I’ve mentioned a number of times what I do for a living; I’m an artist. Specifically, I sell paintings of animals and specialize in pet portraits. My style varies, depending on the painting, but my custom portraits are messy watercolors and generally quite colorful, focusing on the vibrant personalities of our pets.
The colors that I use are almost always decided by my customer (except when my customer tells me to make the choice). And I try to be as faithful to those color requests as possible. After all, I want happy customers.
But customer satisfaction is tricky and moves in ebbs and flows, like the tide. In short, people are batshit crazy. Anyone who works in customer service will agree.
I have a few types of customers who patronize my Etsy shop. And I like to think that each customer type has a spirit animal that helps them forge their way through life – either sweetly, like baby ducklings snuggling or cantankerously, like an angry badger with a hemorrhoid.
Fortunately most of my customers are pleasant, but every now and then I get a doozy. Here are a couple hyperbolized conversations I’ve had that demonstrate the types of customers we’ve all had to deal with (Again, these are exaggerations and are only based on real interactions):
Customer Type With a Zika Mosquito as a Spirit Animal
Customer: I received my painting today and you are a truly gifted artist with amazing talent and your work is astonishing. But I need you to disregard all of those nice things I just said, because I didn’t actually mean it. I’m just new to the concept of a compliment sandwich. This is where I backpedal, right?
So, I don’t like my painting.
Me: I’m happy to hear you received your painting and thank you for the kind words. I’m so sorry you’re not happy with your custom portrait. What did you not like about it?
Customer: The purple.
Me: Oh? That’s too bad to hear. What about the purple don’t you like?
Customer: Well, it makes the painting look cheerful and vibrant instead of bright and colorful. I wanted bright and colorful. I don’t like cheerful and vibrant.
Me: I’m so sorry that you’re not happy. It certainly wasn’t my intention to cause your painting to have a different emotional expression than you expected.
Customer: I’m sure you didn’t mean any harm. Unfortunately, my spouse now has to drive me to therapy three times a week to overcome the emotional and psychological devastation this has caused me.
Me: Oh dear! How terrible for you! May I ask why you specifically requested the color purple when giving me directions for your custom portrait?
Customer: How dare you question my choices! Yes, I did request purple. And you did follow my guidelines precisely. Technically. But your lack of foresight into my mind changing the moment I received my painting is completely and entirely your fault and is the reason why I haven’t been able to eat solid food since it arrived!
Me: Well, I can see that this has taken a terrible toll on you and I’m sorry to have caused such grief. If you don’t feel as though you can enjoy your painting, may I offer you a refund at my expense?
Customer: No, I can’t enjoy this painting. Of course, I will frame it and hang it up because it is, after all, exactly what I asked for, but I cannot possibly enjoy it. Even my spouse, who had nothing to do with the order and is probably as batshit as me, agrees that it is unenjoyably cheerful and vibrant. So give me a refund now.
Me: *provides refund and cancels transaction to wipe it from my memory and my records*
Customer Type With a Cuddly Monkey Eating Doughnuts as a Spirit Animal
Me: Hi Customer, I noticed that you upgraded your shipping from priority to express. Is there a date that you need your paintings by?
Customer: Hi Artist! Yes, I was hoping to have the paintings in 3 weeks. But it is totally not a big deal if I don’t get them by that time. I definitely don’t want to set any deadlines for you. You’re an amazing artist and I want you to take your time! Seriously, there’s no rush. You can even put other customers ahead of me if it makes your life easier!
Me: Oh that won’t be a problem at all! My lead time is just one week.
Customer: How wonderful! I can’t tell you how amazing it is to be able to work with you. These paintings are gifts for my best friend. I’m overjoyed to place this order!
Me: Gosh, you’re so kind! Since it will arrive well before your deadline, I can just ship the paintings priority. The express option just gets them to you one day faster and it costs so much extra. If that’s okay, then I’ll refund you the $30 difference between the two shipping options and save you the money.
Customer: You’re so thoughtful for looking into this and offering the refund. No one would ever go through the trouble you just did!
Me: No, no, it’s really not a big deal.
Customer: Yes, please feel free to ship it priority, but don’t refund anything. Just keep that $30 as a tip on top of the money I just dropped buying 2 of your most expensive listings. You deserve it!
Me: Holy crappers, really? You are an incredibly generous and kind person!
Customer: No way, you are!
Me: No, you are!
And because I want this post to end happily, here is a doodle I did of Babe and the photo that inspired it.