The Tale of a Homeless Reindeer-Why I now ask for payment up front

I'm pretty casual about my crochet "business." I started the Critters for Coryn Etsy shop because I  needed a way to get rid of the massive amount of crochet projects my hobby was producing. To date, I've only made about seven sales through Etsy. When we were stationed in Japan I sold a lot through word of mouth locally and at a few craft fairs, but I  haven't had the time to develop the same sort of marketing here, so mostly my stuff just sits  in bins. I long to sell it. My husband begs me to sell it. But in between my lousy photography skills and the amount of competition there are from other sellers on Etsy (I'm not the only one who makes this sort of stuff), I just can't seem to unload it. 

So right now I'm focused purely on making things I fully intend to give away (presents for friends and family and charity hats), but I do still take occasional special orders. I would much rather sell what I already have than make new stuff, but I love crocheting and if a person wants something special I'll make it for them.

That said a lot of my customers really enjoy throwing me for a loop. Just when I think I've learned every pattern anyone could possibly want, someone comes up with a request that completely throws me. Can you make a manatee? A hat that looks like a cartoon character from this cartoon that you have probably never heard of? A  spatula cover? (Okay, I made that last one up)

Generally my answer is, let me google it and get back to you, which I do, I make it, and they buy it. Works well for everyone. Except every so often I send them the pictures of the completed project and . . . silence. 

So here I am with a finished project I don't want that was special ordered so it may be impossible to sale. 
The most recent incident of this was the little reindeer in the title (now available on Etsy because his buyer backed out. You can purchase him here.). Now I do a lot of special orders and about 75% of them come through with no problem. Some even have offered to pay ahead but since they are people I know I generally wave it  off and sometimes don't even charge them until after the item is shipped. However, the 25% of the time that the people for whatever reason back out of the deal is truly frustrating. Prompted by this last incident I posted the following on my Critters for Coryn Facebook page.

This has been a long time coming, but as of this day, I'm creating a policy of prepayment on special orders. 
I am always happy to research and create a new pattern for someone who has a specific need, and generally people are good about coming through. Also, considering most of my clients are people I know in real life, I usually have been comfortable not charging up front. However, about a quarter of the time, when people request special orders from me, they are unable to pay or unwilling to purchase once the order is complete.
For one thing, this is an extremely awkward situation for me. I know that things come up and sometimes money is tight, but my time and resources are not infinite. If I devote time to researching and creating a new product for you and you back out after this is complete, that product is not necessarily easy for me to resale to another. It simply makes more sense for me to receive payment up front. If something happens to me and for whatever reason I cannot make your order to your satisfaction, I can refund you your money. It is impossible for you to refund me my time.

I probably lost the person who ordered the reindeer as a Facebook fan, though I was careful not to mention their name, but it needed to be said. 

It is one thing to inquire if I can make something and then when I say yes and quote a price, change your  mind about actually wanting it. People are always sending me pictures of things they  have seen asking if I can make something like that.  Sometimes they aren't interested in buying them. They just want me to know that this cool pattern is  out there in case I want to give it a go.  I like to think it is pretty  clear when I have agreed to make something for a price. Generally the exchange goes something like this:
Customer: Can you  make this?
Me: Yes, I can make that. I would charge you $10.
Customer: Okay, I want it in blue.
Me: It's made! My paypal address is....What address can I send it to?
Customer: . . . 

I've had the exact opposite, of course. I have had customers insist on paying up front which makes me very  nervous because if I get hit by a bus or break my crochet hand, how are they going to get their ten dollars back? This anxiety (the what if something goes wrong and I have to refund them their money and they get mad?!?!? anxiety) was what always stood in the way of  me asking for money up front as a policy. But as I  said in my Facebook post, money CAN be refunded. Time can't.

And look at that reindeer. That reindeer that nobody wants. Doesn't he break your heart?


  1. Good decision. I had similar things happen to me in a prior business I was in. I would spend hours researching, designing and sometimes buying supplies to then have them not book at all. My bad - I didn't take the deposit - same thing b/c I was nervous about the pressure it would put on me. You are absolutely right - you CAN always refund money but not time. Good call! Your reindeer is adorable. I'm going to check out your shop now! :)


Post a Comment