Hiring an Artisan ~ a Cautionary Tale


When hiring someone to make a custom creation for you, how long should it take? How many extensions and excuses should you accept? When and how should you protect yourself? Should you be willing to accept that the money spent is gone for good and move on? What if the lost money is only one of the issues? This is a story told to me by a very unhappy BJD owner and customer in a deal gone sour.  

As long as there have been transactions, there have been fraudulent transactions, untrustworthy people, and initially well-meaning people that procrastinate and then don’t deliver. Due to physical distance, and because most of the time neither side actually knows each other, the internet has made it easier to purchase or trade things and have one side not come through with the deal. When a deal goes bad, stress and anxiety adds to the monetary loss.

When Sarah hired an artisan to create armor for her custom-cast Granado doll in spring of 2016,  she tried to make sure the person had a history of previous successful transactions. ” I’d commissioned her to make a specialty set of clothes for my doll and before committing to this, I looked up stuff on her. None of the available internet articles showed anything negative, so I took the leap. The commission was an expensive one, $750 total, with a 50% deposit upfront.” The artisan was on Deviant Art, but Sarah met her online at another site through a shared interest. “I’m not sure how people normally find her, I did because I was working on shelling a doll from the same books that she made a doll from. I saw that she had experience making armor for dolls and there are very few artisans for that to choose from, which was why I contacted her.”

Before the down-payment was paid, the artist warned Sarah that while she planned to start on the goods right away, she would be working on the order along with some other projects. Eventually Sarah would need to send her Granado boy in order to fit the armour to his torso correctly. As a result, Sarah didn’t worry at first about how things were progressing.

But before too long, regular requests for updates were barely replied to, if at all. When the artisan did eventually ask for the doll to be sent, Sarah thought it meant the waiting period was reaching an end.

By fall, Sarah started to fear the worst. “I began to feel really concerned, worrying that she’d disappear with my doll in addition to my money in November 2016. Prior to that, I felt uncomfortable with how she wasn’t answering my inquiries and sometimes only responded to them if I prompted her a month after each one. Sometimes she’d leave me hanging for multiple months without answering my questions. Since we’d agreed that this project would be one in which I would be involved in, i.e. she would show me in-progress pictures, I was expecting to be kept apprised of her progress. Needless to say, this didn’t happen, nor did much of any kind of communication from her.

Eventually a few photos were sent. “When I finally got some “in process” images from her, they didn’t look anything like what I’d commissioned, and were in such a rudimentary state that they didn’t justify the 8 months that I’d waited for them.”

Not receiving her order was bad, poor communication was worse, but now Sarah worried that she would also never get her doll back. She panicked.  Finally the doll was shipped back in January, but unfortunately he was not in the condition in which he was sent. “She damaged my $800 doll…due to poor practices and inconsideration like cutting material with an exacto knife directly on top of my doll’s body, among other things. I’ve talked to Granado about replacing the damaged parts and they told me that they could try to match the color but it won’t be a perfect match because it was a custom order, so I’m stuck between sticking with the damages or having a mismatched doll.”

Sarah added,”I’d just have walked away and wrote off the deposit if not for what she’d done to my doll. I basically paid $325 for someone to damage my first BJD, the one that got me into this hobby, and it’s very heartbreaking for me.” Requests for an explanation for the damages were dismissed by the artist. “She didn’t address any of my statements about my doll’s condition, nor any of the photos showing the damages. All she had to say was that he was kept in a glass case when she wasn’t working on him.

A year after the initial order was placed, Sarah said,  “the artist tried to get me to agree to one of three things:

1. Accept a 50% refund of my deposit because the number of hours she supposedly put into my project combined with the material costs exactly equated $175.

2. I send my doll back to her and she’d give me a $100 discount off of the final price of my commission (so $600 total instead of the original $700).

3. She keeps the deposit and send what she’d made already onward to a different artisan.”

Sarah considered the choices and decided “None of these scenarios were acceptable to me.”  Finally though, they agreed to a partial refund.  That was in April, and Sarah has yet to receive any money.

Sarah paid with Paypal. “I didn’t open a claim at the 6 month point because I knew that these things took time, and I wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt as well as support an independent BJD artist/artisan. At this point she has few options. “I’ve looked into filing an IC3 complaint, but I haven’t done so yet for a number of reasons. The craftsperson said that she’d give me back some of my money back in April, which hasn’t happened yet. I’d sent her an inquiry recently about it, but things aren’t looking good. Nonetheless, if she does refund some of my money, the tone of my cautionary tale would be a different one than if she just completely absconded with my money after doing the damage that she did to my doll. I’d also held back from taking any actions up to this point because I don’t enjoy blackening the name of a fellow BJD hobbyist, but I think I’ve given this person enough benefit of the doubt and this whole experience has been deeply saddening and disheartening. I don’t want another fellow hobbyist to go through what I did with her. ”


How to protect yourself when commissioning  work:

1. While not foolproof, search for others that have hired the artist in the past and ask about their experience.

2. Pay with Paypal and/or a credit card that offers buyer protection. Be aware of when the protection ends.

3. Set a time limit upfront for receiving the order within your protection period.  If the person you hire balks at finishing by then,  find another person.

4. Save all correspondence with anyone you are doing business with.  This will document everything that was said by both sides.

5. If a deal falls apart, find out where you can submit a complaint. (In the United States, contact the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3))