Cheating customer? What to do?

I have never had a situation like this so am in a quandary as how to
approach it.

I am a show jeweler, in a recent show a young woman spent a great
deal of time at my booth and very much liked one of my rings. She
talked about ordering it & I wrote down so if she
decided to, she’d have the correct info.

Time passed & I was in the middle of making inventory for another
upcoming show. I was buried in work. The young woman (YW) emailed
and said she wanted to order the ring. I said fine I’d get to it
when I returned. No, she needed it within a week! She was very

Because it was an expensive ring and a “bird in the hand” I decided
to set aside working on inventory and fulfill her request with a
healthy deposit, which she sent. I sent it off to her right before I
left for the show (with less inventory then I wanted.) Aside from a
different style shank she wanted, the ring I sent was an exact copy
of the original ring. She has a small finger also.

In 10 days I get an email. YW is not happy with the ring. New ring
has a different finish, it sits too high on the shank, it looks
different…can I fix it or better resize the original ring to fit
her. I read her complaints, set them aside, reread them and decided
they were pretty bogus. I had the original ring and know I
duplicated it. Because of the way the ring is made and that its out
of sterling & bi metal with a diamond set in it, it is not possible
to resize. Nor do I want to spend more time and money and have her
reject another ring for more arbitrary reasons.

I emailed back told her firmly but nicely, that the ring was a copy
of the original and I wasn’t going to resize another ring for her.
She needed to decide she liked it and pay me the rest of the $ she
owed ($350) or send it back, undamaged.

Heard nothing. So I left a nice but firm message on her phone. She
finally emails saying she’s sending back and will do so on Saturday.
The ring has not been returned yet.

Friends think she had a special event to wear the ring to and now
that the event is done, I get it back. She had a heavy foreign
accent I wonder if I am in some bartering game that I don’t
understand. My thought is she’s here on a student visa. Is she just
gaming me? My gut tells me something is up and she is not being
honest with me.

Do I?

+Keep emailing and phoning and being nice, trying to get the money
or the ring back?

+Write an email and berate her forcheating me? I am out the labor &
materials for this ring, as well as missed sales at the show because
of my smaller then usual inventory. This is a very small ring…it
won’t sell fast. I do feel doubly cheated.

+Check with a consul to see if she is on a student visa and see if
they can help me?

+Other ideas?

And for the future, how do you all deal with custom orders. I have
NEVER had anyone return anything I did for them. They are usually
ecstatic with the jewelry I make. I and really surprised by all of
this. My return policy is pretty open as a result. Should I have a
no returns on custom work policy?

Any and all thoughts would be helpful.

Thank you so much.

I don’t know what you’re going to do now, but I wouldn’t have sent
her the ring unless I had the rest of the money.

Good luck to you in whatever you do.


I wish I had some grand advice that would make you either get your
ring back or the remainder of the money owed to you.

My best bit of advice would be to not send custom (or any) work
without full payment. Sounds like she preyed on your kindness and
your desire to make her happy. And that is not only cruel, it is

You could continue to contact her to try to get the ring returned or
the money owed to you. Unfortunately my instinct is that you will
not see either. She has no real motivation to remedy the situation.
She has the ring and she got it for a steal.

I HOPE that I am wrong and that she does the right thing. Just know
you are not the first person who has been scammed… and you won’t
be the last :frowning:


Check with the Consul. like you said, they may help. Or, you can
threaten small claims court if the remainder is not paid in full
within 10 days. Lesson learned. Always get deposit and then send
item C.O.D. ONLY!! Money order or cashiers check.


Did she give you a tracking number for the package she sent out? If
you haven’t received the ring by two weeks after she supposedly sent
it out, write her & tell her that you are contacting your lawyer
unless she can produce the rest of the money or proof that she
mailed the piece back (an actual tracking number, insurance claim
number, etc.). And if that still doesn’t get a response, then call
your lawyer & have them write a letter threatening appropriate legal


For what it’s worth: my policy on custom items is “no returns on
custom work unless the product is defective, or differs beyond
reasonable limits from the agreed upon design.” Granted, that’s kind
of ‘loose’ wording, and open to interpretation…so far I haven’t
had any troubles with it though (knock-on-wood). Also, 50% minimum
deposit to begin work, and full payment received before shipping the
finished item.

I think you might be right about the special event, otherwise why
would she need it within a week then suddenly decide she didn’t like

You can also explain to her that the ring was made to the size she
requested, and that due to it’s design it cannot be re-sized. You
would, however, be able to make her a new one… after she pays for
the old one. You could even offer her a discount on the 2nd one.
(okay, so that might not seem very professional/polite)

If you think it might sell eventually, you could agree to take it
back, but withhold a “re-stocking” fee, a fairly substantial one.

Mark Wells

Everyone learns by doing. In retail you should never send/give
product w/out full payment.

You do need on your marketing materials, receipts AND ON YOUR credit
card receipts your return policy.

By not having that and mailing it open account, you have issued this
woman, legally, an accounts receivable account.

You can sue in court for payment. I’d say go for small claims court.

I don’t know why you don’t offer to exchange and give her the
original ring she saw? What an easy solution.

You need her to be receptive to your requests and with the back and
forth emails she received, I too would be hard pressed to “do you a
favor” and return the ring right away. She might feel a lower price
(by not paying you) might be her final way of getting evem. She might
also think “how will I get my money back?”

My suggestion? Get her to return the ring and give her the money
back and move on.

But your 3 options are:

  1. Excahnge the ring she has for the original and her paying you the

  2. Refund her money when she returns the ring

  3. Go to court.

David Geller


Most of what I ship is to a regular client. 30 to 40 days the norm,
I don’t get excited. Once when I really needed the money he
overnighted a cheque for the full balance.

Private clients and it is almost always $$ first. Three exceptions,
one took creative threats to solve in 90 days (a fellow jeweller and
former client no less), #2 no problems, #3 free work to a dear friend
only asking for the rush shipping before the party started. Not a
dear friend any more for other reasons but I had to eat the $30.

I have been lucky, but do learn. Your lesson cost more$ than mine
although the stress is the same. Christmas grinch attitude always
from now on. Lost sales are free, lost $$ and labour is not.

Demand Designs
Analog/Digital Modelling & Goldsmithing

And for the future, how do you all deal with custom orders. I have
NEVER had anyone return anything I did for them. 

DO NOT do custom work unless it’s for a customer who has purchased
your work previously and likes you work in general. People who want
custom often see themselves as jewelers 'manque. If only they had
the tools and the time… They have a fantasy in their head which
you will never be able to fulfill.

Remember the caveat above: unless it’s for a customer who has
purchased your work previously and likes you work in general.


I had the same problem but at least you got some of your payment. I
shipped an item to Malaysia and still did not receive any payment
try to track her down and get you money this is a very good learning
experience for you.

If you owed a credit card company they would hound you until you pay
and I think we artist metal smith must put just as much effort into
getting our money as we do in making a piece of jewellery.

Dear Carla,

This is precisely why I don’t do custom orders. It’s not worth the
hassle. Realistically, you can try to get the ring back however you
deem, but it is one of life’s lessons I guess. Some people are just
jerks and they, unfortunately, ruin it for all the nice people. Good

Margery Hirschey

Carla, So very sorry you are going through this. I know your work and
the time, talent and effort you put into it. To me it seems as if you
are dealing with a con artist. I don’t really think you stand a
chance of getting your money or the ring back. This seems to me to
be outright theft.

Unfortunately about all you can do is take her to small claims
court–but even if the judgement is in your favor, there would still
be a problem of your collecting the money.

I think that in the future any transactions of this sort should
require full payment up front, plus no returns on custom work–except
in the case of customers with whom you have dealt with before, or if
the returned item is one you can put back in your inventory.

Hope things are resolved to your satisfaction, but I really think
the woman is a con artist.

Alma Rands

Hi again Carla,

I was thinking about this a bit more and wanted to ask if you have a
deposit policy stated anywhere? Did you tell her that your custom
order deposits are non-refundable? And did she pay using a credit

I ask because if she does do the right thing and sends the ring back
you can kindly tell her that you will NOT being resizing or changing
the ring in any way what-so-ever and that your professional
relationship is OVER. You can refund her deposit and wash your hands
of her or you can uphold a non-refundable deposit policy (if you
have one) and not refund the deposit and STILL wash your hands of
her. However if she made the deposit using a credit card she could
initiate a charge back and then you lose the money are charged
additional charge back fees and also get a negative mark on your
merchant account. UGH!

On a positive note, I visited your website and LOVE your work. So
creative and wonderful. I also love the picture of you on your About
page :slight_smile:

I hope you can get this worked out in your favor.


Sorry, but bad business practice.

I have learned, get full payment from every customer, family member,
friend before giving them the jewelry. Anything you give to someone
without getting full payment you have to consider as having been
fully paid for at the time they receive it.

Probably some psychological reasoning, like you gave it to them
without full payment because you really did not need the money that
bad. Ya, they said that.

Hard to make someone FEEL like they owe you something when they FEEL
like the do not. And you get to hear how it is your fault.

When you get deposits, get enough to cover at least all materials,
better to get materials and some of the labor costs.

If it is over $100, you might contact the attorney general of the
city she is in and find out if you can sue.

I have been naive quite a few times. I am not as dumb as I was about
that. I have moved on to other lessons. Seems like there is always
something to have to take responsibility for, although sometimes I am
kicking and screaming along the way.

Take good care of yourself, as if the other person cares about you
and your situation, but not as much as they care about their
situation or what you did too them or did not do for them.

P.S. Deposit plus a credit card number with name on card,
expiration, address, 3 digits on the back, and phone #.

Richard Hart G.G.
Denver, Co. 80210

I do a lot of custom work, and almost all of it is for clients I
have not previously dealt with.

I have learned to pay attention to some cues of “unreasonable” in my
communications, and either decline the work (“too busy” is always
effective), or make sure I have non-renege-able payment up front-
this means check or money order, full payment including postage, and
I wait to order the metal or to do any work until it’s cleared. And
it’s non-refundable.

This is especially true for “rush” jobs, since the nature of them is
such that a non-refundable deposit will not time-out of the
charge-back period before I’ve sent off the piece.

The only things I’ll do custom in a week are my “trinket rings”,
which are both inexpensive and usually trivial to make.

And nothing, NOTHING goes out without full payment- and that means
if it’s a check or money order, I have to deposit it and be sure it’s
cleared. I have made the occasional exception for local people who I
could sue in small claims court if I had to.

So, what’s worked for me thus far for custom work: 50% deposit up
front, non-refundable; the rest, including postage, upon completion-
and it needs to clear before I send anything; rush jobs I may or may
not accept depending on my current load and my impression of the
client; if i do accept a rush job, It’ll need more like 3-4 weeks and
the full payment is due up front non-refundable, and in a format in
which they can’t do a charge-back. I mail things insured and with
tracking, and by preference via registered mail.

Mostly this has worked out for me. I did have one person order a
size 9 ring, get a size 9 ring, and have a hissy fit because it
“didn’t fit” and so it was clearly NOT REALLY a size 9 AND thus I
needed to resize it properly- and pay all the postage- to make it a
size 8.5. And this was “obviously” not due to her error in measuring!
No! because she wanted a 9, and now wants it an 8.5! -The other
problem was a guy who ordered a very idiosyncratic ring, apparently
threw it down a garbage disposal and complained that a stone had
fallen out, so I replaced it, polished it up as best I could given
the damage, checked all the stones… and then a couple of days after
he got it back he did it again- AND complained that the part of the
damage he’d done that I wasn’t able to polish away was damage I’D
inflicted. I think he was after a free ring. Fortunately, by that
time (since it wasn’t a rush) his charge-back window had expired.

But mostly, people have been fine. However, I am not especially
trusting, and I think it makes sense to rule out some of the easy
ways for people to be sleazy, for everyone’s benefit.


Amanda Fisher

Go to



Count yourself lucky that you got a deposit on the ring. Some money
is better than none and it sounds like you may not get the balance.
When making custom pieces you should get a significant deposit for
the piece, one that will cover all of your materials and some of
your labor. I would not ship a custom piece without full payment. I
would not refund money for a custom piece because they decided they
didn’t care for it either. Comes under “you changed your mind, your
issue”. If you know you can resell the piece you may want to give
them some partial amount for the item but not the full amount. You
still need to spend time cleaning, offering for sale, marketing, when
you sell it so there is added time involved that you could be using
to make other product for sale. If a customer wants to return a
customer piece because of fit or something about workmanship that
should be decided on a case by case basis.

I might contact the person one or two more times but since the
amount of money involved is probably not worth spending a lot of time
on when you can be making other pieces. It’s not just about the
money, it’s also about the frustration and energy you spend being
upset about it, takes away from your focus on making product. Decide
what you need for your policy on future custom pieces and chalk this
one up to a learning experience. It’s not about being a nice person,
it’s about getting paid for the value you are providing.

Pat Gebes

I have been in business for almost 15 years both phone and online

We have learned a few hard lessons over that time. If a customer is
using a credit card, email them a receipt/order form with an area for
them to fill in their c/c and have them fax it back to
you. That is the only way to avoid a charge back from the credit card

Customers can lie and state they never received it or they never
authorized you to bill their c/c and the c/c companies will refund.
Even if you have emails stating order intention and billing info. It
doesn’t matter.

Card companies will only use signed orders with c/c info as a
legitimate payment.

If they pay by check allow up to 3 weeks to make sure their check
clears before sending item.

Hope this helps


The ring is back in the studio. Now she wants her money back. We are
going to refund her part of the $ and will refund the rest when the
ring sells. We are also taking photos of both rings side by side to
show her that they were identical. She will get an email telling her
why we are doing this, and what grief she caused us with her demands
and returns.

We are changing our custom order procedures. For new customers it is
a 50% upfront, non-refundable fee to help offset time and materials.
Also I don’t stop my work for an new customer with a need for hurry.
I learned a lot.

Thank you for the support and suggestions, we were going to plan B
with all your ideas if the ring did not make it back. Now we can
focus on changing our custom order procedures and make sure this
doesn’t happen again.

Your time and thoughts are much appreciated.


This reminds of a story…

Man and his lady friend are looking at rings on a Friday afternoon.
She oohs and ahhs at all the glitter and he beams at each ooh and
ahh. Love springs eternal. Finally they special order it in the
exact color, size, carat etc etc that just makes her heart go pitta
pat. Jeweler is quite happy to finally close the sale. Ring costs
$4000. Gent leaves a $400 deposit and says he’ll be back next week.
They walk out the store, she’s just dripping all over him, he’s happy
as a clam. They head off for The Cape.

A week goes by. Then two. Then its a month. Store owner calls the
man and asks when he might be in. “Oh, well, I don’t think I’ll pick
it up after all”, says the man. “But your deposit is non-refundable”,
says the jeweler, now getting a bit miffed.

“That’s Okay, you keep it, it was the best $400 weekend I ever had.”

I’m not trying to minimize your situation but a laugh might do us
all some good.