by John Giles June 9, 2003 -- Some printers think there is a magic software program available to fix customer-created files and no one will tell them about it. That seems to be the rationale for not charging customers to fix the file problems. For too long, some printers have accepted digital files and fixed problems without telling customers or charging for the service. This trend is starting to change as printers realize that if they are going to be in business they need to be profitable. One of the latest trends is to establish and publish standards about how to prepare files for the customers. If the customer fails to provide the files within those standards, the sales person adds additional charges to the order to cover the additional time. If the customer objects to the additional charges being added, the charges can be lowered if the customer follows the printer's standards. For instance, a customer who creates a file with Quark should use the Collect for Output function to gather the file elements properly for the printer. When the customer uses this feature, the printer has increased his chances that the file will print properly with the correct fonts and graphics. If the customer doesn't use the Collect for Output feature, the prepress department will have to spend more time preflighting the file to assure that it will print correctly. Customers should be required to use Collect for Output or else be required to pay a higher file handling fee. Some printers are charging a file fee to preflight and make corrections within an allotted time. If the prepress staff is unable to make to get the file to print properly within the allotted time, the customer is given the choice to either fix the file or pay the printer do fix it. Some printers have different file handling charges for work depending whether it is produced on toner-based printer or a press. Toner-based printers are more forgiving and preflighting can be as simple as printing a sample for the customer to approve. Outputting a file to an imagesetter for plates can be costly if there are problems with the files. Plates can be produced, but they may still have errors. Even a simple two-color separation can be very costly if the colors aren't identified properly and result in more than two plates. Most file problems reaching the plate won't be found until the job is on press and printing begins unless it is preflighted before output. Printers need to allocate more time and a higher charge to inspecting a customer-created file before outputting it for press. Printers need to change their attitude toward customer file problems. Rather than complain about the time that will be lost working on the file, the printer should focus on the amount of extra money that will be made working on the file. Problems files can mean increased revenue as printers sell their digital expertise. If the customer complains about the additional charges, the printer now has flexibility. If the customer adheres to the standards, the work can be produced at a lower price. Most customers don't buy from printers because they are too high. They don't buy because they can't afford it. Fixing digital files is an added value that should be a chargeable service. Customers can provide good printable files if the printer will train them how to do it. Just accepting a customer-created file with no standards or information is going to create chaos in the prepress department as the staff battles problems. Standards and a little customer education can create a profitable digital environment.