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Woulda Coulda Shoulda

Not Even the Sign Gods Could Complete This Project on Time

A client with no concept of fabrication, permitting or anything else makes an impossible request.




Things you wanted to say to frustrating clients, but didn’t.

Sign pros, like anyone who works in a public-facing job, have to bite their tongue frequently. When a customer is being a pain, the first response that comes to mind is not always one that should be said aloud.

That’s why we have a “Woulda Coulda Shoulda” department, which collects the quips you know better than to share with those nerve-testing clients. Here’s a recent sampling of those one-liners that sign pros would’ve liked to say, but didn’t.


To the customer who asked us: In three weeks, mind you — to design, permit, fabricate and install two halo-lit signs for a retail store in Times Square, with no survey, specs or details, and to finish just prior to Thanksgiving.

“I look forward to making a landmark sign for the business that replaces yours next year.”

To the customer who: 1. Ordered two banners, but only decided to pay for one. 2. Called the final design draft of the landmark sign that he micromanaged the design details of “stupid-looking,” then canceled his order altogether. 3. Demanded rush service to update an aging sign, in adverse weather conditions, during the busiest time of the season — twice in one week. 4. Lied to multiple employees about not receiving a bill multiple times, then took over eight weeks to finally pay said bill.

“I’ll provide you with an old paper bag and a box of crayons.”

To the customer who balked at my price and informed me what they thought a yard sign ought to cost. For that price they might just be able to afford to make their own sign.


“It’s two blocks from the municipal building!”

To the customer who wanted to order and have me install a digital message center without first getting permits. “No one will notice it,” he said, forgetting the whole point of a sign is to scream, LOOK AT ME!

“ Call me back next week when the job is half done. ”

To the customer who found someone that will do it for half the price… Awesome!

“I’m so glad I fired you as a customer.”

To the customer who told me, in one sentence, “You are a liar and a horrible business person,” then in the next sentence said, “I really like you as a person.” I’d also add, “We’ve tripled in revenue since I saw you last.”

Woulda Coulda Shouldas are collected from the Signs of the Times Brain Squad and shared anonymously.

What’s the Brain Squad?

If you’re the owner or top manager of a signage and graphics company in the US or Canada, you’re invited to join the Signs of the Times Brain Squad. By taking one five-minute survey each month, you will receive access to some of the industry’s freshest data on sales — including your fellow members’ comments on what’s selling and what isn’t — and can make your voice heard on key issues affecting the sign industry. Sound good? Sign up here.


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