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I Have A Dilemma

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Back in August, I was at a show where a customer bought my whole stack of dinner plates early on. A few hours later, she came back with a friend. The friend had seen the plates, and wanted the same plates. Since they were now sold out, I asked her where she lived so I could tell her which upcoming show would be her best option. Turns out she lives 10 minutes from me, so I told her to come to my Open Studio in December. She didn't want to wait that long, which I understood. She wanted to just come by my house in a few days to get them. She offered to pay for them at the show. She was a little bit pushy, she seemed to really want the plates. I don't like having customers invite themselves to my house, but honestly I was having a slow day, and a set of plates is a decent chunk of money. So I took her payment, and we exchanged contact info.

 

I emailed her a few days later to start the process of arranging a pickup appt. She said she was leaving for a vacation, and would pick them up right after Labor Day. I waited until a week after Labor Day, then emailed her again. She said she was having a family emergency, and would get back in touch in a few days. I waited two more weeks, and sent another reminder. I got no response at all.

 

That was a month ago, so now my dilemma is, what should I do?

 

Part of me thinks I should refund the money to her credit card. That way, I can sell her plates without worrying that she will finally show up, only to find they aren't available.

 

And part of me thinks I have no obligation to return her money. The situation was entirely her idea. It's not my problem that she can't be bothered to make a ten minute errand. And everything she said since was probably a lie. She doesn't seem to want the plates, and doesn't care about the money either.

 

Should I return the money, or simply wait until she fulfills her obligation even if that never happens?

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I would send her one last email letting her know that you are going to refund the money to her credit card. Then you are free to sell the plates and the matter will be done. You don't have to refund her money, but if you sell the plates that could create a mess. You know that as soon as you sell them she will come looking for them! :) Either that, or keep her money and put the plates away - out of sight, out of mind. That seems a little sad though, considering how much work goes into the things we make. I do think the one thing you should not do is keep her money AND sell the plates.

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Yes, I see the ethical line that says "don't keep the money AND sell the plates." But there are two more minor considerations. 1. I don't really have space to store a stack of six plates that I can't sell. My inventory shelves get jammed sometimes, especially when leading up to a big show. 2. These are plates that I make constantly. Chances are they will be available whenever (of if ever) she decides to get them. If she shows up when they aren't available, she can still get them if she waits until my next firing. Making her wait doesn't seem inappropriate.

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I would just back burner it for a couple of months, sitting the plates to the side with a sold invoice taped to them. If they hang past the holidays then give one more email jab and decide then.

 

She will likely pop up at some point and if not I would just subtract a reasonable re-stocking fee to offset the hassle of the extra emails and the dead inventory. Is there a re-stocking fee mentioned in your terms? 

 

Hey its a few hundred bucks right, why not wait and see? If you refund too quickly and she sees it come across her CC account she might she blow the sale off even though she still wants the dishes. She might also contact you when she starts pulling together x-mas and that's a great time to sell her more stuff when she picks up. Living 10 minutes away she may become a really good customer over the years even if she is more than a little flaky.

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Send her a photo of the new clay supplies you bought on her dollar :D

 

 

Hang on to the inventory, put it somewhere you can forget about it. She will come around, I have had customers do the exact same thing when ordering logo designs for me. They are so passionate at first, then they just drop off the face of the earth AFTER they have paid for my services! :rolleyes:

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Some people want to buy. For her, impressing the friend was more important than actually receiving the plates.

 

You should keep the money and let her know that the plates are no longer reserved for her.

Also, it is like 10 minutes from you so you could deliver them and end the issue that is bothering you.

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Every once in a while I get a customer who I’ld rather not sell to. They give off that “I’m going to be a pain in the bum†vibe. Sounds like you have one of those. I’ld be wondering if I would really want her as a customer. If she were my problem I would just send her a final polite email saying you are cancelling the order and refunding her deposit due to the fact that you haven’t heard back from her after several contact attempts. 


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I agree 1000% with Mins response above.

I would give her the $ back and move forward.

The minute you have no more plates she will reappear in your life and want them

Giving the $ back sets you free in several ways

 

I have written about this very subject -people not picking up work at the studio anymore.

You will feel better when its over that I can say 100%

The money is not really what this is about and giving it back is the right thing to do.

Not taking any orders from her again is also right.

refund the $ and send her your last ever e-mail explaining the situtaion.

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I've worked a LOT of customer service jobs, and there's two things I know from being at the returns counter is that 1) people generally don't ask for things to go wrong, and 2) whatever weird reaction the customer is handing you is about them and their lives, not about anything you've done.

 

If she's had a legit family emergency (and I see no reason to disbelieve her), you are really not on her priority list right now, and depending on the severity of her situation, you shouldn't be. Insisting on some kind of response from her likely won't help her stressful situation. That said, your lack of storage space needs to be addressed.

 

Since she hasn't requested a refund, I wouldn't offer her one, and I wouldn't until she brings up the possibility. She may indeed still want the plates, but just can't deal right now. I think that if you really need the stock and have a guaranteed sale of them, I'd go ahead and give them time customer who is willing to take them on the spot. Should that happen, advise this lady in an email that due to space constraints, you've had to pass her plates on to another customer, but when she's ready, you'll honour her money as store credit. Think of it like she's purchased a gift certificate from you at that point, that she can redeem when she's ready.

And you get your shelf space back, and you're not out money, and she gets her pots eventually. Win win win.

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2. These are plates that I make constantly.

These are inventory pieces: so sell off the plates like you would any inventory. If and when she contacts you, tell her the order will be ready in ten days. You are trying to be a responsible dealer ( a good thing), but selling to a seemingly irresponsible  buyer. This buyer placed and paid for an order that was out of stock at the time: meaning a custom order filled according to your schedule.

 

Nerd

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The thing many have not addressed is the feeling of a bad customer-its bothers you and eats at you and the sooner you can get clear of the whole mess the better .

The H--ll with her-just get it done and then feel the freedom-or at least that works well for me.At this point you need to be clear of it .

I cannot tell you how many times I have said your money is not good here. It's liberating.

Life is more than about the money.

I sent a customers money back two years ago as she was a pain to deal with. Never looked back

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Stick them undr your bed and get on with things. Just glad for you you have the money.

I made a dinner set on order, no down payment ONCE.

I sold it off in bits and bobs after giving the benefit of the doubt for a long time.

The plates are not a priority now, pos. were never, so just store them  and  leave the ball in her court.,

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Consider sending her one last email thanking her for her purchase, explaining your storage constraints, and give her a firm 2 week deadline to pick up the pots. If satisfactory arrangements aren't made/plates aren't picked up, let her know that you will refund her money.  Wash hands and be done with it.

 

Alternatively, send her a variation of the first email letting her know that the plates are going back into stock if they are not picked up in the next two weeks.  Offer her the option to receive a refund or let her know that you will hold her payment as credit to spend at your home show in December (naybe she will bring a friend to your home show, maybe she will buy more pots). If she doesn't spend the credit at your home show, advise her that you will refund her money since you don't want to carry the credit on your books into the next tax year. 

 

-SD

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Thanks for all the responses everyone! Lots of good ideas, and some points I had not considered.

 

Here's what I'm thinking now:

 

What she did is not that bad, on the spectrum of bad customers. After all, she did pay for the plates first. She didn't swindle me, and she's not harassing me. She left me in a state of uncertain obligation, which is really an existential crisis rather than a real crisis.

 

Although I believe she is being flaky, the truth is I don't know that for sure. The problem here is a lack of information, I shouldn't fill in the empty space with assumptions. Sending her an unsolicited refund is also a message of "Go away, you flake!" Does she deserve my hostility? I don't know. I should only use hostility in cases when it is clearly warranted.

 

I think the most responsible thing for me to do is to take her last words at face value. She had an emergency last month, and will get in touch with me when she's ready. This is respectful while also holding her responsible for her words. If she wants to complete her unfinished business, it's up to her.

 

But I'm not going to store her plates indefinitey. If I haven't heard from her by early December, I'll remind her again. I'll tell her the dates/hours of my impending open studio, and if she doesn't make a pickup at or before, I will make her plates available for sale. I will explain that demand for these dishes is kind-of crazy at this event. Which doesn't mean she can't get them later, it just means she might have to wait if they sell out.

 

I will not bring up the possibility of a refund. If she really has changed her mind and wants a refund, she needs to tell me. If she asks, I'll do it.

 

I don't hold any delusions that she might become a regular good customer. I have enough good customers to know they don't behave like this. However, HER FRIEND has the potential to become a regular good customer. Everything I do will likely be reported to the friend.

 

Thanks again, everyone, for helping me figure this out!

 

A related story, at a show in early October, I was faced with a similar request. A husband/wife stopped to look at my pots.They had bought my pots before. The husband came back later by himself and wanted to buy a nice piece for his wife. But he wanted to surprise her, could he pick it up in a few days? I was already dealing with the dinner-plate-lady situation so I was feeling reluctant but I agreed anyways. He emailed the next day and made an appointment for Tuesday. He showed up right on time and was delightful about the whole thing. I was glad for the reminder that most pottery fans are like this.

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Since these are inventory pieces I would sell them to the next interested person. Then remake the plates in the next run. This way you only have one set on hand at a time and ready for her if/when she shows up.

 

If she shows up while you are still making the new set just be honest, tell her you are in the process of remaking the set and they will be ready in X amount of days.

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My favorite idea was to turn the payment into a Gift Certificate to be used when she is ready.
This absolves you of keeping the plates, puts you in the 'good person' seat and you can just go on as usual.
She may be having a really bad time personally and you are definitely not a priority ... so choose to believe the best.

 

** edit

.... after thinking a bit more, I go more towards putting her plates under the bed and waiting for her to pick them up.

Quite simply ... they are paid for and thus are hers ... of course, they could be a rotating set.

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I wouldn't send any more emails to her. I cannot see further contact helping her situation. You fulfilled your end.

 

You, I assume, try to keep these plates in stock. Put them in the pile and try to keep them in stock (as you always do). If she happens to show up

A- and they are in stock! Wee, everyone wins.

B- and they are out.... oh well. Then you can offer store credit, a refund, or start over :-)

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Sounds like you are doing the right thing. Sometimes with family emergencies people can't handle the stress and do some pretty weird things. I know when things get to be too much for me I just want to pull the blanket over my head & hide - but I never get the chance until it really is bedtime!

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The prodigal customer reappeared! She called this morning, and came by this afternoon to fetch her plates. She apologized and said she had been travelling a lot. She just got back from a trip where she saw the friend who also bought the plates, and thus was reminded that she needed to make a pick up. I don't think there was a serious emergency, I think this was a case of absent-mindedness or low priority. Anyways, I'm glad it's over and that it worked out fine.

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