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Do Not Deal Warning, plus Advice needed

I guess this post is mostly a warning against dealing with this person. However, if there's anything you can suggest that I can do at this point, I'd love to hear it! :)

Who Kate Sjoberg, AmandaKathryn (Deviantart and ebay), RedWyvrenStudio (Etsy)
Where Ongoing through ebay, etsy, and deviantart
What Well she sells unicorn sculptures that run $100+, but my issue is regarding other parts of the transaction.

I'm just going to copy paste what I wrote in my own journal. I've never posted in this community before so I apologize if I leave out any information.

I'm not really sure what to do with this.

The seller here is an artist who I've been a fan of for ages. (Kate Sjoberg, AmandaKathryn, RedWyvrenStudio) I bought a fairy from her in 2006, and then bought a few unicorns, and commissioned a pegasus at the end of 2008. With the commission, I found her communication a bit shaky, like she wouldn't respond to messages every time and that type of thing. My first issue was a mermaid I bought from her in early 2009, she started the bidding low and the auction ended low. She charged me $35 for shipping, and it ended up only costing $12. I messaged her 4 times over a few weeks to get the money back to no response, and after weeks (I guess after that 4th message) finally I go to paypal and see she has refunded me $14. No paypal note, no reply to my messages, no apology. And the difference in shipping was a decent chunk more than $14, but at least I got some back. So I didn't press the issue, and left positive feedback anyway.

Now ship overcharges piss me off in general so after that I didn't buy from her for almost 2 years. (I should add, money and falling out of collecting contributed to this as well) Then in Novemeber 2010 I bought two large unicorns, one was $135 and one was $125. The description on all her auctions says the items come with a COA (certificate of authenticity) and they didn't. Also, one of the unicorn's bases was broken. I contacted her through etsy about the break and the COAs. At first she had great contact. And then... nothing. However, against my better judgement, I bought a unicorn in February 2011 from her, which was sold with a "new version" of her unicorn tutorial. Here's our entire conversation through etsy.

So, I would like to point out here a few things. First of all, I never got a refund or any sort of money back due to the broken item. She never looked into the claim or got back to me on that (look at the dates on the messages) and I ended up fixing the base at cost to me. The pegs are really expensive and hard to find and I used my own. I would also like to point out that she doesn't apologize at all about an item arriving broken. A few others things... she didn't tell me beforehand that the COAs would be sent separately- I had to ask. The description says they come with COAs. Also, again, she never mentions before I pay that the tutorial would be shipped separately or that it would take time to complete. I knew that info through DeviantArt comments only. Also regarding her last message to me- the COAs were NOT in the box with Dream. I never got them.

After messaging her on etsy and getting no response I gave up. I hate chasing people and figured, whatever, let it go, just don't buy from her again. But it bothers me to this day every time I think about it. It's to a point where I want to sell them because I can't enjoy them properly due to these issues. The two unicorns I need COAs for I bought in November 2010. The unicorn that was supposed to come with a new version of the tutorial was purchased in February 2011.

So recently, as in the end of August 2011, she posted on DA and I commented about something else and she responded. So I figured hey, she's around, I'm going to send her a note. Why not, might as well mend things if I can. Here are those.

The following are messages through DeviantArt's note system

So, I realize the tone in my first DA message was quite different from that last one. But that's it. Not only am I done with buying items from her, I am spreading this to others too. Again, I would like to point out that in the message I got from her in August, she did not apologize ONCE for a huge issue that is absolutely her fault.

The thing is, they're PAPER. To appease me all she had to do was print two pieces of paper, sign them, slap the old tutorial on a disc, toss all 3 in an envelope and send them out! There is nothing hard about that. Ignoring messages and failing to do something so simple for your customers really just illustrates how little you care.

And on a more personal note...
I would also like to mention, because for those not familiar with the artist I think it's important- they're not cheap. I have 8 pieces by her that were $100-$200 each. (Sorry! I put this bit in for my LJ friends, I don't mean to mply that her work is overpriced or anything like that!)COAs and such might not seem like a big deal, but if I want to resell them at any point they're not worth much without the COA. As for the tutorial, she charges $13 for the old version and the price for the unicorn I got was started higher because it came with a tutorial. So I bought it largely because of the tutorial. So in many ways it's not that big a deal, not like never receiving an entire sculpture. However, in principal, I didn't receive what the description stated. In the end, I'm leaving this transaction feeling taken advantage of... it doesn't matter what business you're in, that's never something you want to do to your customers. :(

If anyone has any advice on what to do, I'm all ears. At this point, I'm moving on and never dealing with this person again. It's really unfortunate that things have come to this because I'm honestly a big fan of her work.
Artist's beware has moved!
Do NOT repost your old bewares. They are being archived.


( 21 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 23rd, 2011 04:09 am (UTC)
wow. this whole process was just painful.
it's inexcusable to ignore a customer repeatedly- especially when you owe them something.
i don't understand artists that do this. :T

thanks for the heads up
Sep. 23rd, 2011 05:10 am (UTC)
Thanks, if me posting saves someone else from dealing with similar problems, then I'm happy ^^
Sep. 23rd, 2011 04:57 am (UTC)
I've only ever bought two custom sculptures so I can't offer a lot of advice on that part. It does seem this person has poor communication issues, and I'd thumbs up a beware on that. Failing to deliver advertised goods is also a really big no-no!

However, on the shipping, I'm not sure if a refund was in order for that. It's not just shipping, it's shipping and handling, which means any money she paid for the boxes and packing, as well as time packaging them, driving to the PO, maybe even insurance, should all be included in that. Maybe she overestimated, but I'm assuming you noted how much shipping was by the sticker on your package? So all that other stuff could be added too.

I wonder if shipping and handling has ever been discussed in a_b...
Sep. 23rd, 2011 05:10 am (UTC)
I just joined today but on other collector forums the general consensus is that shipping should cost what the postal service charged you, plus, if you want, materials. It's against ebay policy to charge for fees or gas money. She charged $35 on something that cost $12 to mail. That's a $23 difference, which is way too much. Yes, I agreed to pay $35 originally, but I figured a fragile item sent priority might cost that much, and have received items that cost that much to mail before. She overcharged me and expected me to take it, I think, because the item sold for so little. Like I mentioned she gave me $14 back, bringing the overcharge to $9, which is a hefty "handling" fee but acceptable in the end, which is why I left positive feedback. I was really only mentioning that shipping issue as kind of a milder issue I'd had with the seller previously.

Sorry for the huge reply, wanted to explain fully hehe. Thanks for your reply! I appreciate it :)
Sep. 23rd, 2011 10:00 am (UTC)
I always assumed that 'shipping&handling' meant the cost at the post office, packaging, tape, forms&customs, bubble wrap or other wrapping, etc. Those things /can/ add up, but still shouldn't come out to a $23 difference.
(Deleted comment)
Sep. 23rd, 2011 06:38 pm (UTC)
The ebay listing said $35. So that's what I paid. A fragile item going priority to canada can cost that much. However, she only paid $12. Yes, I agreed to pay $35, but it didn't cost that much to ship. Which is why I asked for a refund. Again, that item (the mermaid) was an old transaction from 2009. I only mentioned it to demonstrate issues I've had in the past with her, especially regarding communication. My current, unresolved issue with this seller is that I'm still missing the COAs and tutorial. Not directing this at you but all the comments I've received so far are about shipping problem and I don't care about that anymore x_x
Sep. 24th, 2011 01:32 am (UTC)
I meant like insurance and tracking forms, I should have clarified.
Sep. 26th, 2011 12:42 am (UTC)
Forms/customs DO cost money, because they take time, and time is one of the things we are selling. Time to fill out forms is NOT free.
(Deleted comment)
Sep. 26th, 2011 01:35 am (UTC)
I know right? I read a random auction listing on ebay where the seller mentioned that any international orders would have to add a $14 handling fee because for those she had to actually go to the post office and stand in line. *gasp* And here I am taking the bus all the way out to UPS with a huge box. Ugh.
Sep. 26th, 2011 01:42 am (UTC)
See I sell sculptures, and the seller I'm complaining about sells sculptures, and when that's the case (unlike say digital commissions) as a seller you KNOW you're going to have to spend time wrapping the item up, using a decent amount of packing materials, and spent time going to the post office or UPS and filling out forms and sending it. So to me that shouldn't be part of the "shipping" cost. I sort of factor that in to my commission price.

For me, since I live in canada and refuse to use our awful postal system, everything goes UPS. So I spent about $10 on materials and generally half an hour to 45 minutes wrapping a sculpture for shipping. I wrap the sculpture in about 10 layers of bubble wrap and place it in a smallish box, then double box that with packing peanuts between the 2. I take the bus out to UPS, and with forms and all that the trip takes around an hour. UPS charges me $40-$50 to send something, plus $6 for insurance. However, I charge my customer $40-$50 depending on their address and that's it. To me (and again all just my opinion) the rest is service and being a good seller, and gets factored into the cost of the items.

That's just how I do things. :/
Sep. 26th, 2011 03:20 am (UTC)
I make sturdier stuff (jewelry), so I don't need to do hugely protective packaging. I do, though, need to be sure that I'll get paid and not have than rescinded once they've gotten the goods.

I think it's completely fair to charge for the time and materials it takes to ship; whether one adds that to the item cost or to the shipping cost is a matter of preference.

Since for ME my shipping expenses are different if I'm sending within the USA or outside it, I tend to add at least some of the international shipping costs to the international shipping, rather than the cost of the items. But that's a personal choice.
Sep. 26th, 2011 03:59 am (UTC)
That makes sense. But I still think for a seller to ask me for $35 for shipping, if it's not for shipping I should be told why, or be given a refund for the overcharge. Each case is different, in this case I feel I was justified, and even if I wasn't the seller should have told me so instead of ignoring me.
Sep. 26th, 2011 04:11 am (UTC)
At one point my husband and I bought a HUGE- like, 7-foot-tall- cat tree. It was something like $100 for the thing, and $130 for the shipping.

Now, the shipping wasn't anything like $130... but it was still an amazingly good deal for something that would have cost $500 or more at our local pet stores, so we were comfortable paying it. Yeah, it was something of a racket with the shipping... but it was still a great item for a really fair price, shipping included. I would not have felt comfortable complaining about the shipping costs under the circumstances, especially as it was still a really good value AND we'd agreed to pay that.
Sep. 24th, 2011 04:31 am (UTC)
Oh, sorry, it was late and math in my head is near impossible when I need sleep. I didn't realize it was that large of a difference! :o

But I totally get your original complaint. I'd be demanind my COAs too, and a refund for the lack of a tutorial. It should have been prepped and ready to go if it was included in the auction.

Also, is there anything the recipient of a package can do as far as insurance is concerned...?
Sep. 23rd, 2011 10:52 am (UTC)
On ebay, you are supposed to charge the actual price for shipping. If you are caught charging extra (say you have a cheap auction, and the shipping is $50 when the item is small and you mail it in a bubble envelope...) you'll get in trouble. This isn't like "as seen on tv" stuff where they may legitimately have a reason for shipping AND handling, as they have to take the order and process it and all.

But, scenceable is right. You're supposed to charge actual shipping, and perhaps a bit more for packing. Packing material is cheap at the postal office, unless you're buying a new pack of labels and roll of tape every single time you go.

Overcharging for shipping can actually get you banned from ebay because sellers were/are using it to make extra money on auctions that finish low.
Sep. 23rd, 2011 02:48 pm (UTC)
I believe part of the reason it was banned was also because it was non-refundable in most cases. If you got your item that wasn't up to snuff (for whatever reason) and sent it back for a refund, the shipping was not refunded leaving you out however much extra the seller had charged.
Sep. 23rd, 2011 03:56 pm (UTC)
yep, and ebay recently started charging sellers fees off of total cost, not just item cost, so sellers now have to pay fees out of pocket on what they charge for shipping. Ebay did that because of how many people overcharge on shipping to make extra or avoid fees (start at 99 cents, shipping is $40!)

Like I said, personally, it always annoys me, and I always complain to sellers for a refund if they've overcharged me more than $5 or so, depending on what it is. (Obviously a fragile sculpture uses more materials than a cd or something to pack) Some people it doesn't bother as much. :P

See I sell fragile items too, and I always eat the cost of packing materials, which often include bubblewrap and batting that you can't get at the post office (I live in canada so materials cost a lot there anyway) so when a seller charges $6 extra for a box and some newspaper I get really irritated. But that's just me.

And the shipping overcharge isn't even what the post was about really, just an example of an issue I had in the past. Her total lack of communication when I messaged her about the shipping, that was more the issue, and of course everything that happened after. :P
Sep. 26th, 2011 12:49 am (UTC)
You shouldn't be eating the cost of packaging. It's a legit biz expense and you should be compensated for it.

I have had some real problems with international orders, because what the USPS site says are options are not necessarily what my local PO says are options. Sometimes that means that the estimate from USPS is low; sometimes it's high, both compared to what it ends up costing when i actually mail the package.

I doubt that a customer would be thrilled about being hit up with an extra $10 because the USPS postage calculator thought i could mail it for less than the PO employees would do. Similarly, if someone accepts $X as a shipping fee- and it ends up being less- i don't see why they should get a refund; they agreed to the cost; it was the best i could estimate; and gods know they wouldn't pay extra if it cost ME extra.

So this is symmetrical. If it costs me more, I pay it; If it costs me less and they've agreed to it, they pay it.

Again- I do my best to estimate tightly. My tools are not always reliable. I do not see why I should ALWAYS be the one to take the hit when I get a bad estimate despite my efforts.
Sep. 26th, 2011 01:30 am (UTC)
In my opinion (and with this issue it really is a matter of opinion!) if a seller doesn't estimate the cost correctly that's their fault. It's the seller's responsibility to determine how much shipping will be, so if they estimate wrong, technically it's their mistake, not the buyer's. This is true whether the estimate is lower or higher. So, if I give a quote that is too high, I refund the difference. If I give a quote too low, I eat the cost, because either way it was my fault for not getting an accurate price.

I'm not sure if you read the whole entry but in this case I asked the seller to let me know if shipping was more than she thought, and I would be happy to send more. She never let me know, but I saw on the postage label it cost more and sent extra anyway. Obviously most buyers don't do that.

I have heard the "you agreed to the cost!" argument before, but the issue is I agreed to pay that for SHIPPING not as a tip for the artist. In the case I mentioned in the entry I wrote, since the item sold for so little, I'm pretty sure that the reason the seller charged so much and was so reluctant to refund is she was upset about the low price and wanted more. Not because she didn't get an accurate estimate. That might account for a $5 overcharge, not for a $23 overcharge.

As a seller I've never refunded for, say, $5, and as a buyer I've never asked a seller for a refund for that little. The case I described was a $23 overcharge.

As I've said in other comments, the shipping overcharge on the mermaid I bought in 2009 isn't really my issue with this seller. I brought it up to illustrate her lack of communication which is the problem I'm having now.

I've discussed the shipping overcharge vs. materials issue on other forums too, and my opinion hasn't changed. I hate when sellers try to make a profit off shipping costs. Anything more than $5, UNLESS it's very elaborately packed, I will ask for it back. If someone overcharged me $23 and gave me the reply you did about symmetry and usps's online calculator, and refused to refund me... uh, honestly I'd probably leave them poor feedback. Don't get me wrong, for small amounts what you're saying is true. And I'm not some crazy buyer who expects sellers to cater to me constantly or anything either, but it's up to me whether I choose to leave a tip.

BUT I'm not trying to be argumentative or anything, everyone has their own opinion. And as I've said the shipping overcharge isn't even the real issue in this transaction at all.
Sep. 24th, 2011 04:33 am (UTC)
Wow, I had no idea! I don't sell a lot on ebay. I often find myself undercharging on shipping because I don't have a way to accurately weigh or measure my final package, which means lots of guesswork. I often lose money on shipping for stuff I sell, and not on just packaging... And I don't feel right asking people to make up the difference because I (well the calculator thing) set the price up, not them.
Sep. 23rd, 2011 07:23 pm (UTC)
what a shame! her sculptures are amazing :(
( 21 comments — Leave a comment )


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