Some of you who follow my blog or who pick up on it occasionally may remember that in May, I completed a pair of Verdura-inspired cuffs to a specific commission from a customer. I was extremely pleased with the result of the cuffs:
I should have trusted my instincts. From the word 'go', the customer bitched and haggled on price, always expecting me to change things at the last minute but I went along with it, buoyed by my general enthusiasm for the project, even sourcing some relatively inexpensive but impressive stones, such as the context-cut citrine in the centre of the bangle to the front. As you can probably guess from my tone and from the title of this post, things did not end well...
One of the things I like to do is to keep my clients posted on the progress of commissions, especially if they are distant commissions - this one went to Los Angeles - going back over my communications with the client, I see that we had nearly 30 emails discussing the project, which is considerably more than for most comissions. As ever, I provided drawings, notes and selections of stones in the form of an online journal which the client could access and comment upon. You can see the journal if you click on this image:
As you can see from the above, I used a template generated from sizes supplied by the client for the wrist measurement. She even commented in one of the emails, "It's funny to see your ovals representing my wrists". I completed the bangles and sent them to her... and waited. Waited for about two weeks before I heard from her,
"The bracelets are beautiful, even more wonderful in person than in the photos. I absolutely love the stones, especially the yellow/orange/blue one. The finish, craftsmanship, artistry are everything I hoped for and more. Thank you!
"There is one big hitch, though - they are very big on me. I don't mean scale-wise, I am happy with the scale, but they are just way too large for my wrists. To have them fit snugly I have to push them halfway up my forearm and then they are still wider than my arm at that point.
"Please advise! I am guessing I will need to send them back to you for resizing. I went back and double checked the wrist measurements I sent you back on 1/14, and they are correct. I do have particularly skinny wrists."
In other words, I had made the bangles the correct size but she had measured her wrists wrongly. I agreed as an act of goodwill that I would re-size the bangles if she would send them back and gave explicit instructions on how to send them so that they would be exempt from import duty. She ignored these instructions and sent them by ordinary mail with no accompanying paperwork, attracting a fee of £80 at UK customs. When I pointed out to her that this was her fault, she agreed to pay it but suggested that I should pay half...
I re-sized the bangles and sent them back to her. By pure chance, one of my students looked over the bangles before they were sent, and I discussed with him the issues of resizing a piece like this. The bangles were also checked before packing by the wonderful Andrew at Mailboxes Etc. - whom I use to do all my shipping as they understand all the subtleties of customs and shipping - and so I know that they left me in pristine condition.
My client claims that they arrived damaged with one of the medallions detached from the bangle. I received no photograph of this damage. She refused to contact the shipping company. She claimed that I should take the whole lot back and refund her money. Needless to say, I declined.
This is where PayPal get involved. My client had paid PayPal with her credit card, three separate payments: a deposit, a balance and the charges for the customs disbursement. She claimed them all back from her credit card company who claimed these back from PayPal; PayPal immediately charged me for this without giving me any chance to dispute the claim.
I contacted PayPal and gave them the details of what had happened and they told me that they would send the details onto the credit card company and invited me to call with more details, which I did. I was told by the fellow on the phone that I wouldn't have to pay anything until the credit card company had dealt with the issue and that they would ensure that the bangles were returned to me before any money was paid back by me if it came to that.
Then they started to call me. Not once, but repeatedly. It seems that I had been given "incorrect information" and that I would be "continually called until payment is made" - in short, harrassed. I was told that I could not see the correspondence between PayPal and the credit card company and threatened with "a collection agency". They called me every day for about a week, until such times as the inevitable happened and the credit card company found in favour of the lying cheat who is also now in possession of two of my bangles. I am out of pocket to the tune of the materials and time.
Looking online, there are so many complaints about PayPal that it is a wonder that anyone signs up with them.
I have closed my PayPal account and, on the back of that, my Ebay account. For various reasons, Paypal being one of them, I have closed my Etsy account and am now on the lookout for a viable alternative for selling my work online. I am hoping to bring it all aboard a new website using a reputable bank-based payments system which is regulated by government bodies, as opposed to an unregulated company like PayPal.
If you ever see those bangles being worn, please take a moment to tell the wearer exactly what you think of them.