Canada, as is the work. After we submitted the quote, approx. 10 e-mails were sent by the second in command Project Manager, wanting clarification, and COI, and of course Workmens Comp., since they wanted to cut a P.O. Then they wanted us to hire a painter, so they'd only have to ask for one COI. We declined, and mentioned (again) that the Property Manager on site could refer them to a painter. Then, they asked for a new quote, where they would supply two of the signs, we would install these only. We re-quoted, specifying that their signs were to be shipped to site, not to us. Then they faxed (yes faxed) something from a girl in Accounts Receivable, saying that our COI & Workmen's Comp. wasn't there. That got straightened out. Yes, it was all there. More flurries of paperwork followed, with a promise of a P.O.#, on Jan.17. all the while they are saying how time critical the Project was.
On Jan. 30th, while I was off sick, but we were anxiously awaiting a delivery from Epilog, two boxes came in, with the two signs from the Project Management Company. They were not shipped to site, and we still did not have a P.O. from this company. As I said, I was off, and my right hand guy opened the first box, not checking where it was from, and realized that it was these signs. And they weren't perfect. One set had a large-ish scratch in it, not from freight damage, and the other had small dings/chips and paint overspray as it's major flaws. When I came in, and saw them I thought "Uh-oh, now what do we do?"
Just then the Project Management "customer" (not yet) calls, asking me to supply the phone number of the painter:rolleyes:. I patiently tell her that the Prop.Mgr. on site is the one to call. And I say "Oh, I'm glad you called, we haven't received a P.O., but we received your signs, and opened them in error, as we did specify ship to site in our quotation." I described the flaws, and explained our reasoning for shipping to site. She asked that we take digital pictures, which I explained (patiently) that the metal signs are quite difficult to photograph. I recommended a quick refinish, of course for a few more $. THEN, the "Team Leader" came on the phone, furious with me, saying that we were incompetent, we should be able to take a picture, the signs could NOT be shipped to site, they HAD taken pictures of perfect signs before they left, and that they needed our pictures to make a damage claim with the shipper. They had "trusted" us to be able to un-wrap the signs. The paint overspray wasn't caused by shipping, nor the scratch in the clear-coat & metal. Manufacturers defects, IMO. And of course, as a sign person, I notice mistakes, I can't help it. So, she tells me that we are no longer a vendor (not that we were, at that point), and to ship the signs back to them. And she hangs up. Click. My blood pressure is kinda high. 5 minutes later, Team Leader's Boss calls, and apologizes for Team Leader's "tenseness". I explain to him my position, again, in mostly reasonable terms, for me anyway. 30 years in business and I can't unwrap a sign? He says they're having a meeting about the Project, and he'd call me back with their final decision in an hour.
Two days later, TeamLeaderBoss calls, and says, ship the signs back, on their account, of course. Fine. But since we still didn't have a P.O., I said to my partner, frankly, I don't want the rest of the business, even if they do give it to us, unless we get the money up front. They just seem too incompetent. And of course, today, almost two weeks later, they send a P.O. for the other two signs, only. I guess they'll get the painters to install their signs:mad:
So, what do you think? Do the signs, and hope they pay? Or be brave, and say "Thanks for the P.O." (which by the way says we're installing a 8'x24' granite pylon for $1250.00, not at ALL what we quoted on ) "Our terms are orders ship when a cheque is received."
My business brain says "Send 'em an invoice, and see what happens, but don't make the signs, until you see some $$". My reply to this P.O. is being (carefully) formulated over the weekend.
I have one finally ex-customer, Property Manager who used to order signs, and then not pick them up for a year. This same ex-customer tried to do it to me again, which is when I came up with "custom orders will ship when a cheque is received". These are little, tiny jobs. I can't make money waiting on little, tiny, payment.
I don't want to turn away work in this economic climate, but I also hate "loosing" money.
I haven't been told I'm an incompetent for a long time, oh sorry, that would be NEVER.
I can do that to myself, thanks very much!!!

Thanks for listening!
Yes, we make signs, no we don't do windows, yes we frost windows, no we don't patch/paint walls!!!!! But we do paint murals and apply vinyl on walls. We'll even put a sign on a wall! Sheesh!!!!
Yeah, I know, that's the sign trade!
Good night!

Larry Bratton
02-09-2008, 8:08 AM
These people that are project managers and the like, that build and manage properties are the absolute biggest pains in butt. I know, in addition to being in the sign business, I have been in another business for 8 years that sold and installed doors, interior finishes, hardware etc on apartment projects and condos. Large jobs, contracts $500k or better. It never ceases to amaze me what these people expect to get for free.
I had an instance this last week that I'll tell you about. Not related to signage but to the customer type in general. We supplied outswinging storage room doors as part of our deal on a large project in Charleston,SC. I bought a product that I intended for the GC to install in his doors to protect them from the wind blowing them open and damaging them before locks were installed. Sent these things to them FREE of charge. Explained what they were to do. My jobsite supervision didn't chase it because it wasn't ours to do. Well, this week, the PM refuses to pay me for $700 worth of doors that had wind damage. Reason was WE never installed the devices to keep HIS doors shut and protected. Burned me up!
You ask what to do in your dilema. Ask for a 50% deposit (your new policy) and if they refuse to pay you one, tell em to go take a leap. Their underlying intentions are not good. No business is better than having customers that dispute your billings and don't help resolve problems. Like you, I've been in business a long time and you eventually learn these things. Good luck!

Matt Meiser
02-09-2008, 9:48 AM
Just to make you feel better :rolleyes:, its not just the sign or construction businesses. I've submitted proposals for engineering services (industrial software) on projects that needed to be done yesterday, only to have the customer take 6 months and change their mind 12 times about what they want. Then when they finally do send a PO, they want you to drop everything else to work on their project right now. Freebies ("that will only take a couple hours, right?") and disputed billings are common there too. Of course my previous employer didn't help with the latter since they screwed the billing up 1/2 the time, but still. I've ended up spending more on business development hours to win the job than the profit from the job ends up being.

There, do you feel better? :D

Mike Null
02-09-2008, 10:46 AM

I would hope that your business is good enough to tell these people they needn't call again.

Kenneth Hertzog
02-09-2008, 5:39 PM
I feel your pain :o
I've been in business in one form or another for 30+ yrs.
What I've learned is this.
All special orders require the cost of the order as deposit.
Balance due upon delivery.
No balance the piece goes home till balance is paid + extra shipping.

I know that seems harsh but so is my expenses
If I could afford to give it away or lose money I might as well
sit at home and watch TV.

with customers like mentioned above losing money seems inevitable


Barb Macdonald
02-09-2008, 6:09 PM
I was having a "What could I have done differently" moment. I'll e-mail an invoice, and await payment before I make anything. Which is what I knew I would do, all along.
Can't make money if you're chasing it:)
I just have to be careful I don't chase money away. I can get a bit grumpy on the phones, sometimes..
My Bell training comes in handy, though. I know how to hang up, too!
"Good afternoon, My Company Name"(spoken in a perfect Bell voice)
"Hello, I need to order a nice sign, please?"
"Oh, wonderful, could you please tell me a bit more about it? What size, and colours are you thinking of?"
"Well, I love the signs you see in the malls, all the time. Can I have it tomorrow?"
"I'm sorry, we work on a 1-2 week production schedule, depending on your requirements. We would need to firm up a few details first."
"My sister has one in her basement, that I really like."
"Great! What does it look like?"
"It's a Bud Lite Sign."
(can you feel the click coming?)
"Oh, I'm sorry, we don't make illuminated signs, anyway. Perhaps you were thinking of a brass sign?" (What do I know? I can only hope.)
"No, I don't need brass numbers for my house, I need a sign, for tomorrow! I'll pay, I need to go to the bank anyway, tomorrow."
(deep cleansing breath)
"Well, as I mentioned, we can't make your sign without some sort of specifications."
(That word always scares 'em)
"What should it say?"
"For Sale"

You get the idea, you've been there, done that too.
It's the main reason I won't have call display.
I'd never answer the phone:)
And it's STILL snowing:)
Thanks for listening, the Creek so RULES

Bill Cunningham
02-09-2008, 10:58 PM
I had one just before the end of the year, who of course just needed a quote by the end of the month (two days away) .. The email said they needed a full itemized quote on 50 "lamicoids" all to be made from the specifications to be found in these attached complete site engineering drawings (hunt the .pdf site drawings for the required signs, size, colour, text,) and quote them ..don't miss any.. My response? "There is no way we can search these drawings for signs, and quote them in two days..However, we estimate a shop charge of 8 to 15 hours to prepare this quote over a one week period, starting the first week of January. Please forward a cheque for an estimated 15 hours @$60.00 per (+gst) and we can get this scheduled in as soon as possible, any unused paid time will be credited to the final invoice... Of course, we never heard from them again.. What I 'really' wanted to tell them was "What kind of moron thinks any business would spend hours searching through drawings for signs to quote, for free!! The time wasted would be worth as much, or likely more than the job... "

Barb Macdonald
02-12-2008, 9:27 PM
I wrote a brilliant reply to the e-mail, I noticed they'd dated it Jan.18, I got it Feb.6. I replied Feb.11, and made it clear I needed them to make the P.O. at least slightly accurate.
50% deposit, with a second cheque post-dated for three weeks after the first cheque.
The customer replied, accepting the conditions, and promising to send a cheque. (I won't lift another finger, until it's deposited and cleared.)
Then, I get a SECOND faxed request for COI & Worker's paper from the same incompetent twit in accounts receivable. I wonder if she knows what her job is. Maybe paper shredding is all she does??
Fine, I e-mail the customer quickly, not even too tersely. She says she'll take care of it.
Funnier, again. I ask for the vector file, and question the layout on the brushed metal, for an exterior pylon. (We'd seen "their" signs, and they were slightly different from what we had quoted) My customer e-mails back, "White Vinyl is going on the exterior pylon, so brushing is not required".
You know, I just might make money on this job, after all:)
I quoted brushed stainless...... I DID! Clearly, even.
What has happened to people's ability to read?

I realize I'm using the forum to chat, kinda sorta. I think this is a typical learning experience, though, in the sign trade.

One thing I've learned, in this business, is no matter how nice they are, they won't pay you if they don't want to. AND, never trust an unknown tenant in your favourite Property Manager's building. We do work for a very upscale commercial building, and do lots of it. A new tenant moved in, lavishly appointed offices, wanted lavish signs, we serviced the heck out of him. My partner was swayed by how nice he was, and how nice his car was, and wow, he even bought him lunch. But he never did pay.
I distribute a sign system to other sign companies, and have learned to get the money first, from unknown sign guys. They are the worst payers!
(No offense, guys, I know we're all upstanding pay-our-bills people on this forum.)

I won't (can't) mention the name of a BIG sign company in this country that used to go broke, and change their name, and start all over again, leaving their suppliers in the lurch. They've done it several times. I wish I was smarter at being crooked-er. I'm a lousy liar though, so there ya go.
One of our suppliers used to do deliveries for this company as well. They were always COD only (I peeked) ;)
Honesty always pays, in the end, I think.

all the best

Bill Cunningham
03-16-2008, 8:48 PM
Well, It's been a month! Did you ever get their cheque? Remember, "No brushing is required" so you probably saved a bundle of time..:D:D:D

Barb Macdonald
03-19-2008, 8:48 AM
The signs (as we specified) are done, miraculously. AND paid for, even more miraculously. (Even I can't sell white vinyl priced at brushed stainless.)
OK, half paid for. I'm waiting on the balance cheque. But even if they don't pay the rest, at least the costs are covered. I wimped out when they insisted on seeing "installed" sign photos before they'd send the balance.
They did FedEx the deposit cheque, so I think we'll be ok. (fingers crossed)
Of course, three days after they approved the drawings, they were e-mailing "Do you have a time-line?" (My quote kinda mentions delivery times, everywhere!!!!!!)
Oh, I love the sign business! Always a challenge!
We're on March break and it's a bit slow, so I'm doing custodial duties that have been ignored since last spring. I hate waking up the spiders....
We have approximately 1 ton of Sign Trade magazines (SOTT, SB, EJ) that I get so TIRED of moving!!
Enough snow up your way, Bill?

Bill Cunningham
03-21-2008, 3:04 PM
Ha.. Glad to see it's looking like it might pay off.. I know the feeling with some folks that can't (or won't) read simple instructions or information.. I deal with a lot of 'brides' while the 'vast' majority are very smart women, there are always a few, that I swear are getting married only because they are too incredibly stupid to exist on their own..:D Ya gotta grin and bear it... Snow is starting to melt, I run a pump behind the shop on the bright days, to move the water further back and hopefully to a drain.. You got a lot in T.O. Mel would have had the army out by now..ha..

Belinda Williamson
03-21-2008, 6:32 PM

As the others said, it's not just the sign business. I get calls all the time requesting quotes for a "standard" fireplace surround. I patiently explain, there ain't no such animal.

We require a 50% deposit, 50% balance at the time of installation. There is a note at the bottom of our contract in LARGE letters that reads "Payment to (our company name) is not contingent upon receipt of payment from any other party." just to cover those "you'll get paid when I get paid" folks.

No offense to any interior designers we have here on the Creek, but some of my most memorable experiences are of dealing with designers who want a specific slab of granite, only with a little more - insert color here -in it, or a little less veining. :eek:

I'm glad things have worked out so far, and hope that final payment gets there soon!

Barb Macdonald
05-14-2008, 9:20 AM
Frickin' frackin' fr****
This "soon as I get the balance" ex-customer is still being, shall we say, precious.
I've been very sweetly asking for the balance, and was promised payment back on March 14/08. I finally received a three page fax yesterday, with an affidavit and lien waiver attached, and a photocopy of the balance check, which they say they will release, as soon as I sign this legal document, which says I have been paid. But I haven't, and I don't want to sign something that ain't true. Is this normal in the States?? Do you sign something saying you've been paid, even though the check is still not in the bank?? Here is their reasoning.
"The issue is that we cannot send you the physical check without the signed lien waiver because then we have no recourse to protect ourselves and our client if you receive the check and donít sign the lien waiver.
What if you sign the lien waiver, return it to us and we overnight the check to you?
We have to have the lien waiver signed and faxed back. We require all of our subcontractors to sign the lien waivers for each check. Plus our auditors require us to have signed lien waivers for all installers. Once we cut the checks and the lien waivers are faxed back, the check is automatically released. We do not hold the checks. This is not for any future work. This lien waiver is for the work performed on invoice 23843 only. The next invoice will have a separate lien waiver to be signed. Please understand that all checks are released once we are in receipt of the signed lien waivers. We can Fed Ex the check today if we receive the lien waiver back. We only send a copy of the check with the fax so the vendor will know that the check is ready. If you need the lien waiver to read MacGraphics Inc., I can change it and refax also. Please let me know if you have any additional questions."

If and when I get paid the balance, (thank goodness for the deposit check) will anyone mind if I tell everyone who they are??
I sure wouldn't wish this company on anybody.
There's no such thing as a stupid question, is there??
I just don't get it. However, I'm not up on any weird rules/regs that may exist in the States. I've asked many people, they all agree, if I sign it, what's to stop them ripping up the check??
I will learn from this, I will learn from this...
Have a great, non-frustrating day:)

Stephen Beckham
05-14-2008, 10:30 AM

I'd send them a fax back.

Thanks for the evidence that you have not paid your bill due. I will turn this over to my legal advice for processing a collection claim against your company, report you to the better business bureau and place your company's name on the Craig's List as a non-paying company upon completion of work.

We can resolve this nicely if you either:

1) Send my check immediately - I will sign and fax your lien once the check is in hand. I will hold the check until you confirm you received the signed lien and then deposit your check.


2) Send me three contacts or most recent sub-contractors as reference to the legality of you holding my check. I will contact them to verify if your company ever pays it's bills in full. If I can confidently research your past payment history, I will sign the lien and fax it immediately and continue to wait for your payment which is now more than 45 days past due.

Thank you for your time and business.

:eek::eek::eek: Afterall - the worse they can do is pay you... You have already stated you won't do work for them again... It's amazing that the guys that are past due are trying to set the standard of how the transaction will be completed...

Anyway - sorry you got the rotten apple.... As far as the TOS - I'm not the expert, I keep getting caught up with it on occasion... Personally - I'd like to see it posted if it's not a violation to help Creekers stay away from this type of company...


Joe Pelonio
05-14-2008, 12:06 PM
I have done work over many years with large contractors that require me to sign a lien waiver, one even requires that it be notarized. Never have I been forced to sign it before being paid.

They cannot collect from their customer until all liens are satisfied. The law allows a lien on the property until it's proven by the affidavits that all subcontractors have been paid, of which you are one.

Moreover, you would be in violation of the law if you signed that you have been paid and were not, that is a legal document and you would be falsifying.

I'm no lawyer, but it may be that you should talk to one. Here many will give a half hour free consultation but maybe you have a friend or relative lawyer?

Belinda Williamson
05-14-2008, 12:43 PM

Like Joe, I have been required to sign lien waivers. Typically for us, the waiver comes in the same envelope as the check. Almost all have to be notarized. I was once asked to sign in person with the check on the desk in front of me. I placed one hand on the check and signed with the other. :D

Jim Griffith
05-16-2008, 12:23 AM
When I was in the building materials business it was quite common to be asked for lein release prior to them cutting the last check... especially if the government were involved... its all in the wording. With them including the copy of the check the waiver should read something to the effect of "upon reciept of payment of the final amount of XXXX.OO I release all... blah blah". Most canned lein releases do not word it that way, so I used to just write it in in ink and initial it. Shows upon reciept of that amount you will release your lein. They will have their cancelled check for their proof to go with the release. Worked for 20+ years, state and federal government as well as banks for building loans.

Good luck!

Barb Macdonald
05-16-2008, 8:23 AM
and I faxed it to them. It does say "liens, claims, or rights of (my company) are waived and released on the condition that IF (my co.) does NOT receive the $$, the waiver & release are null and void."
I love reading legal-ese early in the morning:)
All this pain could have been avoided of course, if they'd just mailed the frickin' check in the first place. They will FedEx it, they say. Must be nice to be able to afford such an extravagance.
Funnier thing was, when the work was completed, they insisted that I send completion pictures, before they would release payment. Of course, I sent pics. Of course, I still didn't see payment. Then I get this waiver thingy, and my stress hormones kicked in!
What have I got to lose, at this point? By signing it, at least I might get paid.
What a waste of time & $$.
Darned if ya do, darned if ya don't.

Thanks for all the replies, all were very helpful. I don't often run into this sort of thing, as you might have surmised. My great customers have mostly spoiled me!

What did I learn? Avoid "Project Managers"!! We only took the job, because of the referral by our Good customer.
Have a great day, and thanks again, you creekers.