Consignment protocol

Hi, I have a question for anyone with experience selling through
consignment accounts. I’ve been doing business with a respectable
gallery for a few years now. They carry consignment goods as well as
goods purchased outright. I have a consignment relationship with
them. The gallery’s return policy is that of return for store credit
only within 10 days of purchase. I recently got an e-mail from one
of the gallery owners in which she exhuberantly let me know that they
had sold a necklace of mine (it was a significant sale for me). She
then said ,“but I have to wait to pay you for it in case it comes
back.” My understanding of our agreement (and that of most reputable
galleries that deal on consignment) was that once my piece was sold,
I would be paid. I feel that my commitment to them is that of
providing them with “free” inventory and their commitment to me is
to pay me when a piece sells, not “within some arbitrary time frame
while my work is in the hands of some random customer trying to
decide if they want it or not”. I don’t expect immediate payment as I
realize that protocol is that consignment artists are paid once
monthly but my belief is that once a piece sells, if it gets
returned, the gallery now owns it. That would represent their
commitment to me. Am I being naive or am I being taken advantage of?
Thanks for any advice/ feedback. Karen

Hi Karen, A 10 day return policy is quite reasonable, even for
consigned items. Some galleries allow longer. It’s neither unusual
nor unethical. The fact that the gallery owner bothered to call is
unusual, on the other hand. I’ve been doing consignment for over a
dozen years and I think I’ve received similar calls only about a half
dozen times.

Look at it this way: She didn’t have to take the time to call you.
She could have just waited for the ten days to elapse or until the
next payment cycle. Instead she called to share her excitement about
having sold a major piece – one that just happened to be yours!


Karen, Do you have a contract with this gallery? I strongly suggest
you get one. This would save you both headaches in the future.
During the last SNAG conference, I moderated a panel on just this
issue. The SNAG website has an excellent contract for galleries
that was designed by a lawyer for the arts in California, several
gallery owners and studio jewelers.

You can download this for free and use it for yourself.

Good luck!
Karen Christians
50 Guinan St.
Waltham, MA 02451
Ph: 781/891-3854
Fx: 781/891-3857
email: @Karen_Christians

Karen, The only protocol there is has to do with what you set up with
the store beforehand. It’s really late, once you start selling
product in the store, to wonder when you will get paid. That should
have been agreed upon before you even had your jewelry in the store.
Besides, every store is different.

Apart from that most of the stores I deal with pay after a set
amount of time has passed in accordance with their return policy.
For some it is 10 days for others 30 days. Another pays the 15th of
every month if they sell a piece on the 6th of the month and the
return cycle has not been completed, then I don’t get paid until the
15th of the next month. It’s a pain, but I know when to expect a
check from them. And, most importantly, I knew what to expect
because I asked before I gave them work.

Again, when you consign you have to research, research, research.


As someone who once ran a gallery that dealt with consignment you
are right, they are benefitting by having your work for free on
consignment, and when it sells, you both benefit. However, that having
been said, you are also getting “free” secure display space ~
insured, heated, well lit and displayed for much longer than a
week-end craft show, with none of the upfront money that craft shows
require to be laid out beforehand. Your rent is paid by someone else.
With luck, the atmosphere is professional and one that promotes
handmade work. You are hopefully having your work marketed to a
distinct clientele, and the person who allowed your work in their
shop chose it because they thought they could sell it.

My particular experience has demonstrated that work was very seldom
returned, and usually only when there was a defect in craftsmanship.
At least this person has been up front with you through her honesty.
In today’s day and age that should count for something. That having
been said, I have also, as an artist, lost entire works through
unscrupulous dealers who closed up shop and left town before paying
me, and one didn’t even return the unsold goods. I was very young
then and would have handled it much differently now than I did then.

My policy is this ~ if a work is damaged, broken, stolen or lost,
the shop pays for it. If a work were to be returned to the shop due
to poor craftsmanship/artistry (heaven forbid!), I would of course
repair at no charge to either the shop or customer. Our policy in the
store was to only offer exchanges on consignment goods rather than
cash refunds, and yes we did end up buying a few pieces. If we could
not sell those pieces after a time, the artist was usually kind
enough to exchange them for newer or different pieces. At least then
they could market them to their other venues. If they would not do
this, then we often were forced to sell them at cut-rate prices,
which I believe was not so complimentary to the artist, and may have
even undermined the value of their other works. This happened very
rarely. Perhaps I was lucky in dealing with reasonable people.

The advice is to be very careful, and if you find a dealer that
respects you enough to be honest, perhaps to be patient ~ but only to
a point. Waiting ten days seems reasonable to me. If it goes on past
a month, I would begin to question it. Confused? I know I am . . . .
Best of luck with it all Susan