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Another darn advice post!

Ok, so I have a commission for a fullsuit. The customer paid upfront, and agreed to my tos. Well, I was aiming for a RF completion (but it was not a hard deadline), and I had him come down (he's semi local, a few hours drive) for a fitting because I was a little worried about the shape and quality of the DTD (the legs looked too short/torso too long, and about halfway through shaping the foam for the legs the DTD separated in the middle of the belly, so I had to try to line up the tape and reattach it with pins. He had also told me that the chest on the dummy was wrapped too tightly and constricted his breathing, so I had added in a few inches of extra fabric to compensate and was going to fit the chest to him in person).

Well, he shows up on the day I have my other fullsuit customer up from OR doing the fitting on his bodysuit and getting his head padded correctly to accommodate his glasses. My customer from OR's bodysuit fits exquisitely, and my RF completion one is waaaay off. Like, I'm going to have to extensively modify it because the DTD was not done in the pose I ask for (arms were too far down, so the range of motion in the arms is severely limited, and it appears the dummy isn't quite up to the crotch, because there's almost 6in of 'dropped crotch' on this bodysuit that wasn't supposed to be there at all, which limits the leg motion severly). His head is also quite a bit too small, and there's nothing I can do to it at this point to make that head blank work.

I shoot him an email that night after realizing I couldn't adapt that head to work for him, saying because of the fit issues, there's no way I can get it completed for RF. I told him there are three things I can do at this point for him: redo his fox head on a wolf blank, which would be the quickest way, redo the sculpt from scratch, which will take longer, or I can refund him minus the deposit because of all the work I've done.

He responds, almost illegibly, but the gist of it was he was sad it wouldn't be ready for the con, and that he didn't want a refund. He seemed to prefer the resculpt, so I replied and asked him to measure his chin to the top of his head, temple to temple, and circumference around his eyebrows and I'd get right to work on the sculpt.

It takes two days, and finally he responds through FA notes. I NEVER use FA notes for commission stuff, I simply don't trust them and only do business through my email. The measurement he gave me was 9 3/4in, and I'm completely unsure wtf that means...

I responded again tonight through my email, stating again that I don't do commission stuff through FA notes, and asked again for the measurements. I'm still awaiting a reply.

What I'm stuck on here, is the issues that I'm having with his suit are due to his errors. The other one fits superbly, and I did the exact same thing for both, in the same week nonetheless, so it's not something I did. It's in my TOS that I charge for major alterations, and this clearly falls under that clause. I'm a little less miffed about resculpting the head, because that mold I can reuse later and I can make up for that time, but I'm thinking I should be charging for doing the alterations on the bodysuit. However, I'm getting pretty frustrated by the difficulty I am having getting usable measurements out of him. I refuse to put out an ill-fitting suit with my name attached to it, because to anyone seeing it it will look like I'm incompetent and incapable of following the measurements.

Another thing that's grating on me is I charged him about exactly half of what my prices are today for his suit (he got in right before I raised my prices, and got a local discount I offer to my local furgroup). I'm having a hard time justifying pretty much redoing the majority of the work I've done at such a low price point. I could offset that by charging for the redo of the bodysuit, but I'm also considering the possibility of a refund.

Not sure wat do.

Also, what would be a reasonable rate to charge for the bodysuit alterations? It needs about 6" of ease in each armpit, and pretty extensive reshaping in the crotch and butt area, and the upper chest needs widened, and the neck needs more fabric around it as well. Should I charge by the hour? Or a percentage of the suit cost? By the hour would be considerably more, but would be more fair to me, especially since I won't be charging him to redo the head from scratch. 

I appreciate the advice!

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( 18 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 21st, 2011 01:07 am (UTC)
Personally, these are the two most reasonable options, to me:

1. Refund him minus materials and some labor, send him the failed pieces. This is what I would do with an overly difficult customer.

2. Teach him how to take proper measurements, because it doesn't sound like he knows how. Tell him if you're to continue, you have to charge extra because the problems were his mistakes. Don't guilt trip him, don't make a big deal out of it, just "I have to do X because you did Z, and I'll have to charge more because of it".

You aren't obligated to do a bunch of work for free because he doesn't know how to take proper measurements, overall.
Sep. 21st, 2011 03:00 am (UTC)
My TOS states that I'd be auctioning off whatever bits I've got made, but I'm thinking you're right about not knowing how to take the measurements. I went ahead and drafted up a little diagram and got some more reasonable measurements, but I compared them to my fiance's head and I know for a fact that the customer's head is bigger, and they were about the same size as my fiance's measurements. I'm thinking of making the head a little oversized, and just padding it down to fit his measurements. In the end, it's a lot easier to size down than to size up. All in all he's not a bad guy, and he's not been rude or unpleasant to work with other than the overwhelming aggravation with his communication skills, so I'd really like to finish this for him, since I know he'd be so grateful for it in the end.

I'll have to see what the general consensus is on the pricing for the alterations, because I'm so in the dark as to how to approach that...
Sep. 21st, 2011 03:44 am (UTC)
Unfortunately I can't help you with pricing, I'm not into the fursuit side of the fandom at all, I only know fairly basic things. Good luck!
Sep. 21st, 2011 03:00 am (UTC)
I suppose you also have the option of having him drive to you and taking measurements yourself to make SURE they're right, but I'd charge him for having to do that.
Sep. 21st, 2011 03:11 am (UTC)
The other Fen in this thread made me remember that he will be attending Rainfurrest at the same time as me, so I can totally get them in person and be absolutely sure they're correct! I cannot believe I forgot about that!
(no subject) - fenris_lorsrai - Sep. 21st, 2011 03:06 am (UTC) - Expand
Sep. 21st, 2011 03:10 am (UTC)
He actually lives about 2hrs north of me, and I'm about an hour-ish north of most of the group, so I think he's pretty much alone up there. But oh geez! Thank you for reminding me, he will be at Rainfurrest at the same time as me, I can get them there in person! Score! I can't believe I spaced that >.<
Sep. 21st, 2011 02:24 am (UTC)
You know, I've gotta agree with Kayla_la that he probably doesn't know how to take proper measurements. My guess is that the 9 3/4 inch measurement he gave you on the head was taken by using a ruler or something and kind of "wrapping" it around his head, from temple to temple. He may even have done it in a weird arch shape to cover the eyebrows.

I can see why this is a dilemma for you. I guess at this point, I would say to consider if you can stand to finish this suit or not, if it's going to be a big pain for you.

Price wise, I'd like to hear what other suit makers have to say, since I don't have any personal experience in that field. Sorry :(
Sep. 21st, 2011 03:07 am (UTC)
I definitely agree, after sending him a diagram showing the places I need measured from I got some sensible measurements, though I still think they're not quite right... I believe I'll go with making it a bit oversized and padding it down, because there's a lot more wiggle room that way, even if the end result is a bit bigger than I'd have preferred.

This pricing thing is going to be the clincher though, I sure don't want to do all this work over again for free, but I don't want to make him feel like I'm extorting him either. I hope someone more knowledgeable than me has a suggestion!
Sep. 21st, 2011 04:48 am (UTC)
That sounds like a good idea on the sizing. When in doubt, it's better to have a little too much than not enough, right?
Sep. 21st, 2011 05:09 am (UTC)
Inconvenience fee. If he had done all that he was suppose to and correctly, or at least had the idea to ask you what to do if he was confused - he'd have his suit by RF, and you wouldn't be scrambling to clean up after this, its additional labor and in the event he balks - you'll have to make him to realize that.
Sep. 21st, 2011 06:06 am (UTC)
Right, I totally agree. In the intention of full disclosure, I did have to unexpectedly move halfway through the commission, which put me a few weeks behind, but since moving into my new workshop I've been doing 12-14hr days to make up for that. I really have been busting ass to get this done on time, and I think that's part of the sour taste in my mouth. I'm not trying to take him for money, but I'm not a doormat and won't work for free, either...

What is your opinion on how to go about pricing the alterations? I'm not even counting the head, because the mold is reusable in the future and while being an inconvenience, isn't really a one-time use thing. Do you think a percentage of the total, or an hourly labor rate would be more fair?
Sep. 21st, 2011 06:37 am (UTC)
As I don't know the price of his suit, nor am I very strongly informed in the arena of fursuits, I'll ask you this:

What do you think will give you the most money for your time essentially wasted?
Sep. 21st, 2011 06:44 am (UTC)
Well, I am positive the hourly rate would compensate me better, however the commission was taken at such a low rate (read: new maker severely underselling myself) that the hourly rate may well exceed 50% of the original cost of the suit. However, he would be getting something of greater quality and craftsmanship, because I've learned quite a bit from both his original head and the other two I've been working on, so I'm not sure what would be ethical to do. I'm considering either an $10/hr hourly rate, or 30% of the original commission, because that's about what I think has been wasted on one-time things like his eyes and his bodysuit.
Sep. 21st, 2011 02:23 pm (UTC)
Many professionals charge about $20-$25/hour for alterations on a costume. It does suck that you didn't get paid a lot for this commission since he got on board before your prices went up, but honestly the longer it takes him to get you the right info, the more experience you're gaining by working on other peoples' costumes, so he's getting current-rate work for previous-rate pricing, and that's not really fair to you as the designer/artist.

If you are having to almost completely re-do the body suit, I would even go so far as to perhaps charge cost of body suit minus materials, since you already have the materials it's just the major alterations that need to be done. You can even do this at your previous rate (what you would have charged for a body suit alone when you took his initial commission) if it would make you feel better, but his lack of ability to follow direction and supply you with correct information is causing you to have to stall on his work, and like I said, you'll produce a substantially better product than the early/beginner's work he paid you for. (For the record, I'm not saying to cut corners or "cheapen" the work because he didn't pay a lot for it - I'm simply saying that it's not fair to you to not be compensated because he's dragging his feet. You're absolutely right in that all of your work should reflect your best quality!)
Sep. 21st, 2011 05:56 pm (UTC)
Right, the 30% figure was about what I think the labor on the bodysuit alone would have been in regards to the original commission, so I suppose that's how I'll go. The thing I'm trying to keep in mind is he may not have commissioned me if my prices were higher, so I'm trying to find a good middle ground that would be acceptable by both of us. I'll be emailing him today and letting him know, so we'll see how that goes...
Sep. 24th, 2011 09:56 pm (UTC)
This is why I send about a billion labeled measurements in a reply when I need to send them.

9 3/4 sounds almost like a hat size. [I own a size 10 cowboy hat for a costume, so I know they exist] Although typically store hat sizes only hit around 8 1/2.

Did you make sure to tell him to use a measuring tape meant for fabric? He may be using a standard tool tape which will give terrible measurements. You also may want to mention that you need to lay the tape evenly and flat against the skin between the areas, and to look in the mirror to make sure the tape is level. [this will be useful for future customers as well]

Not that I'm blaming you in the slightest, but a lot of people have no idea how to measure body parts.

As for the DTD, for the future reference, it might be good to provide photo references of how you want the DTD to look, because relying on the understanding of a pose that's drawn or described doesn't always work as it tends to be subject to interpretation. Take a shot of your best duct tape dummy [preferably with someone inside] and label it to death with all the important notes. Make sure to stress that the crotch needs to be taped up properly, and that the arms need to be up high enough for full range of motion [make sure to mention this.

If you know and do all of this, then please ignore this.

Aside from that, everyone else seems to have a handle on the rest :). Good luck <3
Sep. 24th, 2011 10:02 pm (UTC)
as a note, when I'm sending a maker measurements, I even label the hell out of tracings.

second note: it may end up being easier to put up or link to a simple plaster bandage face casting tutorial [it's super simple, the learning curve is almost dead level, just wet them, squeeze them, and stick them on. Five minutes and they're dry. Qarrezel has a good one on her stream page. http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/8256392 ]

This way you don't have to rely on what could be shoddy measurements, and your masks could be built right over the plaster base.
( 18 comments — Leave a comment )


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