search  current discussion  categories  business - sales & marketing 

are all sales final ?

updated wed 29 aug 01

 

Paul Lewing on sat 25 aug 01


Tracy,
This guy is a fan. He's already bought two of your pieces and you can't
afford too lose him as a customer.
HOWEVER.....
Do your best to not actually give him his money back. Offer to exchange the
piece for any piece or combination of pieces you've got. Offer to make a
duplicate of the piece in question for him. Offer him his pick of your next
batch of really special pieces. If all else fails, give him his money back,
but try everything else first. But keep him happy.
Paul Lewing, Seattle

Janet Kaiser on sat 25 aug 01


I do not know the legal position in your country, but
here in the UK a sale is final and binding. It is not
manufactured ware and any "defect" (real, perceived or
otherwise) is part of the piece. All art is sold "as
seen". If the buyer decides it is the wrong colour,
size, etc. or plain decides they do not want or like
the item after all and demands we accept it back
(including a refund), we are legally entitled to refuse
and the customer has no legal recourse when we do. This
also applies to purchases intended as presents... "They
did not like it, can I have my money back?" The answer
is a firm "no" especially if it is weeks after the
piece was bought.

The only exception is when a fault affects the function
of the piece... For example a leaky oil lamp or an
S-crack in a vase or a teapot lid which falls off when
pouring the first cup of tea. A hairline crack that
does not leak liquid content or is invisible would not
necessarily fall into this category. Certainly not if
it was in a sculptural/non-functional piece.

It is up to you to decide whether it would be better
for customer relations if you do allow work to be
returned... They may return another day to buy
something else. Most makers I know will accept a piece
back and give credit, but they will not return money
spent either directly or via a third party (i.e. a
gallery).

In the case where your integrity is questioned, there
is little likelihood that they will ever return as a
customer, so you would be quite entitled to refuse any
sort of co-operation IMHO. Do not let the customer make
you feel beholden or guilty if you have complete
confidence in your work.

I am sorry to say this fashion for returning goods and
demanding refunds with "no questions asked" has been
introduced by Big Business. Everyone seems to think it
is a legal right. It simply is not (here) and hasn't a
legal leg to stand on.

There was a post recently which was a case in point...
A book ordered from Steve B.'s shop was returned and
the buyer expected a full "no questions asked" refund.
In other words, they ordered the book, leafed through
it and then decided they did not want it. It was not
damaged or anything like that. The Potters Shop very
kindly accepted it back and gave credit minus $1.00,
which I presume would not even cover postage and
packing let alone the time involved processing the
order. And yet the buyer was whining and stated they
would never buy there again!!! See what I mean? It
would be downright insulting behaviour if it happened
to an artist or maker, so why is it any different for
other small businesses and individuals?

The really difficult customers, are those who are
serial returnees... Buy something and then want to
return it, then repeat it time and time again. It is a
hobby and a way of filling their lives... Got hooked by
ordering from the catalogue companies and now inflict
their little addiction on local outlets because the
personal contact is even more fun and rewarding. Sad
people they may be, but exceptionally irritating when
being the archetypal "demanding customer" taking up
hours of time in personal care and attention.

The legal three day "cooling off" period which applies
to customers who have been directly approached by the
vendor (by phone, door-to-door selling, etc.) do not
apply to a normal retail situation. But if you feel
uncomfortable about not refunding, you could include
this sort of "clause" in your terms of trading.

I am not happy with signs all around the place...
"These raku vases will not hold water", "Not suitable
for small children" etc. etc. But a complete list of
"Terms" posted somewhere in a workshop/booth/gallery
helps to clarify any points which customers could later
claim are unclear or they were unaware of. The terms
upon which you trade should naturally not contravene
national/local laws and regulations.

Janet Kaiser
The Chapel of Art . Capel Celfyddyd
HOME OF THE INTERNATIONAL POTTERS' PATH
Criccieth LL52 0EA, GB-Wales Tel: (01766) 523570
E-mail: postbox@the-coa.org.uk
WEBSITE: http://www.the-coa.org.uk

----- Original Message -----

> This is the first time this has happen to us. We in
the past have exchanged
> pieces i.e. when there was a hair line crack in a pot
we didn't see and
> later customer came back to show. But when there is
nothing wrong with the piece do you take back the piece
or not?

Mert & Holly Kilpatrick on sat 25 aug 01


Well, I imagine legalistically Janet's comments are true, customers don't
have a "legal right" to returns. But in terms of pleasing customers, or
"delighting customers" as is the buzzword of the customer satisfaction
field, a small number of returns is probably a small price to pay. There is
a saying in American business, I forget the numbers, that a happy customer
tells 2 people but an unhappy customer tells 12 people (or some similar
numbers). Another saying is that it is ten times harder to gain a new
customer than to keep an existing one. Again, I don't know if that is the
right number, and that would vary from industry to industry.

I remember years ago when I did office work on a military base medical
dispensary in Germany, along with Germans who were employed there, the
Germans felt the Americans were very spoiled because they wanted their drs.
appointments at times convenient to them. I remember Ilsa, my co-worker,
telling me that German doctor's offices just gave out appointment times, and
people took what they got. They were very impatient with the Americans who
expected some flexibility. I think convenience and flexibility are very
important factors to American customers.

Since potters are selling "wants, not needs" as many have said here, I would
think the "customer is always right" approach would be more
business-building. Even if you have to bite your tongue as someone said.

Holly

----- Original Message -----
From: "Janet Kaiser"


> I do not know the legal position in your country, but
> here in the UK a sale is final and binding. It is not
> manufactured ware and any "defect" (real, perceived or
> otherwise) is part of the piece. All art is sold "as
> seen". If the buyer decides it is the wrong colour,
> size, etc. or plain decides they do not want or like
> the item after all and demands we accept it back
> (including a refund), we are legally entitled to refuse
> and the customer has no legal recourse when we do. This
> also applies to purchases intended as presents... "They
> did not like it, can I have my money back?" The answer
> is a firm "no" especially if it is weeks after the
> piece was bought.

vince pitelka on sun 26 aug 01


I have been a little surprised at some of the responses to this thread which
say that all sales are final. The value of a good customer, and the value
of good word-of-mouth publicity far exceeds the value of the individual
object sold. I do not care how much time has elapsed. If the customer
gives a good reason for returning the merchandise I would accept it without
question. In studio production in California in the late 70s and early 80s
I always encouraged the customer to accept other work in exchange, or to
take credit for future purchases, but if they wanted a cash refund I never
refused them. If the work is still in good shape you just resell it at full
price. If it is older work then you sell it on the bargain table at a
slight loss. Either way it is worth it. When you are selling to a local
audience, building a base of faithful customers is all-important. You don't
need to kiss up or make special accommodations for the compulsive
complainer, but I believe that an important part of being a successful
studio artist is in the art of building a positive community image which is
honest and truthful. Other than the relatively small income from the
individual object, you have nothing to gain and much to loose by being a
hard-ass about returns. Word gets around very quickly.
Best wishes -
- Vince

Vince Pitelka
Appalachian Center for Crafts
Tennessee Technological University
1560 Craft Center Drive, Smithville TN 37166
Home - vpitelka@dtccom.net
615/597-5376
Work - wpitelka@tntech.edu
615/597-6801 ext. 111, fax 615/597-6803
http://www.craftcenter.tntech.edu/

Janet Kaiser on mon 27 aug 01


> I have been a little surprised at some of the
responses to this thread which
> say that all sales are final.

I was simply stating the legal position here in the UK,
not just opinion on what to do or not to do, the pros
and cons of customer relations, etc. etc. It is up to
the individual what their "policy" is to be, once they
know the facts about where they stand and what their
options are.

As always, I also speak from a gallery point of view,
acting as the agent for artists and makers for the
duration of an exhibition (6-8 weeks). The average
price at The CoA is 60-70 (approx. $100) with many
individual pieces well over 100. We pay the maker at
the end of the calendar month with the balance at the
end of the exhibition, so what would they do if we
suddenly said, "Oh, by the way, that 250 sculpture of
yours we sold in the "Animal Farm" exhibition back in
April has been returned. Please return the money and
collect your work at your earliest convenience"?
Artists would rightly be concerned about working with
such a gallery.

There is also a huge difference between small
production items such as a mug or an oil burner and a
large, expensive one-off piece like a sculpture. As the
original question concerned the latter with a price tag
of several hundred dollars, I would personally be
unwilling to respond in quite the same way as a mug
sale. The purchase of a work of art should be treated
with a great deal of serious consideration and respect.
It is not a good idea for people to start treating art
as manufactured merchandise or consumer products which
they can treat like a roll of wallpaper or a can of
paint.

I am also disillusioned and cynical following some
pretty shitty past experiences. The behaviour of half a
dozen or so people has spoiled my naive and blind
belief in the basic honesty, integrity and sincerity of
fellow mankind. Sure the majority are not mean
spirited, petty people out to trick or defraud, but it
only takes one or two to harden the heart and put a
whole new "sales policy" into place. And a policy is
not carved in stone. It can be ignored... But it is a
good idea to be able to fall back on one when the going
gets tough.

There is a deep respect between all our regular,
decent, caring clients and ourselves, which is the
basis of many a mutually fruitful and rewarding
relationship. Casual customers become regular clients
and then personal friends... They trust us to be
professional and ethical and we do our best to serve
their needs, guide and advise, whilst promoting the
artists who exhibit with us and their work. I often
chose work for exhibition with particular clients in
mind... Putting the right people in the right place at
the right time: all part of the service.

But when someone is patently out to do the dirty, I
have no difficulty at all about nipping their duplicit
behaviour in the bud. That is not the type of person we
wish to do business with and they are no loss to us or
the artists we represent. We have far too much respect
for the artists and their work, as well as our
treasured clients to lower our standards and
expectations.

This takes us into whole different areas, such as the
elitism of galleries, how selling art is different to
any other commercial activity plus other related
subjects and emotive issues I do not want to go into
here.

At the end of the day, selling a treasured piece is
rather like placing a child in a foster home... You
hope it will be treated with the same respect, love and
affection you would yourself and you do all you can to
make sure that is the case.

Janet Kaiser
The Chapel of Art . Capel Celfyddyd
HOME OF THE INTERNATIONAL POTTERS' PATH
Criccieth LL52 0EA, GB-Wales Tel: (01766) 523570
E-mail: postbox@the-coa.org.uk
WEBSITE: http://www.the-coa.org.uk