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Refunding a Project after Three Years??

I've decided to stay in China for the long term and therefore am tying up all loose ends just so everything is settled. I really don't know when I'm going to be in the United States again. I will probably return at some point to visit family but I won't be there for very long.

About three years ago, I got a commission for a bodysuit. I never got the commissioner's measurements. For a while (over 2 years) we lost contact, but now we are sort-of in touch again. Before I make any firm commitments on how to process this, I'd like some advice.

The original payment was $350 for a bodysuit
I purchased roughly 5 yards of fur at $25/yardish
In my TOS, the downpayment of 30% is nonrefundable.

I have been wanting to refund this for a while and my initial idea was to keep the deposit, send the materials, and then refund whatever remains after deducting for postage.

I still have the fur, but it's in America, 11,000 miles away. And I can't post it, obviously. I have attempted getting in touch with the commissioner while I was visiting my family, but it didn't work out.

How do I process a refund here? I shut down my main bank account to transition to a Chinese bank. I've been living on a cash basis. My finances are all in RMB. This is a mess, but I also can't live my life and base my finances on a commission from three years ago.

Should I hold off even longer until I can get home and send off the fur? I may go home within the next six months, or sooner if a visa run requires it.

Should I refund everything but the deposit? $200ish is enough for a month's living expenses, and I'm still left with a big box of fur (that's been sitting there for years now).

What do you all think is reasonable?

(Also, I wanted to add: I didn't wait on this project forever because I didn't want to do it. I tried to get contact with the commissioner multiple times and it was established on an intermittent basis. Keeping contact was so hard I even posted a lost contact post here. I was never able to get the necessary measurements because he held off on taking them. It's hard to keep finances in perfect condition when making a big move, especially internationally. Things happen. It's not like I spent that money on candy and burritos.)

An additional problem: the email that the commissioner used consistently bounces, even after contact was re-established following the lost contact post here, and I don't feel comfortable refunding to a paypal that may be inactive.

At this point I'm going to try to find a way to do a full refund, even if it's a struggle to get paypal or alipay or a bank transfer done.

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( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 8th, 2015 10:02 pm (UTC)
After three years and you canceling, I don't feel it's right that you're essentially shorting your customer here. Not refunding for materials that you can't post readily, and then making them pay for shipping? Nah. You're the one who is canceling due to your circumstances, not the client. For the length of time, a full refund would only be fair even if you have to do it in partial payments.

If the fur is here in the US then perhaps you can arrange to sell it (if it's in sellable condition) and have someone you can trust ship it for you to a US buyer. You can work out with the person you trust how you're going to get the cash.
Jul. 8th, 2015 10:03 pm (UTC)
Yes, I agree with this. If I were expected to lose any money because the seller moved to another country, I'd probably be writing a beware on them over it.
Jul. 9th, 2015 10:16 am (UTC)
I asked for years for their measurements to start the project. At one point I posted here for lost contact and managed to sort of re-establish it on an intermittent basis before I made the decision to move. I'm ready to try to get the cash together for a refund, which now seems like the best course of action. But I also feel really miffed because I've spent three years of my time to try to get an essentially abandoned project completed.
Jul. 8th, 2015 11:38 pm (UTC)
You're breaking the contract for your convenience, (after holding their money for an unreasonable time) so you must refund in full.
The one who breaches makes the other party whole, simple as that.
Sell the fur to make up your loss, that's not the customer's problem.
If they want the fur, send it(you will have to cover shipping- again, all loss is to you not the customer since you are cancelling) but they have every right to want their money instead of the fur. When you offer the refund, the ethical thing is to state they can have the money or the fur- trying to force them to take the fur so you have less money to refund is not fair to them.

(also note: downpayments are not non-refundable, deposits are non-refundable. If you used the term downpayment you can't try and claim that as non-refundable regardless of what you write in a TOS. A TOS isnt a replacement for a binding contract anyways. In this case even if you called it a deposit you couldn't keep the money because if the seller breaches/cancels they lose the right to that deposit. A deposit isn't free money to the seller in custom contracts- it's to protect them from loss if the buyer cancels.)

So, sorry if any of this sounds harsh but you owe them a full refund. Legally this is a clear cut case.

Edited at 2015-07-08 11:41 pm (UTC)
Jul. 9th, 2015 10:53 am (UTC)
Ok, that's what I'll do. But re: my convenience, I didn't wait so long or hold the money for fun. In the past said he wanted the suit and not a refund, but never gave his measurements. Over that time I repeatedly asked for the measurements and had a lot of trouble re-establishing contact, to the point where I posted a lost contact here. So this whole debacle has been a huge inconvenience to me, which doesn't matter legally.

And due to the fact that the email we used to communicate bounces, I don't feel comfortable sending a refund to a paypal that might be inactive too. If I refund I want to know that he gets it.
Jul. 9th, 2015 10:57 am (UTC)
Regardless of any issues, if you were having this much problems then it should have been in your ToS what would happen to an abandoned project to cover your own behind. This whole mess shouldn't have spanned 3 years for either of you. If they said "I don't want a refund", well you could have told them "Oh well, due to issues I'm giving you one." But as they say hindsight is 20/20. Just give them their refund and figure out what to do with the fur later.
Jul. 9th, 2015 11:14 am (UTC)
Yes, this is what I am going to try to do--get contact again, and figure out a way to make a refund payment after my visa run costs are paid.

My TOS does have a clause against abandoned projects, but I would feel really bad about not giving back anything at all.

I guess people should look out for a weeklong sales blitz on fursuitauctions.... in six months or more. I kept the fur because it's a different dye lot than normal.
Jul. 9th, 2015 09:07 pm (UTC)
You can't really hold someone to a clause through a TOS. The unwritten contract rules(which ends up basically a simple buyer's agreement in lieu of anything signed) trump the TOS clauses in 99.9999999% of cases when litigated.

So best suggestion I can make for you since you are savvy enough business wise to know about doing clauses, etc. is to make sure from now on you do a written contract so can add those clauses as a Sched. to the buyer's agreement part of things. Make sure they initial the clause(s) on abandoned projects specifically along with the over all signature! Since you're tipping the deal a little in your favour with the clauses(within the law as long as your clauses are reasonable- use the basis of the Defense of Impracticability to judge that- which we just had a post about actually; or if your new country has law regarding abandonment of custom contracts you can use that instead) on abandonment you'll want to be sure that the buyer is going in 'eyes wide open'.

(Deleted comment)
Jul. 9th, 2015 10:48 am (UTC)
While it seems like the best course of action, and the one I will try to take, is to give a full refund--in terms of work I have spent a lot of time and energy trying to get in contact with the commissioner. I also created measurement diagrams and designed the fur pattern. I've had to hold the funds (before I changed my banking) waiting for three years. It's no fault of my own that this commission didn't get started. Part of me feels like there was a huge waste of time and energy on my end.

I'm doing this post now because I was at a loss and I want to get everything cleared up while I prepare for a visa run, which has to come out of my own pocket. A visa run is a trip out of China to visit a consulate in another country in order to get a residence permit changed. Due to new rules I may have to return to the USA for my visa run, therefore I also may be able to send the fur I saved at that point. So there is a chance I may be able to send the rarer dye lot fur in case he wants to have someone else make a suit that matches the rest of the partial.
Jul. 9th, 2015 04:50 am (UTC)
The fair thing to do it offer a full refund including the deposit since you are the one breaking the contract.

Jul. 9th, 2015 05:39 am (UTC)
It is not the commissioners fault that you decided to move out of the country, and the commissioner should not ever have to anticipate an artist's living situation making them lose money.

As many others have stated, you are the one breaking the contract, through no fault of the customer, so they should be entitled to a full refund.
Jul. 9th, 2015 11:10 am (UTC)
Yes, the reason that I am asking about this now is that just this week I signed the contract and made the choice to stay here long term. So it's this week that my living situation has officially changed from "will be gone for a few months" to "I am not longer a legal resident of the United States". In the past, I did offer a refund, which he declined, preferring the suit. After waiting, waiting and waiting it became clear that I won't be able to complete the suit or send the materials at all.
Jul. 9th, 2015 06:15 am (UTC)
Just another one backing that since the customer did not breach the contract, they should be getting a refund in full. Even if it's a months living wage it doesn't matter, it's not your money to spend on your expenses, it's the customers money which they gave for something you have decided not to give them. As such you should return their money to them.
Jul. 9th, 2015 06:43 pm (UTC)
Well, I agree with everyone else about you owing a full refund.

But personally I also think that a customer who's left you sitting for three years despite all your best efforts to move forward has no right whatsoever to be impatient about time scales. So I'd say if you need to sell the fur first to get the money to send the refund, or it takes a little time to get things organized, given the distances involved, they can like it or lump it.

So I wouldn't just let this slide, you do owe them the money, and should be working on a way to get it to them in full, but I personally wouldn't feel much time pressure to get it done right this second.

Although on the other hand, having it over and done with will make life easier for you, so don't put it off, or anything. Just... I think some people here are being a bit hard on you over this. You *do* owe a full refund, but your situation is complicated right now, and it's probably going to take some time and effort to sort it out.
Jul. 9th, 2015 08:57 pm (UTC)
So I'd say if you need to sell the fur first to get the money to send the refund, or it takes a little time to get things organized, given the distances involved, they can like it or lump it.

You're in the wrong here. The customer does not have to wait on the fur being sold and should not be expected to.

Jul. 10th, 2015 01:56 am (UTC)
I agree that the customer should get a full refund, but I don't feel the artist is completely at fault here. The customer has disappeared and not provided a working email (the poster even mentioned the customer's email now bounces). Yes, they shouldn't have waited so long to initiate a refund, but there's no realistic way right now to provide a refund if they can't reach the customer.

My recommendation would be to put aside the $350 they paid you in a savings account and not to touch it. Continue to try to contact the customer - try to find if they have another FA, Weaayl, tumblr, try to find them on other sites. Treat that money as someone else's (because it does belong to someone else if you weren't able to complete the commission) and make every effort to get into contact with them. I can't imagine they'd ignore you if you managed to finally find a working email/site account and let them know you'd like to refund them.
Jul. 10th, 2015 02:02 am (UTC)
(the poster even mentioned the customer's email now bounces)

To be clear, a lot of this information about the difficulty in contact and all that were only just recently added, so the first bunch of commenters responded to just what they had at the time.

I still believe a full refund is the best choice, but we have more context now, which is good.

Jul. 10th, 2015 02:08 am (UTC)
Ah, I didn't realize that was added later. It's definitely a harder situation when the client disappears. I had two take home conbadges that I couldn't ship out because the customer never replied to emails or FA notes. They paid cash so I can't even refund them. I just have these badges sitting here that were paid for but never collected.
Jul. 10th, 2015 02:14 am (UTC)
It's okay, I wanted to clarify because I didn't want more people coming in after the fact, reading the first group of comments, and thinking we're being jerks or something, hah.
( 19 comments — Leave a comment )


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