Telling customers ‘no’

Some printers have the hardest time telling customers ‘no’.  They will ask ‘Can I get this job by Thursday?” The printer will say yes, even though they are short staffed and have 10 deadlines already that they have to complete.  The theory is just get it in the door and the rest will take care of itself. Sometimes they lowball a job and then come up with cost overruns that they pass on and inflate the bill to what they wanted it to be originally.  Just get it in the door! The owner here is often in the first camp (regarding ability to get it done, not pricing) and will often give people the delivery times they want to hear regardless of whether it is doable or not. he will have 7 jobs he has to finish by days end and if person #8 says they need it by 5 PM, he’ll say OK.  I don’t do that.

So this week we had a huge job to do.  360 books, 96 pages each with color covers coil bound.  There were also 2 sheets inside the book that were color, the rest black print.  We also had ONE day to do this.  So we ordered pre-punched paper and when Wednesday came we started both machines going.  One is a black only machine so we had to insert the color pages , but it ran the black pages faster so it was a wash time-wise. Both machines were humming along just fine.  Boss and I were removing the copies as they came off and finishing up with the coils and having time in between to handle emails and such.  Then the requests started coming in.  First I get the call from a customer I quoted two weeks ago.  “I just sent you business card art for the stuff you quoted me.  Can I get them by the end of the day?  I have a flight to catch tomorrow morning and I need them.”  Sorry, no.  I have a $2000 job that is due by 5 and I am going to need every machine minute in order to make that happen.  I can’t stop it to run your cards for $35.  it would literally take me 20 minutes to stop the job, run her cards and start it back up where it left off.  Not gonna happen.  So I explain that as nice as I can that we have a project that was here first and that we can’t stop it.  I would be happy to run her cards at the end of the day when this is finished, but it was here first.  Well you can guess that she didn’t like that and kind of hung up in a huff.

Next were a series of walk-ins that each just needed a small amount of copies, but not gonna happen.  I told each one that I would be happy to run them when the machine was available but that it wouldn’t be for a few hours at least.  A few were fine with that, a few got visibly angry and one left her stuff and her phone number to call when done.

The last one was harder as it was an established customer, not a great one but still a customer. They ALWAYS need their stuff in a rush, never able to think ahead.  As is par for them, they called around 2:30 or so and needed 500 copies of a flyer that they claimed they needed right now.  Every time they call for this I try and get as much time as I can.  I say things like I can run it in an hour or something so they don’t get used to the immediate service.  With their habits of procrastination I can see them just assuming that I can ALWAYS have their stuff ready in an instant.  So I have to tell him that there is another job in here before him with the same time requirements that is currently running and that I may not have time to get it printed today.  The bastard actually said “I guess you don’t appreciate my business then”. I sat there open mouthed for a moment, shocked that this asshole would say that to me.  Our designer, who sits across from me, just looked at me with a ‘are you OK” look.

Now for those that know me, the words going thru my head were something like “Fuck you.  I bust my ass for your constant rush jobs every damn time you can’t think farther than your next meal and need them in a hurry, and this one time I can’t physically do it you spaz out like a prima donna? Go to hell.” However, that is not what came out.  Instead I said ” John, I am sorry you think that is the case after the many times I have managed to run your last minute jobs.  The other job was here first with a hard deadline, and I value all my customers.  I think you would be quite angry if I were to get one of your jobs late because I stopped running it for a different customer. I’ll be happy to run these when we are finished with the current job, but that isn’t likely to be until around 5 PM.  I will be happy to stick around late and finish them if you like, or I can run them first job in the morning”. All the time daggers are coming out of my eyes thru the phone at John.  They say that people can ‘hear’ you smile on the other end of the phone.  Well I think John could ‘hear’ the fuck you coming out of my mind at him over the phone as he replied ” OK, sorry about that.  It’s just been a long day.  Just call me in the morning when they are done. Thanks.”

I finished my rush job at 4:30, which gave me enough time to run the copies for the one lady who left them behind (and was very appreciative when I called her to let her know they were ready) AND run John’s flyers.  But I didn’t call him until 9:15 this morning.

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