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Chip Brown, Columbus leatherworker

On May 3rd of this year, me and my friend theredshadow entered into a contract to have local leatherworker Chip Brown (Columbus Ohio area) make three leather pieces done in time for Otakon, which is at the end of July. My friend and I made sure to ask him whether the date was workable, as leather takes a bit of time to complete. He assured us both that the leather could easily be finished by that time, and so me and my friend put down a percentage of the money to assure us we were serious.

I put down $65 while she put down $42.80. I signed on for a leather belt as well as a set of bracers, while she signed on for a half cape to be worn on the shoulder. We visited Chip's studio on May 18th to finalize the deal, and Chip measured both of us for the pieces we needed. Chip was very friendly and open, and up until this time he was easily contacted through his email. He also gave us his phone number just in case.

Since I was busy with school, I assumed that he would keep me in contact, as was his responsibility. I sent him an email at the end of May telling him that I wasn't able to visit before the end of school, as I was rocking 20 credit hours, but was willing to pay whatever the final price came to. I never received a response as to the entirety of my payment, which I had the money ready and able to send. Chip also did not have a Paypal, and even though it was requested by both me and my friend that he acquire one for easy payment while we returned to our homes 2 hours north, in Cleveland, he did not seem willing to comply.

After waiting for a few more weeks in good faith, I once again emailed him, asking for progress of any sort. I also left him several phone calls and messages, none of which were answered. By this time I had become worried that something had happened to him. I finally asked my friend Lauren, melodious_me who had friends who had purchased from Chip before, to give him a call, as she was in the area and could rendezvous. He answered her call immediately, and she redirected him to me.

I had a brief conversation with Chip in late June, who assured me that the work would be done in time for the convention. He gave me the total for my order, which came to $280, and then promptly sent me an email with the same info. I replied and said that I was going to send the money to Lauren to give to him, as he still had no Paypal and a middleman had to be used. In the meantime he had not answered theredshadow 's emails or calls, and as I was relieved to hear from him, I didn't remember to ask. She still has no idea what the total of her transaction is, and she has both sent emails and called.

Chip claimed that his voicemail was on the fritz, which was why he could not respond to those. However, he did say that he received all emails that were sent, which leaves the question as to WHY he didn't respond to them in the first place. He also responded very snappy to Lauren's call, who I assumed was very direct in her demand that he call her and me.

At this point I have sent $200 of the $280 to Lauren, who is simply waiting for my word to drop it off. I am really upset that this transaction has gone sour, and I was wondering if anyone could give advice? I don't really want to pay Chip until I see progress photos, which he has supplied none, and even then if he does, I was planning on withholding the last $80 until there was a confirmation that the order had been shipped. Even though he assured me he would complete all three projects on time, he has been very hard to communicate with, and seems to be acting shady. I called him again tonight, basically saying that the ball was in his court and that I would very much like to hear from his tonight,

In conclusion, Chip brown of Brown Cow Art, though his handiwork is fine to look at, is a difficult man to contact, seems to be prone to avoiding customers, and is very disorganized. If anyone in the Columbus area even considers commissioning him, I would make sure that you keep him on a strict leash in terms of your business dealings.

Any advice would be profoundly appreciated!

Edit: Chip's website is here: http://www.browncowart.com/
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( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 8th, 2010 04:34 am (UTC)
"I assumed that he would keep me in contact, as was his responsibility."

Honestly it's just as much the seller's responsibility as it is the buyer's to maintain steady contact. Someone's idea of "steady" may be different from yours, anyway.

20 credit hours is a lot, but I bet that it IS possible to make a trip to Cleveland one weekend. $280 is a lot of money to spend, and I think you owe it to yourself to see proof of the work being done, since he is non compliant with sending WIP photos or responding to your calls/e-mails. I would advise you and your friend to consider this option.
Jul. 8th, 2010 04:42 am (UTC)
We have been talking it over, in all honesty. I got in contact with him tonight and he said he'd send photos tomorrow. If this doesn't happen then it's loading up in the car and taking a trip. :/
Jul. 12th, 2010 04:35 pm (UTC)
I think that after you've been paid etc it's more the artists responsibility than the buyer. It's part of being a good businessperson to treat your paying customers with respect.
Jul. 8th, 2010 02:56 pm (UTC)
I agree with you about most of this, except for the idea that he should be obligated to get a paypal just because it would be more convenient for an out of towner like yourself. I don't think a brick and mortar seller like himself should have to set something like that up when 99% of his business will be paid for with a credit card, debit or cash.

Actually, this whole thing sounds like you're applying online business expectations to a brick and mortar seller. He's probably used to showing people progress in person, not to having to take photos to send to someone 2+ hours away. I don't think that necessarily reflects badly on him, it just means that the two parties had different ideas of what was expected from the outset.

That having been said, you did set a concrete deadline that he agreed to, so that's all on him.
Jul. 8th, 2010 03:53 pm (UTC)
I don't know, this guy does a few Renaissance Festivals and offers commissions to a number of people who aren't exactly in his area. I've talked with him on two separate occasions about commissions, and I live 4 hours from his actual shop.
I'm actually a bit surprised he's not better with on-line transactions as a result. It's a bit like going to a con, then returning home and not sending your client important information.

Edited at 2010-07-08 03:53 pm (UTC)
Jul. 8th, 2010 03:45 pm (UTC)
Ugh, that's no good; I have some of his work from the Ren Faire. I hope you get this resolved!
Jul. 12th, 2010 10:09 pm (UTC)
While I agree that both parties to a transaction have a responsibility to keep in contact, as an artisan myself it sounds like you've met that responsibility and he has not. Ignoring emails and calls, especially after accepting a deposit, does not seem right to me.

Personally, I prefer responsive customers... but once we've agreed on the scope of the item and I have a deposit, it's on ME to make sure it happens. OK, sometimes a lack of response from a customer can delay things- like, if they don't ell me their ring size- but in general, once the agreement is made, *I* need to make it happen.

I generally ask for 50% deposit (nonrefundable) to start work, and the rest, plus shipping, on completion. I send photos of the competed pieces to prove completion before asking for the balance. (I make jewelry.)

Good luck to you!
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )


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