The Worst Screen Printing Customer Stories


Before you read...

Printavo is simple shop management software. We help you streamline your business, keep jobs moving forward and your team on the same page.

Scheduling, quoting, approvals, payments, customer communication, automation and more. With Printavo, you’ll work smarter–not harder.

The value of screen printing isn’t particularly apparent to the average American. 

You can walk into any big box store and purchase a competently printed t-shirt that could easily last for the rest of your life with just minimal care, and you’ll probably spend no more than $20 for this item. 

Are there other items in the world that are everywhere, cost less than $20, and can last for a lifetime? 


But few of them are as ever-present as the t-shirt. 

Am I saying that customer attitudes toward t-shirts tend to undercut the value that screen printers actually provide? Well, actually, yes. And that's why so many print shops encounter customers that just don't get it.

Terrible customers are a fact of life in screen printing. 

So to celebrate the spookiest month of all, we're sharing some of the most awful customer stories you shared with us. From misprints to customers pulling chargeback shenanigans, you've probably seen a few of these.

And if you haven't seen these customers you know what to look out for.

Let's dive in and commiserate, celebrate, and maybe have a few laughs over some painful moments. Comments have been edited for clarity and brevity.

The chargeback ghost 👻

Don't get finessed by jerks

Customer selected a garment that's as expensive as it gets and in a dark blue. When they were delivered, they threw a fit claiming that we should have known that the garment color wasn't what they expected compared to prior purchases.
They pulled up, threw the boxes in the shop door, and took off. Then asked me to fix it. We negotiated for a discount on a re-order if I ripped up the check for these and sent them a pic. So I did. 

And then they ran to PayPal and did a charge back on the deposit! They won, and then ghosted me. Great customer!

From nyeCO:

Client had a rush job. They only paid their deposit. Then they deemed the shirts useless and unsellable. So they did a chargeback & kept the shirts. They refused to return them.

A different client came back six months later and said they had an issue with fading on garments. Just days prior they were singing our praises on social media only to come back and complain.

This customer also kept their “damaged - unsellable” merchandise 😢🤬

Not every chargeback pays 💰

Even if you cover your tracks, some chargebacks don't work out

Another local shop contracting out a job was our worst customer.

We received the job and gave it to their customer. They filed a chargeback against us because the products were damaged. 

They were fine, though. We took photos before they picked up.

After all my evidence, we wind up losing the chargeback. I had a signed pickup slip. The pickup on video. Detailed photos. Emails from the customer saying they were not damaged. 

Still lost the chargeback. But guess what? I still own that shop's web domain 4 years later.

Dirty business 💩

Don't print on customer supplied garments. Particularly these

A roller derby team dropped off a bag of booty shorts for sponsor logos & names. 

Right after they wore them at practice. 

The smell still lingers.

If it doesn't fit, it's free...right? 

It's not my fault I only wear a smedium

I had a lady order women’s 2XLs. 

They didn’t fit her. She came to my shop throwing a fit, so I told her a unisex medium or large would fit slim on her, and that’s what I would wear.

She yelled at me and told me there is no way I’d fit in a medium.

I had to put it on over my clothes for her to believe me.

Then she wanted her order for free.. I said nope 😂

I had a lady try to return printed garments because they didn’t fit her figure.


Devilish details 🕵🏻‍♂️

Call it the nitpicker's discount

A small client with a 50 shirt order measures each shirt, one by one, to check to the millimeter if they are with the measurement and the distance he requested. 

When removing the t-shirts from the palettes, the impression was deformed 3 mm below and he was claiming that there was a registration failure in a base job plus 3 colors. 

Following this, he told us that the Pantone he had chosen looked too light. We invited him to go to another shop, but he already had 3 orders with us.😂😂😂

We had a left chest only job for the city, I had another job burned on the flip side of the screen to economize. 

My short-lived printer didn’t read the invoice and printed another company’s tag line and phone on the back of the city works shirts and delivered them.

One more reason why we love Printavo’s line item mock-ups!

From Doug King on Facebook:

Long story short, out comes a ruler. The design is 1/16 of an inch off center for a full back. Wants replacement shirts or discount.

Well, you should have read my mind

How come you didn't know what I never told you

Matched a water color looking print exactly like the mockup they sent, I was even proud of how the mockup matched the print. 

They came in to pick up and said: "This is nothing like I wanted."

I showed my boss and she was confused. 

She thought the mockup was a photo of the tank. 

Customer threw a fit and got off not paying for anything (it was another department at the university I worked for).

The next day they had tanks at the event with a completely different design. They had sent us the wrong design.

Meet in the middle?

From acmpny:

Had a few customers ask if we could drop off their order at their house, or even meet them half way (approximately 30 minute away) because they came to us last time. 

These were different customers, both medium-ish size orders, and they just didn't want to pay for shipping.

You are not the only one

Rick Roth's awesome 2019 PrintHustlers Conf presentation

Whether printing 30,000 pieces at a time for hot market printing (like the Super Bowl) or making $30,000 mistakes – Rick has been there and done that after decades in the industry.

He jump-started PrintHustlers Conf 2019 with this riveting and candid take on what, why, and how the big successes – and mistakes – happen. It's worth a watch.

Why is this happening?

Our brief analysis

Screen printing is particularly rife with bad customers: it’s a highly custom industry so customers can always find something to complain about. 

But it also seems like it could be the opposite: it’s so custom that customers are ultimately grateful for this level of service. Perhaps the situation is different entirely and you serve government agencies or schools that aren't concerned with quality so much as execution.

Screen printing is a particularly entrepreneurial market, so there are a lot more screen printers out there to absorb all of the bad customers that do exist. 

Every startup screen printer starts out by managing customers themselves. In most direct-to-consumer markets, a few players control the game and have highly regimented structures and systems for handling bad customers. 

On the one extreme of customer management we have banks, who essentially keep a list of bad customers and then don’t serve them once they’re deemed bad enough. 

Bars, actually, do something similar as well (though you’ll have a harder time checking your bar credit score than your bank credit score). 

On the other extreme, we can imagine a business that basically lets customers do whatever they want no matter how bad they are. Amazon famously lets customers return virtually anything, even if a few people goose the system and essentially use it to launder money. REI is notorious for their lenient return policy, and monetized the “used goods” (read: returned goods) market that their generosity creates. Eddie Bauer used to accept returns for life until customers started utilizing the policy en masse to return decades-old items.

Screen printing is undervalued. Custom work is undervalued. Artwork is undervalued. T-shirts are undervalued. The supply chain that all of this work relies on is taken for granted – we can get infinite cheap shirts and ink and supplies forever, right?

It's easy to see what's happening.

We have a solid confluence of confounding factors here that add up to make screen printing horror stories common.

It’s a custom industry with lots of opportunities to fail. Every screen printer has to deal with customers directly, and screen print (like clothing) is simply undervalued by a consumer base that has come to expect super cheap goods.

Cover photo from Jupmode. She's a great customer, of course.

Next Post: 5 Ways Print Shops Mess Up Their Prices | Screen Printing Price Mistakes

About Printavo

Printavo is simple shop management software. We help you streamline your business, keep jobs moving forward and your team on the same page.

Scheduling, quoting, approvals, payments, customer communication, automation and more. With Printavo, you’ll work smarter–not harder.