First I ask that this not be published. Anyway, I'm in a situation that both bothers me and causes me to start to lose some confidence in the fandom. I will try to provide as much information as I can, so here it goes.
In July I attended my first ever convention: Anthrocon 2014. With me was, at the time, my non-furry friend, who has, since attending AC, joined the fandom. While there we talked about getting fursuits together and attending Anthrocon every year that we can, which excited me greatly. I have always wanted a fursuit. Just the idea of bringing my fursona to life and making people smile as him makes me happy. So upon returning home I started my search for a fursuit maker. I researched, I priced, I was careful. I found a maker on Furaffinity; I researched her, found no bad comments about her, saw a couple suits she made, and so I proceeded to contact her and commissioned her to build me a partial,
She charged me $600, which I paid in full upon her request for me to do so. She gave me the completion date of September. I tried to keep in contact with her, which proved difficult every time. And when I did finally did get in contact with her I got an excuse why she wasn't providing pictures of the progress and was told that the completion changed to October.
I figured, okay, things happen, it's life. Then again, hard to get a hold of her, and again every time I did, excuses why I wasn't receiving photos of the progress, and again time change to November, and, yes, same thing again.
Now it's December and I have tried to be in contact with her and have not heard from her in over a month. I'm not sure how I should proceed as, honestly, this was my first-ever commission. I've never even commissioned art, and I am afraid if what has happened has truly happened I may never trust to commission again. So my question on this: am I wrong in thinking that I have been scammed? Should I cut my losses? And is there anything I should be doing that I'm not?
Thank you in advance,
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Please do not “lose confidence in the fandom” because of the actions of one slow fursuit maker. One should never condemn an entire group of people because of one or two bad eggs.
That said, and although I have written on this topic before, this is a good opportunity to talk once again about contracts, verbal contracts, and your legal rights.
One of the things that has long frustrated this bear about furry businesses is that furries who sell goods don’t seem, for the most part, to understand a damn thing about business—whether you are a business owner or a client. I chalk this up to the culture of informality in the fandom. That is, we have established a chummy community within the fandom in which we believe—often falsely—that fellow furries will treat us fairly because they are part of one big happy family. Therefore, we do not take precautions when it comes to business.
There once was a time when “a man’s handshake was as good as his word” (or pawshake, in this context). That’s no longer true, whether in the mundane or in the furry world. I have to use two paws to count the number of times my mate has been f***ed over by business people who did not honor their verbal agreements.
I’ve encountered some of this myself (not with my fursuit maker, Beastcub, who is super-pawsome and worked very closely with me to deliver an outstanding result), but with a certain artist who took over two years to complete a commission I had wanted for a Christmas gift (hence, timeliness was important). While he eventually did get around to it, I will never commission him again.
And that is one thing many artists in the fandom don’t seem to get: if you mistreat customers, eventually the word-of-mouth will bite you in the butt. It’s bad for business.
In hindsight (too late for you right now, but perhaps helpful in the future), you should always get a written agreement with an artist or fursuit maker. If they refuse to agree to one, tell them “no thanks” and find someone else. Secondly, never never never pay 100% for the commission up front. The artist I work with for this site, Dan the Bear, for example, never demands I pay him until I am satisfied with the result and he has delivered it to me.
With fursuit makers, because they have to buy materials for your fursuit, the proper thing to do is treat them like a contractor working on your house. When I have a carpenter or plumber or electrician doing work, I pay him or her for all the supplies they need as soon as we agree on what’s to be done. Then, when they are done with the job, I pay for labor. The same should be true for any respectable fursuit maker. Get an invoice from them for the materials they need and pay for those. Then, when the finish, give them the rest. You could also pay in “milestones.” That is (and this can work for larger projects), pay for completion of certain steps. For instance, pay 25% for when the head is completed, another 25% for the body, and then the balance when it is all done.
The fact that the fursuit maker in your case refused to show you photos makes her, indeed, suspect. It might be that she was once reliable (as online evidence seemed to indicate), but people can go from good to bad sometimes.
Okay, so what to do from this point? Well, you don’t have a contract, but what Papabear is hoping and praying for is that you saved your email and any other correspondence with her. These are considered legal evidence of an agreement—especially if you have emails from her saying, yes, she received the $600 (or some other evidence, such as a PayPal receipt) and, yes, she was going to complete it by such and such a date.
While written contracts are best, verbal contracts are still considered enforceable. Gather up these emails, and if you have witnesses, get them on your side, too. With those on your side, contact the fursuit maker and tell her that you are unhappy with her lack of progress and want a refund immediately. If she refuses, tell her that you have email evidence that she received your money and agreed to make the fursuit, and if she still refuses tell her that she leaves you no choice but to take legal action—that is, you will take her to small claims court (tips on how: http://www.peopleslawyer.net/legal-topics/small-claims-court.html). Here’s some info to know if the person you are suing is in another state: http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/free-books/small-claims-book/chapter9-2.html.
Another thing she might do is ask for another extension. If so, and you feel kind and generous, that is up to you to accept. BUT! If you do accept it, this time get a written contract that includes a date of delivery and a description of what, exactly, is to be delivered to you in satisfactory condition. Also include a clause saying you have a right to refuse the work if you consider the quality unacceptable (e.g., she hands you a wad of fabric with two eyes glued to it).
Don’t threaten to bad mouth her on furry forums. You can actually get into legal trouble yourself sometimes when you do that (she might accuse you of slander). But do tell her in no uncertain terms what you expect from her and when.
You’re in an unenviable place right now, but with some work—and if you stick to your guns—you can get this straightened out and, hopefully, learn from the experience.
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Thank you for your advice. I will take it to heart and act upon it. I do have the emails and PayPal receipts. Update on the situation: this morning, after I emailed her twice in a week about needing to speak with her, I reviewed an email from her with only three words: "my laptop broke." And this upset me a great deal, so I am definitely going to be requesting a refund and searching for a new maker. And again thank you for the advice.
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