Friday, April 30, 2010
Choice and Consequences
Some time ago I designed the floorplan and finishes for a new construction house. During the construction phase the economy changed to OMG and the family had many an anxious time over the costs of construction. Some of the dreams of what was going to be took a back seat to get it built and get moved and we'll add to the dreams as economics allow. Time passed then the Mrs. called and said family finances were on the upswing and they were excited to be moving forward with doing the Master Suite. They would be keeping existing furniture but were ready to get the temporary paper shades off the windows, get some real window treatments, a custom bedding ensemble, art, accessories and maybe some seating for the bay window area.
We scheduled an in office appointment to start the planning and selection process. What textiles, what styles, what color combinations, what price points. The next step is then to field measure as necessary, design and draft the concepts, price the projects and write up a purchasing agreement. All of which was done. Except for that last part.
FishyDesigns does charge a professional fee for services. Our clients who are purchasing custom goods benefit from a percentage of those fees being applied toward purchase deposits. This policy prevents folks from " idea shopping" the designers. If we are providing professional design services, we like to get compensated. So when this client came back for her project review conference she was eager and excited. She even took pictures of the presentation so she could show her husband what was designed and ordered. Except she did not sign her custom orders agreement nor did she pay the accumulated design fees. She looked at her watch , rushed for the door saying she had forgotten she was doing the school pick up and we'd get everything finalized by the end of the week and after her husband had seen the photos.
Well that did not happen. I did call or e-mail, I forget which but, the net result was they were so busy with tax stuff they had back burnered the bedroom for now. Fine, but please remit for services rendered to date. In the mail Fishy, in the mail!
That did not happen either.
So imagine my surprise when this same client came breezing through the door with a cheerful greeting and more of that eager excitement.
" Fishy! Lovely to see you again we are ready to do our Master!"
" There is a bit of a change in our plans"
"Well Fishy you know budgets are tight for everyone these days. So I got the notion to sort of shop around for the fabrics we selected. You know, online? I had those photographs I took from your design presentation for reference. Of course I couldn't find the exact fabrics you offer but I thought I could get " the look" for less if I went this way. So I spent just days online searching and ordered these swatches . Now what I need you to do is tell me how to use these substitutes and how many yards of each fabric I will need."
" I'm sorry Fishy, what did you say?"
" But Fishy I know you understand this. I want my dream house to be, well a dream. I don't want to come home at the end of a long day and feel down because we couldn't do everything we hoped. Now look, you are my designer and, my friend, I need you to help me do this. And while we're on that subject why are you not praising my cleverness!"
So I explained. Yes I am an interior designer. Yes I am your friend. However, we are standing in my interior design business not out to lunch or a movie. When we are here, making design decisions for your home I am working. As you know I have a fee schedule for design services.
You by the way, still have an unpaid invoice for services rendered. You are, in effect, asking me to help you bypass my business to aid you in transferring your business to an online retailer. An invitation which I decline. I actually refrained from asking her if she came with camera on presentation day with a pre-meditated purpose of "using" if not "stealing" from me.
Looking stunned the client then said, "Well this is just ridiculous".
On that point I could agree. I did take some time to explain to her the risks of buying textiles online , but if she elected to take those risks most online retailers had help desks which could do the yardage estimates for her, etc, etc. She departed not mad but sort of with a you will see I can do just fine without you demeanor.
A week later I was coming in the back door as she was trying to wrestle bolts of fabric through my front door. She looked a stressed out mess.
" Fishy! come and help me!", she insisted.
I went to hold the door and to take some of the bolts . She proceeded to the conference area and commenced babbling before I caught up to her.
" Damnit Fishy this is your fault. Just look at this! Not all the colors match the swatches and not all the goods are in one piece but in unusable pieces and this one smells bad!".
Before I could display proper gravitas I busted out laughing.
This was not well received.
" What the devil do I do now? I have all these fabrics and spent all that money and OMG 17% shipping and handling fees and Tomas is going to kill me!"
While she was talking I began taking the offensive smelling textile out the front door. It did smell bad and I definitely did not want my storefront to retain any of it. Plus I had an in-shop appointment scheduled in half an hour and I did not want this drama or the textiles still present for that client's visit.
" Fishy! please pay attention. I need you to help me."
" I did warn you about online textiles. Yes there are great prices, but there are also great risks.
Your best option is to contact the retailers you purchased from and see if you can make any progress. If that does not work you can file a protest with the credit card company to which you charged the purchases."
" I've done that damnit! That's why I am here eating crow. Here is your check for the fees due.
Now tell me how to fix this problem".
Accepting the check I said, "I've told you everything I know to do".
" Fishy did you understand I cannot return these fabrics, cannot get replacement fabrics, cannot use these fabrics and cannot get my money back ?"
Somewhere on the back channel I was thinking," Yep, payback is a bitch".
I picked up some bolts and headed to the front door saying,
" Well it's a shame things have turned out this way for you. Let me help you get these back in your car. I have an appointment in a few minutes so I must ask you to leave. I do wish you luck with finding an acceptable solution to this issue."
On her way out she stopped and took a hard look at some new inventory. She freed up a hand long enough to flip a price tag into view. She made a throaty sound then said, " You know I think I saw something similar to this at TJM and really it was a third less expensive".
I paused before saying, " Why didn't you buy it?"
" It wobbled and wouldn't stay straight. This item of yours actually looks a lot better quality and it is straight but I'm not going to pay this price for something I can get from a discounter."
I need to become an online retailer.