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Refund Policies

I was lurking in the community like always and ran across Kraven's post. Although the post deviated into something else, there was a legitimate issue that was raised in that post that struck a chord with me since I am in a similar situation. There was a small discussion in that actual thread, but I was hoping to garner a few more responses so I could get a clear answer on my question.

Here's my situation. I commissioned someone from DeviantArt for a custom Growlithe and Sandile (pokemon) plush around 6 months ago in June. I sent him one out of two payments for the plush. At first, he communicated fine, so even though work was coming along slowly, I didn't mind. However, soon after, he completely disappeared. I kept trying to get in contact with him, but he never responded. Finally around two months ago or so, he made a journal entry saying that he had a rough time, etc. which is why he couldn't work on anything but he would put up some works in the next couple of days. He responded me to then with a progress picture of one of my plushes and offered me a discounted price on my plushes. I responded back, saying that I was frustrated at the lack of communication and I wanted to know the progress of my second plush. The next days rolled around... no response and nothing uploaded onto his DeviantArt.

I waited a couple more days (or weeks?) before I felt completely fed up, and I sent him a note saying that I wanted to cancel my commission.

As far as I've always known, it was a common rule that if the customer cancelled their commission, the artist would keep the cost of the materials and the equivalent cost of the work/labor that has been done, and the customer would be refunded the rest.

However, in cases where the artist behaves poorly, maintains absolutely no communication and delays their work for years, does that really apply (I've only waited 6 months, so I'm not referring to my case specifically -- just in general)?

I can understand that the artist has spent time and labor into the partial product and so they deserve the equivalent cost of that. But if the artist has kept a customer waiting for their product for over a year or even longer, is it really fair to the commissioner to only receive a partial refund instead of a full refund if they cancel?

This is just something that I've been wondering about, since it seems like my commission may develop into one of these situations soon, so I wanted to know what I can expect with refunds. Thank you!
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( 32 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 14th, 2011 08:09 pm (UTC)
For me, this is how I generally see it:

Commissioner cancels, refund minus work/materials
Artist cancels, full refund
Canceled because of bad business practices, full refund

That seems fairest to me, but I think it would be important to gather many opinions on what would constitute enough of a 'bad business practice' to garner a full refund, because it would vary per situation. Basically, ask around before demanding it and make sure you're not being unreasonable.
Dec. 14th, 2011 08:16 pm (UTC)
That's my general view of it, except when the commissioner has the bad business practice, then it would be the partial as described as above.

I'd say undeniably too long would be something around double the time estimated to three times time estimated, or at least a couple of months in the case of small commissions, unless other guidelines are given (e.g. I might say that the customer is entitled to a full refund if I'm more than a week late).

However, I also feel in circumstances where the customer gets a full refund, the artist could reuse anything and everything created for that commission (probably altering the characters). If the commissioner didn't want it reused, they'd have to strike a compromise.
Dec. 14th, 2011 08:19 pm (UTC)
Also I think it's fair to ask about what is too long before commissioning an artist. That can make things easier. Just a simple "How long do you think it will take? and When is it too long to the point where I would get a refund?"
Dec. 14th, 2011 08:23 pm (UTC)
That's my general view of it, except when the commissioner has the bad business practice, then it would be the partial as described as above.

Yeah, this too, if the commissioner is the one being a jerk a partial refund is in order with the understanding they're probably gonna pitch a fit about it.. a lot of people would probably refund in full just to avoid that, even though I don't recommend essentially rewarding them for bad behaviour.
(no subject) - celarania - Dec. 14th, 2011 08:30 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - celestinaketzia - Dec. 14th, 2011 09:12 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - celarania - Dec. 15th, 2011 12:37 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - celarania - Dec. 14th, 2011 09:30 pm (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 15th, 2011 04:33 pm (UTC)
Yes I agree.

It's hard to say what constitutes "bad business" but I can think of a few: missing 3 (or more) mutually agreed upon deadlines, poor communication (going months without returning emails/notes with no initial warning or date when they can be expected back).
Maybe something like taking 5x as long as they told the commissioner to expect without adequate explanation but that's a lot more murky, particularly if the artist initially gave themselves WAY too short a deadline.
Dec. 14th, 2011 08:34 pm (UTC)
With a physical product like this, I think it would be fair to ask for a full refund and allow the artist to keep materials. They can choose to make the item into a new character to sell or keep the materials for a future project.

However, with digital commissions, I'm of the opinion that only partial refunds should be given if work has been done up to the completion of a stage, unless the artist is the one doing the cancelling.

In other words, if customer asks for a refund and the artist says "oh, you only get $$ back because I have sketched this!" and it's some construction lines with no face, that wouldn't fly, and the customer should get a full refund. But if in the same scenario the artist was commissioned for full colour, the customer asks for a refund and the artist has progressed to fully finished sketch or inks, the customer should only get a partial refund. Yes, they did not pay for sketch or inks, but I think that is the fairest compromise. This way both parties are compensated.
Dec. 14th, 2011 11:01 pm (UTC)
I would think it would depend on the physical product perhaps. Let's say it's a plush stuffed animal that's a neon green rhinoceros and the artist already cut out all the materials to stitch it. While I'm sure someone may way to take him in the end, it's not fair to the artist who already has spent money on the material and has now made it unusable as anything OTHER than the original commission product.
Dec. 14th, 2011 08:44 pm (UTC)
Dunno It's fine to say "these are the cancellation rules" but what it comes down to is what the individual artist wants to do. There is no way to coerce them into following the 'rules' aside from legal action. Which is always the same option regardless.

Refer to the artist's ToS when you commission them and expect them to behave accordingly. If you disagree with what they have in their ToS then spend your money elsewhere.

Edited at 2011-12-14 08:44 pm (UTC)
Dec. 14th, 2011 09:28 pm (UTC)
This is why it is so essential to have at TOS for commissions of a bit more extensive nature like this. Right now there is ambiguity about this if the artist doesn't explicitly lay it out in policies. If in your case they don't have a TOS outlined, you do have a right to request the full refund since the artist completely failed to fulfill your commission. However the artist did order the materials and started making your commissions, which was at cost to them, and chances are they already spent your money and don't have it available to refund you. So there is the question of if you'll be able to get a full refund at this point or any time soon, which may just require you compromising on taking half payment back. With future commissions that are over +20 dollars (or for that matter however much seems worthwhile to you to ask about) I would highly recommend asking the artist for a Terms of Sale agreement so no ambiguity will be had in the future.
Dec. 14th, 2011 11:56 pm (UTC)
I'm rewriting my TOS currently and am having problems sorting out the same issue. I make sculptures, and have a deposit policy that I don't reserve a slot or start the sculpture until 50% of the price is paid, and then I don't ship until the remainder is paid. But then I have an estimated turn over time, and I mention it could take longer and I will not refund based on it taking longer. I mention that I would only refund the deposit due to unforeseen circumstances on my end but am not specific. I can see this causing uneasiness because of the uncertain wait time. But I've never taken over 4 months to do a sculpture and can honestly not see it taking more than 6, that to me is "unforeseen circumstances", but I am hesitant to put an actual deadline into my TOS. I can think of so many things that would make the commission take longer that I can't control (a buyer with poor communication or a really complicated character, for example).

I like the deposit system because it protects both people, the artist isn't paid in full so they still have incentive to work, but the buyer has still committed to pay. But I am not sure whether I should make my TOS more specific or leave it as is. It's really a complicated issue, as mentioned in the original post, because sometimes things can take a long time and behaviour from both parties comes into play. Ugh, so confusing.
Dec. 15th, 2011 12:52 am (UTC)
You might have a drop dead date where they would get a refund. If 6 months seems crazy, then say maybe after a year they're entitled to a full refund, pending every contact is answered within a week or something like that. It's highly unlikely that you'll ever be forced to give the full refund, but it gives the customer a sense of security.

The other possibility is slightly altering the TOS for each commission. If you get something with 8 legs and five wings and 3 heads, you can say that you're altering the normal TOS, that they should expect it in 1 year, but if you take more than 2 years, they'll get a full refund.

There's nothing wrong with giving yourself a huge safety net before a full refund, altering it per commission (at the beginning), or having it be conditional on reasonably prompt response.
Dec. 15th, 2011 05:59 am (UTC)
Thanks for the advice! :)

Do you think it's even necessary for me to give a specific time frame that I would refund after? Right now my TOS says turnover is about 6-8 weeks which is already lenient and accounts for a waiting list of 5 ish people. Plus with feedback, good communication, and posting new stuff often I'm not sure if commissioners would even feel insecure about the turn over time. It's a tricky issue because in my mind, I know I'm reliable and trustworthy, so it's hard to read it from another perspective.

But thank you for your comments! I'll keep them in mind if I do decide to add an extra clause in. I'm not opening until May so I still have time to iron out the details :3
(no subject) - celarania - Dec. 15th, 2011 06:13 am (UTC) - Expand
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Dec. 15th, 2011 09:15 am (UTC)
my 2 cents
I would agree that as artists we need to cover this in our TOS...I don't think mine does currently.

As to refund policies? I think it should vary from artist to artist but clearly stated BEFORE any work gets done so the customer can decide upfront, if things should sour, what they can expect.

Since it seems like, in alot of these commissions gone bad, there was no set date of completition everyone's left trying to guess how long is too long and whether the artist should get any compensation for their time.

I feel like, if I'm in the wrong (as the artist), I don't get compensation. Why should the commissioner have to lose out on their refund over my mistake? I understand that materials have been bought and time has been spent but if it was MY fault that things didn't get done I should take the hit.

In theory, and artist could do this to quite a few commissioners, never finish and get to keep a partial payment AND materials without delievering a completed product. Just doesn't sound right to me.

If it was the commissioner's fault somehow they should take the hit.

Set deadlines
Be clear about who gets refunds and how much in your TOS
Make sure the person you commission has a refund policy in their TOS
Artist eats cost if they can't complete
Dec. 15th, 2011 11:10 pm (UTC)
I've never had to refund... but if I had to, it would depend on who is cancelling and why.

- If I am cancelling or I have done something (like take a long time) to cause the customer to want to cancel, then I would refund the whole amount. I am digital so there are no material costs.

- If the customer just doesn't want the picture anymore and it has been a reasonable amount of time on my part, then I would only refund the part of the work I hadn't done yet. Though usually I work on a picture from start to finish and take a day or two 'cause I don't like only working on something a little bit at a time.
Dec. 17th, 2011 12:12 pm (UTC)
I just noticed something... You said it's been a half a year since you commissioned two plushies, but your questions are for artists taking years to complete something. I have only ever made one plush, and it took me a while to make. Much longer than any of my illustrations, for sure. Is six months all that long for plushies? Especially since he's offering a discount and has already done some work...
( 32 comments — Leave a comment )


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