Every now and then, as we scan the graphic arts trade press, we come upon a piece of writing so rich in common sense and relevance that we feel obliged to drop everything until we’ve done what we can to share it with others. Hence this post about “Maybe we can charge for that,” an essay by Jack Epstein in the July issue of New England Printer & Publisher. Epstein, a consultant based in Maryland’s Eastern Shore, draws upon 30 years of industry experience to lambast what he sees as the trade’s most pervasive form of self-inflicted damage: its tendency to give away valuable services that it ought to be billing customers for. He writes: “The constant struggle to compete can result in so much paranoia about alienating customers that the song most often played by sales departments is, ‘We Can’t Charge for That,’ referring to invoicing for services above and beyond the call of duty." According to Epstein, the industry is its “own worst enemy” when it comes to being treated fairly by customers. “Who else makes custom products under extreme deadlines and doesn’t collect full or partial payments along the way?” Epstein demands to know. “We are more lackadaisical about getting paid than cobblers, dry cleaners, and the building trades.” Blaming a lack of respect for printing on the one hand and the low self-esteem of printers on the other, he presents a litany of 21 common giveaways and the rationalizations that printers employ to excuse them. They include: “• Rush delivery charges. (They’re not a house account, so we’re not paying a sales commission.)” “• Additional RIP time. (That’s the nature of the beast.)” “• What started off being a four-color job needs to be six colors. (We have six printing units. It made the job look better and maybe we’ll win an award.)” “• Fronting postage. (Nobody charges extra for that.)” Among Epstein’s recommendations: instant notification to customers whenever specifications change or AAs occur. Clear understandings with customers about services included in the base price vs. those that will incur additional charges. Tighter coordination of effort between estimating and sales. Epstein argues that because of a general and probably permanent softening in price for printed goods, “Our survival just might depend on being able to collect for justified expenses by applying them only when and where they belong.” “If we can train sales reps to ask for orders, they can also learn how to sell additional services,” he adds. Epstein says that printers have only to look at other industries to discover the stance they should be taking. “Furniture stores charge for delivery...spare tires are an extra...football teams slap on licensing fees that entitle you to buy season tickets...and telephone directory assistance isn’t free anymore.” The full text of the article can be downloaded here.