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Client damaged bespoke item and wants free repair

Hi Everyone

I wonder if you could advise me.

Last year, new client asked me, to design 4 pendents and a belt
buckle, for them to take to the USA to give to their family at
Thanksgiving for an early Christmas present. We agreed a design, a
family tree in the style of a corkscrew hazel tree on a flat
background, and payment terms, a deposit upon accepting the
commission and the final payment upon receipt of the work. She paid
the deposit ok. Due to ill health and a confusion about the date she
was leaving the uk (she told me the wrong date then claimed she
didn’t) meant I had to post them to her in the USA which I agreed
too free of charge as a goodwill gesture.

They arrived in time for her to present to her family, who were
delighted, her Father even cried, he was so moved and she has told
me that her family keep emailing her saying how much they love the
items. She also mentioned that she had a minor problem that she
would explain when she got back.

A week after she got back she emailed me to say that one of the
pendents had a smashed lower left hand corner and that perhaps we
could get together after the holidays to sort it out.

Despite emailing her regarding this matter several times it wasn’t
until today when She finally came to my studio today with the
pendent, nearly 4 months after she had received the items.

She said that the package was not damaged when it arrived and that
they were wrapped very well, yet claimed one pendent was bent at one
corner when it arrived and admitted that her husband had tried to
straighten it ‘by bending it against the kitchen counter’.

Now I know that when it left my studio it was not damaged and since
the packaging was intact when it arrived I know it wasn’t damaged in
transit. The damage on the back is extensive with deep groves gouged
out of the silver and considerable distortion of the flat silver
base itself.

I don’t know what to do, she wants me to fix the damage free of
charge, which I offered to do before I knew her husband had tried to
fix it himself and refund the tax that she claims she was charged in
the USA, yet she still owes me a considerable amount of money. I
have asked her to send me a copy of the Tax invoice so I can try to
sort it out. I would appreciate your advice on this matter.

I have to add I don’t want her as a future client.


I wonder if you could advise me. 

Never release the jewelry until you have all the money.

1 Like

If you don’t want her as a client again, then tell her sorry, but
hit the bricks!

1 Like

i had a case like this once. not to the extent that you have but it
sounds to me like miss treatment of the item you made for you client
by your client. do not give her an inch. if you have already said
you will fix it you might hold to that but in light of the damage
you should confront her. she would have been liable for the tax if
she legally imported it into the country regardless of how she
brought it into the US either by mail or in her bags that is not
your issue.

my suggestion is (if you never want her back)

fix the item for free

do not release it to her until she pays you the full remainder of
the bill to date.

you have bent over backwards for this lady and licked her shoes. you
need only give her what you promised up until now. put it on paper
what you have done. along with total that shows all of the extras
you have given her then discount it so she can see just how cheeky
she is. be polite but firm. do not give her back the jewellery until
she pays for it.

she will rant and rave and call you names and tell you that the
customer is always wright, she might even ask her for her money
back. you say the deposit is none refundable and you know she like
the items and it was her fault they became so damaged. then she will
tell you that she is going to tell all of her friends never to enter
you shop and storm out the door. ignore this because in a few weeks
time all of her friends will come to see just who the person is that
stood up to this very difficult ignorant individual and will become
your best customers.

Bad press from someone like this is a good thing. you will make
money out of this situation, hold your ground. and dont take any
*&#@#. be confident and keep your dignity. you are being abused by
this person and dont need to feel guilty for treating her

if i was there i would be happy to deal with it for you (easy for me
to say eh)

take some wisdom from the old sailors and HOLD FAST!

Les Riddell


You answered your question in two places.

she still owes me a considerable amount of money. 
I have to add I don't want her as a future client. 

Since they already owe you, add the repair to her outstanding bill.
Sounds like it will be free anyway.

Good luck!
Karen Christians

Sad story that probably won’t end with everyone happy. The lesson
here is to have a policy that work does not go out until paid for.
If that’s your stated policy, it protects you from all sorts of grief
or sleepless nights and from your self! I think you should ask to be
paid for your delivered work and then discuss the repair. A person
of good faith will understand.

Marianne hunter

I would at least point out to her that you can’t do anything until
the order is paid in full. She technically hasn’t paid for it yet, so
I think it wouldn’t be too far out of line just to retain the piece.
Also, did you agree on an amount to cover postage to the US? As to
the tax she paid in the US, that should be her burden. Also, I can’t
think of anywhere that will repair for free something that you have
first tried to repair yourself. BTW, keep copies of those e-mails as
a record of what she had told you.

Theresa Bright In Albuquerque for only 10 more weeks, then home to the
Farm (and soon a new workshop!) in California

I have to agree with Marianne on this.

I never, ever let a customer get out of paying before they get the
work. Actually, my policy is that I don’t even pick up tools to work
on your design until I get full payment.

Do I lose the occasional commission? Sure.

But most of the folks who have a problem with paying in advance also
have the kind of poor communication skills and antagonistic attitude
that makes me think they are going to find some little imagined thing
wrong and refuse to pay.

So as far as I’m concerned, I’ve not lost anything I was going to
get anyway, and I’ve spared myself a headache.

On the other hand, my work carries a limited lifetime warranty. If
it gets broken and I can fix it, I do. In most cases, the customer
only needs to pay the shipping both ways, but i do occasionally
charge the materials cost for things i have to order to complete a
repair. This also gets me a ton of referrals and repeat business.

So I’d say fix it, try to get your owed money from this lady, and
don’t ever take another commission from her.

And quit working on the speculation that you will be paid when
finished. Speculation doesn’t keep the lights on, buy supplies or

Lindsay Legler

Orla,In my mind, the balance owed is more of an issue than a free
repair. If it were me, I would tell the client that I would be happy
to repair the item for a small fee (because of the DIY repair
attempt - “sorry, that’s standard”), take the item in for repair, and
then request the balance owed BEFORE returning the repaired item.
That way, you have the security of the item (at least worth the
metal) in case she won’t pay the balance. I would conduct all
communications pleasantly, with a smile on my face, and take notes
afterward, in case there is a lawsuit in the future, and stress my
willingness to retain a satisfied customer (even if you never want to
see her again - nobody is louder than a dissatisfied customer) while
remaining steadfast. Get the piece back, don’t return it until the
lot is paid for. I have found a regretful look accompanied by the
phrases, "I’m so sorry, I see your point, but I just can’t do that"
or “I don’t think so” are sympathetic but difficult to argue with. As
a last ditch effort, defer the blame (blame the spouse/manager/silent

Good Luck,
Sam Kaffine
Sterling Bliss, LLC

Hi Orla,

I’m going to take a slightly different position than my peers on
this one (much to everyone’s surprise I’m sure).

The customer is always right. Even when the customer is clearly
wrong, the customer is always right. How many times have you heard
that? Really successful retailers in every line of business live this
way, every day and in every single transaction. That’s how and why
they become really successful.

Here’s what I would do. I would repair the damage as well as
possible, including remaking the piece if that’s what it takes. I
would do so at no charge, and I would smile while doing it. I would
also hold it until she pays me in full. She has to hold up her end of
the bargain. But however that conversation goes, I would never lose
my smile. Sam Walton (founder of Wal-Mart, the largest, most
successful retailer in human history, and not by accident) said “Lose
your smile, lose your customer”. Never have truer words been spoken.
It’s really hard to get angry at someone if the person you want to
get angry at is smiling. Smiles are contagious, spread the disease!

You made her father cry. How much success in your craft do you want?
There is no higher compliment a craftsman can get than to make a
grown man cry at the beauty of their work.

I have to add I don't want her as a future client. 

I have to ask you to reconsider. Your hardest clients can become your
very best clients, and can bring you far more business than you could
ever imagine. The thought process in her friends’ minds is this - “if
she can make HER happy, she can make ANYONE happy”. I have never had
a client that I wouldn’t want to sell to again (except for maybe
those that write bad checks, but they don’t come back anyway). Their
money spends just as well as the easiest customer’s does and the
taste of success with such folks is so much sweeter. Anyone can make
the easy clients happy, but the hard ones take the efforts of someone
of a much higher caliber. If you don’t, can’t or won’t do it, someone
else eventually will and will have them forever (and their friends,
their family and everyone else they know, guess what they’re going to
be saying about you while they’re singing the praises of your

Those clients that have family members cry because of a piece I made
for them I would never, ever want to lose. And I will do absolutely
anything and everything possible to keep them. That is the very best
advertising there is. You can’t buy that kind of press for any amount
of money. You already have her respect as a craftsman (you made her
Dad cry), you now have to earn her respect as a business woman. Three
quarters of the battle has already been won. You have a tremendous
opportunity to really shine here. Or you can decide to be just
another talented metalsmith in a world full of talented metalsmiths.

It really all depends on what your long term objectives are. If you
have all the work you want and don’t really need to make any more
money than you are already making, you can afford to make the kind of
decision that goes something like - “heck with her, I don’t care if I
ever see her again”. On the other hand, if you are like me, every
sale, every dollar, every customer and every piece of jewelry is
incredibly important. If that is the case, do what ever you have to
to make her happy. I promise, it will come back to you.

Some people call it Karma. I call it customer service.

Dave Phelps

I agree with Dave Phelps The quality of mercy is not strained it is
twice blessed it blesses you and them, i have been in the right on
many occasions and still lost out. there is most likely no one else
to help this person but you. fix it in your spare time give it back
and tell them thank you for your trust - goo

Hello Dave,

Can’t agree more with your take on this remake debate. Had similar
experiences, and yes some of the customers that were difficult are
now my best advertisement. For the immediate moment it seemed like I
was loosing money, but in the end my remake made me more. So yes the
customer service or Karma is always right

Sigi Eurich

Wow Dave, what a fantastic post. That’s what you call thinking
outside the square and how refreshing. So often we take any critisism
so personally when it is about our work that we are emotionally
attached to. Sometimes we need to step back and take a deep breath,
which is not always easy to do.

I want to print out Dave’s post and put it on the noticeboard for my
students to ponder.

Lee Pownall

Hello Orla, I too think Marianne, and Lindsay have the right idea…
and DON"T at all agree with Sam’s suggestion of keeping the piece
until paid for under the guise of willingly doing the repair. Be
upfront and let the client know you are less than happy about the
balance owed( i’m presuming it is sizable: not a trivial under 30-50
bucks situation). If you have a stated policy on the net terms (i.
e. - balance due in 30-60 days from delivery) have the printed bill
with the policy and balance due highlighted and when the repair issue
comes up say that you would like to discuss the money you are owed
first. Hopefully you will get at least a portion of it on the spot.
You may explain that first, since the repair is due to the client’s
mishandling or attempting to repair it, that actually voids any
responsibility that you would ordinarily take for the workmanship or
material defects. However, since there has been no attempt to make a
payment/take care of the balance you are hesitant to provide any
services until the client is making an effort to either pay you for
your work, or amke a payment (at least 50% of the balance) with a
signed agreement that by “x” date it will be paid off- at which time
you will do the necessary repairs but that that too will incur an
additional charge as the problem was not related to your previous
work or that bill…Try to be forceful and reasonable at the same
time… but matter-of-fact and perhaps reiterating that the services
and time already given that client are above and beyond your
customary customer service relations in terms of time and
compensation for your time… good luck… rer