I'm in quite a dilemma here, and I will try to make this short and sweet.
I commissioned a seemingly talented yet not very well known fursuit maker for a fullsuit in April of 2015. We agreed in writing of a deadline for December of 2015. I was given excuses all up to a month before the deadline, then was told that I was not going to be receiving my product. I understand, life happens. I was cordial and kind and gave no issue. It is now 3 months past deadline and I still have absolutely no update on the progress. I wholeheartedly believe it has not even begun. I was not told of supplies being purchased or work beginning on it.
Now, I don't mind waiting. I really don't. My issue is, that I have now come to learn a few concerning facts after I have commissioned them. I am behind a list of 20+ other paid off fullsuit/partial commissions, all of which seem to have no significant progress for months now, as shown by their public queue and social media. Instead, they are working on side projects that are not in the queue, namely pre-mades so they can make a little more money. I have also learned that they have a pretty bad habit of frequently asking urgently for money because of emergencies, yet buy unnecessary luxury items that same day such as art, plushies, or expensive fursuits, as proven by a few people. I have also spoken to people personally who have had bad experiences with this person. I have lost a lot of trust in this maker because of this.
They also have a reputation of refusing refunds in full, or adding on "service fees" or refusing chunks of the refund for "work completed" with no proof or real basis.
I have proof of all payments sent, along with corresponding messages to go with them. I have proof of commissioning the fursuit, the deadline, the missed deadline, them admitting that I will not be receiving my product at the intended time.
I have not yet asked for a refund, as this person has a reputation for becoming hostile and blacklisting and creating loads of drama once a refund is requested. I have personally been witness to this. I want to make this as smooth and quick as possible. I would like to take this to small claims court, but my only issue is, we live in completely different states quite far apart and I am unsure of what to do to keep them from going off the deep end and me losing out on money that I trusted to them, when I fully believe that none of it has even went to supplies or creation of the fursuit. I just don't know where to go from here.
Any advice is greatly and sincerely appreciated.
Anonymous (age 24)
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Sadly, what you are experiencing is nothing new and is a good example of what not to do when commissioning a fursuit. Sounds to ol’ bear you only heard about this maker’s bad rep after you started experiencing problems. Did you not research this person before sending money? That was mistake number one. Mistake number two was not getting a written receipt for the money you sent, although it sounds like you have some email proof, which is something, at least. Mistake number three was sending, apparently, ALL the money to the fursuit maker up front. Respectable fursuit makers only ask for a deposit to pay for materials and then ask for the rest upon delivery of the completed fursuit. Now you are not only out part of the money but all of it. It has been suggested by some furries that one solution would be to set up an escrow account, but this seems needlessly complicated and also means the fursuit maker would not have money for materials at first.
You mention small claims court. That’s a good idea, but, as you noted, works best when you and the maker are in the same state. When we’re talking different states, then it gets hard, especially since pretty much every fursuit maker I have heard of does not operate an incorporated business. That leaves you with having to get to the maker’s state and suing there, which is not very cost effective, or trying to sue out of state. From the legal sites I have looked over, intrastate small claims judgments are mostly restricted to cases regarding things like real estate, property damage, or suing an actual business that is an incorporated entity (here's some information about small claims in other states: http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/free-books/small-claims-book/chapter9-2.html). Again, the informality of traditional fursuit commissioning makes this severely problematic, as far as I know. Then again, I’m not an attorney (anyone?); you could hire an attorney, but good ones will cost you as much as the fursuit or more.
So, then we get into the subject of reviews. I thought to myself, wouldn’t it be nice if there were a review site such as Angie’s List or Yelp for furries? Turns out, there are. They are still in the process of being developed, but one is here on Tumblr http://makersdatabase.tumblr.com/, and another is being worked on here: http://fursuitreview.khat.us/ with a more up-to-date version on FurAffinity: http://www.furaffinity.net/user/fursuitreview/. Papabear is pleased that there are furries out there going to the trouble and time to try and help their fellows in what can be a frustrating process.
Here are a couple possible ways to proceed:
Always start off trying to be nice as possible and giving the person a benefit of a doubt, but don’t be afraid to fight back. If enough people do, this fursuit maker will soon become so notorious that they will never receive any more commissions, and that will be deservedly so. It really irritates me that there are such dishonorable people out there, but there it is.
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