Dealing with the Public Can Be Hard

Sometimes, the public is hard to work with. When I started making fabric face masks, I offered them free to those in my community, primarily through local contacts on my Facebook page. There were reasons I offered them free. 1) I was just getting back into sewing and 2) I was still perfecting the masks, experimenting with sizing, coverage, and developing my own way to put a metal piece in for a nasal bridge.

I had quite a few people request the masks. Most were very satisfied and some became paying customers. One person complained and I offered to provide different sizes but never heard back. This is such a nice person, one I personally know, and I was very shocked she complained about free masks! Everyone else were gracious recipients.

In general, things have progressed smoothly since last summer and I’ve made about 400 masks, most of which have been donated to our local technical college and family or friends. I’ve also sold close to 100 on my Etsy site and just finished a new batch to post.

But, I can tell when a transaction is headed south. I should learn to trust my intuition and just return a message that seems like it might lead to problems with a “thanks for the interest, but I cannot help you.” This was the case this last week when a customer ordered two adult masks in the peanut gang colored print and then (after paying) asked if they were child size. Well, no, I responded. The sizing information is in the very detailed listing. It seems, she was new to Etsy and ordering online, so she missed the sizing information. I explained where the information was, and offered a refund.

I do try to provide excellent customer service, so since I had just finished child sized masks in the snoopy print I also offered to send them. The customer agreed to the masks according to her order. But, immediately after sending the order she contacted me again and said she forgot to order two more masks for her other grandkids. Recently, she got those and and was not happy, mostly because of miscommunication, I believe. I had sent photos along with the second listing which showed what she was getting. I also sent an “extra” mask out of Harry Potter fabric (not pictured). She bought the listing – the photos showed what she was getting. Still, she wasn’t happy.

So, this morning, I am mailing two more colored snoopy masks for her grandchildren – for free. This customer has paid for 4 and will have received 8 masks when this third order goes out. I even provided free shipping on the second order. I should have cancelled her first order, stating my child sized masks were not listed yet and left it at that. Obviously, my aim to please gets me in trouble on occasion.

And, luckily, incidents like this have been rare. I think in the twelve years I’ve had an Etsy shop, I’ve had to provide a refund less than five times. I try to adhere to the old adage that “the customer is always right.” Even, though that is not always the case.

But, when this happens, it is frustrating. Masks, especially, are difficult as sizing for all facial sizes and types means that one size truly does not fit all. And, if a customer doesn’t read the description or look at the photos of the product, surely the transaction is doomed to have some issues.

I do like making the masks and have always reasonably priced them. My aim was just to make enough to continue to buy more fabric and make more masks. Surely, they are still needed. But, I’ll have to decide whether to continue to offer them or not. My aim this week is to donate what I have done.

And, my lesson for the future? Well, it is that if I have a gut feeling about a transaction not going well, I need to listen to it and not proceed. That’s on me.

Lastly, I also occasionally get a customer who gives stellar feed back, like this one I received yesterday: “I love this mask so much…it is definitely my new favorite mask!” about a WI floral face mask. Now, that …. well, that, keeps me going!

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