Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Why Do Some People Need to Bleed You Dry?

I just feel a tiny need to vent here. I began offering a few paintings at auction on eBay in mid-October. Most of the pieces sold for the asking price or a bit more. One sold for quite a bit more than I expected and I was pleased as this was an award-winning painting of a horse that deserved to be somewhere where it was appreciated- rather than hanging unappreciated in a back hallway at my house.

I decided to paint a few more paintings especially for the eBay audience to get an idea of what might sell. I painted some nudes from studies I had made in life drawing. A few of these sold well. I painted some wolves, just because Scott said I didn't paint them as well as I painted people. Had to prove him wrong. I offered a few of my larger still-life paintings and they received no bids. I painted a super 12" x 16" painting of a pair of horses that was just drop dead gorgeous and offered it for a very low initial bid of $49.99 (no reserve). I crossed my fingers that this painting would at least bring $100 as I knew it was a $600 piece.

Well, this painting did get a couple bids on the last day it was up for auction and it went for a few dollars more than I had listed it- maybe $53.00 or so. My fault totally. I should have cancelled the auction. I've included a photo of the painting I titled Stand By Me.

The winning bidder was a bit odd and this is where the story gets really bizarre. She called me on the phone to ask me about the painting, which was fine. But she asked questions like, "What is linen? Why is it painted on linen and why is the linen on stretcher bars? How do I pack it when I ship it?" I think I was on the phone with her for half an hour listening to her tell me how much she loved collecting art and how many paintings she had purchased from different artists. I felt like I had to reassure her that she was getting a quality item. I assured her she could send the painting back if she didn't like it- I would find another buyer. Secretly, I just wanted her to say forget the deal and not pay me.

But she did pay me and I reluctantly shipped her beautiful painting out the same day and left her great feedback. Monday I got another phone call from the woman. She had been having second thoughts about paying the shipping and handling charges. She just knew it had cost less than $25.00 to package and ship the painting. Was I trying to rip her off? She was almost offensive and definitely a bit nasty. I tried to explain to her that I spend about an hour wrapping and shipping and driving a package to the UPS drop off plus I purchase cartons to wrap my larger paintings in. It was not sinking in. She thought she had been had- even though she told me how much she loved the painting and it was so much better in real life than on the web. I asked her what would make her happy and of course it all came down to money. She wanted a partial refund of shipping costs. After another 20 minutes of listening to her and trying to maintain some semblance of my sanity (she seemed not to be dealing with quite a full deck), I was able to get off the phone by telling her I would just refund her some money through Paypal. She made it clear she would leave negative feedback even though she loved the painting and had received it very quickly, if I did not send her $6.50. I was proud of myself. I treated her very pleasantly throughout the conversation, but did ask her not to bid on any more of my auctions.

After sending $8.00 to her via my Paypal account I thought I might check some of the auctions she had been purchasing to see if just maybe she was really tight and only purchased things she could re-sell for more money. Of course I realize some people just have to feel they have gotten the best of you. I'm not sure what that's all about but I know it's true, just from watching and listening to people.

I was shocked when I viewed her list of recent winning auctions. This woman obviously had money. She had just won four auctions for over $100 each for some little antique horse statues. I know nothing about antiques, of course, but these little horses were not originals; they were ceramic casts. Yet she had wasted a great deal of time talking to me about getting a refund on her shipping charges for an original oil painting that she had paid less than 10% of the real value for.

I was a bit discouraged after this incident. The on-line auction business I had envisioned where people find unique treasures they really want and sellers can actually make a living seems to be a dream I won't realize. Just the thought of having to deal with more flaky people like this woman gives me the willies.

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