WHERE: http://deviantart.com/ (Most commission discussion occurred on Furcadia though, an old MMO)
WHAT: Koontz commissioned me for a 95x95 digital pixel "portrait", which is the term for a player's icon on the game Furcadia.
WHEN: First contact happened September 8th, 2015; I provided several WIPs between then and the time when I sent her the finished portrait, which was on November 24th, 2015 (I went to America for a month in between and didn't have access to the file).
PROOF: (1) First Contact / (2) Commission info provided to me in a DA note / (3) WIPs sent and some payment discussion / (4) Final portrait sent, she tries to change payment method and then refuses to pay / (5) Screenshot of Furcadia's "whisper" window format with my final message (to help explain why I can't provide more legit-looking screenshots) / (6) My DA upload of the final commission (warning: cannabis leaf) / (7) She comments on my DA upload of her art repeating her refusal, and I repeat my message to her as well / (8) Proof she blocked me on DA / (9) Furcadia's User Agreement to explain why I can't share her "whispers" to me and have to summarize (rule 16)
EXPLAIN: First off, some necessary background on Furcadia to explain the odd format of my screenshot evidence - Furcadia is a very old social MMO with some special rules and ways of handling private messages (called "whispers"). Your whisper window only shows the most recent couple of messages (screenshot of what my whisper window with her looks like in proof 5), and the rest of the log file is automatically written into a plain .txt file on your computer, so unfortunately that's the only format I can provide the rest of the messages in. Additionally Furcadia has a rule (#16) preventing the sharing of someone's whispers without their stated permission (proof 9), and Koontz is not speaking to me so I've had to provide a simple summary of what she said to me instead of her actual words (though I only rephrased, as little as I thought I could to abide by the rule, I never left anything out or changed her sentiment).
Koontz sent me a whisper on September 8th saying that she was an old commissioner of mine from when I first started, and asking if I still did portraits (proof 1). I hadn't been open for commissions for almost 2 years, but I decided to accept her commission, largely for sentimental reasons (my first mistake). I had not re-evaluated my prices since I first started, and they were very much in need of an increase as I've made a ton of progress skill-wise, but I decided to honor my old posted prices, again for sentimental reasons and we agreed that she would pay 5 GD (Golden Dragonscales - the virtual currency of Furcadia, equal to $5; my second mistake and not at all her fault).
All was well, I sent WIPs at every stage (sketch, lines, flat colour and shading) and she was very happy with it and friendly (proof 3). In the middle of working on it I went on my annual trip overseas to visit my folks (I'm an immigrant) and was without access to the file for about a month. She was very kind and patient about this and we had no problems until I sent the final unwatermarked image (my third mistake) on November 24th, whereupon she said that she couldn't find the character with the GD on it and asked if I would accept a portrait space instead (a "slot" that someone can upload a Furcadia portrait into), before immediately logging off (proof 4).
I was really not happy with this as I have way many portraits already (you can only display one at a time), and getting value from it would require me to spend money commissioning someone else for a portrait, or spend the time trying to find a buyer for it on an off-site forum; I told her as much, and she disappeared for 4 days, quite odd as she was previously online every day (proof 4). After she tried to change the payment method and disappeared, I got a bit nervous since I had sent her a final unwatermarked image and sent her an "offline whisper" (she receives it when she comes online) asking for payment promptly and reminding her that she doesn't have permission to use it until then. I'll admit that I was not very friendly in this whisper and made my discomfort with the situation apparent (my fourth mistake; proof 4).
Miraculously that night her computer was "fixed" and she whispered me to tell me that she would not be paying because of my "awful attitude" and that I should edit the port and resell it (she posted a similar message on the commission uploaded to my DA, proof 7). She logged off immediately again and I'll admit that the initial offline whispers I sent in response to her were pretty emotional and a bit unprofessional (my fifth mistake; proof 4). After talking to a friend about the situation, he offered to buy the portrait space if she gave it to me, so I calmed myself down and offered that as a solution to her (proof 4 still), posting my message on the DA submission as well (I tried to reply to her message to discover that she'd blocked me on DA, proof 8). I saw her online on Furcadia and sent her a final message apologizing for my prickliness and for offending her, with a warning that I'd be sharing my experience if she decided not to do the right thing and pay me (either in GD, dollars or the portrait space since I had a buyer ready) for the work completed, just in case she had not seen the offline whispers (they are known for bugging out and not sending sometimes). She logged off without responding (proof 5).
Unfortunately editing and reselling the portrait as a premade is not very plausible for me as I've not been an active artist for years and don't have the watcher-base to sell premades, on top of that requiring me to spend even more time editing the portrait (very time-consuming since it's in pixel style). I have tried in the past and had really mixed results, and her portrait was quite restrictive in that it includes a cigarette (this is even if I edited the cannabis leaf off of the character's shirt), which would restrict its usage to adult maps only in Furcadia. If she continues to refuse to pay, I guess I'll give it a shot, but I don't have high hopes for my success and it requires me to keep working on the piece when I wasn't even open for commissions to begin with, I didn't really want to do that kind of art any more. Not to mention she still has the final unwatermarked commission and there's no real way for me to tell whether she's "using" it.
I know that it's only $5, but I don't want other artists to do work for her and end up not receiving payment. This has definitely been a learning experience for me as it was the first time I've had any problems with a commissioner and I made a lot of errors here in the way I did business with her. I will be requiring payment before the work is completed now and I will be more careful and professional in my messages, plus if I accept commissions again (which I may not, this was a very unpleasant experience for me as I have anxiety issues) I will be writing a TOS and raising my rates so that I'm receiving a fair wage and not cents on the hour. In the end though, I feel like her opinion on my "attitude" in the way I asked for payment is irrelevant to our business transaction and doesn't entitle her to refuse to pay.
I'll update as resolved if she comes through, and if she is reading this and would like to come in and provide her side (or corroborate her whispers since I had to summarize, that would certainly be helpful) she is of course welcomed.
EDIT: I received the 5GD from Koontz this morning, along with an apology. As far as I'm aware we are leaving on (mostly) good terms and I consider this resolved. Could the mods mark it as such please? Thank you!