Friday, November 20, 2009

the cost

I have been following the saga fellow ceramic artist Heather Knight has been enduring with a nightmare customer. Nightmare customers usually do us the favor of throwing out red flags that they are a total pain in the ass, but they often come bearing lots of money too, so we ignore the red flags. Reading her latest post, it made me think about how we, as artists working to fill orders for customers, are affected by money, and how it influences our decision making process.

I have already been contemplating this question. Right now, I have an international customer who received a cake stand from me that they are not 100% happy with. Normally, it would not be a big deal to make a new one to replace it, but the international shipping cost on this baby is almost a 1/3 of the value, which changes up the dynamic a bit. But should it? Fortunately, my customer is not being a nightmare, and is open to my suggestions on how they may learn to appreciate the quirks of this particular cake stand. I thought the cake stand was perfect, and it's hard for me to imagine a harder critic than my own self, but I guess that is another issue. I've been thinking about this problem, and wondering what is the right thing to do here. How much money should I be willing to lose to make a customer happy? Should the specific amount make a difference? Should my international customers get screwed because I don't want to spend another $40 from my own pocket shipping out to them?

Within this last year, I made the decision for myself that I was no longer going to allow myself to get stressed out by orders. (Yes, I fail at this all the time, but I keep practicing.) Whatever amount of money I was getting for an order was not worth my body getting stressed out and the negative affects it leaves behind. I gave myself permission to simply return the money to any customer when an order wasn't working out, and not feel bad or even more stressed out if I chose to do so. Knowing that I can and I will do this really helps me deal with problem orders and the stress they bring. Also, to run a successful business, I believe that you have to lose money sometimes. One cannot get maximum return in everything one does, that is not realistic. Attempting to stay in the positive column all the time is simply going to lead to more stress. Losing money sometimes is actually just spending money, and we all know you have to spend money to keep a business running.

Breaking it down like this really helps me in making the right decisions: for myself, for my business, and for my customers. And now that I've reiterated my beliefs & practices about money and dealing with orders & customers to myself, it is clear to me that I know what I need to do with my international customer, if they decide they cannot fall in love with my perhaps slightly imperfect cake stand.