My First Etsy Order Did Not Go Well

After 213 visits and 455 viewed products over the past month, I finally received my first Etsy order. The order was for a Mandarin orange candle with a request. The customer asked if it would be possible to make my candle look like the head of the images pictured below.

Since I always like a challenge, I took an existing orange candle, applied some wax to build up the eyes, leaf hair, and beak; and then coated the features with acrylic paint. A touch of gloss enamel spray added a light shine.

Although I could have charged extra for this customized production, since this was my first Etsy order, I chose to waive any additional charge.

As a courtesy, I took a picture of the completed product and messaged her prior to going to the post office to ship it. I wish I could tell you that the customer loved this candle. She didn’t. After I got home I found that the customer didn’t like what I had done. I was told that the bird looked hung over.

The customer then asked for a plain orange candle which I couldn’t do because I had already shipped the order. Even if I hadn’t already shipped the order, I would still have had to charge the customer for this candle. After adding wax to it and painting it, I couldn’t have used it for anything else.

The customer then became verbally abusive. She told me that she had shared this image on Facebook and that all of her followers thought my candle looked childish, awful, and amateurish. She subsequently demanded a full refund. She threatened to file a claim against me with Etsy and also with PayPal unless I gave her a refund because I had sold her an “ugly” candle. She claimed that the candle was so ugly that I had foisted this off on her instead of listing it on my Etsy store. She ignored the fact that I produce candles that look and smell like real food and that this particular candle was a one off. She also ignored the time line because I shipped this candle before she told me that she didn’t like it. There was of course no acknowledgement that I had customized this candle at no extra charge and no appreciation of my efforts.

Her harsh comments hurt my feelings. Although a dozen caustic responses danced through my mind instead of responding in kind, I told her that I do not respond well to threats or insults. I then wished her a nice day. She responded by telling me that it’s not an insult if it’s “the truth.” She does not seem to understand that her “truth” is really just an opinion.

Thomas Edison once observed that in business one should “focus on how the end-user customers perceive the impact of your innovation – rather than on how you, the innovators, perceive it.” This quote seems to suggest that the customer is always right and if this is so, I am perhaps completely unsuited for business.

I am now waiting for Etsy or PayPal to contact me assuming the customer follows through with her threat. I am also waiting for her to write a scathing negative review for my Etsy store.

On the brighter side, I have since gotten two more orders. One person wanted this pineapple upside down cake candle.

Another person wanted this mac and cheese candle.

Both candles were packaged and mailed within 24 hours.

In the meanwhile, my customer service problem with the first Etsy sale has rattled me to the point where I have not put in an order for a resupply of the pillar wax I need to make my candles. I am now thinking of closing the Etsy store since the expense of maintaining this virtual shop is not being offset with sales. An anticipated scathingly negative review from this customer will not help with generating future business.

Although I enjoy making candles, I do not enjoy customer service. Since I am autistic and have a literal mindset, I tend to take hurtful and rude comments quite literally.

I am now wondering if I should consider the possibility of consignment sales. I may need to contact the SBA (small business advisor) who help me set up this business to ask his thoughts about this.

Consignments would allow me to provide candles to a gift shop for sale. The shop would keep a percentage of all sales. While my profits would be smaller, the loss of income would be offset by the fact that I wouldn’t have to deal with customer service.

I will have to think about this.

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