Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Maybe Customer

Hello Polite Readers!

Today's letter comes courtesy of my little brother, the man behind Zolgar's Forge. He's experiencing one of the many annoyances of selling on-line. Read on:

Hi AJ!

You know me. I can usually fence with words better than most.. but recently, a situation has arisen that even if I may not really need the Politely Worded response to, it would still be very useful for me to get your take on it, and I think it is something that every artist has to deal with at one point or another..

On November first, I received a message on Etsy regarding one of my items (the highest priced one, no less), asking after potential modifications to it. After a brief discussion with the individual, it was decided that the best course of action would be to actually create him an entirely custom piece. We discussed options and a price range (due to my work, it's hard to give an exact price before creating the item), and he agreed to put down 50% of the top end of the price range as a deposit.
- I took the time to briefly look in to the individual as he had no feedback on Etsy, and I am always leery of scams. Everything checked out, so I set up the listing for the deposit. This was on November 4th, and he said "I will pay when I get in to the office in the morning."
Monday morning rolls around, no payment. It's cool, things come up and I'm patient. A week passes and no payment, so I drop him a quick message asking if something came up. It was election week, after all. He responds "I'm sorry, I need to get you my [wrist] measurements. I'll do that today." This was on the 13th. On the 17th (still no payment), I sent him a message offering advice on an easy way to measure for a bracer, as well as giving him the option to just make it highly adjustable if taking his arm measurements was going to be too much of an issue.
As of the 20th, I have still received no response nor payment.

So, I have to wonder now, if he never intended to buy the item and just enjoys wasting people time and getting artist's hopes up, or if he changed his mind, or if he's just more scatterbrained than I am.
Obviously, I don't want to come off accusing him of wasting my time. At the same time though, I really don't want to come off desperate for the money (.. I kind of am, but that's beside the point), but I don't want to just sit here and twiddle my thumbs waiting on him, either.

Short of lighting him on fire, what are your thoughts on this matter?


I've been there before! When I was younger, dumber, and more trusting, I even made the mistake of doing custom work without a deposit, trusting that since someone was my friend, they'd actually pay me when it was done. Worse, I once sent off a piece as part of a trade and never got my half of the agreement in return. You were smart to not start any work until you'd received payment.

So now, here you are, waiting for the money. I hate to tell you this, but you'll probably never see it. So often people start out excited about the idea of custom work (It's just what I wanted for my costume! And he'll make it to fit!), but the initial joy wears off and they talk themselves out of it (I need to measure my ARM? That's so much work! And I have to pay him MONEY before he even starts it? Ugh). Your maybe-customer has probably decided that he'd rather blow his money on some cheap crap from China (oh whoops, this is supposed to be Politely Worded, not Bitterly Jaded).

But I'd recommend you give it one last chance. Send him a message something like this:

Hey! Have you had a chance to get your arm measurement yet? I'd like to get this piece started before the holidays. After that I'm going to be swamped making stock for Wild Wild West Con and may not have time to take on custom work. Here's a link to the listing for the down payment, just put your measurement in the comments section and I'll get started on your bracer as soon as I know what size to make it.

After that, let it go. Leave the custom listing up in case he finally gets around to it, but don't relist it when it expires. Unfortunately you can't force someone to follow through on a custom order. You'll probably have this happen a lot. It's annoying. Especially when they've agreed to buy it -- it's not so frustrating when someone says "How much for a custom thing?" and you say "$50" and they say "Oh, I can't afford that, thanks." Then you're not counting on the income. You don't feel like you've been bait-and-switched.

Good luck. I hope your customer is just busy and comes through in the end.

Have your own annoying customer that you need help dealing with? Send an e-mail to and I might post it on this blog!

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