Folksy Ltd

How to deal with a particulalry awkward customer?

(Sara Leigh Thornton) #1

I do pet portrait commissions, some classic style, some cartoon style, and my customers are lovely…except for one! I wouldn’t normally publicly ‘moan’ about a customer (this is why it would be nice to have a private chat section for sellers so that we can help each other out with things like this rather than having to post publicly) but this one is driving me mad!

She asked about what portraits I do, and as I do a whole range of sizes and styles, rather than type them all out I sent her a link to the section of my shop where they are all listed, and explained that each listing gives details of size, price, shipping, etc, but if anything wasn’t clear just get back in touch.

Then came a barrage of questions about the size, price, shipping etc…everythings that’s included in each listing! I kept cool, calm and polite, and eventually she decided what she would like. Next question ’ “what if I don’t like it?”. I explained that if there was anything she didn’t like I would change it until she was happy.

A few days later she actually placed an order. Then came the ‘is it ready yet?’ question every few hours, despite the fact my shipping time is 3 weeks (due to volume of commissions at present). I (still politely!) explained that I had started work on hers, but paintings take time, and I also have about 30 other customers commissions to complete too, but I would send her photos for approval as soon as the pictures were done.

I messaged a photo of the first animal, and being a black one I asked if there were enough highlights on the fur, as some people like them bold, others like them more subtle. It took me about three attempts at phrasing the question before she understood what I meant. Then she complained that I had missed out some white fur from the face (the photo doesn’t show that and she hadn’t mentioned it to me) and wanted more detail on another area of the body (an area which I do the same for all the cartoon style paintings and is in all my examples - I never got a reply to the question I asked of what kind of detail she meant…)

Then I sent a photo of the second commission, again another black animal. Now, I always say to people that I don’t get everything right first time (working from photos means you can’t see everything like you can in real life, and if I’m only sent one photo from one angle it makes it harder to know if that’s what the animal always looks like, if you know what I mean). And I always say just let me know if anything needs changing. Most people are really nice, and if things need changing they just say what it is - no problem! This customer’s response: ‘It’s not right but I’m not sure what’s wrong’.

Now, with any other customer I could go through things and find out what was wrong and fix it, but I know with this one it will take a LOT of messages, with probably no definite resolution at the end. I’ve spent hours on messaging her already for two £6.50 paintings! I have a pile of commission work to get through, and to be honest, I can’t see her ever being happy with what I do, I feel like she has been determined not to like what I do for her from before she even placed the order :’(

For the first time ever I feel like just refunding the customers money and giving up on the commission!

Would it be wrong to refund her? I’m getting very frustrated, and it’s getting harder to be polite in my responses…

(Christine E.) #2

What a nightmare! Time to refund and make the break, I think. She sounds like a pain in the neck…

2 Likes
(Stephanie Guy) #3

The very fact that you’re asking this question publicly shows how frustrated you must be. I’d refund, very politely explaining why you can’t fulfil the order, and call it quits.

3 Likes
(Sara Leigh Thornton) #4

Thanks both - I hate giving up on an order, but with so many other customers I can’t be wasting all this time on someone who doesn’t seem to want to be happy with their order. It really is frustrating,

(Christine E.) #5

You seem to have lots of customers who are happy with your work, it’s not worth getting upset about one silly person :smile:

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(Susan Mochrie) #6

I think you have to go with your gut instinct. There comes a time when as sellers we sometimes have to walk away from a customer who it seems will never be happy. Most buyers are lovely, so I agree with the above, refund and move on X

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(Julie Maginn) #7

OMG this sounds exactly like a customer I had last year who commissioned an anniversary card from me. It took two weeks of constant emails, changes, explanations, phonecalls and general tearing my hair out. I think in the end I should have charged her about £100 just for my time. In the end the best was I got on final approval was, I suppose it’ll have to do!! The lady who collected it for her said it was a beautiful card but I never even got a thank you from the lady who asked for it!!! If I’d have known in the first place what was going to happen I would have run for the hills. For your own sanity quit while you’re ahead and hope that you don’t need too many hours in therapy already. Some people will just never be happy!

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(Ruth ) #8

Sara, having looked at your shop your work is fantastic. I think as designers / creative people we all know there will be an awkward customer out there - sometimes trying to get something for very little or even nothing. I think you
put it down to experience, refund and concentrate on the other commissions for people who appreciate your talent.

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(Samantha Stanley) #9

There’s some very good advice from people on this post. Like you, Sara, I would spend far too much time trying to satisfy a very difficult customer and drive myself and my family mad! But from a distance it becomes clear that your time is your money and you have probably spent more hours on this lady than the amount she is paying you justifies. If she is the sort of person who is never satisfied then that time has not been well invested because she probably won’t be a repeat customer anyway. I’m not sure I would want her back either! I used to work as a claims handler for an insurance company and came across some very strange people working on the thousands of claims that passed though my hands each year, so she is probably just one of those oddball types! It’s easy to be philosophical when it’s not your customer though :wink:

Love Sam x

(Tina Martin) #10

Yes, I would refund her! :slight_smile:

(Deborah Jones) #11

There is a closed forum section called "the lounge " where you can post privately if prefered.

I think I would offer her what you have done so far , and if she wasn’t happy offer the refund.
I have had a few customers like this where the price charged no where near covers the time spent (in my experience they do come back - it’s very hard to politely tell them no.)

(Roz) #12

Hii Sara - not sure what your t&c’s are when you do your portraits but I occasionally do needle felted pet portraits but I always work to a pre agreed contract. In essence it states that payment is made “up front” but should the customer not be happy with the final result that they will get a refund minus a 25% non refundable deposit and that the picture would then become my property to dispose of as I wish (i.e. I can sell it as a generic picture if I wish). I also state that if I feel unable to complete the portrait to my satisfaction that I reserve the right to cancel the commission (sometimes things just don’t work!) I will happily send you a copy of the contract to look at if you like.

I realise this doesn’t help for this customer but may be of use in the future. I would just offer what you have done and if she is not happy then refund. There are some people in the world who are never going to be happy :smile:

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(Rachel) #13

Sara, you obviously care very deeply about customer satisfaction but sometime you just have to say enough is enough. Your work is beautiful and you have thousands of happy customers - this lady needs to move on.

(Helen Healey) #14

Time to call it a day on this one, I reckon. You clearly have an extremely successful business with countless very happy customers. It sounds like this particular customer will never be satisfied, no matter what you do.

(Stephanie Guy) #15

Roz @OrchardFelts that contract sounds eminently sensible, would you mind sending me a copy to learn from please?