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What would you do/Advice

Not a beware, just looking for a quick bit of situational advice.

You've got a commissioner who puts down their nonrefundable deposit. Materials are ordered and work begins. A few months later, they tell you they have lost their internet connection and can no longer communicate with you--they tell you this via their handheld device, which apparently does not accept any incoming emails. No communication from you can be received. After the loss of internet, they disappear for 9+ months.

With no way to contact them, you treat the commission as abandoned--not really any other option, since there's no way to contact them to have them approve the work or get the remainder of the payment.

After that 9+ months, a friend contacts you on their behalf and offers to be the go-between for communication.

This is where I'm not certain what to do. Our prices have gone up quite a bit since their initial commission. If we were to do the commission now, they would basically get a 3/4 partial for about the price of a head at our current prices. So if I cancel the commission, should I refund them their entire deposit, considering materials were bought and work was begun before they disappeared? Or should they get the entire deposit since technically I'm the one cancelling? Do I have any right to tell them they need to get a new quote if they want to continue the commission?

ETA: I think at this point I've decided to offer either a partial refund (probably half), or the option to continue the commission at a later time and our current prices, with the deposit treated as paid. I don't feel comfortable working through a middle man. I also don't think I would feel comfortable giving him a full refund (since he disappeared long enough that we were unable to continue the commission) or no refund (since technically we are the ones canceling, even if we're canceling due to the situation that he's put us in). Any further advice or opinions on the situation are certainly appreciated though, as well as any suggestions about how to edit our current TOS to avoid situations such as this in the future. Thanks everyone!

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Comments

( 54 comments — Leave a comment )
shukivengeance
Dec. 17th, 2010 10:40 pm (UTC)
Tell them that they need a new quote. It's been over 9 months and your skills have improved in the period they went missing. Hopefully they should understand. If not, offer to send them the materials purchased with their deposit. You did tell them upfront the deposit was nonrefundable, right?
zackfig
Dec. 17th, 2010 10:41 pm (UTC)
Why not do the work for the original stated amount? After all, that's what the deposit is also for, right? An assurance that the total price/contract wont be changed + the purchase of materials needed.

If not, I'd say return the money, but that's just me.
shukivengeance
Dec. 17th, 2010 10:44 pm (UTC)
It's not OP's fault that the client vanished so why should they be obligated to work for a fraction of what they usually charge?
(no subject) - zackfig - Dec. 17th, 2010 10:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - shukivengeance - Dec. 17th, 2010 10:55 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - shukivengeance - Dec. 17th, 2010 10:55 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - zackfig - Dec. 17th, 2010 11:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - shukivengeance - Dec. 17th, 2010 11:07 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - zackfig - Dec. 17th, 2010 11:10 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - shukivengeance - Dec. 17th, 2010 11:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - lilenth - Dec. 17th, 2010 10:48 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - zackfig - Dec. 17th, 2010 10:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - lilenth - Dec. 17th, 2010 11:09 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - zackfig - Dec. 17th, 2010 11:11 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - lilenth - Dec. 17th, 2010 11:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - zackfig - Dec. 17th, 2010 11:14 pm (UTC) - Expand
lilenth
Dec. 17th, 2010 10:42 pm (UTC)

Personally I'd be concerned as to whether the friend was on the level as well.

I'd suggest if your terms of service doesn't have it already, perhaps adding a clause that states that quotes are only good for a set period of time and that if a commission is abandoned for a significant amount of time then it may cost more.

I'd offer them the choice to continue the work at your current prices, it is not your fault that they disappeared, it's their responsibility to keep in contact, or for you to complete and sell the partial refunding them back the deposit if it sells, or offer them the item in it's current state if they don't want to pay your current prices/wait for it to be finished and sold.
auroraceleste
Dec. 17th, 2010 10:56 pm (UTC)
I'd suggest if your terms of service doesn't have it already, perhaps adding a clause that states that quotes are only good for a set period of time and that if a commission is abandoned for a significant amount of time then it may cost more.

Very much this. I have a set period of payments in my contract (1/4 deposit, 1/4 1 month later, 1/4 1 month later, 1/4 + shipping when product is finished, assuming 3 month work). Estimate the time you need to make the product and schedule payments out from there. Have a clause that says that if they miss a payment their prior payments are forfeit, or work will be held for X time but no further work will occur on the piece. Payments benefit not only the commissioner, but you because you have guaranteed communication at least through payment.
(no subject) - shukivengeance - Dec. 17th, 2010 10:58 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - beetlecat - Dec. 18th, 2010 12:26 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - shukivengeance - Dec. 18th, 2010 12:32 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jakejynx - Dec. 17th, 2010 11:18 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - lilenth - Dec. 17th, 2010 11:26 pm (UTC) - Expand
poprock_grey
Dec. 17th, 2010 10:42 pm (UTC)
You might want to ask the go between person to give you the commissioners phone number (With their consent of course).
Call THEM up and tell them that prices have gone up, and you will do it for the new prices, or they can cancel their commission and walk away. 9+ months is a long time, and I think any reputable seller/commissioner would take that as a window of time as a cancellation on the buyers part. 9+ months without internet seems very fishy since you can always head out to a public library or borrow a friend's computer for a few if it is something they really cared about.


Talking directly to the person may be better than having a go between.

Either charge the new prices, or keep the deposit with a canceled commission.
dream_of_crows
Dec. 17th, 2010 11:33 pm (UTC)
I'm seconding getting in contact via phone. Obviously they have one, may as well use it and avoid any potential drama using the friend as a go-between.
(no subject) - crssafox - Dec. 18th, 2010 04:08 pm (UTC) - Expand
ukthewhitewolf
Dec. 17th, 2010 11:13 pm (UTC)
I'd suggest just telling them prices have changed considerably and their commission will cost more now.
Ask if they;
A: Want a new quote now and use a go-between.
B: Want to have the materials that were bought with their deposit sent to them and call it finished.
(no subject) - fenris_lorsrai - Dec. 17th, 2010 11:18 pm (UTC) - Expand
stormslegacy
Dec. 18th, 2010 12:13 am (UTC)
This is what I would do, as well as an editing of my TOS to add a clause about abandoned projects.

avenginglioness
Dec. 17th, 2010 11:28 pm (UTC)
Weird that they didn't just give you their phone number so you could stay in touch with them. o.O

I would say you could 1)offer to do the commission, but at your current prices, 2) offer to just do a head for what the price of the commission is (and maybe include any leftover materials that were purchased using the deposit), 3) offer to send whatever materials you have purchased for this commission.

If you feel like you should give a refund you can, but you did state that the deposit was nonrefundable and it would certainly be understandable if you decided not to offer that as an option. Nine months is a long time to wait without any contact.
gypsywitch
Dec. 17th, 2010 11:45 pm (UTC)
Mm. This really depends on how you feel about it, and how you deal with things.. but as for me, my ToS says that if I cancel a project, I will refund the deposit, but if the customer cancels, the deposit is nonrefundable. Yes, it is used to buy materials, but I also state I will not send the materials to the customer unless they opt to settle on a percentage price of the work that has already been completed so they can recieve what's already done on the project. If they want that, I would send them the materials (or at least essential materials such as the fur so they don't have to worry about matching if they find someone to complete it or they try to complete it)

I say I will return the deposit if I cancel because it looks a little shady in that if your ground line says it's is absolutely nonrefundable, you can cancel projects at will and keep the money. To me, it's more for customer assurance than anything else, because really, how often are you going to decide to cancel? Likely not too often, but I know customers feel better knowing they're protected in some way if you do decide to cancel.

In this case, I would at least ask for a phone number to be able to get in contact with the customer themselves, explain the situation and offer the project at current prices. If they don't want that, I would personally cancel and just refund in total, then use the materials for other projects, or sell them if you don't feel they're something you would use on other projects.
jakejynx
Dec. 18th, 2010 12:21 am (UTC)
Deposits are refundable if we cancel, and nonrefundable if they cancel.

But the question is, who cancelled this commission? Did he, by disappearing for 9+ months, or did we, by no longer wanting to work with him while he's unable to communicate with us? I don't feel comfortable using a go-between, and I've stated as much to him. So what I'm torn on is who is responsible for this commission going down the toilet.
(no subject) - gypsywitch - Dec. 18th, 2010 12:32 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - crssafox - Dec. 18th, 2010 04:42 pm (UTC) - Expand
celarania
Dec. 18th, 2010 12:13 am (UTC)
What I would do is offer to do the commission for whatever fraction of the your current price they have yet to pay. If their deposit is a quarter, they get a 25% discount on continuing it at your current prices. Alternatively you could just subtract the difference of what you have (if they have a clean pencil which would go for $30, and your painting would go for $70, they have to pay the $40 difference). Basically they've paid for a fraction of the work, and it would be really unfair to charge them more for what you've already done or what they've already paid for.

If they decide not to continue with the commission I think they're entitled to some sort of refund. You are the one canceling it, and the supplies may have been reused. I'd offer them whatever you have and charge based on what that was worth at the time of commissioning, or offer a full refund sans non-reusable supplies.

I'm sorry if any of that was unclear (let me know and I'll clarify). Basically, they are entitled to the work you've done at the price they paid, but that doesn't necessarily mean they should get more at the same rate. If they are unwilling to pay the higher wages, I do think they're entitled to their deposit back as the deposit was essentially their agreement to the contract and if you break it, you're dissolving the contract, regardless of the amount of time that's passed.
celarania
Dec. 18th, 2010 12:13 am (UTC)
I will second that a go-between is not a good idea, I'd ask for their contact info directly.
(no subject) - jakejynx - Dec. 18th, 2010 12:36 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - celarania - Dec. 18th, 2010 12:54 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jakejynx - Dec. 18th, 2010 01:32 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - celarania - Dec. 18th, 2010 01:50 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jakejynx - Dec. 18th, 2010 02:04 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - celarania - Dec. 18th, 2010 02:06 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jakejynx - Dec. 18th, 2010 02:15 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - spiffystuff - Dec. 18th, 2010 03:28 am (UTC) - Expand
beetlecat
Dec. 18th, 2010 12:31 am (UTC)
Requote. It's a grey area with no specific ToS but doing otherwise is not fair to you.

Through no fault of you own, they will end up with a better item for a lower price just because they were irresponsible. That's not right IMO.

Also I agree with everyone saying refuse the go-between. Those do not work out and stress is bad lol. They have the choice of accepting the requote with direct communication or cancelling the commission. If they get the deposit back is up to you, but if you can reuse everything you have already made, then it'd be a nice thing to do.
spiffystuff
Dec. 18th, 2010 03:28 am (UTC)
Well, that's a tough one. Depends how generous/crunched for time you're feeling I guess?

Another option if they can't pay the extra amount is to just do a head and maybe a tail (or paws, or whatever) with the materials you bought? Basically, more than the money might currently get and less than what it originally was?
spiffystuff
Dec. 18th, 2010 03:32 am (UTC)
EDIT: or just keep all the money and send the materials you bought I guess. Someone else was right that the "go between" may be more of a pain to work with than is worthwhile... IDK.
sovy
Dec. 18th, 2010 04:52 am (UTC)
You will need to know if the person that contacted you is actually representing your commissioner. You should get a phone number to reach the commissioner before you start handing out money or materials.

It is kind of a crap position because you will be spending time making not as much money to finish the client's project when you could spend that time making more money on other projects if you went with the original quote. On the other hand the client might feel shafted and bitch about a raw deal and you may have to deal with that. I guarantee you that if that client made a post here with their version of the events they will find as much of an open shoulder as you have.

Also did you do some due diligence and try and find out how to contact your client? Like get their phone number?
sovy
Dec. 18th, 2010 05:03 am (UTC)
If you really want to keep your hands clean you can ship the materials to the client since, reading through these posts, the client has paid for that much already to cover shipping and partial work. You can also try haggling with the customer for a new quote for a much better partial (but they probably got the suit because it fit their price range) or try to do a partial refund but they won't like this.
(no subject) - jakejynx - Dec. 18th, 2010 06:56 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sovy - Dec. 18th, 2010 09:05 am (UTC) - Expand
fenrirs_child
Dec. 18th, 2010 05:22 am (UTC)
this seems like a bad situation, but i have a question. were you contacting them with updates? or was the lack of communication mutual? i think that has some bearing on this... if you weren't contacting him regularly, he may have assumed his contact was unnecessary for you to work on his commission. however, if you made attempts to contact him that were ignored for whatever reason, i would say the brunt of the fault was on him. i would probably offer to make ears/tail/paws/whatever that equaled or was slightly more than what he paid with his deposit so he at least has something, but i would not go on with the full commission, as he has proven to be a problem customer, and i would not give him any monetary or material refund. i will probably update my tos too to reflect this stuff X3
jakejynx
Dec. 18th, 2010 06:16 am (UTC)
Communication was fine and updates were given. Like I said, he didn't just stop answering his emails, he specifically told me out of the blue that his internet was gone and he had no way to contact me. He actually said it in a very strange way and to this day I don't really understand what he meant by it. It was a very weird situation, and he left me with zero chance of contacting him after that point. It wasn't just him not contacting me regularly and expecting his commission to be done without his input--his deadline came and went because I could not get all of his measurements, I never got his DTD, and I couldn't get him to verify any of the work we had done up to that point. We weren't going to continue and thus finish his commission and not get paid for it in the end because he disappeared. It was probably about 6 months after he lost his internet that we pretty much decided to treat it as abandoned.

As much as it pains me to say it, I would say all of the fault is his. He put us in an awkward situation by disappearing for so long, and then an even more awkward situation by coming back and wanting the commission to pick up at the same price and the same place 9 months after he completely disappeared. I couldn't even do a refund after he disappeared, since he paid in cash, and I wasn't about to mail out $200-something to an address I can't even verify.

I probably am going to offer him a commission that would equal what he has already paid, though. I see no issue with that (other than time constraints :P).
(no subject) - fenrirs_child - Dec. 18th, 2010 08:16 am (UTC) - Expand
( 54 comments — Leave a comment )

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