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01 August 2012 @ 11:05 pm
How far is too far for customer service?  
I really don't know what I'm feeling right now. Pissed off. Hurt, maybe. Disappointed, definitely. 

So, a couple of weeks ago, I had an Etsy sale to a young man. An engagement ring. It's a make to order piece, so I made it, and sent it. Immediately after I sent it, he sends me this panicked convo. His girlfriend has made the comment that she'd like a "low profile" ring, because she works with her hands a lot, and he doesn't know if the ring he ordered fits this description. It does not. I explain what a low profile setting is, and offer to take the ring back and make him a version that fits this description; I even offer to do a straight exchange, no extra charge. He is thankful, and very pleased.

Then, apparently, he talks to his girlfriend again, finds out a little more info. She wants a plain bezel set ring, but also wouldn't mind some flush set stones to either side, on the band. She still likes the hammered band look (which the original ring had), but could I do this for him? I said I could, and worked up how much the extra charge would be. I ordered the necessary supplies, and got working. He had sent me several photos of the kind of bezel she liked, as well as pictures of flush set stones in rings from other Etsy artisans, but none of the photos actually looked anything like what he described. So, I searched, found one that fit his rough description, although it was in gold, with flush set stones all around the band, and cost $1700. He says yes, that is the look he means, and I start crafting.

My piece was only costing him $160, btw.

So we're clear, there are eventually four total rings. The Original Ring, the First Ring w/a bezel, and so on. 

Anyway, I finish the first ring. I send him pictures. He is unhappy, because the flush set stones are spaced too far apart. Okay, but there is nothing I can do about that with the ring finished. No problem, I can list and sell that one in the store, I'll just make a second ring, one with the flush set stones spaced closer to the center stone. Realize, it takes me a solid 8-9 hours to craft one of these. At the price of his ring, even making one I am not making all the much per hour. Two, and I'm making less than minimum wage.

So everything that could go wrong on the second ring, does. The bezel cup I bought from Rio is so tight, I can barely fit the stone in. The flush settings don't center up properly, and one of the flush set stones keeps popping out for reasons I can't explain. After it's all finished, I realize the center stone has a crack running through it. I cry tears of frustration, anger, and exhaustion while crafting the stupid thing. I basically tell him, sorry, but I can't sell him this second ring, because I can't stand behind it as a sellable piece, much less a wedding ring. (I forgot to say this is all under a deadline. The ring must go in the mail by the 2nd to reach him in time for his proposal plans). I tell him, I'm sorry, but I've failed, and offer him a refund, or he can take the first ring. As a last ditch offering, I tell him I'm willing to try again, but I won't be able to finish a third ring in time for his deadline. I'm out of certain supplies. (The flush set stones. They are tiny, 2mm. We won't even talk about how many of the damn things are lost on my bathroom floor. The same bathroom our cat boxes are sandwiched into, because of the remodel, so there is always little bits of litter on the floor no matter how often I sweep. And tiny white topaz stones now, as it happens. I had to sweep and scour for them multiple times during the second ring's nightmare creation process.)

He decides he wants me to try again (hey, I offered), and is willing to deal with not getting the ring in time. I go ahead and order more of the teeny tiny stones (a lot more, so it won't matter how many fall on my stupid floor). They end up arriving today, and since I know they are going to, I work my ass off taking an entire day AGAIN to make him a third ring. I even fashion my own tapered bezel, since I hate the prefab one I was using. I like the ring, it turns out well. the flush set stones are not exactly on center, but they are 2mm stones in a 3mm band - not a lot of wiggle room, and getting the buggers exact requires some kind of demonic bargain anyway, I'm pretty sure.

As the light is fading, I manage to get outside and take some photos. I send them to him, and his response is...lackluster. He wants more picture to "see the ring closer". I go ahead and take more, crop them, and send them. This is another hour of my life gone. Finally, I get a response again. He tells me not to take this the wrong way, but he just had it in his mind that the ring would look EXACTLY like the one I had shown him as an example but in silver, not gold.

A $1700 ring. 

After I cooled down, I sent him a very polite reply, explaining that it was just an example, and that no $160 ring is ever going to look "exactly like" a $1700 ring by a different artisan, regardless of materials. One, I don't know how she made it, exactly. I'm not in her studio, watching her techniques. I won't be able to duplicate it, then. Two, if I could duplicate it, you can bet your ass I'd charge more than $160 for it. Three, never, ever order something from one artisan because you want it to look like someone else's work. If you like that other person's work, order it from them. 

I was much more polite than that, but basically that's what I said. And offered to refund his money so he could go order from the other artisan. 

So, to recap, I have made this man four, count them four, rings, and he is probably going to ask me for a refund. I am out at least thirty hours of my life I will never, ever get back, not to mention the materials -- oh, and the literal blood, sweat, and tears that went into these rings. 

I can't decide if I want to rage, throw things, take a hammer to the rings (or at least the one with the cracked stone), or just curl up in a corner and cry. 

From now on, I will not be embarking on custom pieces unless they are in my own style. Ever. Again. 
Tags: ,
Current Mood: draineddrained
jhannisejhannise on August 2nd, 2012 11:30 am (UTC)
I buy jewelry from etsy and I make my own jewelry. That being said- the young man is absolutely deluded. I think you went above and beyond to help him get a special ring. You deserve a round of applause for being an awesome human being. I agree that no one should ever expect someone to have an "exact" copy of another's work. If you and I both order presets from rio and pop in their preset stones- we can get exact copies- but based on your post- he was definitely looking for some thing with more character.

And I feel strongly enough to delurk to give you your kudos.

Edited at 2012-08-02 11:32 am (UTC)
rhienellethrhienelleth on August 2nd, 2012 03:53 pm (UTC)
If you and I both order presets from rio and pop in their preset stones- we can get exact copies

Yes, exactly! But then it wouldn't exactly be a handmade piece of jewelry.

Thank you for delurking. :) I felt better just reading this comment this morning. I've had a few difficult customers in the past, but nothing on this scale!
(Deleted comment)
rhienelleth: hermione girl power - ausoleilrhienelleth on August 2nd, 2012 03:55 pm (UTC)
I'll be trying to sell one of them, for sure. He sent me a message this morning, turns out he wants the final ring after all - or says he does, which is fine with me at this point.

Yeah, I definitely need to get some better custom order policies into place.I bet with pottery it is really, really hard to match an already made piece - especially one by someone else.
L.A.frenchroast on August 2nd, 2012 12:53 pm (UTC)
The guy sounds like a tool. I know customer service is supposed to be everything, but there are limits. The guy should have to buy one of the rings. Maybe he can give it to her as a wedding present. If he wants a $1700 ring...well, he's gonna have to pony up the money for that. Honestly, that's not even all that much for an engagement ring.
rhienellethrhienelleth on August 2nd, 2012 03:58 pm (UTC)
He couldn't even come up with $350 when I offered (for way, WAY too cheap) to make it for him in gold. An insanity that in hindsight I'm really glad he didn't take me up on...

No, wedding jewelry has become insane, largely due to the price of gold these days. Platinum is $200 cheaper per t. oz., which is just crazy to me. Silver is experiencing kind of a revival in popularity for wedding jewelry as a result.
L.A.frenchroast on August 2nd, 2012 04:18 pm (UTC)
I'm glad he didn't take you up on that.

And while this is neither here nor there, there is a part of me that's saying, dude, if you can't come up with $350 for an engagement ring, you are not in a position to be getting married.

I had no idea gold had skyrocketed past platinum. That's INSANE.
eretria: Fffffst!eretria on August 2nd, 2012 01:11 pm (UTC)
Jesus Christ, Rhien. I think I would have thrown things at him at the second ring.

You behaved admirably and he is obviously not very educated in the area of jewellery-making when he thinks that he can expect the same exact specifications using a different a different material and, quite frankly, not a clone of the original artist.
This is why you are an artist not a machine that makes copies.

You're awesome, Rhien. Don't let this silly person get you down.
rhienelleth: kitty combatrhienelleth on August 2nd, 2012 04:00 pm (UTC)
A different material! Right, I wish I'd thought to include that in my message to him. I think he got the point, though. Well, maybe not. He messaged me back and apologized for "upsetting me".

I thought I was crazy polite in my message, but some of my emotion must have gotten through anyway.
soundingseasoundingsea on August 2nd, 2012 02:23 pm (UTC)
Wow, that is just egregious. Sounds like you need to charge restocking fees or have no returns on custom work or something?
rhienellethrhienelleth on August 2nd, 2012 04:02 pm (UTC)
Indeed. Yes, to both things, I think. Restocking fees to cover my materials, and definitely no returns on custom orders. They're kind of a pain to do anyway, so if someone decides not to make one just because the item is nonreturnable, nonrefundable, I guess I'm okay with that!
-peartreealley on August 2nd, 2012 02:49 pm (UTC)
You are amazing.

He is not. *hugs*

And I think you have a good policy at the end there.
rhienelleth: zoe/wash - shayrenarhienelleth on August 2nd, 2012 04:03 pm (UTC)
Thanks! :) Yes, a very good policy. I think I am going to add that info to my Etsy profile, and then I can point people there when they want custom work.
-peartreealley on August 2nd, 2012 04:15 pm (UTC)
Customs are always a little scary for me, because I can put the same colors on the same fiber in the same way, and it can look completely different than the one I made right before it (and on a different fiber, all bets are off).

Most of my customers understand that, and if it's radically different I send a picture before I mail it just to make sure. (I can always list it if they hate it--but that hasn't happened yet.) There are some dyers who seem to have repeatable colorways down to a science, and I tried that for a while, but I found I didn't enjoy it. So now I just dye whatever I want to dye and list it in the shop, and if people want a custom order (copy or otherwise), I do my best.

It seems to work well for me--I'm happiest, most productive, and sell more when I follow my heart.