“These peaches are the wrong shade of peach”

"Still Life Basket of Peaches" -- Raphaelle Peale, 1816
“Still Life Basket of Peaches” — Raphaelle Peale, 1816

Many years ago, I used to own a frame shop. I primarily did custom framing, but also framed some art to sell in the shop.

I ordered a print of the above art and decided to treat it like an oil painting. I framed it with a linen liner and a wide, dark cherry molding. I used non-glare glass on it because it makes simple prints look more impressive.

I put a $75 price tag on it and hung it on the wall.

A week later, one of my better customers came in to pick up her order. As I was wrapping it, she noticed the still life and commented on how nice it was. “Oh, that would be perfect in my dining room, but I can’t spend any more money on framing for a while,” she said. “My husband will have a fit.”

“Well, we can’t have that,” I said.

She went back to take a closer look at it.

“I’d love to have this for my dinner party this weekend,” she said.

“Why don’t you rent it for a month?” I asked, making all of this up as I go along.

“Really?”

“Sure. How about ten dollars a month? I’ll apply whatever you pay towards the purchase price if you want to buy it later.”

She thought that was a fine idea. She gave me the money and took the print home.

A few weeks later, she returned the print.

“Did you decide you didn’t like it?” I asked.

“Oh, no,” she said. “I love it, but I just had my dining room chairs upholstered and the peaches in the print don’t match the peach fabric on the chairs.”

Let me pause here and clarify what is commonly thought to be a law of retail sales: The customer is always right. They seldom are but business owners pretend that they are because they need the sale.

I needed the sale, so I asked, “How about if I change the color?”

“You can do that?”

“Sure,” I told her, having no idea how I could accomplish it.

She left the art and a sample of the fabric. The next day, I went to an art supply store and bought some oil pastel crayons. Whispering a prayer for forgiveness, I did a respectable job of coloring the peaches to match her stupid seat cushions. I sprayed the print with a matte spray to mask the changes, framed it, and called my customer.

She was delighted. I collected the money from her and sent her on her way. It took about a month but I finally had the full retail price.

Mercifully, I don’t work in retail any more. But I did learn something invaluable from that experience.

If I see a piece of art that I like, I don’t ask the artist if he or she could make another one just like the one on display, but make it two inches taller, or change the shade of red, or any other insulting request. I certainly don’t ask them if they could come down a little on the price.

They have spent months in their studios to create the art to sell at shows and galleries. It is not necessarily the type of art they want to make; it is what they think will sell.

If I can, I pay the asking price and compliment them on their work. If I can’t afford it, I still compliment them.

What I try to never do is insult them.

29 thoughts on ““These peaches are the wrong shade of peach”

  1. You do a fantastic job of merging personal stories with life lessons. I try to write in the same style of merging short-stories with life lessons and and enjoy reading your humorous articles. All the best and keep up the good work!

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  2. Oh goodness, I don’t know if I could last in retail. I get rejected enough at my own job. At least as a fundraising.telefund caller, I’m the one doing the asking and get paid to have conversations with people (whilst getting money from them occasionally) and dont have to listen to selfish demands from them (just some selfish opinions here and there). If a person becomes too unreasonable or aggressive, I can politely tell them to eff off and then hang up.

    Some people… living in their own solar system.

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    1. I spent about 20 years dealing with the public in one job or another. No one gets paid enough for those jobs. I try to be a friendly, polite customer when I’m on the opposite side of the sales counter.
      Thanks for your comments.

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  3. Oh boy. After living in SE Asia for 19 years, where bargaining is the norm, it’s tough to dial it down. Excellent idea about the rental by the way. I have more than one oriental rug that started with, “Why don ‘t you take it home for a while.” Got me!

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    1. I’m hopeless when I travel. Just can’t bargain. Once in Florence, I was admiring a pair of leather gloves. I asked how much and agreed to the price, so the merchant just did a one-sided bargain. He’d lower the price and I’d say OK, then he lowered it some more.
      Maybe bargaining isn’t as difficult as I imagine.

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  4. This is hysterical and ridiculous all at the same time. You’re handling of the situation made me giggle. Her reaction to the wrong shade of peach made me cringe. Wow, I don’t know how I would have handled it.

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  5. As a business owner, the “customer is always right” attitude makes my skin crawl, and yet, that’s what pays the bills. This story is too hillarious, but I definitely could name a few customers who would do the same to me. Bless your heart for dealing with this 🙂

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  6. i didn’t know you could do that to artwork..(then again i don’t know a lot of things). i like how you write the story.. it reads and flows so smoothly, like a life lesson you are sharing with the reader over coffee.
    also, i would’ve never thought to have a painting match fabric on chairs. its interesting how we are each unique and our senses are attracted to different things.

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    1. Thank you for your kind words.
      Yes, you can color over a print. That was just a reproduction on nice paper, so it was easy to do. Since it was a print, I couldn’t ruin its value.

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  7. You are a very thoughtful person,the customers say anything so they can get out of buying it.Do they think they’re insulting someone’s hard work, I believe not?
    I loved reading your post.

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