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Not so keen on custom orders


#1

Just having a little rant - sorry. A couple of months ago my darling
husband offered to take some of my work in to his work to show his
colleagues, as many of the women are nuts about jewellery. He took
them in on the basis that the price is the price, ie non-negotiable.
The prices were also low introductory prices, as the pieces in
question were pieces I’d made months previously so they were heavily
discounted. They were told that any future pieces would be more
realistically priced.

Anyway, a few pieces sold immediately to happy customers, and Darren
came home with about seven requests for quotations from other people.
They liked that ring, but wanted a quote for it in gold and/or with
that stone instead, etc, etc. So, I duly spent many hours putting
together these quotes, including one for a complex pearl and sterling
silver necklace someone wants for a relative for Christmas. I’ve
heard nothing back from most of them, but the pearl necklace keeps
bouncing back to me because it’s too expensive. So I redesign it and
requote for it and back it bounces. I’m now about to quote for the
fifth time. She loved all the designs but didn’t want to spend that
much on the person concerned. I should note that my prices are
extremely reasonable. Anyway, this customer, I can cope with, as she
is very pleasant to work with.

On the other hand, another “lady” at Darren’s workplace really liked
one of my pendants, but said she’d pay for it at the next pay day, so
he kept hold of it for her. She then ordered a pair of earrings to
match the pendant. However, she wanted them to be a specific size. No
problem, except that the earrings would then be much bigger than the
pendant - which I warned her about. I said to her that they would no
longer be a match, but she said that’s what she wanted. Not a
problem. The 50% deposit was paid and the earrings were made -
earrings which I had to make a complex mechanism for, as she wanted
the type with a hinged “post” which clips into a catch on the back of
the “hoop”, rather than just a simple post. Yesterday, Darren took
them to work. She adored them and she paid the balance. All good
you’d think. Yes, until she went to pay for the pendant and when
Darren handed it over, she wasn’t happy with the size and said she
wanted a bigger one, to match her earrings - and she wanted him to
take it in the next day!!!

I had warned her they wouldn’t match. So he sent me a text asking if
it was possible for me to make her a new pendant in a day and asked
how much extra would it be. I gave him a price and she refused it,
saying she couldn’t understand how the earrings were X amount and
there were two of them, and I wanted Y amount for one pendant. I
explained that the original pendant was a heavily discounted price,
and that I had priced the earrings in line with that discounted price
(they were a smidge short of twice the price of the pendant, and
still heavily discounted for the amount of work involved).

I also explained that I had sold a number of this design of pendant
for the price I was asking, and nobody else had ever questioned the
price. My husband told me that she was happy with the earrings and
would be happy to pay the same for the pendant, and asked if I would
do it for her on this occasion. I stupidly agreed, and also agreed to
do it the same day. So yesterday, I spent ten hours making this
pendant for her - putting behind some other paid orders I should have
been doing. As always for a paying customer, it was meticulously made
and finished to a high standard. He took it in today, and a short
while ago he sent me a message apologising, saying that she is
refusing to pay the agreed price!!! She adored it apparently - and so
she should as it is lovely - but she said she agreed to pay the same
amount as the original, heavily discounted, small pendant!!!

She says the price we thought she was going to pay is just too much,
but even the first price I gave her (which she refused to pay) was me
working below minimum wage, and the agreed price was just to keep her
happy and get that order out of the way. So basically, she was only
willing to pay two fifths of the price I quoted her, and which other
people happily pay. I’m furious, as is my husband, and he’s trying to
sell it (and the smaller one) to other people for me. We’re going
away for the weekend, and the payment for this order would have given
me a little bit of spending money, which I was looking forward to,
but that won’t be happening now, so I’m somewhat deflated.

Why do people expect me to make their jewellery for just what the
materials would cost me? I value my time, so why don’t they? They
love my jewellery but don’t want to pay reasonable prices for it. I
told him to suggest that she goes to Asda (Walmart) or Argos (big,
cheap catalogue store) if she wants to pay such a pittance for her
jewellery. She wouldn’t expect to walk into a jewellery store and
make the demands she’s made of me, and pay as little for the service.

I used to think custom work would be really fun to do, but now I’m
thinking I want rid of all such orders, and then I want to make what
I want, when I want it, and sell through galleries and jewellery
shops - and I think that’s what I’m going to do. Sorry for the rant.

Helen
UK


#2

Helen, for the person who wanted you to redesign 5 times, because it
was still too expensive? May I suggest that the next time someone
says that to you, ask them what price will suit them, then design to
that range. Show them what they can have for what they want to pay
and go from there.

Best, Marianne


#3

Fun isn’t it? It really is hard keeping your head when a customer
after all your warnings still wants Y, but on delivery (realise that
you were right and without saying so) ask if they could get X
instead.

I’ve had a few and like you I found them to be very frustrating. I
guess all we can do is tell them what we think it should be like and
hope to persuade them that, that is what they really wanted from the
start.

Good luck with the pendent re-design…

Cheers, Thomas Janstrom.
Little Gems.
http://tjlittlegems.com


#4

Helen - I’m afraid it all went wrong from the first when you sold
your old stuff off at a heavily discounted price to folks who wanted
more of your lovely work, even though you told them that they’d be
higher later It’s so easy to quote high and then adjust down. It’s
almost impossible to go up from low.

It’s all about perceived value.

There is nothing wrong with discounting old work. It’s a good way to
get rid of inventory. However it should be done away from your new
customer base. That’s why here in the US many of the big box discount
factory/second stores are all out in the boonies in their own special
strip malls away from the main stores in the cities that are selling
retail.

It’s also helpful and saves many redesign hours if, before you even
take pencil to paper, you start out with, " So, what exactly is your
budget for this piece?".

Have fun and make and sell lots of jewelry.

Jo Haemer
www.timothywgreen.com


#5

Helen,

I’m sorry for your trials and tribulations with doing business with
friends and colleagues. They can be the best and the worst of
customers. You need to learn how to say “no” to them in a polite but
firm way. And explain to them that this is a business for you and
you wouldn’t expect them to perform whatever service that they do as
a profession for nothing so why are they expecting all this service
for the cost of materials. Tell them to go to a brick and mortar
jeweler and see what custom design work will cost them. I have
footprints all over my back and lots of wasted hours I’ll never get
back from doing business with “friends”.

Now I have to call a “friend” and tell her I can no longer do
business with her because she’s bounced a second check on me…

Rick Copeland
Silversmith and Lapidary Artisan
rockymountainwonders.com


#6
I used to think custom work would be really fun to do, but now I'm
thinking I want rid of all such orders, and then I want to make
what I want, when I want it, and sell through galleries and
jewellery shops - and I think that's what I'm going to do. Sorry for
the rant. 

Hear, hear! I learned that lesson last year while making my
mother-in-law’s custom necklace. :frowning:

Thank goodness I still have a Day Job, so I can still approach
jewelry-making as “fun with occasional sales”. (That’ll change when
I retire from my Day Job.)

Lorraine


#7

hi helen and all, well after seeing helens exoerience, i can say have
had many such trials, mostly when u r just getting known, for xome
reason, one attracts such sharks at first, they seem to pray on ur
keeness to please and ur pride in ur workas well as need to get
started. sher claerly one of those. personally i would give her all
her money back for everything put them back to stock at their proper
price, ill bet u will sell them (karma). one of the best i had was a
job i did a favour job one of those i dont really want todo but will
to accomadate took a long time and didnt charge alot, he went apes.

t at price and said i shouldnt charge like a tradesman because i get
pleasure from my iob, heres what i did i took job back undid my work
gave it him back and said to him well ienjoed that so much he could
have that one onthe house. the stories i could tell as im sure we
all could in dealing with the publc. dont let it put u off helrn just
be aware of those sharks outthere and dont be afraid to lose an order
the good customers, tend to outwheigh the p.i.t.a.e. love to here
others tales from the bench though takecare all ray.


#8

LOL! I have some of the same stories. I did professional massage for
around 5 years, and when I would tell people my profession, they
would invariably ask for a ‘quick back rub’. After awhile I got to
where I would then ask them what they did for a living, and respond
such as ‘Well, then, would you come over and paint my house for
free?’. That stopped it.

Michael
www.radharcknives.com


#9

helen,

after having been through many such situations, with some different
details, as yours, I have evolved the following strategy.

people can, and do, change their minds for many reasons. too much,
too little, the group dynamics on their end changed, the dynamics
didn’t change, they are ‘testing’ to see fi their idea is good, or
isn’t good, the list goes on and on.

all of them have exactly 1 thing in common: it involves something on
their end of the conversation. well, tough.

so, 2 thoughts: a) I will handle my end, they need to handle their
end, and b) if this really is a shaky transaction, do I want to end
it now or later?

sometimes, if I sense that a customer is not serious, then I will
actually needle them slightly, and try to end the conversation within
60 seconds. if it is going to be a waste of time, seriously, i would
rather sit around and do nothing, than waste my time. it sounds
callous to articulate it as such, but after going through various
stories such as yours, then the doing nothing is better than wasting
your time. it also conserves your mental energy for when the right
customer comes along.

the good news is: your are making your learning mistakes now, when
the numbers are small, and you still have control of your inventory.
better to learn these now, than later, when the numbers are larger.

Mark Zirinsky


#10

Helen, it wasn’t too long ago you were faced with the same
beginners’ frustrations that many here voice. Now you’re being burned
by the customer. Hey Congratulations, that’s a rite of passage!
You’re officially a jeweler!

Custom is a different ball of wax. Don’t give up on it because of
one incident, it can become lucrative if you handle it right. Jo is
correct, when a proposed custom piece is in the same arena as a
closeout it really limits the possibilities. Of course, the flip side
is true too, if the inventory is very special the perceived value of
custom goes way up. But ya gotta come thru.

Presentation and delivery.


#11

Hi Helen,

I am very sorry this happened to you. I do a lot of custom orders as
well. However, I do not actually enjoy doing them, because of the
same reasons. Fortunately for me, not many people are unhappy with
the final price, however I do get a lot of people who complain about
timing. Most people are unaware how mass produced jewellery is made
(that it is just stamped out in thousands from a machine), they don’t
know the weight of the metals and they do not realise that most of
mass produced jewellery is actually hollow inside, hence the low
prices. All they think about is that they are getting a good deal.
Why would they pay UKP 800 to buy a ring from me, if they can pay UKP
200 and get it from Argos or a TV shopping channel?

Funny, but this matter doesn’t just stretch to handmade jewellery,
but to probably to all handmade items. I was out shopping with my
friend last week and we came to this lovely section of our local
’posh’ garden centre, where they had beautiful mohair scarves and
hats made in the UK. They were reasonably priced for what they are,
considering they were made in UK, however much more expensive than
what a similar product made in China would be. My friend was furious
with the prices, but when I pointed out to her that it was actually
handmade in the UK, she said ‘So what? I am not really bothered
where it is made’. That is actually rather upsetting. People just
don’t see the difference. The same with jewellery. If they know where
to get a similar product, but cheaper, they would go and buy a
cheaper alternative or, in your case, argue about the prices. My
reaction probably would be to just keep the pendant and not let the
lady have it; you can always sell it later. You spent 10 hours making
it, why would you sell it for pennies? She obviously has no respect
for your work and just want it as cheap as she can get. As she paid
50% deposit, it probably covered your expenses. Deposits are usually
non-refundable, and as she refuses to pay the outstanding balance,
it is her problem.

Hopefully the matter will sort itself out. Good luck.
Best wishes,
Lilia


#12

Neil

it wasn't too long ago you were faced with the same beginners'
frustrations that many here voice. Now you're being burned by the
customer. Hey Congratulations, that's a rite of passage! You're
officially a jeweler! 

I was told you didn’t become a jeweler until you did TWO things:

  1. Fix your own screw-ups.
  2. Wrap a herringbone chain around a polishing buff.

:slight_smile:

David S. Geller
www.JewelerProfit.com


#13
May I suggest that the next time someone says that to you, ask them
what price will suit them, then design to that range. 

Thanks Marrianne. That is very sound advice, and fundamental to the
whole process. I’ve just looked at my emails, and of all the many
questions I asked her, budget was not one of them. I should have
known better, as I used to do garden design, for which there were
also many questions to ask, to ascertain exactly what the client was
after, and of course budget was a very important one. I’ll hopefully
remember to ask that next time.

Thomas said

Good luck with the pendent re-design....

It’s not being redesigned Thomas. It’s exactly what she asked for and
is a very popular pendant I make on a regular basis. It was just an
issue of size. She agreed to a price but then tried to say that she
thought it was roughly half of that price, ie the price of the much
smaller one she had initially chosen. She was basically trying it on.
I’m just so glad my husband didn’t actually let her have it for that.
I’m going away to a convention for the weekend and it is going with
me, where I will hopefully sell it.

Jo Haemer said

I'm afraid it all went wrong from the first when you sold your old
stuff off at a heavily discounted price to folks who wanted more of
your lovely work.

So true Jo. I hadn’t thought of that, but I know in hindsight that
you are spot on. Fortunately, there are a few people at Darren’s
work who do value my work, and another lady would have bought it on
the spot had she had the cash on her - she looked in her purse
apparently and was gutted she didn’t have enough. She was also
disgusted that the other woman couldn’t see the value of the piece.
I’ve offered to make her one if it sells this weekend.

Rick said

Now I have to call a "friend" and tell her I can no longer do
business with her because she's bounced a second check on me... 

That’s a very uncomfortable position to be in, and one reason I
really don’t like doing business with friends and family too. I’m
afraid I’m far too soft on people who are close to me. Darren’s
colleagues fortunately don’t count as close people, as apart from
one, I’ve never met any of them, so they are simply customers.
However, one of my problems, is that I don’t actually get to speak to
them - a situation which frustrates and infuriates me to put it
mildly. They are my customers, but for some reason, my husband has
not up to now, given me people’s email addresses (apart from the
pearl necklace lady). So, I make things for them, and Darren
delivers messages both ways, often getting things very wrong, or
forgetting to pass either way. It’s a disaster! I’ve told
him that I NEED to speak to them about their orders, but he won’t
oblige. He doesn’t want to get into trouble for doing business on
the side - he’s a police officer. So when all this kicked off the
other day, I asked repeatedly for her email address, and I would have
politely and professionally explained things to her from a different
perspective. It would have helped the situation, even if she had not
changed her mind. But he wouldn’t let me contact her. I’ve told him
that I am not prepared to do business this way and that I MUST have
their contact details if anybody is interested in purchasing my
jewellery.

Hear, hear! I learned that lesson last year while making my
mother-in-law's custom necklace. :( 

Glad it’s not just me Lorraine! I’m going to have to be very tough
when I quote my relatives for their wedding rings in the next month.

I will quote realistic prices for what I am capable of achieving and
send them elsewhere if they want anything different. I’m no longer
prepared to compromise my prices or what I will do, just for the
sake of a sale. It’s a recipe for worry, misery and sleepless
nights!

personally i would give her all her money back for everything put
them back to stock at their proper price, ill bet u will sell them
(karma) dont let it put u off helrn just be aware of those sharks
outthere and dont be afraid to lose an order" 

Hi Ray. She’d already paid for her earrings and was extremely happy
with them. Apparently she spent all morning going round the room
singing my praises, telling everyone how much she loved her earrings

  • after she had had such a argument with my husband about the agreed
    price of the pendant!!! I was not going to let ten hours worth of
    work go for UKP 20 and know that I will sell it for its proper price
    to someone who appreciates it. I don’t mind losing a sale now. As I
    said above, I won’t compromise anymore, as I know it’s worth more
    than I’m asking for it anyway, so I certainly won’t be accepting
    anything less. The special introductory prices have ceased to exist.
    Good to hear from you Ray.

After awhile I got to where I would then ask them what they did for a
living, and respond such as ‘Well, then, would you come over and
paint my house for free?’. That stopped it.

Touche Michael! Sadly, we’re talking about police officers, whose
services are offered free of charge to the public! Some of them
understand the concept of handmade, but others clearly don’t. If
they don’t, they can go to the cheapy places to buy their jewellery.

sometimes, if I sense that a customer is not serious, then I will
actually needle them slightly, and try to end the conversation
within 60 seconds. if it is going to be a waste of time, seriously,
i would rather sit around and do nothing, than waste my time. it
sounds callous to articulate it as such, but after going through
various stories such as yours, then the doing nothing is better
than wasting your time. it also conserves your mental energy for
when the right customer comes along. 

Hi Mark, no I don’t think it sounds callous at all, I think if you
know the transaction is going to fail down the line, then it makes
sense to cut it short very quickly. Unfortunately, as explained
above, I didn’t actually get to communicate with her myself. I have
refused to do business that way from now on.

it wasn't too long ago you were faced with the same beginners'
frustrations that many here voice. Now you're being burned by the
customer. Hey Congratulations, that's a rite of passage! You're
officially a jeweler! 

Yay, thanks Neil!

if the inventory is very special the perceived value of custom goes
way up. But ya gotta come thru. Presentation and delivery. 

The pendant she ordered and the larger one I subsequently made for
her, were in a different league quality wise, as my work has come a
long way since I made the early pieces. Not only did the larger one
have approximately twice (probably more) the amount of solid silver
in it, but it was clearly a far more professional piece, as were the
earrings I’d made her - which she also loved. How she could possibly
think the new pendant should be the same price as the smaller, more
"rustic" looking one, I can’t imagine. But suffice to say, there
were other people in the room drooling over it, saying it was worth
at least what I was asking for it, so there are folks who can
perceive the value of what I’m making, and those folks have been
buying pieces too fortunately.

Why would they pay UKP 800 to buy a ring from me, if they can pay
UKP 200 and get it from Argos or a TV shopping channel? 

You’re so right Lilia. Some folks just don’t get it, and will never
get it, no matter how much you try and explain it to them.
Fortunately for them, there are outlets who cater to their needs,
but I would rather they didn’t waste our time with their
unreasonable demands. My hubby says that she knew full well the price
and he made sure of that a few times. She was just trying it on,
hoping that I was soft enough and desperate enough for a sale, that
she could pretend she thought it was less, and that I’d go for it. I
guess it was more the fact that I’d put everything (including working
on other orders) on hold and spent ten hours making it for her. One
of my children had to cook the family’s evening meal (which they do
regularly anyway, but I was going to cook that night) and I couldn’t
spend the evening with my husband and children, because she wanted
this pendant the next morning. Guess I was just feeling sorry for
myself. But I wouldn’t have minded my ruined day in the slightest,
had I been paid for the work I’d done. C’est la vie.

Thanks to all for your support on this and every other issue. It’s
much appreciated. Some valuable lessons learned for next time.
Hopefully I’ll have some more successful custom experiences soon - I
hope so, as I have a number of them in the pipeline!

Helen
UK
http://www.hillsgems.co.uk
http://helensgems.ganoksin.com/blogs/


#14

David,

1. Fix your own screw-ups.
2. Wrap a herringbone chain around a polishing buff. 

I must be a real jeweller then, long ago a 5mm etruscian neckpiece
wound round a buff :slight_smile: Took hours and half the nite to fix.

Demand Designs
Analog/Digital Modelling & Goldsmithing
http://www.gmavt.net/~jdemand


#15

I earned the moniker after a few months:

Wrapped a fancy silver herringbone chain around the buff, made about
15 pieces of it; boss was so gracious about it (replaced it & made
it OK with customer, never let on that I had ruined the original)
that I worked my fingers to the bone for months afterward just to
make up for it

and, in my last 2 weeks of working for him, I inadvertantly melted
off a ring shank & part of the bridge…I fixed it with available
scrap gold & never said a word.

It’s an exhilirating experience, to see your livelihood dissolve in
front of you, and to think, “It’s OK, I can fix this…”

(please Divinity, no more of those character-building situations,)
Kelley Dragon


#16
Glad it's not just me Lorraine! I'm going to have to be very tough
when I quote my relatives for their wedding rings in the next
month. I will quote realistic prices for what I am capable of
achieving and send them elsewhere if they want anything different.
I'm no longer prepared to compromise my prices or what I will do,
just for the sake of a sale. It's a recipe for worry, misery and
sleepless nights! 

Same here. Now I just say, "Gosh, it’s so flattering that you’ve
asked me, but I’m not skilled enough yet to work with (insert
gemstone here).

Fortunately for me, they all seem to want opals and emeralds, and
I’m truly not skilled enough yet to work with these on anyone’s
behalf but my own.

Cheers,
Lorraine


#17
I was told you didn't become a jeweler until you did TWO things: 1.
Fix your own screw-ups. 2. Wrap a herringbone chain around a
polishing buff. 

In that case, I am most definately a jeweller. :wink:

In the case of #2 it darn near took my fingers off. I learned a new
trick the next day. The polishing board.

Nah. That may be part of the qualification, but I think I have a lot
more to do before I can honestly call myself a jeweller. Or at least
a very good one.

Frank


#18

Kelley,

Your mention of melting a piece reminded me of one of my
instructor’s stories. As he related it, he was setting for a trunk
show at a jewelry store at which customers could watch their newly
purchased stone being set. While the customer was watching and
conversing with him he melted one of the prongs. Continuing to
engage the customer in conversation he rebuilt the prong, finished
setting the stone, and the customer walked away happy and satisfied,
never realizing what happened.

Mike DeBurgh, GJG
Henderson, NV