It appears I may have spoken too soon about our wedding invitations.
In the past two months, I have sent our invitations designer 5 e-mails requesting further information on the project. In return, I have received exactly 1 e-mail from the designer, explaining that they are "backed up" but promising she would send me the proofs and have my design on press the next week. That, by the way, was 4 weeks ago; I haven't heard anything from her since. I also noticed that last week, a buyer on Etsy left her negative feedback reporting non-delivery of a custom item. At this point, I am almost certain that I will not receive the invitations that I ordered and paid for, and I am wondering when I should panic and order something else instead.
I feel utterly, utterly foolish. I am *way* past the date when I can dispute the initial transaction on PayPal; at this point I don't think there is any way I can get my money back, unless Etsy is able to assist me or unless my credit card company can do something. I'm going to push the designer to send me proofs and get me the invitations, but I don't really see it happening, at least not in time to actually send them out. (The way things are going, I half expect them to show up on my doorstep on July 26, the day after the wedding, thus enabling the designer to justify keeping my money because hey, she sent them.)
I'm normally very cautious about online transactions, but I really screwed this one up. My advice from this episode?
1. DO NOT pay for a project in full up-front. Yes, I know, "Duh." But it's easy to get caught up in the excitement of seeing a cool custom design, trust that 100% positive feedback rating, and decide that you don't want to be difficult by asking to split the price into a down payment and a payment-upon-delivery. Be a bit difficult. It's OK. A quality professional will understand the preference for a split payment.
2. When faced with an unacceptable situation, be demanding. I have been way too nice about this whole thing, waiting weeks for a response and telling myself "just be patient, it will all be OK, don't be a Bridezilla." But the only response I got from the designer was when I was semi-demanding and expressed "concern" at the "poor communication." Of course, when I read her sob story, I immediately reverted back to Nice Mode and told her how sorry I was to hear about her troubles. The result: being ignored for another 4 weeks.
I'm not advocating bitchiness in all online transactions, but when someone's not measuring up, don't be afraid to let them know it, and don't back down when they come up with excuses. Politely but firmly insist that they do what you have paid them to do, and if they don't follow through in the agreed-upon amount of time, start pestering them again, and continue being a pest until you get what you want.
3. Create a paper trail via e-mail and/or Etsy Conversations, in which you are highly specific about what you expect and when you expect it. This may end up being your only recourse if your seller flakes on you.
Ugh. I'll keep you updated on this whole situation, but right now I am so disappointed, both in the designer and in myself for being so gullible and losing a fairly large chunk of money. In the grand scheme of things, I know it won't matter if we send out self-printed invitations from a Target kit or high-end letterpress from a designer featured in Martha Stewart Weddings, but I was excited about this and I can't help feeling bummed, and also pretty stupid.