Is the printer responsible for covering the cost to make up the shortage?

Answered by Suzanne Morgan, founder, Print Buyers

My question is about the delivery of overs/unders on a print project.

I recently produced a job for a client that was very cost conscious. The piece was expensive and the client wanted to order only as many as she needed. I asked the printer if he would be comfortable delivering the job with "no unders, max 3% overs". The printer said it was "no problem" and I wrote up my purchase order this way.

When the job was delivered, the quantity came up a few hundred short -- less than 3% of the total quantity ordered. Understandably, the printer balked at having to put the job back on press to make up the shortfall. He claims that the 3% shortage is commercially acceptable and that this is the first he is hearing of the "no unders" stipulation. While I can understand his dismay, it is not an option for my client to do without the missing units. Is the printer responsible for covering the cost to make up the shortage? How can I prevent having this kind of standoff in the future?


If your purchase order stated "No unders; up to 3% over" then this printer must go back on press at his cost and you should definitely hold him to this. Yes, traditional printer terms are 10% under/10% over, but frankly few printers hold buyers to this any longer because it’s just not acceptable to buyers. However, printers can technically enforce this IF they have given you a copy of their terms and conditions which state this term and condition and IF you haven’t specified different terms in your contract. It’s my observation that printers today are careful not to run short or to force customers to pay for overs they won’t use. Many printers are concerned about the repercussions to their future business when these types of conflicts occur.

The way to avoid this in the future is to define the acceptable terms on your purchase order in the language of "no unders; up to x% over." (It’s only fair to also give the printer the heads up by including this in your initial bid sheet.) It sounds like this is what you did.

And by the way, I have a hard time believing that a printer has never heard of the request for "no unders." Why did he agree to that verbally then?

Best wishes,
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