Are Michael's framing coupons really a good value?
January 3, 2015 1:18 PM   Subscribe

I just ordered a custom framing job at Michael's, the chain art/craft supply store. I had a 60% off coupon. The counter guy was very nice, and spent a good while with me figuring out the right frames and mats etc. The selection was ok, not great, but I was able to find something that worked for the print. I chose a fairly basic frame (neither clearance nor obviously high end... right around the middle) with the best glass, and two standard mats (you know, with one thin edge and one a couple inches wide.)

The finished item will be (approximately) 2 feet by 4 feet. The price, after the 60% discount and including tax, was $460 (*cough*.) Would I have done better (pricewise) to go to an independent framing shop, coupon or no coupon? Hoping for answers from someone who has shopped around for framing!
posted by fingersandtoes to Shopping (24 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: So the piece was 48" tall? Anything over 40" is oversize and MUCH more expensive so that's a huge factor. Did you frame it archivally? If no even as an oversize thing that seems like a lot of money at 60% off. (professional artist, former framer)
posted by leslies at 1:25 PM on January 3, 2015

Response by poster: I checked the receipt and the total size is about 21 by 48 inches... I see a charge on here labeled "Masterpiece 36x48", that sounds like it could be a size surcharge... so I'd see something like that wherever I were to shop, is that right?

I don't think I did an archival framing. I did choose the fanciest glass (which was still less $ than the acrylic would have been) and I see a charge on here for "preservation fit", whatever that is...
posted by fingersandtoes at 1:31 PM on January 3, 2015

Head down to an indie framer and ask. In general, if the place's business model is heavily structured around coupons (Michael's, Kohl's) or has a "loyalty program", you're going to pay more. Michael's really milks that "constantly sending you coupons so you think you're getting a good deal" thing pretty hard, so, yeah, it's likely that you paid more there than you would have paid at an independent framing shop.
posted by straw at 1:35 PM on January 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

Fanciest glass could translate to museum glass which is way overkill and extremely expensive. "Preservation fit" probably means archival - if it was an original work of art that is the right thing to do but is pricey. And big. But yes - I think Michaels' overcharged and upsold you on stuff you may or may not have needed.
posted by leslies at 1:37 PM on January 3, 2015

Best answer: Hi, I used to work at Michaels and I now work at a related frame shop. Masterpiece is the type of glass you used. It's non-glare and UV-protective. The actual brand name is Museum by Tru-Vue, and it's near top of the line for glass. And looks good. They have other glass, but it doesn't look as good. We have quotas to meet with museum/masterpiece, so they will sell you hard on that, but you can insist. I would still stick with your original glass since the difference in glare is startling.

I would say that your order is ballpark for Michaels for a piece that large. It is unlikely to be less, and will probably be more at an indie framer (they have less access to volume discounts.) If an indie framer charge less for a large piece, in my experience it's because they are using less-archival materials or are deeply discounting to steal your business from the big box, or they got a deal on some component that you used.

You can cancel a custom order same day, but not the next day. So I would have them cancel and refund it so you can shop around. It is likely that you will still go with Michaels based on price.
posted by blnkfrnk at 1:42 PM on January 3, 2015 [5 favorites]

My mother is a watermedia artist who does a lot of big pieces and she's commented on how non-artists are often shocked by how expensive framing can be (easily hundreds of dollars), but that sounds like a bit much even so, if that's the 60% off. You might indeed have managed better at an independent frame shop, where they focus on that one thing and may be more used to large works.
posted by dorque at 1:42 PM on January 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

Also-- did you price the frame you used relative to others? That's the only thing I can think of that will not have an immediate impact on archival preservation, but which can be a majorly expensive component (sort of like buying glasses frames-- all the companies use the same actual material, but depending on finish, brand, etc it'll be more or less.)
posted by blnkfrnk at 1:45 PM on January 3, 2015

Mixhaels is infamous for its "60% Off" coupons - I think they drop one into the newspaper here every Sunday.

Several years ago I used a Michaels coupon to buy a mat cutter. It has saved me some $$$s. I've never gone to them with artwork and a mat; I expect they'd prefer to charge you, but will likely do it with your mat (and try to find some other way to apply their thumb to the scale).
posted by doctor tough love at 1:55 PM on January 3, 2015

At 60% off, the pre-discount price of that framing job would have to have been just a tick over a grand.

Was there fine print on the coupon? Maybe wording that limited the discount to the frame itself, and not the matting, glass, etc? Or, maybe only certain framing materials that you didn't choose? Also, did you tell the salesguy that you had that 60%-off coupon before you started putting-together the frame?
posted by Thorzdad at 1:57 PM on January 3, 2015

I recently got a piece framed with archival matting and conservation glass (it's a relatively old piece I want to keep safe) at my local independent frame store. The piece is roughly 16x20" and the whole job cost around $200.

Based on what you described, it sounds like the price you paid is right in the ballpark of where you'd be with an independent shop. The "60% off" might be a bit of a scam, but the end price point seems about right.
posted by cvp at 2:00 PM on January 3, 2015

Framing is very expensive if it's custom. The cheapest we've gotten is buying a frame at Ikea and then getting a mat cut at Michael's (which only works if you can find a frame the right size). That's fine for inexpensive prints but if you want really good quality everything it's just going to be expensive.

If you're handy, you can make your own frames, cut your own mats, and get glass cut at home depot or somewhere similar.
posted by betsybetsy at 2:05 PM on January 3, 2015

$480 after a 60% discount? Yeah, no. Ask what the price is before the discount. Or phone a Michael's store requesting a quote for the same framing job.
posted by standardasparagus at 2:09 PM on January 3, 2015

Micheal's list prices are all inflated to make their price - coupon still a profit making item. So ignore the 60% off thing and focus on the final price. $480 doesn't seem completely out of line for what you received, maybe a bit on the highside.
posted by Mitheral at 2:17 PM on January 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: A 2'x4' piece of non-glare, anti-UV acrylic glazing is $91.39 at Frame Destination (having ordered many times from this website, I am confident the quality is at least comparable to what you are describing at Michael's). Their lower-end, standard matting comes to about $66 for a double mat at the dimensions you describe. They have a lot of different frame moulding at a variety of price points, the first one I tried cost $48.42 at your dimensions. The backer board and mounting tape might be $10, and relevant hardware would be a couple dollars more.

So, you could probably DIY this for in the neighborhood of $230, or about half of what you paid. But framing is tricky, getting the mat colors and dimensions to complement your piece and frame is not trivial, and even with ordering pre-cut pieces there's a chance of screw-ups if you haven't done this before. Given all this, I think a 100% markup over materials costs is reasonable.

That said, I wouldn't pay much more than $460 for this, so the implied undiscounted price of $1150 indeed seems extremely high to me. Frame Destination also periodically has sales, so you could probably get the DIY price down under $200 with some luck. To me, this suggests $400 would be about the best you could hope for with a custom frame job.

As to the necessity of the non-glare, anti-UV glazing, I don't use anything that isn't non-glare, and the anti-UV feature is nice and not that expensive, so I don't think they oversold you.
posted by deadweightloss at 2:27 PM on January 3, 2015 [6 favorites]

Best answer: I recently had 20 paintings on paper that needed to be framed and I shopped the order around. Michael's was more expensive and had fewer framing and mat color options than almost all the dedicated framing shops and I also think the double matting they pushed cluttered the view.

Museum glass is worth it if you can afford it, though.
posted by vegartanipla at 2:31 PM on January 3, 2015

Best answer: Oh, and they were more expensive even after a 65% off coupon, too.
posted by vegartanipla at 2:32 PM on January 3, 2015

when I practiced law, I meant to contact a class action attorney about suing Michael's for their perpetual sales on framing services. in my state, at least, it was a violation of the consumer protection law to have a perennial "sale" like that. And Michael's would be a wonderful defendant ... you can easily identify the class.(all their customer records are in their computer system!) and Michael's has deep pockets and nobody, ever, has paid "full price" for framing at Michael's.
posted by jayder at 3:02 PM on January 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

One more thing...the 36x48 size is the sheet of glass they are using. The next sheet size down is 32x40. If your order is a sixteenth of an inch larger that 32x40 (look at the size number under the picture on your order, not the size of the art itself) then the system will bump the pricing to the next sheet size. You may want to look into sizing down if your art is on the border between sheet sizes.

Since I am prohibited from discussing my job in detail, I can't give you much more information, but your Michales rep will be happy to explain it!
posted by blnkfrnk at 3:04 PM on January 3, 2015

Best answer: A 2'x4' piece of non-glare, anti-UV acrylic glazing is $91.39 at Frame Destination

That stuff is completely different from museum glass. That is "non-glare" by virtue of having a matte surface. In my experience it adds a visible "haze" to the finished piece (I do have some pieces framed with it). The museum glass (which I also have on some pieces) is non-glare with a coating that is practically invisible. If you look at it straight on, the glass looks perfectly clear (more clear than even regular glass, the opposite of the matte effect acrylic). I don't know what the "correct" price points are for those two products, but IMHO they're not remotely comparable in terms of quality.
posted by primethyme at 3:32 PM on January 3, 2015 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Framing is HEINOUSLY expensive. I took a very large print to Michaels as well as a few other places (it was a Jasper Johns, so I REALLY wanted it.) and the costs were such that I sent the print back due to it being so expensive to frame (like nearly $1000.)

FWIW, the local places were around the same price, although they had a better selection of mats and frames.

One of the things I was told was that the glass came in proscribed sizes and had to be cut down to fit my poster.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 3:55 PM on January 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

I can't weigh in on whether your final price was competitive or not, but I've noticed that Michael's in general vastly inflates their prices for frames and framing, and then always has coupons and discounts and promotions that bring it down to a more realistic price. So that element of your situation (a rather large sum of money after a 60% "discount") seems about right to me. Stupid, but yeah, that's how Michael's does frame pricing for whatever reason.

It reminds me a lot of the Marshall's and Burlington Coat Factory practice of claiming their items are at a deep discount from some nebulous "original price". Maybe Michael's thinks more people will pay for nicer frames if they think they're getting a deal?

In the realm of the actual dollar amount of your frame job, I once paid about half what you're paying for a piece about half the size of yours, at an indie frame shop, so, yeah, sure, sounds OK to me. Custom framing is absurdly expensive.
posted by Sara C. at 4:45 PM on January 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

The (final) price at an independent framer likely would have been comparable. "Masterpiece" glass from Michael's isn't quite the same as TruVue Museum Glass – it is a lower grade/quality (more likely to have flaws), so that's one place where Michael's has some real pricing advantage.

Michael's has gotten slapped around in some states (like New York) for the way they advertise framing prices. Sometimes the 60% off only applies to part of the overall framing (just the moulding, not the glass, for example). The quality of work done by Michael's also has a reputation for varying wildly, but for a basic print that's not likely to be a problem.
posted by jimw at 5:59 PM on January 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Former Michael's Framing Manager here. (Although it's been 11 years since I worked there, so grain of salt please.)

You also have to take into account the type of mounting your art needs. You don't tell us what it is, but the differences are staggering. There is a big difference between simply dry mounting a poster that size and protecting the value of an original piece of art. We weren't allowed to do any mounting that could devalue a piece of art. Even if it just had a simple signature on it we had to treat it like a Monet.

Some types of art take lots of time to mount. I've done huge pieces of crochet that had to be hand sewn to the matting, pastel pieces that had to be carefully framed so that they didn't rub off on anything, and signed and numbered prints that had been rolled so tightly they took forever to get mounted properly.

Getting a picture framed is more than just taping it to a mat and sandwiching it into a frame.

Now, having said all that... You probably won't get it done cheaper anywhere else. I don't know where you are but around here Michael's or JoAnns is the cheapest route when it comes to framing. Big stores get the big discounts with the manufacturers.
posted by TooFewShoes at 2:17 AM on January 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

As far as I can tell, the trick with Michael's is that the discount only comes off the "ala carte" pricing. We were just in there yesterday, and right on the desk is a sign listing various frame packages, which are pretty close to the standard 40% off and which any additional discounts or sales do not apply to. So even if you didn't have a coupon, you would still get those prices. If you have a 60-70% coupon, then it's a bit better.

From looking at my receipt, I feel like the full price of the glass seems very high (for their most basic glass) and the "Preservation" and "Preservation Fit" line items are just a mystery to me. Maybe those are the labor line items?

I've had good luck buying frames on the internet (from places like American Frame), but picking the mats and frames is much easier in person and you usually can't get glass. So I will only do that if I want something simple. Also, the shipping starts to get crazy expensive if you have a piece that is four feet long.
posted by smackfu at 6:02 AM on January 12, 2015

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