Two weeks ago, the campus was papered in nondescript white flyers, belonging to the Georgetown ImprovAssociation, reading: “WE ACCIDENTALLY SPENT $700 ON MARKETING FOR THIS SHOW. oops. PLEASE COME SEE IT.”
The advertisements were not just a marketing ploy; they were actually an admittance of a miscommunication between Improv Publicity Director Joe Luther (COL ’16) and FedEx.
For each monthly show, Improv orders publicity posters from FedEx that Luther is responsible for creating.
When Luther took the Photoshopped image on a flash drive to the M Street FedEx store, as well as a form that listed the performing arts department’s cost center number, which would charge the posters to the department fund, the FedEx employee asked him what size he wanted the posters. He asked for the typical size of 11 inches by 17 inches, but, because Luther used a larger image than normal, the employee informed him that it would default to a larger size.
“I was just sort of like ‘sure,’ figuring that maybe it would be marginally more expensive, but if the posters were meant to be that size that’s fine,” Luther said. “The way he said it very nonchalantly made me think that there was going to be no big change.”
When Luther went to pick up the new posters, he did not inquire as to the new price.
“He never told me what the price would be for this one because I’d picked it up before, and I just figured the price would be around the same and they would tell me if they were going to change it by about 30 times or whatnot,” he said.
Generally, the posters are small and inexpensive and are displayed from Wednesday through Saturday.
“Normally we pay about $40-ish for our set of posters, and we pick up posters which are made of really cheap paper,” Luther said. “They’re meant to hang up for a few days … so we’re really not looking for anything that high quality.”
But, because of the larger sized image, the resulting posters were of much higher quality than Luther expected and required a special printer, thus bumping the cost to $7 or $8 dollars per sheet.
As a result, when he picked up the posters Thursday, he found out FedEx had charged $700.35 for the 75 posters, sized 14 by 22 inches. He did not realize the mistake until he got home because the posters were in a covered box.
“By the time I realized what had happened, I was all the way back to my apartment, and I looked at the receipt and it said $700. At first I was just like, ‘What?’ and then I sort of started laughing because it was so ridiculous,” Luther said.
Luther returned to figure out what had happened Friday morning. At that time, FedEx informed them that, because they had already charged the department of prforming arts’ cost center number, they could not fix the mistake.
“They basically said, ‘Sorry, once you give us the number that’s basically consent for whatever we want to charge you for it,’” Luther said.”
The FedEx store and the department of performing arts both declined comment for this story.
The Improv staff does not ascribe blame to FedEx for the mix-up.
“Usually when we work with them they’re very competent, they’re very friendly, they know exactly what we want, so it was just kind of a fluke thing,” Improv Executive Producer Emlyn Crenshaw (COL ’15) said. “It was our fault for not remembering to ask for a specific quote, but it’s definitely an anomaly in our experience with them. Usually they’re very nice and very helpful. … They’re not the bad guys.”
Since the department of performing arts paid for the posters, they were charged for the printing error.
Improv members never hung any of the posters, instead selling autographed copies at the show.
Ultimately, Crenshaw believes that the poster mix-up, as well as additional posters printed by Luther, might have helped ticket sales for the January show. The show was sold-out, numbering over 160 tickets at $4 for students and $5 for general admission.
Improv made additional profit by selling some of the autographed posters after the show for a $5 donation, which resulted in an extra $96.
“I guess that means we sold 19 or 20 posters? It was more than I was expecting, I’m glad our audience was willing to help us out. Or maybe they just really liked Joe Luther’s Photoshop skills,” Business Manager Neil Christy (COL ’14) wrote in an email.
Improv intends to donate some of this money back to the performing arts department.
“Our ticket sales go into our big department pot … but we can’t donate to it directly, so we’re going to give it to our faculty advisor and see if he can get that done for us, because we felt really bad,” Crenshaw said.
Ultimately, Improv managed to work the poster debacle into their routine.
“It led to some pretty funny jokes during the actual show,” Jake Robinson (SFS ’16), who attended the show, said. “There was one where I think they were pretending to be in FedEx and they kept pointing to the signs.”