Who/Where: Fursuit Maker: Frostcat-Studio / Ritz_Bitz / Ritz_Tweeting
When I originally considered looking into getting my first fursuit, I had only heard of this maker through the recommendation of a mutual friend. From looking at their gallery, they seemed to have very nice work and I was given the impression that they could provide me with similar work.
What: One Partial Fursuit ($1200)
I had originally contacted Ritz for a fursuit in June of 2014 and on June 27th we agreed to a price of $1200 to make my partial, which included a large tail and also a set of wings. Here you can see Ritz had offered to add a magnetic feature to the wings so they could be worn under a shirt with a harness and I was charged and extra $170 for this addition.
->The email can be viewed here <-
(Our conversation is very casual as we had been united through a mutual friend)
On September 20th 2014, I confirmed my slot and placed my 50% down payment.
-> Link for Proof <-
(Ritz real name has been blanked)
Then, on November 25th 2014 I paid my remaining $600.
(The screen shot shows a total of an additional $1200 as I also paid off the remaining $600 on the mutual friend's balance to help them out. That amount is not related to my entry)
-> Link for final Payment Proof <-
At first, Ritz kept very good communication when working on my fursuit and seemed interested in making it "just right". She replied to my inquires often and kept reliable contact with me, even sending me work in progress images from time to time. While I would get pictures, I never really was sure what I was looking at in terms of what she had been doing; I was never given any explanation and was issued vague descriptions, which is possibly my fault for not speaking up on but I had never commissioned a suit before and felt I should place my trust in the maker to do their job. The first red flag that came to me was when she would inquire about my second payment and instead of contacting me directly, she would ask the mutual friend to remind me on her behalf. This really struck me as odd given the mutual friend was not working for Ritz and my contact information was established prior. I ended up ignoring my gut on this issue given the mutual friend was close to both of us and since this was a friendly transaction, I considered it to just be another casual aspect of the entire affair. Ritz proposed the completion date (By Further Confusion 2015) and said that having it complete by this time would be no issue, so I planned to attend this convention so I could have a good time fursuiting for the first time. Overall, the anticipation building for this costume was immense as I would be flying in from Florida to attend the convention in California just to have a chance to wear it for the first time.
On January 4th (approximately 10 days before the convention), I was shown images of my completed fursuit via Twitter and Skype. The images were not close ups or anything, so from first appearances I was excited. While it wasn't the quality I had expected, I was still excited to have a costume regardless. I should take responsibility for my qualms with the quality as when browsing her gallery I had not noticed the suits that stood out to me were all built on headbases made by other fursuit makers when mine would be built from scratch; That being said my expectations for what I would receive were not completely accurate and it was my fault for not researching further. Regardless, I told her I was happy with it visually and was eager to wear a fursuit for the first time.
Overtime, I ended up coming into a disagreement with the mutual friend who had connected Ritz and I for the commission and we began to grow apart. I didn't think it would effect my commission with Ritz in anyway, but later on I would find it was quite the opposite. (This is only important to note as it will become relevant later on.) Originally, the suit was going to be shipped to the mutual friend and delivered to me at the convention however due to (what I can only assume to be) rising tension, the mutual friend opted not to deliver the costume to me. Given I was flying in from across the country, I asked a friend from Southern California to have it shipped to them instead since they would be driving to the convention. The friends who ended up having the fursuit shipped to them did not open the box in any way until they found me at the convention and I opened it myself.
When I made it to the convention, I met up with my friends from Southern California (I was also rooming with them) and they had my fursuit box in the hotel room waiting for me. At first glace, I was already very upset. The box was very poorly packaged and looked very ragged. I would have thought it could have been mangled by the postal service but it seemed the degrading box was actually taped up in areas where it was falling apart and that tape was laid beneath the original packing where the shipping information was. It was very clear that Ritz reused a battered and trashed box to ship my $1200 product and my concern began to grow before I had even seen the costume.
Upon opening the box, the first thing that was staring at me was a foot paw that was falling apart. The box had just been opened and the suit was already damaged in quite visible ways. Thankfully, I had a room full of witnesses that helped me gather pictures of the unboxing. Here is a visual collection of the damages that we discovered.
-> The footpaws were separating from the shoes (That I had to purchase myself and ship to her) before they were ever worn.
-> The bottom Jaw and horns were crooked and the head was barely foamed so it would lose it's shape when not worn.
-> The seam in the fur on the direct center of the muzzle was popped despite never having been worn yet.
-> The balaclava was not attached with only a few tiny dabs of hot glue and separated from the foam and also has various holes in it.
-> In fact, the Balaclava had MANY holes in it.
-> The fur on the hand paws was poorly shaved and some of the claws were upside down.
-> The shave job was uneven and jagged.
-> And in some places, the fur was shaved all the way down to the backing.
Now, as you can imagine, I was not very pleased to open the box and discover the suit was in such a mess after never being worn. Some of the mistakes I saw were very common from beginner suit makers however I was given the impression that Ritz was NOT a new maker and had enough experience to warrant the $1200 price tag (which could buy a partial from many makers who would not have made these mistakes). On top of all these issues, I discovered that the set of wings I had ordered for this costume did not feature any magnetic attachments at all. Instead, the wings were sewn directly into a harness made from elastic straps, making it impossible to wear them without having the harness worn on top of my clothes. This was also very upsetting given Ritz had offered to make this feature for me and charged me an additional $170 for it, yet never once mentioned to me during the construction process that they would no longer be doing the magnet idea.
I immediately decided to contact Ritz as she was at the convention and perhaps she could do enough quick fixes so I could at least wear my fursuit; I did fly in from across the country just to wear it around afterall. I didn't mind waiting on fixing the other issues, but I at least wanted some help fixing the shoes. I decided to contact our mutual friend to get in touch with Ritz because I had no other way to reach her at the time. We met up and I explained what the problems were and she agreed to get the feet fixed. We went to Ritz's hotel room and she did a quick hot glue job on the paws with me standing there. It was not very thorough but it seemed like it was enough to keep them together for the time being. I also had the chance to ask about the missing magnets and she explained that there were no magnets strong enough to hold the wings in place (which isn't true since you can order some that can hold up to 75lbs!) so she opted to sew them to the harness without informing me to meet the tight deadline. After Ritz "fixed" the feet, I went back to my hotel room and decided to wear my suit as it was to try and enjoy the convention.
The next morning, I went to participate in the fursuit parade and that was when the fur on my foot paws began to separate again; this time on both feet. Additionally, the buckram connected to the plastic to make the eyes began to separate and peel from the plastic. This was also when I noticed that the plastic has been hastily cut and there were strands of of debris going into the space where my actual eyes were. After the parade, I found Ritz again to show her what was happening with my brand new suit and she seemed very disinterested in my issues. When I brought attention to the issue with the eye popping out, both Ritz and the mutual friend (whom was with her the entire con) began to give me sass and snark about not being "too rough" with the costume then walked off without making any attempt to help me with the situation. I was pretty appalled at this reaction given I paid so much money for a costume to wear and was basically being told not to wear it if I didn't want it to fall apart. I had been just wearing the suit like any normal person would, I wasn't jabbing the eyes in with my finger or anything for goodness sake. It was at this point the mutual friend decided to get involved and began sending me text messages that said I was being rude and "mean" to Ritz for contacting her about these issues and the issues in question were not her fault. Why was the suit maker's friend getting involved and handling this situation? This had nothing to do with them so why were they acting as a messenger for Ritz?
At this point, I was given the very strong impression that Ritz no longer wanted to provide me with any help for the costume, so in order to make it wearable I asked for the help of my friends (I was rooming with) to help me do minor repairs. I was forced to go out and buy a glue gun and ask a friend to cut time from her convention experience to keep the suit intact. During the time we spent fixing it, we also began to see even more issues with the craftsmanship.
-> The zipper on the back of the head was glued to the fur instead of sewn and began to separate.
-> The horns were discovered to have no foam to anchor them, explaining why they were crooked.
I think the majority of my convention time was spent with a friend trying to repair this costume. We were absolutely sure not to modify anything, just attempt to repair the poor craftsmanship. After a certain point, my friend explained to me that we should stop repairing it all together because the state it was in just couldn't be saved at a convention. I attempted to contact Ritz once more via twitter DMs to try and show her the state of the suit before the end of the convention but she unfortunately decided to start ignoring me. I was polite and kind because I wasn't mad as much desperate to fix these issues. It was such a frustrating experience because I just wanted some resolution for this costume that I spent a large sum of money on and the person who sold it to me made me feel like they had zero concern for the situation now that the money was already in their hands. To make things worse, a few hours later Ritz began tweeting about me to try and detract from my issues, implying that I was picking on them because I had a disagreement with the mutual friend. This was just the end to my willingness to work with this fursuit maker anymore and I ended up sitting in tears while friends comforted me. One of my friends began discussing things with Ritz on twitter because it very strongly felt that she would not be dealing with me beyond this point and Ritz began stating that the problems with the costume were not actually there nor her fault and began to explain that the situation had very much been influenced by my falling out with the mutual friend. My friend then decided to take the conversation with her in private and they discussed the situation because Ritz still would not talk directly to me. During the private conversation with my friend, Ritz admitted to rushing my fursuit and stated that she could not afford to refund the costume but would work out a plan after the convention to make things right. She also stated that it was "shitty" or me to not want repairs at this point and called it unreasonable. I may be unreasonable for not wanting repairs, but I don't trust this individual with my money anyone given these problems would not exist if the care needed was put in to begin with not to mention the constant avoidance with my problems. I did not feel this person wanted to fix things correctly.
After Ritz had conversation with my friend, it was decided that after the convention she would absolutely talk to me about the problems with the costume and find a resolution.
(I can provide screen shots of this entire conversation if necessary, however I opted to leave them out initially as so my friend would not be dragged into the issue. I firmly believe this should have stayed between Ritz and myself and the constant involvement from third parties has really caused more drama than needed.)
January 20th (2015)
Two days after the convention, Ritz contacts me on Skype and begins trying to work out a situation from the suit. She begins by offering me two options; One is to send the suit back for repairs or I can send the suit to be stripped and turned into a different character that she can sell. She tells me that I can not be refunded 30% of the fursuit cost as the cost of the materials can not be returned. Despite finding that option to be very unfair (given I would be returning the suit to her so she could recoup her losses and the reason for refund was not a cancellation but rather the product was broken and the fault was hers), I agreed and stated that after all that had happened and the personal involvement of her friend causing tension I did not want it refurbished; I just wanted a refund. She also explains to me that she -can not refund me at all- until I return the suit and she resells it, thus leaving my money weighing on the uncertainty of weather or not the suit sells and if it does, would it sell for the $800 she says I am owed? She insists she will not refund money until I send the suit back, however that was understandable and we agreed. She also mentions at the same time that she will send $200 refund in "good faith" (that I have never since seen). I am kind and understanding with her and even apologetic for the situation that unfolded despite being at no fault myself. I wanted to make things right and I felt bad that she had spent the last few days tweeting about never wanting to make suits again. I felt guilty for the distress I put her through so I even said I would think about letting her repair the suit after she pushed that option on me constantly (despite saying I did not want it). She additionally admits to her friend's presence having effected her business with me and even the way she treated me as a customer, which sent even more red flags to me, but she genuinely seemed like she wanted to make things right so I did my best to return it. Her main concern throughout the entire conversation was her name and reputation, which seemed very off-putting given I felt her main concern should have been to fix the situation with my costume.
-> Conversation can be found here <-
January 30th (2015)
About ten days after our conversation, I gave Ritz my final decision. I took note to how stressed she was over the decision and gave her time to come down from the ordeal. I politely explained to her that I did not feel comfortable sending her the suit and waiting for her to resell it before I would receive any money. I stated that I would gladly return the suit after I was refunded and left it at that.
-> Link to Conversation <-
The Next day, Ritz replies to me stating that she can not refund me for the amount I am owed until I return the suit in parts for her to resell and asks for a week to figure something out. She explains that she will use her tax refund to pay me the money I am owed and I reassure her that I can wait for a refund as long as it needs to be. My main concern is still that I do not want to return the goods until I am compensated for them.
This is when her contact slows to a grinding halt. She openly begins to dodge my communication and puts me on the back burner and does not contact me in any way unless I put an effort into contacting her.
I end up contacting her as it has been nearly two weeks since her last contact with me. Again, I am civil and I calmly ask what the game plan is for the situation.
On February 14th I get a reply in which she states that her tax refund was small and she would not be able to refund me from that money. She also goes back on her word in stating that she would refund me and takes an aggressive tone, calling our agreed upon solution to be "unfair" and says that my failure to trust her is preventing me from getting my money back. Now, I'm going to throw some personal opinion in here but...how am I being unfair? She agreed to refund me and suddenly is changing her tune and even going as far as to insinuate that this situation is my fault for "not trusting her". The problem is, I already trusted her with $1200 to deliver a product to me in functioning order. She not only failed to do that, but she also insulted me, ignored me and went as far as to try and claim her faulty craftsmanship (which she admitted to) was -my- fault. Yes, I do not trust her with giving me my money back and I will not relinquish the costume until I am given a refund. I am not asking for both the suit and a refund, I am asking to be compensated -before- I give up the costume. The artist's financial issues are not my concern, what is my concern is the money that she had taken from me and will not return.
-> This reply can be viewed here <-
She has dodged contact with me and has put me in a situation where I am not sure if I am going to have this situation resolved. On February 17th, I contacted her asking for her to talk to me when I was online as I didn't enjoy playing message tag when the subject was so important. I tried once more on the 18th to reach out and beg for conversation on the topic and reaffirmed my stance about her taking back the product to resell. I even went as far as to offer my phone number to try and resolve the issue but she had left me in the dark, all while spending time on twitter and talking to other people on skype. I am fully aware I am being ignored and it's gotten to the point where I am getting ready to file a charge back on paypal if this doesn't get resolved soon.
-> Proof of contact attempts <-
(screen shots were taken on 2/18/2015)
2/21 - Ritz contacted me in response to my final message in which I explained that I felt that I didn't believe it was fair to charge me for materials when I would be returning the suit for her to recoup that loss and because the issue with the costume was not due to cancellation or error on my end. I admit that I did change my mind in terms of the refund I was willing to accept though the advice of many friends and other artists swayed my mind. I did agree that taking a partial refund for having zero product on an issue that was no fault of my own felt very wrong, but I may be out of line for having brought that up and changing my stance I take responsibility for that.
She responded aggressively, again cursing at me and using profanity.
I was given a "final option" in which I was told I will wait until she gets her tax refund after I return the broken merchandise she had given me before I will receive any financial compensation. I don't feel that this is ever a way an artist or suit maker should ever talk to or treat a client, but maybe I am bitter and misinterpreted her reply as more rude than it actually was.
I politely asked her to calm down because her abrasive reply felt very flustered and asked her to give me a phone call so we can figure things out. She explains that she can't handle phone calls due to anxiety so despite it being a difficult work around for me (my work generally keeps me very busy) I understand her position and tell her I can easily wait for her to finish helping a friend move out. She asks me if I would "actually want to resolve this civilly" which struck me as rude given I don't feel I have been anything but?
- > Conversation <-
As of now, it is 2/27/15 and we have not resolved the issue at all. I feel like I am constantly being fed excuses, ignored and just treated very poorly in general and as a customer that paid $1200 for a costume that is barely wearable, I feel like this shouldn't be the case? I just feel like I'm stuck in a run around and I can't help but think I'm not doing the wrong thing? This is the first time I've ever commissioned a fursuit so perhaps my inexperience is what keeps this situation from being resolved? I'd be happy to take fault if I knew what I was doing wrong!
I'm hoping that in posting this entry, I can warn people about this maker's shady business practices, lack of professionalism and lack of concern for their customers. I'm also hoping this may be the final nudge needed to get Ritz to acknowledge me and resolve the situation before I file for a charge back on Paypal. $1200 is quite a sum of money to be over drafted and I would absolutely prefer not to financially break this artist. I just want resolution, I want her to give me a game plan and show concern for the situation and give me a refund for the broken product she gave me.
On the day this entry had been posted, Ritz returned from attending an Anime convention and contacted me. She has posted the caps herself below, however just to be sure, here is the gist of what was said:
-> Conversation <-
While yes, she did offer to refund me $800, she also went on to bring up unexpected bills she mentioned on twitter and debts which made me feel extremely guilty in accepting any money from her when her personal life needed the money so much more. As I have said countless times, I am not out to be a bully in any way; I just want a refund for the broken costume I was given.
Later in the day while I was at work, Ritz confronts me on skype with this:
I wasn't even aware the entry had been posted at that point as I was on patrol at work (I am a police officer) and she begins getting aggressive on me, stating that she thought this was resolved and saying she was insulted. For one thing, this post was made days prior when I had not yet received any contact, secondly I would never consider this issue to be revolved until the money is in my hands and the fursuit was in hers. At this point, she offers me a NDA Contract because she no longer "trusts" me for having made this entry. Ritz is well aware that I have now requested a full $1200 for my refund because as others have mentioned here, I should not take a material cost loss when the issues with the transaction were not my own. The contract is incredibly damaging for me in which is states that I am unable to speak of the event in public or to third parties and states that Ritz may deduct from my refund if she is unable to sell the broken suit she crafted. I have screen capped the contract issued to me (I had to censor our names) and would like AB's input.
-> The NDA/Contract I was offered <-
(Ritz is the first party where as I am the second)
I do not feel comfortable having to sign a contract to have the money I am owed returned to me; I feel like this is a form of blackmail in order to try and silence me if I want the money I am owed back, furthermore the amount offered is not what I am requesting. I want a full refund and that is what I am standing firm on, especially if Ritz is going to refurbish and sell the broken merchandise I was sold. I do not feel fit signing a binding legal agreement that states I am unable to make "any other online postings about the other party"
I am additionally saddened by Ritz response here in the community claiming I have falsified any documentation in this entry and went as far as to accuse me of Libel and Slander within the proposed contract. I have not fabricated any of the content within this journal nor would I have had to should I received a functioning product to begin with. I also asked a few friends to review the contract that was presented to me, to which Ritz stated I should never do unless I approach a lawyer. I am in disbelief I was scolded for asking for input before signing a binding legal contract and that made me feel like Ritz knowingly attempted to shaft me.
Additionally, while discussing the public image Ritz has gained from this entryI was suddenly confronted with Ritz's fiance (who could not bother to spell my name correctly). I expressed to him that I have no interest in talking to him about the transaction and want Ritz to be present. She returns and demands I resolve this tonight
-> Conversation <-
At this phase, I am done playing games with Ritz. I am tired of being treated like a bully or a bad guy when I have done all I can to be agreeable and helpful with this situation. My job requires a very taxing amount of my time and I can't be bothered to jump through hoops anymore. I have issues Ritz a final statement and that is where I am leaving it. I will not be accepting any amount under the original $1200 I have paid and if a resolution is not reached within the week, I will be filing a charge back OR if that fails I will be taking legal action. Ritz has proven to me that her reputation takes precedence above her clients and that is why I can not be bothered to be involved in her personal financial matters or give leniency anymore.
-> My final statement to her about the matter <-
At this point, this issue is not resolved despite Ritz claiming it to be so on social media.
Edit 2: Ritz has now hidden her twitter from public view due to her initiating issues with people discussing this entry and claiming she was harassed. I do not support anyone causing her trouble on social media and I have not encouraged any of that behavior.
Edit 3: Approximately one hour after I had amended this entry with the NDA they proposed to me, Ritz contacted me again and negotiated a refund. Her reply was as unprofessional as the rest and was of course not without an attempted guilt trip. She assumed my commentary about conventions and ski trips were about money when in reality it was about her lack of contact with me (in the cases where I was told she was too busy to negotiate with me). After accusing me of harassment and reminding me about her tax refund, I was asked to give her my paypal and complied. Despite constantly being told that she could not afford to refund me in full, I was suddenly sent the full amount of $1200. This left me a bit unsettled, however I wasn't going to ask any more when I got what I had requested.
I have informed her that I would alter the entry and mark the situation as resolved. I will also be shipping the fursuit back to her this week and will edit the entry one last time to prove I have made good on my end of the bargain.
I want to thank the Artist's Beware community for it's insight and help on dealing with this situation. This community is a valuable resource and I am glad to have been able to use it. As far as this entry goes, while it is now resolved I would still consider it a more than valid beware. I think the entry speaks for itself and down to the very end this maker could not handle a professional attitude. I also want to note that this suit will be refurbished and relisted for sale, so buyer beware in the future.
I am very disappointed that things between this maker and I had to come to this. I was very polite and willing to work with them to accommodate their own situations if they would help me with mine and that refusal just made it impossible. Ultimately, it was not the desire to right a wrong that got me my refund, it was the desire to salvage their reputation that finally made a nearly two month long ordeal come to a close. If the maker had just shown the same concern for me as a client as they did for their reputation, this post wouldn't have had to be made.
EDIT: 3/6/2015: The fursuit has been shipped to Ritz. I can provide a tracking number to the entry if needed and also visual documentation was taken to provide proof the suit was shipped in the most protective way possible, including the individual parts being bagged to prevent weather damage to eliminate any claims proper care was not taken.