A question of payment

Forum: Woodworking

Hey everyone,
I have had an issue come up. I was commissioned to build a keepsake box. The lady who asked for it is an old friend from Ohio that I’ve known since Junior High. I built the box, this box to be specific: "": https://woodworkingweb.com/creations/911-keepsake-box
The customer says she mailed me the money, by putting cash in an envelope and mailing it to me. I’ve known this lady for over 30 years, and she is scrupulously honest in everything she does, but overly trusting in the goodness of strangers. If she says she mailed me cash, I’m sure that’s what she really did do. I’m sure you have figured out that the envelope never showed up in my mailbox.
Long story short, she wants her box. I want my money. neither of us is happy right now. On one hand, I like her, and the thought of her having a piece I made as an heirloom to hand down to her descendants makes me happy. On the other hand, I have a lot of time, money, and materials invested in the piece that I’d like to be paid for.
How would you handle this?
Jeff

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20 Replies

3fingerpat ...

Here is my .02……
If you made this piece for a client, then that person is a client, what would you do/expect from this client if you didn’t know her? Wouldn’t you expect payment before delivery?
You have to decide if your friendship is worth more than the box.
Hopefully the payment will arrive in the mail.
How long has it been lost in the mail?

shipwright ...

Personally, I would send her the box and believe that she did send the money. I would have a clear conscience knowing that I had trusted an old friend and made good on my side of the deal.
A box is a box. A friendship is something else.
If in fact she did pull a fast one on me, she is the one losing sleep from a guilty conscience…… not me.

Jeff B ...

3fingerpat, it’s been over 2 months now.

a1jim ...

If it’s over what was the resolution ?

3fingerpat ...

Got it, I sent a payment to an out of state plumber for working on our rental property. He did not receive the payment in the mail. I offered to drive there and and hand deliver the money to him. He declined the offer and just asked me to resend the check, it arrived 5 days later. So speaking from recent experience, I know that lost mail does happen.
I think Paul’s comments are spot on.

Jeff B ...

Well, as of right now the box is in my living room awaiting it’s fate. My wife says she’ll either get the cash, or she has a new jewelry box.
Still, it’s bugging me. :-(

Thorreain ...

Me personally I have had this happen before, but the client was not a friend nor did I know about trustworthy, I gave them the piece and left the truth at the door. Knowing that I may have just made a donation I felt good. As it turned out the client paid by cash some time later once they realized I trusted them enough to believe in them. It’s a karma thing I believe.

a1jim ...

Besides the friend element involved in this scenario ,if we look at it logically how many folks send cash through the mail ? would your one of your creditors forgive your debt if you said you had sent cash in the mail and they didn’t get it ? It’s a foolish thing to do. I know we send $5-$10 to the grandkids cash in the mail ,but who pays for larger items cash through the mail??? Since it’s a friend how about splitting it down the middle as a compromise ? She pays 1/2 price and you eat the other half?

Jeff B ...

Yeah, sending cash through the mail is pretty dumb. the 1/2 price idea would be a good one, except I already cut her a great deal in the first place, not much more than materials. I never expected to make much on the deal, and a discount of $10 would put me at break-even. I spent $30 on lumber, glue, and hardware, and I only charged her $40 to begin with.
As much as it bugs me, I think I’m just going to let my wife work it out. It’s the ladies who are really friends anyhow. They can sort it out between them. Still, it bugs me.
The big lesson I’m taking away from this is that I need to change my policy on these sorts of things. It’s going to be materials cost plus 10% at time of order, and the rest on delivery. At least I’ll break even on materials and shop supplies that way regardless of what happens. :-(

a1jim ...

Forgive my view on this Jeff.Yep that’s a low price alright,to low in my opinion ,if you’re selling your work you should make money, friends or not. Either your work has value or not,if it is a good product, get paid a reasonable amount. You may not think of it this way but taking such a low price is hurting yourself and cutting the throats of people trying to make a living in woodworking. Folks can always make things to give away,that’s cool but taking a very low price only hurts everyone. You will get lots of word of mouth advertising but only as a guy who works for nothing.
Sorry for the rant I know that doesn’t help you feel better. You are on the right course with your new approach,take 50% down and only delivery after your paid in full. If
folks don’t like it .pass on the job. you and your work deserves to be treated with
respect.

Jeff Vandenberg ...

Just for future reference if anyone sends cash have the send it but with a signature card at the time of delivery. That way you both are protected. Now since it was only 40 charge id tell her to pay for shipping and you’ll send the box. But she needs to send the shipping fee by certified mail so you have to sign. The thing is her word of mouth can be bad for you in the long haul. Id eat the box cost personally

Thorreain ...

My wife alway hounds me to get cash for the materials before building. She’s done this the last 5 years or so after learning some hard lessons as a flooring store manager. Now when I give a price I state that the cost of materials must be paid before I can start as I am a small custom shop and do not have very much in stock because I mainly make custom pieces. Very few complain at all.

shipwright ...

When I built boats it was always materials cost up front, progress payments, and final payment before launching. That was for bigger money of course but materials up front is always a good idea.

Jeff B ...

No need for an apology a1jim. I hear you loud and clear. I don’t solicit sales yet as I’m still developing my skills, but this is a lesson learned

a1jim ...

Better luck next time Jeff