Printing overrun, normal?

So, two years ago we had a new printer print our mailing brocures. We ordered 5000, I think we recieved 5700 and were billed for 5700. When I brought that to the attention of my father (owner or store/boss/purchaser/payer of bills). He said it was normal. I however said it was bullshit. If we order 5000, why should we have to pay for an extra 700.
Following year, call up the printer salesperson, made a few modest changes, order 3000 copies. We received about 3500 and were billed for 3500. That year however, the price seemed to have gone up quite a bit. We called the sales person about the cost and he told us that to help us out he’d give us the ‘overrun’ for free. Personally I don’t see it as a discount if we only have to pay for what we ordered.
So is this normal? Did we get ripped off?
In a day and age of computers doing most everything, I don’t understand how this happens. I mean, I could understand if the maching has a switch that says START and one that says STOP and they have to guess when 3000 have printed, but I would imagine they put in a number and for some reason they’re adding quite a bit to that number.

It’s normal for every printer I’ve worked with, with the exception of the relatively low volume stuff that gets done on color copiers.

It takes a bit to get the big presses up to speed and back down, usually seems to be a few hundred copies. In runs of tens of thousands, this is nothing. In very small runs like yours, it’s obviously a much more noticeable percentage.

We currently print a magazine and catalog about eight times a year, in runs ranging from about 6000 up to about 50,000. We always get a few hundred over, and we’re using press houses that specialize in small runs.

So I think it’s very normal in the industry.

It’s hard to give you reliable information without knowing how you had them printed (i.e. what sort of press they were printed on).

I’m semi-familiar with the press used to print the newspaper I’m currently employed at, and there’s no way of telling how many papers, exactly, get printed. There’s a sort of odometer on the side that the press manager resets once he gets the registration set, but then he and the other press workers pull papers off the line at the end to check them every so often as well. Not to mention what happens if the web (paper) breaks or he has to replace a plate. So no, it’s not exact, for that type of press at least.

I have no idea what the policy is on paying for overruns (doesn’t come up much in the newspaper business…). If I specified 3000 copies, I would expect to pay for 3000 copies, but then I haven’t really ever been involved with something like that.

Yes, not only is the overrun quantity common, but the billing for it is, too. If this bothers you, you need to work out something else before the presses start rolling. I will admit that 700 over seems a bit much, however.

The exception might be small jobs. If you order 500 copies, you probably won’t expect more than 500 charged.

The more complicated your job is, the more you need to tolerate overruns. If you have a multi-color book with binding, covers, special embossing and foil printing, the printer must allow for some loss at each stage. If he prints the exact amount for the first process, then 10 copies get mangled in the next, he has a huge expense to set up all over again to replace those. So overruns are expected. However, if the spoilage is minimal, you will end up with many more 100% good copies, so he expects you to pay for them.

OTOH, if your run is just one-time thru a single-color press with no binding afterwards, there’s no reason why the press can’t be stopped on a dime at exactly the correct amount. Some printers will make a “baker’s dozen” extras, but they won’t charge for them. It can also be insurance against a bad counter. :rolleyes:

Sounds like your printer is jerking you around a bit. Industry standard is 10% overage (sometimes, even under) - if there’s going to be any overage at all, as per what everyone else has already said. You should never be charged for the few dozen extras.

Printing and charging you for 700 over on a job of 5k is bullshit, and your printer knows that. I suggest switching printers (and I can recommend a good one), and making sure you ask about overages before hand. Get something in writing, if possible. Most printers quotes will address the issue in the fine print.

I’ve got to throw a flag on this. I’ve been ordering printing (magazines, newsletters, brochures, direct mail pieces, and now a weekly newspaper) for almost 20 years now. A quick estimate would put me at ordering more than 50,000,000 items over the last ten years for more than 80 periodicals.

While there are overages more than 90% of the times never once have I been charged for overs. I’ve always paid for what I ordered. The printer eats the extra. I’m astonished that someone would.

Perhaps the culture is different is different areas but my printing has ranged from Washington, DC to Baltimore to Minnesota to Texas to London, Ontario and many other spots all over North America.

Really, you should bitch about it. Or find another printer. For runs like you’re talking about there should be more than 100 capable of it in any large market.

You have the whip hand here…I suggest you use it.

I work with print (for now), and everything is +/- 10%, almost always over, but sometimes under as well. This is considered industry standard (mostly here we’re talking about stuff like checks, envelopes, invoices, but it extends to other stuff). When we quote people, it says this on the quote, and that the customer is charged for the actual quantity run. People can opt to get exact quantities, but you usually pay an upcharge of 5 to 10% for that, so most everyone opts for the unknown quantity.

I have seen some people quote at more than 10%, but that is rare. It should be in writing on your agreement with the printer, so if it’s not (or just 10%) you may have something to stand on there. Also, there is a lot of setup and waste in many print processes, so if you’re not getting overs then that cost is likely built in somewhere and you’re probably paying for it anyway. Newer printing methods have less waste, but the practice will probably last for a while yet.

I’ve worked for printers and have purchased from printers. Getting and paying for + or - 10% is standard practice.

With some small runs, besides press issues, the amount of paper that has to be ordered can be a factor. Generally offset and bond papers in 8.5x11 size come 5,000 to the carton. Cover stock often is 2,500 per carton. If you’re ordering a specific paper that’s not normally in the printer’s stock, the printer has to buy it in case lots. If the printer wants to make sure that you get at least the number of items you ordered, he will buy extra stock to cover the press make-ready and any spoilage during the press run.

When I order brochures, I’ll say, “Up to, but no more than, 5,000.” That way, they don’t have to order another full case of stock to guarantee I get at least 5,000.

I’m with you. I’ve never been charged for overruns; when I’ve received them, they were free. Even on a little tiny print job that I ordered earlier this year (custom gift-wrapping paper), the 3’ at the end of one roll was not charged to me. I paid only for what I ordered.

It looks like we have opinions on both sides of the question, and from those who claim considerable expertise in the area, including me. We can’t all be right. What have we learned?

Caveat Emptor.

In the absence of familarity with the job and printer, and to avoid surprises, always have a written agreement first.

What Musicat said.

I have to admit that had I not worked in the printing business myself, I never would have known that charging for overruns could be expected. Printers don’t generally have that posted on signs around their shops. . .

I have worked on a press. Printers always print “overs” It takes a press a certain ammount of time to get the color up. And everytime the press stops you have to bring up the color again. This is called make ready. While you only ordered x ammount of sheets you will get more “overs”

Sure as hell can’t argue with that.

I admit I have a bit of a reputation as a hardball customer with my vendors. Perhaps that gets me what I want. Right now I’m printing 10K newspapers per week and paying a set amount regardless of overs. I’ve gotten anywhere from 200 to 2000 overs (that last seemed a bit much) on any particular week.

I agree with Jonathan on this.

I’ve ordered a fair amount of printing for political campaigns over the years. There is usually overrun to start up and shut down the presses, and often some of those are unusable due to printing problems. But there is always enough overrun so that we get enough good copies to fill our order.

But I’ve never paid for overruns. It’s something the printer does for his own benefit – to ensure that he provides the number ordered. I don’t pay for that.

Now this is for political printing, where an underrun is usually not at all acceptable. If I have a 12,000 piece mailing going out in 3 days, delivering only 11,000 printed pieces just will not work. I will call the printer and demand the remaining 1000 pieces, rush. And that means another setup for the printer, for a very small run – very costly for him.

But my printers know this in advance. They always do some overrun, to make sure they supply the contracted quantity. Possibly they figure this in, and quote me a slightly higher price because of it. But that’s the price and quantity I agree to, and it’s what I pay. Often I even pay them that in advance, when placing the order. But I don’t pay for any overruns!

I used to be in the translation / documentation / printng business in Japan and overruns are not charged for here, or delivered to the client.

It sounds like there are a variety of customs, so getting an agreement with the printer upfront seems to be a requirement.

Everyone’s right.

The company I work for has different vendors that we use for printing different products. Some of 'em ship exactly the amount ordered regardless of overrruns; some of 'em ship the overruns with the amount ordered but don’t charge for it, some of 'em ship and bill for over/underruns (usually up to 10%, sometimes up to 5%). All of the ones that bill for over/underruns specify such in all their catalogs, on their order forms, and made it a point to inform everyone verbally about that policy. (Strangely enough, the 10% over/underrun folks state that such a policy is industry standard, but obviously, it’s not.)

If your printer didn’t tell you their overrun policy beforehand, definitely find a new printer. You may end up selecting another one that bills the same way, but at least you’ll have someone that’s up front about it, and you’ll be able to make the informed decision about whether the services are worth the possible extra payment.

Manufacturing is really similar to printing. I work in a plant and my friend is a printer. I make metal bits, he makes pretty colored boxes.

10% is on all of our contracts. Most of the time we are pretty exact, maybe 1 or 2% over. It depends on the size of the run. If we make 11 when 10 was ordered sure it’s 10%. On an order of 5000 I can see going 50 or 75 parts over to make up for the ineviatable scrap along the way. 700 over on an order of 5000 is sloppy. I’d change vendors just for that.

700 on a 5K order seems awfully high to me, too. But not the idea of overruns in general.

A lot of printers around here offer a choice. You can order and pay for exactly X quantity and take your chances with the spoilage (and yeah, it’s usually closer to 1-2 percent) or you can accept the overruns and be assured of X quantity that’s in register, correctly folded, etc.

Of course, since most print orders end up being negotiated, YMMV.

I worked as a printer for a few years, and overs were inevitable, especially if there was additional bindery work to be done. (Standard or die cutting, folding, perforating, raising, etc.) There have to be overs in that case because there will inevitably be waste during those additional processes so there have to be enough overs to cover that. We never charged for the overs at any place I worked at, though – but then the overs were never more than a few dozen at most, typically. 700 on a 5k run does sound pretty high. Still, if it is the printer’s policy to charge for overs then I guess there’s not much you can do – though I’d find a printer that didn’t charge for them.

Ok, I checked this with a small local printer yesterday. They do overruns, although nowhere near 10%, and don’t charge for them. Never have, never will. But they are mostly doing low cost/piece work. A lot of the stuff we do on overs is well over a $1 per piece, sometimes as much as $15 per piece.

We also use companies like Wise, PrintXcel, King and other large business form producers to make stock items for us. They charge us for overs, but since we are reselling full cases, we also stipulate that each carton must contain exactly X number of forms. We use Cenveo (Printegra) for short runs, who are I believe the largest form printing company in the US (maybe the world) and they charge for overs.

Looks like it might be a standard of sorts, in some industries, and not in others, and possibly not for small local printers. For us we need the reliability and short turn around, plus widespread distribution of these larger companies. If you are just doing local jobs that can have some flexibility in production turn around, you may do better with a small local shop. Either way it’s fairly unprofessional for them not to inform you of this ahead of time, but you should probably also double check that it wasn’t somewhere on a contract or order confirmation.