Long story made short, the judge said that even though Dad had
finished the majority of the work, he was not out any metal or
stones and could sell the piece if he finished it, so he had no
losses to cover with the deposit. The lady on the other hand had
not received anything of value, and was therefore entitled to a
refund of her deposit.
I'm wondering if a person rewords the contract to include a
statement that the nonrefundable deposit covers labor involved in
the design so you have a legitimate claim to keep the refund. A
lawyer might be able to shed some light on this.
I don’t need to be a lawyer for this one. I’ve been there done that,
and I can say the following without hesitation.
Dave’s dad got screwed.
If the law in that jurisdiction allows such things, then the law
needs to be changed. NOW.
Bear the following in mind; I am NOT a lawyer. What I am about to say
is true only for where I am and your mileage may vary. The first time
I had to go to court for this sort of nonsense I hired a very good
contract attorney. I learned the law as it applies to MY area.
It’s called theft of service. Your father lost his very valuable
time, and the lady did receive something of value. HIS TIME. The
time he took doing the work SHE requested he perform.
In such cases, it’s called misrepresentation, and fraud. He was
approached by a customer, and a contract was entered into to produce
a piece of jewellery. The guarantee for that product is that it meet
the design criteria. Whether or not the person chooses to change
their mind is irrelevant. The contract is valid. Lawyer’s don’t give
free representation, locksmiths don’t explain how to open your car,
plumbers don’t walk you through fixing your leaky faucets and
jewellers don’t make custom pieces without clients. These are
The judge obviously didn’t understand the difference between
Wal-Mart and your fathers custom made product. This is a distinction
that is vitally important if you want to win such cases.
Granted, for Dave’s father its water under the bridge now. However,
I strongly urge EVERYONE who takes or considers custom orders to
consult a very good lawyer, and lean the law in their area. There
are differences and it is true that some places still do not
recognize your time as a valuable commodity. In most places however,
a properly written contract covers these things, and customers are
made painfully aware that their down payment is NON REFUNDABLE.
Dave does have a point though about some customers being worth
enough to bend your rules for. That’s a distinction that can only be
made by the jeweller.
My lawyer called me one evening from in front of a very nice
restaurant. He had locked his keys in the car and he and his wife
were eager to return home. It was late, and well after normal hours.
When I told him the cost would be $55.00 plus an additional time
charge, he started to complain. I reminded him that he charges me
$100.00 to write a letter. He paid without another complaint.
Make sure that your customers know that they are also buying your
time, and that you consider it to be very valuable. It will serve
you well in the long run.