Paying For Commission Pieces
So, you have found a reliable and trusted prop maker to work on your project! Now, as the client, what can you do to protect yourself?
In our experience, Paypal is the best way to go in terms of payment. But here are a few other tips that we have learned along the way:
1. Half Now, Half Later
On new items (stuff builders haven’t made for anyone before) never pay in full. Most respectable builders will not have a problem with you paying half to start and half when the product is ready to ship.
2. Beware Of All Or Nothing
If a maker requires full payment upfront for an item that has not been made before, take this as a huge red flag and investigate further who this person is.
3. When It Might Be Ok To Pay In Full
If the builder has already made the item in the past, and has a mold made for then it can be ok to pay in full up front. If they can show you a finished product, you are probably safe. Batman cowls are a good example. A lot of prop makers have these cowls molded and have made a bunch of them already.
4. Payment In Full Part Deux
Exception number 2 to payment in full: If the builder requires full payment and they have been around for years, you are probably safe. These people will be well known in the prop maker community.
5. The Family & Friends Trick
If a maker requests Paypal funds sent as “family and friends” to avoid the charge, this is a red flag. If there is an issue, Paypal will not help you. If they are firm on this, offer to add the 2.9% (the Paypal fee) to the commission price. This is a small price to pay for the insurance it offers you.
6. Stick to Paypal
This is the safest way to go. Watch out for Google Wallet, or Western Union. They won’t protect you if things go south. Yes, the Paypal fees suck, but it's worth it for the protection. Trust us.
7. Final Payment
Before you make the final payment, the builder should be able to show you pictures of what they have made. Personally, Snakepit Studios posts final pics when we are done to share with other followers. If they can’t show you the finished item, you shouldn't pay them.
8. Watch The Window!
Paypal gives you 45 days (maybe 180 now) to file a claim if you paid for an item you did not receive. Mark this on the calendar and watch it closely. If you keep getting excuses and delays, you are going to have to make a judgement call to file a claim. Good makers will often let you know before you ask if there is an issue or hold up. If they are dodgy or hard to get a hold of near the deadline, I would probably open the case.
9. Communication Is Key
Some builders may hate me for this, but we believe most messages should be returned within 24-48 hours. As small business owners, this is part of the deal. We don’t keep normal business hours. That being said, if we are going to be away more than 24-48 hours (ie. we're leaving the country to go on our honeymoon and don't have international roaming), we will post an update on our social media accounts. The second caveat is don’t send your builder unnecessary email. Ask what you need to, then let them get back to work. Builders that care about their clients will check and respond to messages on a regular basis. And sometimes this might not be the builders only job. A lot of builders do this because it's their passion, but they have other day jobs keeping them busy as well.
So there you go, a few ways to keep you safe as you finish purchasing that amazing suit, helmet, full scale costume or whatever. Just remember, these are just some tips based on our past experiences to try and help you out before you get into the same kinds of jams we have run into from time to time. But hopefully some of what we share helps you along the way.
Good Luck & Have Fun!