Got an unhappy customer

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Forum topic by Gixxerjoe04 posted 06-02-2014 02:00 AM 3197 views 0 times favorited 53 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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850 posts in 2632 days

06-02-2014 02:00 AM

So I’ve been selling some small stuff on etsy, with pallet wine racks being the best seller , not a lot but a handful to make a little money to help pay for some tools. Haven’t had a single complaint or anything with anything I’ve sold until today. Apparently the woman doesn’t like the color of the wood…. In my description I say where every pallet is different and made from different woods so the coloration will be different with each one and from my picture for my display. I thought it looked good or wouldn’t have used the pallet, i don’t use nice clean ones because people like the rustic look but i sand them down so they are smooth and don’t put finish on them. This particular one i thought looked good oak pallet with spalting on the front, besides my personal one i think it’s the best looking one I’ve made. Not sure what to do, shipping is half of what i sell them for and that’s with me building my own boxes because of the awkward size they are. So her sending it back and me sending a new one would be pretty expensive. I emailed her back asking what exactly she didn’t like and told her and sent pictures of where she could go spend a few bucks and stain it. I’ve been making them as ordered, think I might i have make them before hand and have a picture of the exact one so this doesn’t happen again. Sucks because I’ve only been selling for a few months on there and a bad review would probably make people skeptical to buy from me I’d say. Might just make another and send her pics before i send it to make sure it’s ok and hopefully she won’t leave a negative review.

53 replies so far

View a1Jim's profile


118161 posts in 4632 days

#1 posted 06-02-2014 02:11 AM

There are a number of things you can do.

offer a full refund.

offer to take half off.

offer to replace it if she pays the return shipping.

send her some paint or dye so she can change the color.

You’ve already done this ask how she wants to resolve this.

If she leaves the choice to you ,think how you would want it resolved if you were the customer.

I think of the positive reviews I’ve read that say things like “I was amazed how well I was treated as customer.


View NoThanks's profile


798 posts in 2584 days

#2 posted 06-02-2014 02:20 AM

Send her a picture of 2 or 3 other ones and let her choose the one she likes. Ship it to her free of charge and let her keep the one she has. Above and beyond is what makes a good reputation. Your not out that much in the long run.
The small amount of money you will be out is nothing compared to a bad review.

-- Because I'm gone, that's why!

View Rxmpo's profile


270 posts in 4800 days

#3 posted 06-02-2014 02:30 AM

Gixx, you have gotten some great advice… think of the reviews we pass around about tools and companies and how many of the “issues” get forgotten when the customer service is highlighted as great… Worth every penny.

View Shawn Masterson's profile

Shawn Masterson

1325 posts in 3003 days

#4 posted 06-02-2014 02:34 AM

I agree with ask her what she wants to do. My wife sells on ebay and every once in a while she gets a buyer that is fishing for a discount. I would put the ball in her court and she how she responds. Let her feel like she has the power, but don’t let her control you. and treat her the way you want to be treated.

View Loren's profile (online now)


11148 posts in 4703 days

#5 posted 06-02-2014 02:35 AM

Welcome to life as an artisan. She’s a problem client. In the future
build the cost of the loss into what you charge.

You might try to reason with her as suggested.

A week or so back I got a call from a clearly overwhelmed lady
who had sent me an email saying she needed an island and
that price was a concern… so I told her about staining alder
to get the dark color she wanted and she said “isn’t that
a cheap wood?” and I said yeah, it’s inexpensive. Then we
talked about frame and panel in something more fancy like
walnut with veneer panels and she said “will I be able to tell
it’s veneer?” and I said, yeah, if you’ve got a discerning eye,
so she wanted solid wood but not a “cheap” wood.

Then she said she wanted a waterfall edge and I’m like “huh?”
and eventually I made it clear that I don’t do stone and she
would need to get a stone guy and I’d work with him to
make something she would like.

... haven’t heard back yet.

A flustered, unhappy person is going to hit you with it at at
the slightest provocation. For me, I don’t want to build
anything for a client in the emotional state this person was
in. It’s a recipe for dis-satisfaction.

View InstantSiv's profile


262 posts in 2650 days

#6 posted 06-02-2014 02:35 AM

I don’t know if you’ll like my opinion. I would send her pics of the selection of wood I had on hand and tell her to pick out the wood she likes and make her another one. I would mail it to her with packaging to send back the one she did not like at no cost to her.

That’s what I would do. I would take it as a lesson learned and change how I did things, like you said about putting pics up of the actual item from now on.


If she was to leave a negative rating… I don’t know… It would depend on what she said. Most people aren’t affected by negative ratings IF you get mostly positive reviews. People understand that there’s aholes out there or that crap happens. If you don’t have very many ratings a negative rating can affect you and I would write something in the description that would relate to the rating. Don’t overtly talk about it but word it that if someone was to read the rating and description they would put two and two together.

View Yonak's profile


986 posts in 2576 days

#7 posted 06-02-2014 02:39 AM

I tend to think shipping all ways is on her when allowing her to exchange or return. You stated in your description that the color may vary and that the characteristics of wood are subject to the whims of nature.

In your response you could tell her about all the satisfied customers you have had and that she is, in fact, the first that wasn’t completely satisfied. If you had known she had a certain color in mind you could have sent her pictures to choose from but how could you know ? .. She didn’t say.

I think you’re totally covered and if she’s reasonable she’ll understand. What’s the consequence, that she will write a bad review ?

In the future, maybe you could say you could send a picture, beforehand, of the item you will send if they request it, since each one looks somewhat different. On the other hand, the number of those who are that critical may not justify opening that can of worms. You could put it at the bottom of the page, maybe.

View Loren's profile (online now)


11148 posts in 4703 days

#8 posted 06-02-2014 02:50 AM

I agree that considering your describing that items will vary,
that she’s the one to pay for shipping. She can pay for shipping
it back and get a refund or she can pay for shipping both
ways and get a replacement. You are not a big concern like
Pottery Barn or whatever and she may not be considering that.

If the person wants to be dis-satisfied unless you lose your
shirt on her behalf, let her write her bad feedback. That’s
life. As stated above, crazy bad reviews won’t dissuade
reasonable buyers.

View ,'s profile


2387 posts in 4602 days

#9 posted 06-02-2014 02:52 AM

I Dont have anything more to add, great advice has been already given. But to be safe it is best the customer gets to see exactly what they are buying.

-- .

View a1Jim's profile


118161 posts in 4632 days

#10 posted 06-02-2014 02:59 AM

You might add a disclosure to your items you have for sale in the future, saying “full refund if not happy (not including shipping).


View TRHeath's profile


75 posts in 2642 days

#11 posted 06-02-2014 03:34 AM

I’ve never really sold any woodworking projects but I have managed businesses all of my life. The true cost of an unhappy customer is enormous. On the other hand, it is also an opportunity to gain a lifelong customer and other potential customers by going above and beyond to please them. Either way, they are going to let other people know how their experience was. It’s up to you what you want that message to be. An angry customer will tell (I don’t remember the exact numbers as they were from 20 years ago or so. With social media now, the consequences are probably even more dire now), an angry or displeased customer will tell an average of 12 people about that experience. Each of those 12 people will tell an average of 5 other people. Those numbers were from the restaurant business and about 20 years old but you get the picture. You cannot afford to NOT fix this problem. It may be painful and it will cost you money but I guarantee you it will be money well spent. I also agree with all of the other comments about showing her some pictures of what wood you have and finding out what she likes so you can make her another one. As far as the one she already has, she can give it as a gift to anyone she wants if she will give them the information on where she got it (assuming this other person likes it so be careful on that one). I would not ask for her to send the other one back. It is an added inconvenience to her and could compound the problem. To sum it up, send her pictures of what you have, let her pick something out. Send her another one and maybe even send her some sandpaper and anything else she may need to finish the other one as well. Just my 2 cents worth. Good luck!

-- So much to little time.....

View MNgary's profile


318 posts in 3472 days

#12 posted 06-02-2014 05:16 AM

The world of retailing, whether online or in a big box store, is the same. If you want to build your brand—offer full refund upon the item’s return.

-- I dream of a world where a duck can cross the road and no one asks why.

View Loren's profile (online now)


11148 posts in 4703 days

#13 posted 06-02-2014 05:39 AM

The spiraling cost of an unhappy customer is a toaster-and-automobile
sort of thing – already scaled-up mass-production business models.
Big brands are scalable, you are not. You have a production
bottleneck and a market price ceiling. It is a bad position from
an industrialist’s point of view and one in which you’re going to
have to make some tough choices.

The argument that any customer must be mollified at any cost falls
apart for consultants, lawyers, vets, plastic surgeons etc. where
irate and sometimes insane customers are part of the business and
the stakes are way higher than the price of a dinner out.

A plastic surgeon who refunds every displeased customer will
not succeed. In the end, it is about managing customer expectations
and setting boundaries.

Why not one-man wood shops?

In the end, you and only you decide the terms on which you
will sell your time. Read Dan Kennedy.

View Woodknack's profile


13552 posts in 3435 days

#14 posted 06-02-2014 05:52 AM

Don’t build her another one. I bet she’ll like the color a lot more for a 50% discount. And in the future I would send them a picture before shipping.

-- Rick M,

View Buckethead's profile


3196 posts in 2924 days

#15 posted 06-02-2014 11:49 AM

Satisfy the customer. Sometimes it is painful, but that’s why we do business… To satisfy the customer. All other reasons for doing business are a by product of having satisfied the customer.

Offer to make her a new one, offer her a discount, don’t charge her. Bite the bullet.

Learn from this.

Prior to shipping, photograph the piece and submit it to the customer for approval. Having a few different pieces on hand is smart. If you photograph the piece for sale, there will be less chance for dissatisfaction down the line vs having a single stock photo as a representation.

Also consider this: Making ten at once is far more efficient than making one or two at a time. Even using various types of lumber.

-- Support woodworking hand models. Buy me a sawstop.

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