Can I ask for 0% underruns?

Answered by Suzanne Morgan, founder, Print Buyers

We currently have a contract with our printer where we detail that we will accept 5% over-runs, but is there an industry standard for underruns?

Last year, because of quality issues at the printer, we ended up with about 10% under and now we have to go back on press. Obviously, this re-print will cost us much more. I would like to put an underrun number in our contract for next year. Is it okay to request 0% underruns?

Thanks for your help.


Many years ago, the major printers' associations created a "Terms and Conditions for Sale" document to establish acceptable "standards" of doing business between printers and their customers. This document stipulates that printers may produce up to a "10% overrun or 10% underrun" on print jobs. This means that printers do not have to be held accountable for going back to press in the case of up to 10% under and can charge for up to 10% over. (Note that , of course, the Terms and Conditions for Sale are much more favorable to printers, the associations' constituents.)

I feel very strongly that these old trade customs are very much out of date and do not adequately serve buying companies. I don't think that anyone will argue with me that the business relationship between buyers and suppliers has changed significantly in the past seven years. Today’s printers have to be much more flexible in accommodating different client’s needs. For the most part, blanket "rules" are no longer acceptable to buying companies.

With that in mind, you should feel free to specify what your company needs. Just be sure to put it in writing, both on your bid sheet and on your purchase order. Better yet, create your own Print Standards with all those details of how you want your printers to work with you. Give each of your printers your Print Standards and be open to discussing the impact of your specifications.

If you can’t tolerate any underruns than put NO UNDERS on your contracts – purchase orders, bid sheets, etc. However, be aware that some printers may factor in a bit more money/materials in your job to ensure that they don’t run under, which is only fair.

So today, it is common for buying companies to state: “No unders; up to 2% over,” or something similar.

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