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HB-1: United-1

Baer Charlton

SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
A couple of months ago we placed an order with United because we actually needed only one thing... but there is that minimum thing...:fire:

As usual half the order was back ordered with no call or notification prior to shipping. [The one thing we REALLY needed, was of course B/O] A week later, we got some of the remainder [with a few things still B/Oed..... yes, that too.] with another shipping charge.

I called Peter, and he said that the shipping charges would be taken care of and appologized for the back orders... 'trying to get a handle on some new suppliers' or someother story. I told him that I felt strongly about giving him a shot at making it right, instead of just "letting fly on the Grumble". He agreed with 'won't happen again'.

Week later, package arrives with all the back orders (that we have since gotten locally) and another shipping charge. I called Peter. Peter in meeting. I told gal that I was not happy about another shipping charge for merchandize that I now didn't need, and that if it wasn't made right, it would make it to the Grumble.

Then next day Peter called, very appologetic.....

So way back in June, Brian (HB) was coming to the US and would be passing through Portland and asked if he could order some supplies and then swing by and pick up and take back to Canada. Sure.
So in June we started recieving stuff from United..... didn't think anything about it coming over a week apart.... and because it wasn't ours, I didn't check it.

In late July, Brian and a very nice family in tow, came through and spent way too little time. Nice wife Bri, if I was single and 10 years younger I'd chase her mum. :D

So, today, weeks after the pickup date... comes a box of ... you guessed it... back ordered stuff. So off to the UPS store.

"It's been opened. We will have to repackage it and you will have to fill out a customs form."
"But the box just needs some tape. And the items [white cotton gloves and three rolls of unboxed fillet tape ????] are worthless."
"You, sir, have a commercial bill of lading, that makes them a commercial commodity."
"They are worthless."
"No, sir. They are worth $42.84. Will that be cash or charge?" :icon9:
"Neither... I'll drive them to Canada myself, for that kind of money."

Next stop US Mail.

"We will send it special ground. It will stop at all moose crossings, lay by for any elk and travel via Ontario and get rerouted via New York and Paris before clearing customs in Vancouver. $##.38, cash or credit card?":help:

A four day drive and mule ride to Red Deer, Alberta is starting to sound better and better. :nuts:

Brian, your stuff will make it there sometime this month. Watch for a baer on the back of a slow moving Elk. ;)

I'll take that drink in Vegas thank you.

Peter, you did screw up once and send all four items that we ordered with nothing back ordered. . . it was in June of 1997. We do keep records that far back and just for this kind of reason.

You gave me your word. I gave you mine.

You offer a great service. You do good things, but back ordering as a regular process of doing business year after year is beneath you. Now it has cost me time and money, which means you have your hand in my pocket to make good on your business. Shame on you.
Sponsor Wanted


MGF, Master Grumble Framer
Me Too

I was just thinking the other day about putting up a thread like this, but then decided against it...trying to give United the benefit of the doubt. But since its up and going I will respectfully reiterate what Baer said....All this backorder business is bad for us and bad for United. I am yet to place an order with them that I did not have to track down after 2 weeks only to find out that it was backordered and no one told me. My recent order was poor quality and I will be returning it.
It would appear that United doesn't care to invest money in stocking what we need to do our jobs. How can everything be backordered all the time????


PFG, Picture Framing God
I won't go into an "issue-a-logue", save to say in the year-and-a-half of ordering from United, every single order, save one (Fletcher 2200 mat cutter, ordered directly from Peter, with the check-mailed-overnight) has had "issues". My last order, finally cancelled after more issues,was my last order, even having been given a promise from Mr. Ackerman, in person, eye-to-eye, at WCAF in January that I would be notified in the event of back-orders, and adjustments made with shipping charges....hasn't happened. I have thrown away my United catalogue.

Sorry Mr. Ackerman. It isn't gettin' it anymore, not with this little framer who needed a backup and it wasn't honored. My customers shouldn't accept excuses from me, why would I accept them from you anymore? We tried....didn't happen.

What's happening? Please respond, as a Grumble sponsor, we look to you for security and your word....maybe your staff hasn't gotten "your word" yet? Can that happen?

Please tell us that Dawn may have a point about fluff-in-the-ears? And then assure us (with action) that you have taken it out?


PFG, Picture Framing God
Hey Val, you are pretty close to the Bay Area, and there is a distributor here other than LJ. If you ever are in a pinch and need help finding something that might be available here, don't be shy about giving me a call.


SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
I find this very interesting, and I dare say it is about time. I have almost bitten my tongue clean off trying not to do a bash about United. I agree with val, I won't go into details, but after 20 years of ordering from United I fired them this year. Repeatedly they have failed to send me an order complete. If, like any other company I was told at time of order what was or wasn't available it probably wouldn't have come to that. The final straw was time I spent in their booth in Vegas. I won't go there. :fire:

I sent an email to Peter months ago explaining my decision, not asking anything from him, but hoping maybe the point would get across that their is a major problem. Well, sorry, I am done. Sorry that any vendor gets outed, but more sorry that I don't know a single framer who hasn't had the same frustration.

Now in fairness a long time ago, Peter did help me out when the ball was dropped at his company, I thanked him privately and publically. But what is going on with the operation system, because I wouldn't think a company with good systems in place would have to have fires put out by the owner all the time. I shouldn't have to call the president of the company. Something isn;t right, and I think many have been hesitant to say anything because United is a sponsor here. Well how else are problems going to get resolved?

Frame Lady

CGF II, Certified Grumble Framer Level 2
Ok, I am on the band wagon with all of you. After ordering from United for almost 20 years, we never had hardly any problems. They were reliable, orders filled promptly, met minimums with no shipping charges.

UNTIL THEY OPENED THE LAS VEGAS WHAREHOUSE and that's when things started to go down the dumper. Previously everything was shipped out of NY and for me in Seattle that meant 7 working days across country. With the opening of the LV facility everything was suppose to be better and faster. WRONG.....packed poorly, screw eyes and screws flying all over inside the box, boxes arriving with holes in them and not one single order complete since LV opened. My account is suppose to be keyed NO backorders, but I get them all the time.

And what is with the Phillips pan head screws that now have a slot in them so that they can be used with standard or phillips screw driver. Isn't the true meaning of a Phillips is that it is a Phillips head screw? I now buy mine locally.

OK, Peter, if you are reading you have some areas to fix or you are going to keep losing customers. We are still loyal, well Steph gave up, but not for long if things don't change quickly.

Wishing for better orders,


SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
I will say that after many complaints they do now call me with back orders. The problem is that they always have back orders and when I try to get the order shippd from another wharehousde, different items are on back order.

I also am set up as Fl being the closest warehouse to Iowa, it takes 7-9 day to get an order from there and it only takes 4 from Vegas. I am still told over and over by cusomer service that FL will be the fastest warehouse for me.

Peter, we have talked before and you also gave me your word thatwe would not have the back order problems anymore, someone earlier stated that your peole have not gotten your word,I tend to agree. I can understand an occasional backorder but every time that I place an order?


True Grumbler

as of yesterday DITTO: DITTO &DITTO
M&M here I come.
Had Free shipping coupon spend 200.00$ or more I spent ~350.00$
They split the order and B/O over half.
No free shipping and B/O arrive w/ shipping costs attached.
I too have been a faithful customer of UNITED but as of next order M&M will have a new customer (If they will take me )
TipTop Frame Arts center
Plattsburgh, New York
Mtn Lake City


SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
I also do not like backorders. This situation has cost us some unneccesary shipping charges. What I have found to be helpful is noting on the order-"NO BACKORDERS, CALL WITH OUT OF STOCKS!" This seems to help the communication.


On a positive note, I just got a big box of infinity hangers!


SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
Wow, I come in this morning and read this thread and am in shock. If I was Peter, I'd feel like I'd been hit by a brick.

OK, it's obvious that United has some problems he needs to deal with. In the past every thread I've read has been praising him with how he has promptly dealt with problems, is a BIG supporter of the Grumble and has always responded professionally and with courtesy.

I've been in a heavily intensive inventory business and know the problems that I'm sure Peter deals with everyday. It isn't easy trying to be a supplier of everything from screw eyes to capital equipment and deal with employees that don't care as much as you do about your customers and not only because you see them as dollar signs but also as friends and partners.

Let's give him support as a valuable resource in this industry.

I would suggest that when you order you verify in-stocks when you place the order. Cancel back orders when you don't want them as to assume that United can cover shipping charges on "dribbles" is unreasonable.

We need United. They are a valuable resource and it would be a great loss to framers nationwide if they tumble. They carry many specialty items unavailable easily from other distributors and maybe, just maybe, they have attempted to be too much to too many out of a desire to serve us.

Be patient.

I'm sure we will hear a professional and courteous response from Peter and he will do his very best to correct everyone's concerns.


SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
I have also had my frustrations with United and their "Let's not mention the back orders" policy - but it seems to me that if a company as large and as scattered as Larson can know instantly that this item is out of stock in Cleveland and they'll have to ship it from Atlanta, or whatever, what Peter is in need of at United is a new computer system or some new techy people to run their system.

Every time I prepare an order from United it is like a guessing game - and even when they have told me they'll call when items are restocked they never do.

I don't know the cause of this but I have been ordering from them since 1970 (when I worked for Kramer the Framer)and these problems are fairly recent (within the last 5 years?).

Come on, United - I don't want to lose you - and as small as I am - you don't want to lose me either - but you don't want to be known as the LaMarche of supplies!!!

It is broke - fix it!


SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Actually our last order came through complete.
This was a first.
When we ordered the girl said she would call if any out of stock.
This was a first.
I don't like feeling skeptical about ordering, not knowing what you might not get.
I am not going to be a warehouse and carry a large overhead so I can be sure to have the supplies I need when I need them because I might not be able to get them when I need them.
Try telling your customer their order is finished but you will have to bring it back when my framers points arrive so I can take out the thumb tacks.
It takes more of my time to try to decide who to order from, Do I split the order because so and so has this but not this plus maybe double the shipping.

Sorry Peter but you need to try to set up a customer friendly system.


SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
So way back in June, Brian (HB) was coming to the US and would be passing through Portland and asked if he could order some supplies and then swing by and pick up and take back to Canada. Sure.
So in June we started recieving stuff from United..... didn't think anything about it coming over a week apart.... and because it wasn't ours, I didn't check it.
Baer & his associate - sorry, can't remember her name - were very accomadating! Thanks again!!!!
In late July, Brian and a very nice family in tow, came through and spent way too little time. Nice wife Bri, if I was single and 10 years younger I'd chase her mum. :D
I'll let her know!
A four day drive and mule ride to Red Deer, Alberta is starting to sound better and better. :nuts:

Brian, your stuff will make it there sometime this month. Watch for a baer on the back of a slow moving Elk. ;)
You offer a great service. You do good things, but back ordering as a regular process of doing business year after year is beneath you. Now it has cost me time and money, which means you have your hand in my pocket to make good on your business. Shame on you.
I'll second that!


SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
We need United...
Do we? I don't think we need any one particular business. I used United for the first time - they have a good selection - yes. Peter was nice enough to award me a discount because of a Grumble prize - for which I thank him!, but the back order thing is frustrating - could have at least asked if I wanted it sent.
My only other complaint was that when I called, the nice lady didn't appear to know a canvas stretcher from a back scratcher, and could not describe it in any way - would have been nice if she knew the product she was selling! Hopefully they will get this BO settled to prevent anymore BS


SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
"No, sir. They are worth $42.84. Will that be cash or charge?" :icon9:
"Neither... I'll drive them to Canada myself, for that kind of money."
Baer, Dump that money in your tank and drive them to Canada in your Prius, you will have half a tank left when you get back.

I have only ordered from United 2 times, well 3 if you count that half of my first order somehow vanished off the list but mistakes happen.

We should not be so fast to trash United. Peter works hard to help out Grumblers and I am sure it drives him more carzy to have to deal with back orders than it does us.

What other vendor do you have access to more than Peter?

I don't even know him and in the past he has sent emails to me asking my opinion and even offering me a discount on a product that I posted a thread about.

He has always made an effort to call and rectify situations that have come up on here before and I am sure he will again. And yes BO's stink and I would be pi$$ed as well, I'm just saying cut him a bit of slack ... with all the trashing and vows of never again where will that get everyone? Do you want to see United tank?

I have trashed other companies on here, none of them returned phone calls or even attempted to make the situation right. In my mind they deserved it.

With United it just seems like growing pains.

Just to clarify I use Decor and M+M for my supplies (they both send me trucks no charge) and have no interest in this either way. I just didn't like the bashing of someone that tries to work with us instead of some anonomous company.

(If it happened to me this post would have been very different, I am just trying to be diplomatic for once, I am sure Jim Miller will be along to say what I think SOOO much better than I can)

My .02.



PFG, Picture Framing God
And, if the shoe fits???

:soapbox: OK, if ya don't want to hear a soapbox lecture, click to another post and disregard this one. :soapbox:

I am wondering what y'all's excuses would be if the shoe was on the other foot and you had some holdup that would jeopardize your customer's receiving their framing?? AND they threw the bad mouth on you all over town without personally contacting you to find out what is wrong or if anything is being done about the problem?? I just can't believe that every one of the framers who have trashed UMS on this thread so far have gone the full route to try to resolve all these differences in what you expect of them and what their physical capabilities are at this point in time.

I am not saying that UMS is flaw free or that Peter Ackerman should not try to upgrade his operation or get rid of some dead wood in his organization but he HAS helped many of us in the past and, I for one, am very thankful for that help. That man shucked out some hard cash to some of us here in FL after Ivan hit because his warehouse in Boca was untouched by the hurricane and he wanted to help some of the others who weren't so lucky.

He didn't have to do that.

And, when I have a problem with products or shipping or anything else, I can call Peter and he will look into it for me and make corrections AND get back with some answers in a reasonable time. Not knowing how to contact him is no excuse at all as all his contact information, all his phone #'s, everything you need to know to touch base with him is prominately posted on the signature line of each of his posts. All you have to do is a search on his profile for any of his posts or read his profile itself and you have everything you need to talk to him. How many of us have that much information on our profiles???

Yeah, I have had 5 consecutive backorders lately but I am not ready to cut the man loose and go with M&M or anyone else for that matter. UMS has better pricing, they are closer for me here in FL, and I have no problem with their damage policy when UPS tears up a box of their supplies in shipment. And MOST IMPORTANT, I haven't heard Peter Ackerman's side of the story yet!!! I am one of the framers who has problems with B/O's with UMS so I am ready to hear what he has to say.

I am willing to give Peter the benefit of the doubt until such time as he tells me to screw off or ignores my concerns. Peter, I am patiently waiting for your reply and I hope that you can resolve this issue as you have many others in the past. You are one person operating a very large company and I would like to know that you have competent management in place to handle these complaints and do what has to be done to make the situation right.

And, for those of you who have bragged about their long buying record from UMS, I don't blame you for jumping ship ................... AS LONG AS you have thoroughly explored each and every means of trying to get to some kind of reasonable resolution to your problems with UMS including many emails, phone calls, or other contact that proved to be fruitless or unanswered. If you feel that you have done everything in your power to get someone to listen to your plight and you got no satisfaction from any of your attempts, then I say good on you and good luck with your new supplier. But there has been way too much trashing of distributors on this forum when, if the truth were known, the "trasher" was expecting to get some kind of instant gratification out of the distributor by bad mouthing them on a public forum and they made little or no attempt on their own to try to resolve the situation.

It's very easy to put someone down or to badmouth somebody's company when you have a difference of opinion or have some kind of problem with their policies but it is quite another to expend every option to resolve that difference and get no satisfaction out of your efforts. Even in that state of frustration I can't imagine what productive result would come out of spewing out negative feelings about somebody's business. Find another distributor and go on with your life!! Trashing a major sponsor of this framing forum and a member who has been on this forum longer than I have just doesn't make a bit of sense to me without at least hearing his side of the story!!

For those of you who are interested, here is some useful information:

Peter Ackerman, President
United Mfrs. Supplies, Inc.
80 Gordon Drive
Syosset, NY 11791
Toll Free Phone (800) 645-7260
Phone (516) 496-4430
Fax (516) 496-7968
Toll Free Fax (888) 809-0603


SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God


MGF, Master Grumble Framer
I am not here to bash United. It does, however, make me feel better to hear that others have had the BO problem. I thought it was just because we were a small shop and didn't order truckloads.

Here's hoping that United responds and gets a handle on things, and that peace can once again reign here on the Grumble.


SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Well said, Framerguy....

Our vendors have their own problems with their suppliers, that we have no idea of what they go through to get us what we need, ASAP.

Rick Granick

SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
I agree. Peter makes himself very accessible to us. A simple email or private message to him, outlining your issues and expressing concerns would be the appropriate and effective method of handling this situation. You could even say that you also speak for others who have had similar experiences.
The framing community is pretty small and this forum is pretty influential within the community, so it's easy to commit slander without even trying. So to be fair, let's handle these matters in-house.
:kaffeetrinker_2: Rick


SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
We've been buying from United for as long as I can remember and I can remember back to the early 80s. I've never met or had any interaction with Mr. Ackerman, but knowing he was here made me feel better about purchasing more from them.

I can't say things that are too negative - how could I considering I've chosen to be a customer for decades? As with any business relationship, I buy what only what makes sense and get other items elsewhere. I've tried throwing the catalog away myself once or twice over the years and ended up coming back. You just have to take resposibility for your half of the transaction. Be diligent. Make sure they cancel backorders. Make sure you're not ordering something only when you're about to run out so you can afford to cancel that backorder and wait for your next order. It's not like you're going to save on shipping if you order more frequent, smaller orders since your average, say, 30 item order will come in 4 or 5 boxes anyway. Make sure you check the quality of the items every order because their suppliers change. We let the quality of the material we receive speak for itself because there hasn't been a lot of success with complaints. Then decide if you're still doing the best for yourself in ordering with them. After all these years we still order quite a few things from United. Some things we don't. However, it makes sense to do business with them. They are in a tough part of our industry.

We were in wholesale for a short time. I don't envy the company trying to stock thousands of little screws, pins, brads, hooks, every little thing a frameshop might want to order, keep it all in stock, and try to keep the costs down while maintaining quality. Try it sometime and it will develop a lot of empathy. I recommend trying to work within the paramaters of what exists in your relationship with United because, from someone with a lot of history to look back on and who has tried alternatives, I think overall it's a good place serving a very, very difficult niche in our industry.

Warren Tucker

MGF, Master Grumble Framer
I'm not as close to the day to day operations as I used to be and I became a little concerned after reading through this thread. United is our only supplier (and has been for the last 30 years) for the stuff they sell. I called Nancy, who is in charge of supplies, and asked her if she has noticed any deterioration in service and she says there hasn't been. She's quite satisfied. FWIW, last year we spent around $7k with United and so far this year, $3.6k. I think Nancy would notice any real problem. She says United always calls and asks if we want the occasional back order shipped and back orders are shipped free.

Again, FWIW, I've never spoken to or met Peter Ackerman, but I think I may have met his mother years ago and talked to her

United has done a great service to our industry in keeping prices for misc. supplies as low as possible. I know friends who use other suppliers and demand that they lower their prices to United's if they want to keep the business. Even if I switched suppliers, I'd certainly keep the catalog as a touchstone for what misc. supplies should cost. When we buy a large piece of equipment, we check with United to get "street price" and usually order from them if it's something they sell.

There have been a few companies we've had real problems with; United is not one of them, not even close. We have a pretty good idea as to how far in advance we need to order supplies and avoid just in time ordering. United has great prices and the prices make it worth keeping around a one month inventory of supplies.

Bob Carter

SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
Warrens' post is a very good reminder

On commodity items such as United sells, we ought to have a decent stock-on-hand. The investment is slight; the need consistent and predictable. If we rely upon "just in time' ordering for everyday items, it's not United's practices that need review

We easily criticize when they run out of stock (it happens); but, you did, too(it also happens)

I like Peter and recognize that he is in an inventory rich business. A 1% out of stock condition might be 100 items. Plan well and these out of stock problems might be lessened

It'll never be perfect

Virtually everything he sells may be ordered elsewhere; it's a very aggressive part of the trade

Jay H

PFG, Picture Framing God
I love UMS and have a great deal of loyalty to them. If I order supplies from anybody except my frame supplier (who also orders from UMS) I order from United. I have an order now that should arrive any day. I’m sorry that I can’t give them more business than I do but I’m the smallest of the small shops.

When issues like this come up, I have heard from Peter (Yes Tom, I contacted Peter directly) that he has a habit of confirming these “claims” with his records. That’s just good business and I welcome the review on my claim. There are some very real problems there. Maybe 1 of my last 5 or 6 orders have been filled completely and again, I ain’t ordering much!

If you give a **** what this customer thinks then here is some constructive suggestions I have. For what it’s worth:

-When customer service calls about an out of stock, don’t say “Ya we don’t got it, you wanna back order it?” How about, “the atg you ordered isn’t in stock but for $4 more a box we have ……”?

-Don’t run out of atg.

-Looking my customer ID up isn’t an inconvenience.

-Don’t set my bank funds aside and tie money up for an order until you know the order will be filled. It has taken as much as 10 days for the bank to release the “pending” transaction.

-Don’t send out mailers that have already expired when we get it or does in just a few days. I’m sure you would honor the offer anyway but it still looks bad and I’m sure many framers just toss it.

I’ll continue to place my meager orders with UMS. If only for selfish reasons, I hope they can iron things out.


SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
I would like to make myself clear from my earlier post. I do still use United and will continue to do so. They do call me with out of stocks as I mentioned in my previous post. I have talked with Peter about problems in the past and he did takle care of it, every packing list has a message to make sure to call with out of stocks before shipping now.

The back order problem is something that we all run into with many of our vendors, nobody can have eveything that we need whenever we need it. I have a problem when basic commodity things like brads, bumpers, and razor blades are on backorder on a fairly regular basis and when they do call later to tell me they don't have a solution on how to fix like shipping from another warehouse, I have to offer the solution to the customer service person.

I have no problem with Peter, I just think that there seems to be a small problem with some inventory and the way that it is handled by the customer service people. If all of the employees at United could have the same attitude to his business as Peter, everyone would buy from United all of the time no matter what. I am sure that he will do what he can to make sure that this issue is resolved.

I should have said all of the above in my earlier post, I apologize to Peter for not doing so.


PFG, Picture Framing God
My issue is that I don't get called in the event of a back order, even though Peter had my account flagged to do so. Someone earlier mentioned that back-orders were shipped at no cost (shipping cost, that is). That has never been mentioned to me, and that would have been nice, as sometime it takes several shippings to fill one order, or they hold the entire order up pending the back-orders coming in. I've also waited and waited on orders only to call to check on the status and be informed that it had been cancelled. Since I'm the only one in my shop, and I didn't cancel the order, then who did?? Or I did cancel an order only to have it shipped anyway later, with no phone call asking if I want my back-order sent after all.

I do appreciate when Peter steps in to solve an issue, he has on several occasions, and I, too, have thanked him privately and publically, but doesn't it seem there are an awful lot of issues that he shouldn't have to fix? This isn't about Peter Ackerman, he works hard to help us, it's about United's customer service and communication. That's really all I want, to be communicated with! My other vendors do.


PFG, Picture Framing God
Val, I fully agree with what you said here and in your private message to me earlier. And I feel that Peter Ackerman has proven himself beyond a doubt to be a man who cares about his business customers. I see a definite problem further down the management ladder and there seems to be precious little done by the lower managers to mend the broken fences and do what has to be done to keep the customers happy. After all it is called customer service, isn't it?? So someone has to start servicing their customers so this doesn't blow up into a wholesale conflagration that does terrible harm to his business.

I am sure that he can't be everywhere at all times and, when there are multiple warehouses involved and shipping from one to another, there will be times that certain items will be in short supply. But that is when the local managers must take control and see that things are made right with the customers and not dole out a bevy of excuses for their operators to pass along to the customers. We are much like our own customers in that we really don't care why something is not available, we simply want our order filled in a timely manner and we want a courteous reply to our questions.

And to flip the coin over, it is our responsibility to order in a timely manner! You can't wait until you are down to your last 50 screws to place an order for a thousand screws or D-rings or whatever. I am regularly placing orders for such incidentals that I use in large quaitities and I don't expect to have them take special pains to ship out a sack of D-rings to me the same day I call in an order. I do expect to be told whether items are in stock and they usually check for me at the time I order to let me know if anything is in short supply or out of stock.

I think we all need to chill our jets and wait for Peter to respond before getting out the hot tar and chicken feathers, eh??


PFG, Picture Framing God
I haven't posted on this thread but...

I have never placed an order with United that hasn't had a back ordered item

I've never been notified of a back order...except that it doesn't show up.

I've also never been shipped a backordered item automatically.

I do business with United. They have a good selection and the prices are right.

I have contacted Peter Ackerman directly in the past with a problem and he has responded.

The point is that some of the problems shouldn't be problems but...
Looks like this is part of doing business with them.

Honestly, I don't understand the original post.
It sounds like Baer is upset with the shipping companies as much as United.
It isn't United's fault if a package was opened and then the post office or UPS wouldn't send it back without paying freight!

If HB received two partial shipments why didn't he contact United when he realized he was still missing items?

I know I would have.

Probably should be keeping my mouth shut but that's my 2 1/2 cents.


SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
I really don't understand the issue at hand - EVERYONE runs out of something sometimes. Keeping your business stocked and running is YOUR responsibility; crying about being out of a key component - why did YOU run out? we order from UMS probably once or twice a year - simply examing our business allows us to project how many hangers, wire, tape, etc we'll need, and we buy accordingly. Usually once after DECOR (show special shipping) and again in summertime, stocking up for holiday rush. Might seem silly ordering a gazillion mirror hangers, but we've got them when we need them.
We do the same with all our suppliers, including Lee Valley, etc - except for bulk stuff like ATG we nearly always order bulk qtys - it isnt't that hard or that pricey. Yes, we get BOs from UMS, usually complain about it to ourselves, and go on our way - it's just a cost of doing business.


The King

SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
There is an increasing tendency in our industry - I mean YOUR industry - to let our distributors carry our inventory for us.

In ancient times (1977) nearly everything arrived by common carrier. You ordered a minimum of 300 sheets of matboard from Crescent, and 1000 made more sense. You ordered a truck-load of moulding from Piedmont or Juhl Pacific. You were lucky if anyone delivered glass or supplies. Maybe you drove the cargo van to a distribution point and picked that stuff up. You wrecked the shocks and springs from trying to haul six months-worth of glass.

You usually bought enough of everything to last you until retirement.

It wasn't an ideal setup. I think I still have some of the supplies and moulding I bought in 1979. But, if you ran out of screw eyes, you had to go to Sears and buy them blister-packed for about a buck-a-piece, so you made sure you ordered enough.

30 years ago, we each had $1000 worth of equipment and $20000 worth of supplies and inventory (for a very small shop.) Those numbers have largely been reversed and adjusted for inflation, so you're bound to run out of stuff and the distributors are as well.

Jim Miller

SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
Easier to gripe than to understand

The distribution business is about time-and-place value. That is, the value of a distributor may be measured by the company's ability to have the right products in the right place at the right time. That seems simple enough, doesn't it?

An old axiom of distribution is "You can't sell from an empty wagon". Mainly, that means a distributor must invest in inventory and keep it moving; it is a very capital-intensive enterprise. All kinds of analogies have grown around that axiom. For example, "The bigger your wagon, the more horses you need to pull it", referring to the need for company infrastructure, i.e. fixed expenses and overhead. "The faster your wagon, the more profit you earn" means that inventory turnover is essential to profitable distribution. Another is "You need good people at both ends of your wagon", meaning that good management is needed to drive the business, and to move materials in and out efficiently. And then there's "Train your horses and feed them well". Horses represent the company's sales people, so words like "thoroughbred" (prima donna), "nag" (deadbeat), and "workhorse" (always dependable) creep into discussions of that context.

The point is, distribution is a completely different kind of business than framing. I know that because I spent 20+ years in distribution before framing found me.

Right now, in our changing industry, I would not want to be in the distribution business. Shrinkage of domestic USA framing has caused distribution businesses to likewise shrink. That is very difficult for them, because it takes time for them to adapt. I guess nearly all of our suppliers are having to deal with fast-decreasing revenues, but they still have all of the same infrastructure and all of their costs keep growing. Their most obvious strategy is to reduce inventory investment. To put it in the context of the analogy, rather than dragging around a wagon bursting at the seams with non-selling inventory, lighten the load in the wagon. It takes time to get a smaller wagon, and who wants to do that, anyway?

With action toward reducing inventories comes the problem of dealing with backorders. No question about it, that is a problem. Hopefully it will be a short term problem, as distributors adapt to the "new market" they serve, which has become a faster-moving target lately.

Of course, some distributors are better able to adapt than others. Larson-Juhl, for example, has the most massive infrastructure, but also the versatility to adapt quickly on a regional level. Their JoAnne business might be offsetting serious shrinkage in the small-independent segment of the market. Their increasing overseas production has a lot to do with cutting costs. They would be foolish to not do that.

While United and M&M appear to us to be big businesses, they pale in comparison to the distribution networks in other industries. Independently owned, with only a few warehouses and limited resources, these and other, smaller distributors are probably strategizing day by day at this time. That's only my speculation; I have no direct knowledge in that regard.

For my little frame shop, I could buy everything I need locally, but I really enjoy the cost savings from the distributors set up provide to me lower prices, even if there are a few trade-offs. United could surely respond about backorders the day of my order, but at what cost to me? If I were Peter Ackerman, I would bet The Little Framing Company would rather enjoy the savings and put up with less responsiveness. After all, when The Little Framing Companies are asked what they want most, we all say LOWER PRICES. (screaming intended).

I will give United a grocery-list order tomorrow, and I'm sure some of the items will be backordered. I am prepared for that.

Meghan MacMillan

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
My most recent United order was placed for 25 items. One was O/S. It was a toy I didn't really need anyway.

Compared to the thousands of different items United carries the percentage that is O/S at any given time is probably relatively low. I realize that doesn't help you when you really NEED those widgets.

HBs particular situation magnified the problem. I'm sorry it didin't go smoothly but how many orders shipped complete the same day?

Bob Carter

SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
Maybe another fun poll might be to ask:

In a given week, how many items did your customers request that you did not stock?

The second question might be, when you order how many items were out of stock?

I wonder how many of our customers get as upset as we when their item is "out-of-inventory"

Perhaps a solution might be for Peter to "improve" both his notification system and his in-stock levels.

But, then, if he improved both 50%, I doubt it would change the "other" hardly at all. Might this be a "diminishing returns" issue?

Paul N

In Corner
I am one of those who keep an eye on the inventory. Once it reaches a certain level, I re-order.

If something is out of stock, I don't suffer badly. I do order from United and their prices are excellent. The occasional hiccup was no biggie, we have enough items to coast till it was restocked.

Actually, I get out-of-stock replies more from moulding suppliers than anybody else. And those are more serious, IMHO.

The only thing I see that needs to be addressed by Peter is better communications with customers.

As to Bob Carter's question / poll, that's definitely a good one (does he ever have a bad question??:)).

I can honestly say I never said to a customer we're out of stock on an item (aside from a certain moulding). I have over 60 different kinds of mouldings (ranging from a few ft to a few boxes), and framing material to accommodate "Can you frame this in a couple of hours??" requests.

If it's one the frames I have in stock, it can be done. I don't ever recall having turned away a customer for such a request.

Jay H

PFG, Picture Framing God
What in the world does MY inventory level have to do with this?

If I have a flat of atg in the store room and I can't order one box, does that magically change anything?

I've always heard that bad planning on your part is not an emergency on mine. This isn't a case of that for me nor have I really seen that at the heart of any other posts. Do we really have to dig through the hypothetical treasure chest again? Can't we save that for some dry mounting or "real" photograph threads?

I would like to add that I’m not bothered by backorders on oddball items. I had a Morso part backordered once and that didn’t surprise me in the least. I wouldn’t expect a framing supplier to have every dry mount press and mat cutter and wall cutter in stock. There are several things that I do expect to be in stock 99.999% of the time. I would put hangers, atg, wire, and the like on that list.

Bob, I would hope that my customers don’t expect me to have 4 Midnight suede boards in stock. They can expect me to be able to replace 24x36glass. 99.99999% of the time I can.

Bob Carter

SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
I'm with you, Jay

I never will have 4 sheets of Midnight suede in stock unless we are working on that project

I expect that one of the suppliers will, but, they, too run out.

I also expect that 98% of my customers will understand a delay on occassion

Which is exactly my point

But, I'll bet we have over 100 mirror hangers, an extra spool of wire, 2 boxes of foam, an extra roll of mounting tissue, an extra set of blades yada yada yada just in case

Easy rule of thumb-You pay net 30 days; you ought to have a 30 day insight of inventory. It costs zero and creates 12 turns a year

Okay, we are not that good, but you get the idea

Baer Charlton

SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
It's amazing how this thread has been thrown from one side of the room to the other room and it took four pages for Jay to say exactly what this was about, kind of.

When you sleep with the date on the first date, and say call me, and they don't..... shame on them.
When they call/send flyer/see you at a show appologize and promise to call.... and don't....
And when that happens year after year, and the date lives next door and works for the same company (philisophically speaking)..... shame on who?

We never wait until the last 10 razor blade or three rolls of 1/2" ATG or screweyes, hangers etc... When we're down to the last month because it might be back ordered... yes, but now always.

Screws and other hardward I buy just down the street at Ace Hardward because it's here and 25% cheaper. And they are always in stock 99.999999% of the time, by the box of 100.

What frosts my pumpkin is placing a $50 order, and paying $15 S&H three times, effectively doubling my COG. So where is the "buying advantage"?

The other frost is that no matter how many times Peter has promised we would be called... it never happens. The second package ships with half of the items B/Oed.

When we ask at the time of order if there will be a problem with anything.... "No, it's all in stock". Except it's "all in stock in New York" not in Vegas.

IF I tell my customers "We'll have that for you at the end of the week". I'd better know that I can get my hands on the goods to make good on my promise.
How long should I expect my customers to keep coming back if they get one picture on Thursday, two on Tuesday and the fourth on 3 weeks for Wednesday?
Bob when I was in your store a few years ago, I didn't notice any framed art that only had three sides of the frame made with a note attached "BO frame part, will be complete in a month when it gets in from China."
And I wouldn't expect you to do business that way.

Have I heard from Peter? No.
Has HB heard from Peter? I would expect him to call/email/post as soon as it happens.

Untill then, please continue.

Peter Ackerman

CGF II, Certified Grumble Framer Level 2
I have just returned form a trip to our Florida facility and a week of sun and fun to this post. All I can say is "wow". Let me have a day to look this over carefully and I will post again. Just want you to know i am here and this will be adressed.


PFG, Picture Framing God
One quick thought -- just like we expect a distributor like United to have 2 or more of what we need in stock, we should have 2 or more distributors like United from which we can order. That way, if we are in a real pinch and one of those distributors can't provide immediate help, we have someone else to turn to.


PFG, Picture Framing God
One quick thought -- just like we expect a distributor like United to have 2 or more of what we need in stock, we should have 2 or more distributors like United from which we can order. That way, if we are in a real pinch and one of those distributors can't provide immediate help, we have someone else to turn to.
Great point. You may not get the best pricing from your backup vendor, but if it's a choice between being SOL and not getting the order done or paying a little more, we just have to eat it once in a while.

Jay H

PFG, Picture Framing God
I recived my order today with everything so see, things have already turned around!

Carry on.

Cliff Wilson

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Had to laugh this morning ...

I placed an order yesterday with one critical item. I asked at the time and it was OOS in my "primary location" so she ok'd that it would ship from somewhere else. -- Great!

This morning I got a phone to let me know it was shipping from the other place and that one of my items I had ordered 10 of, would only have 6 shipped.

I suspect there was a "talking to" of some kind! lol


SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Well, I just placed an order online and I have to say that their confirmation email has gotten a lot better. I always used to chuckle to myself when I'd see it previously... "Here is a(sic) order:"

Now... Order total, good explanation, nice recap of the order.

The order total might be a little too exact though.... Total: 436.652416 I think they can probably round up a little. :)


SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
You are a manufacturer of sorts...

As a manufacturers of sorts, you should NEVER hav a sole source for your supplies or materials. Figure out a "safety net" of items to be kept on hand JUST IN CASE all of your suppliers out of what you need. You will have to establish minimum inventory amounts for reorder points. Don't overstock, because you will take up valuable sq. footage and that costs you money on top of the inventory costs. This is called basic "risk management" in a mfg environment.

I like UMS, they continue to have the best prices on certain supplies that I use a lot of. Thank you Peter for listening.

my 2 cents


danny boy

PFG, Picture Framing God
It does help to have an 'in' sometimes. Peter has always been willing to jump through the hoops and put out fires along the way. Thanks United. Thanks Peter.


PFG, Picture Framing God
Ooh, Baer! I love your new "do"!
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