This is a post that has been in the works for some time, but with Darth Computerwhiz asking for advice, it seems to be a good time to put this out:
We've been noticing that there has been some recent complaints regarding sales on the site. Considering that a major part of our site is regarding sending people we've never met hundreds of dollars over the internet so that they could build us what amounts to very expensive toys, I'd like to take the time here to give some advice that's been collected over time. Hopefully this will help go a long way in smoother transactions amongst the members. A big thank you goes to Eastern57, who ran the original compilation of hints and advice. Original post here: http://www.fx-sabers.com/forum/index.php?topic=22859.0If you are the buyer
- Do your research on your sabersmith first
. Check out previous work. Google the sabersmith's name. Check Ebay Feedback. Search the forum for topics and feedback by the sabersmith. Check our their build logs. Don't just look at the numbers of the ratings, read between the lines. Were there hiccups along the way? Did it take longer than expected? Was there a lag in communication? This is the most important piece of advice any experienced member here can give. Read their page and see what their requirements are. Can you afford their rush fee if you're already 12th in line?
- Remember to be realistic when it comes to both price and time involved.
These are often custom individually made pieces, and the price and time frame will reflect that. Do your research and have open, honest communication with the sabersmith involving these factors. On the other hand, do not commission a sabersmith based entirely on their price. Just because he's the first person to approach you, or he promises you a quality build for a fraction of the price, that doesn't mean that you'll get what you expected. Has he posted examples of his previous work before? Were the pictures clear and closeup, or blurry and dark? Was he detailed? Has there been posts regarding his interactions with other people?
- Take your time to figure out what you want BEFORE you commission a work from a sabersmith.
Custom lightsaber commissions should not be impulse buys where you say, "build me something shiny!" and then go back later with numerous revisions and additions. This will only lead to frustration for the sabersmith, and more than likely disappointment for the customer, not to mention the 'nuisance fee'. The conversation with the sabersmith should be detailed and open and honest in the beginning, and the final design should be decided upon before any work is commissioned, so that there are no surprises with the end result.
- NEVER give the entire commission fee before the saber has been built.
There is no acceptable reason business-wise why this should be done. Ever. An accepted amount for a first payment is between 25-50% of the fee minus shipping charges.If you are the buyer on FX-Sabers.com
- Realize that the Mining Colony and the Guild have been set up for a reason. These people have a PROVEN track record for not only solid technical skills, but superior customer service. We are not telling people to ONLY do business with them, but they are held accountable to the Council should there be any wrong doing, whereas general members are not.
- Conduct as much business as possible through the forums. This is for your protection. If all your business transactions are via phone calls it will just turn into a big he-said-she-said with no proof.
- Be aware of the rules on the forums. If anyone approaches you via PM who has not met the 3/50 rules or is restricted from selling or conducting business in any way decline them. If they approach you to commission something to be built for you, only Mining Colony and Guild members may commission projects here. There's a reason why they aren't allowed and it's because we have the protection of the buyers in mind.If you are the seller
- Discard the notion that this is a simple or quick way to make extra money.
It takes time to learn how to build a saber with all of the features that customers want now, and that comes with experience. Don't think that just because you made a few sabers for friends that you have all it takes to set up a successful business, even as a side business. You will need all the skills, reputation, knowledge, and equipment on hand before you can even think of opening a business. Trust me, this isn't a '3 out of 4 is good enough deal'. If you're missing just one of those, people will see it, and they will tell other people, who will then think twice about doing business with you.
- Customer service is even more important than saber-fu.
You may be a competent builder, but that is just half of what it takes to successfully sell sabers that you've built. Technical skills can always be learned and improved upon, but if you have less than stellar customer service skills it won't matter. Why? Because that is what you're going to be giving your customer in between taking their deposit and delivering the finished product. And THAT is what people will remember of you. If people say, "the saber was solid, but he was a pain to work with." People aren't very likely to go to you. There's an old adage in the business world that says, "A satisfied customer will tell a few people about their experience with you but an unhappy customer will tell everyone they know."
- Invest in your business.
This means never stop learning and practicing in your skills. This also means that you MUST have all the tools and supplies necessary to do the job and satisfy the customer before you take on a commission.
- Never show less than your best work.
If your work has scratches, or dings, or chatter don't show it to potential customers. This may be a one time occurrence for you but they're going to take that as a common occurrence. There's also that whole 'professional pride' thing. I'm not saying to hide your imperfect work. I'm saying to not give anything less than your best at all times.
- Don't take on new commissions until the previous commissions are completed.
Trust me. What if you get in a car accident and can no longer complete the builds that you took money for? What if you took 10 commissions so that you could get a price break on supplies? How are you going to pay back all those people who aren't going to wait 6 months before you START working on their sabers. All the people say this will never happen to them end up getting complaints and a bad reputation. Does it happen? Yep. Unfortunately too many people have used the excuse of DRL - Darth Real Life to just skip town.
- Excuses are in-excusable.
The unexpected happens, but proper planning should keep the majority of real life excuses at bay. And also, it's not the customer's fault, and they shouldn't have to suffer. If the build can't be completed, if there are delays, then be up front as soon as possible, but don't give excuses. And yes, harsh as it sounds, every single person that has skipped town with people's money never to return have all given the family tragedy excuse. Every. Single. One.
- Be honest with your customers from the beginning and always keep constant communication with them.
This is pretty much self explanatory.If you are the seller on FX-Sabers.com
- We take these rules seriously, and will enforce them.
- We will help you out when we can, and will explain what can and can't be done.
- DO NOT ACCEPT COMMISSIONS IF YOU ARE NOT A MINING COLONY OR GUILD MEMBER. There are proven reasons for this. If you feel that you are ready to start accepting commissions (and many things besides technical skill MUST be taken into consideration) then apply for membership at the Mining Colony. Ask current MC and Guild members and staff for advice.