an open letter to those considering the chargeback or dispute route

Before you put in a chargeback or dispute, please ask yourself this:

I have been doing this online shop thing for over ten years now — actually, it’s been more than 13 now. 7 of those were on ebay with a grand total of perhaps 5 negative ratings over the entire 7 years and thousands of transactions; every single one of those negative ratings was resulting from an instance in which the buyer did not read the item listing before checking out and expected an item to be shipped long before it was going to be ready.

I am and always have been a one-woman shop. I have help doing things like staying on top of the email inbox – since I do educational work, do pro bono work, write, and have my name listed at AIRR and thus get lots of non-shop traffic, it’s impossible for me to route, prioritize, and respond to all incoming messages by myself. But I do nearly every aspect of the shop and altar stuff by myself; this is what separates me from me other shops and suppliers that can offer quick shipping, customer service via phone, a storefront with already-prepared item on the shelves, etc. I can’t compete with those folks and I have never tried to – it wouldn’t be possible. What I offer instead is personal attention to your order every step of the way, and I make or finish each item when it’s ordered rather than taking it off a shelf.

After 13 years and thousands of repeat customers, why would I suddenly decide to start ripping off customers? And why would I start with you and your $20 or even $100 order?

If thousands of buyers are happy with my services and products and you are hysterical, isn’t it more likely that you may have misunderstood or skipped some of the information about when you could expect your order to be delivered than that I suddenly changed my mode of doing business?

If you don’t get your order when you expect it and you *have* read the info on shipping/handling, isn’t it much more likely that something unexpected has come up and I am *not able* to ship your order or fulfill your service at that exact moment?

And since I maintain a blog and keep mirror versions of it at multiple places online, isn’t it likely that I have publicized any issues that have come up that might contribute to an unforeseen event/delay?

The nature of this business, in which nearly all tangible items are custom-made or custom-finished, demands that I operate on a principle of mutual good faith. I have to assume that customers will read the available info and not put in chargebacks, so that I can proceed to make the outlay of time and cash needed to make custom items. It requires that customers act in good faith and assume I will uphold my end of the agreement and fulfill their orders. Once that principle is out the window, the ship starts leaking; the actions of a few customers affect *all* customers. If a buyer ordering a $400 altar item (that cost me $150 in supplies and 30 hours to make and requires $60 to ship) puts in a chargeback, I am at sea – I can’t ship their order, but I also can’t ship the orders of other buyers either. If it sounds like a foolish business model, well, from where I’m sitting right now after the last few months of chargebacks, it is. However, it worked quite well for TWELVE years. The only thing that changed (besides a string of things in my personal life that God willing cannot possibly be repeated) is that I accepted payments through an alternate payment processor for a while, thus allowing a few customers to essentially steal from me. Once that started, it had a ripple effect and impacted other orders and other customers. But if you think about it for a minute, assuming I’m not acting in good faith and am here to rip people off doesn’t make a single lick of sense – how much could I possibly get before being shut down by paypal or some other agency? A few hundred dollars? Since chargebacks and disputes insure buyers can get their money back — in some cases, even after their items have been delivered to them – then it’s unlikely I’d get even that. It just doesn’t compute.

So please, please think before freaking out. It is not possible for me to answer every single message I get every day – half of them are from people wanting a spell to grow their breasts or other appendanges or get something for free anyway, and every second I spend answering emails when the information being asked about in the message has *already been provided to the email author* is a second that I am not in the workroom fulfilling orders. Some of the events of the last few months have been absolutely unprecedented, but are also unrepeatable. I can only lose my aunt to cancer once, I can only leave my job in academia once, and I can only be assaulted in front of a classroom full of college freshmen once.

So please give me the benefit of the doubt and assume that I will continue to do what I’ve been doing for over ten years now until I announce otherwise and pull the shop offline – and that’s working to the best of my ability to fulfill my customer’s orders with personal attention to detail and to the situations that they are trying to remedy or influence by using my products and services. Putting in a dispute or chargeback is not necessary; nobody is ignoring you, you order, or your email. If you get the impression that you or your order or email are being ignored, try checking the blog where there’s a post maintained *expressly for customers with in-house orders,* just for the purpose of giving them a heads up about anything that might change the estimates they were provided when they checked out. If I were trying to rip people off, this would be an incredibly stupid way of doing it.

As it is, I’m not entirely sure at this point if I’ll be able to keep the business open — it only takes a small handful of people throwing hissy fits and freaking out to utterly ruin me financially. I can’t stay in business without my customers having both faith and patience in me. But if I can’t, you can be sure that won’t be a silent decision you’ll have to make assumptions about, and you can be sure that I am aware of how hard my customers work for their money, because I work like a damned dog for mine. I haven’t put in less than 60 hours a week more than four times in the past ten years, and I often put in far more than that. So I am not just going to keep anybody’s money without fulfilling their orders. If you just don’t care about the effect your panic or cynicism or impatience is having on me, then that’s your prerogative, but I beg you to consider the effect it has on other people just like you. Please don’t screw them by trying to lash out at me.

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