Rush Fees Are Killing Your Budget

It’s been said that the early bird gets the worm – the reward for being motivated enough to act on something – and in the trade show business the early bird saves money and avoids getting charged astronomical rush fees.

Almost any business that offers a good or service will charge extra fees to compensate for a shorter turnaround time than normal on those products and/or services, which is referred to as a rush fee.

If you need something in short order, be prepared to pay for the extra labor and time involved to expedite it to the proper destination.

Having to pay rush fees are usually a result of inadequate planning or procrastination. In other words, there are very few good excuses to justify getting charged a rush fee because you didn’t order in time.

Plan now, or pay (more) later.

Waste Not, Want Not

Rush fees are a surefire way to wreck your budget, especially if it’s done routinely. If you have fallen into this trap, don’t despair. When you know better, you do better. If you are new to this and you are now terrified of making this mistake, it’s easy to avoid.

Here are some things to consider when placing orders and contracting out work…

Tiered Discounts

Ordering early and not having to worry about extra fees (and securing the supplies and work on time) should be incentive enough. But what you may not know is that if you pay in full ahead of schedule you might get a discount. Prices can change if payment deadlines aren’t met, so make sure to set yourself reminders so that you don’t forget.

There are usually 2 or 3 tiers of discounts if you pay in full and promptly. For example, if you have submitted all of your payments 2-3 weeks before your show, you can reasonably expect a 20-30% discount. If you fail to pay the full amount at by the deadline the costs will increase to standard pricing.

Placing Orders

This might sound strange, but how you place your orders does make a difference. Businesses that have implemented online ordering prefer that you take advantage of that feature. It saves them time and the hassle of having to input your order in manually ( for phone and fax orders). Most contractors are happy to give you a 5-10% discount for putting in the extra effort so they don’t have to.

Effective Operations

We all want our shows to run as smoothly as possible and achieving that goal takes planning. Lots of planning. Running a smooth operation involves coordination so that the event is properly installed on time. Contractors are responsible for sending out loads of equipment and to do that effectively they need you to place your orders weeks before deadlines hit. This helps them to fulfill orders and get their staff and labor organized. Truck schedules can become a cause for delay if you don’t place your requests in a timely matter. If you procrastinate all of the trucks might already be scheduled to go out and not to your show.


Trade Shows take a lot more forethought than the average event or party due to the amount of custom work that goes into it. From customizing booths to made-to-order signs, ordering in advance is a must. This cannot be stressed enough. If you wait, not only do you get hit with rush fees, but you also run the risk of not getting the work done at all.


Most contractors are serving upwards of 20 shows within the same timeframe as your show. While your work is important to them, it’s not their only job. If something doesn’t go as planned you will likely have to wait for them to finish what they are working on to address your miscommunication. If they have to make extra adjustments expect to pay any overtime fees to make up for the disparity.


Print work is a critical part of what makes any trade show visually identifiable and placing rush orders on displays can get tricky. If your contractors don’t have an office located in your event city, you’ll either have to find a local printer that can handle the job, or get it printed back home and shipped overnight to you. Both options will cost you extra, plus the additional labor and installation fees.

Hanging Signs

You have two options when you order signs. You can order by advanced shipment warehouse or you can have it shipped directly to your show. If you order by advanced warehouse the delivery times are more flexible and the sign can be hung in your booth before you get there. When you have signs shipped directly to the show there is no guarantee that someone will be able to hang your sign. If that’s the case, it will have to be done in overtime. An advance warehouse is the best shipping option to control both delivery and costs.


What type of labor Exhibitors hire can significantly impact costs as well as how time is managed. There are two types, Contractor supervised and Exhibitor supervised labor. With Exhibitor supervised labor, the exhibitor directs the work that is done to set up the show booth. Contractor supervised will use the floor plan provided to set up the booth, without assistance, but at a 30% surcharge.

Exhibitor supervised sounds like a good money-saving option unless the exhibitor shows up an hour or two later than scheduled and the labor team has already moved on to do other work. Not only is the booth not set up, the team might not be able to come back that day to finish. Not only will the exhibitor have to pay for the hour that was lost, but will need to pay extra to have them return later.

More Than a Wish

Author and poet Antoine de Saint-Exupery saw liberation in planning, observing that “a goal without a plan is just a wish.” Planning avoids chaos and budget-killing rush fees. As they say, planning makes perfect.