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10 years in business---first of this situation

Discussion in 'The Taxidermy Industry' started by mrdux, May 20, 2014.

  1. mrdux

    mrdux Member

    I opened my studio in August of 2004. I felt I needed to offer something that wasn't being offered in my area at the time---a lifetime guarantee on my work. Fast forward to this morning: I had a client come in to pick up a whitetail mount that was taken in late December muzzleloader season. On my inspection of the cape prior to tanning it, it was apparent that the cape was rubbed very thin in the brisket and armpit areas as well as top of the back. The ears were very tick damaged also. The eye areas were also rubbed thin with no eyelashes being left. I see this a lot and have never had an issue. Most clients just consider this to be character and the way their deer was in real life. This deer had all the characteristics of a dominate buck that had seen many battles and races thru the rut woods.

    The cape tanned fine with no further loss of hair but had to have a lot of grooming to remove the multitudes of ticks stuck to the cape.It shaved fine and went together with no issues. The deer did have large ears for our area and large ear butts. Drying was normal and everything was done per the customer's instructions on the work order. I got the finish work done and was as satisfied with the mount as I would be normally. I had managed to paint blend some of the thin rubbed areas so they didn't show quite so bad. I had several positive comments on the deer while it hung in the showroom prior to being picked up.

    Fast forward to this morning. The client came in and small talked for a while before walking into the showroom to get a 1st look at his mount. The look on his face really took me by surprise. His 1st comments was what the hell have you done with my deer? This isn't my cape! This looks like crap! Who mounted this? It couldn't have been the same person who mounted all the other great mounts in here! On and on!! The eyes suck! The ears look like Mickey Mouse! No way this is my deer! On and on!!

    I told him it was 100% his cape and all work had been done exactly the way we had written it up on the work order. The cape was thin due to it being a late season cape and because of all the tick damage. This just made things worse. He then starts going over every detail like a World Show judge and blasting each and every part, all the while comparing it to what he said was an awesome deer mount right next to it on the showroom wall, also a customer piece. I got reference photos and a caliper and showed him the ears were symmetrical and less than 1/8 of an inch from perfectly the same distance from the middle of the nose. Nothing mattered.

    He said just let me pay for it and take it somewhere to somebody who knows what they are doing and have them redo it. I said NO, it won't leave here till you are 100% satisfied. What will it take? He said you've already ruined it so it won't matter.

    In 10 years of business, I've never had such a display. The deer was as nice as commercial work could be considering the condition it had arrived in. I offered to remount the horns on another cape, which I have a couple of very special capes that I've been saving back for a showroom piece. I started to see a change in his attitude so we went back to the work order and I wrote down detailed notes---AGAIN--of the changes he wanted.

    The guy seemed satisfied that I was going to pull a cape out of the freezer and redo the piece ASAP. He then started talking about all the work he had been unhappy with from other taxidermists and work he had made them do over. NOW it was all making sense. This wasn't his 1st rodeo but it was for me. I'm now committed to using one of my prize capes to replace a cape that was damaged well before it walked into my door. The replacement cape is 2 inches larger in the swell so I'll also be out a form for it.

    I'm going to rack this one up as fool me once, shame on you---fool me twice, shame on ME! I'll also be taking detailed pictures of ANY issues with a client cape before and after tanning but well before I put my time and labor into mounting it. I guess it was bound to happen and I'll get used to the slack in the back side of my Wranglers where my arse used to be.

    Live and learn.
  2. Museum Man

    Museum Man Well-Known Member

    if it was a bad cape to start with this is one more reason to go over each specimen in front of the customer when they bring it in and point out all of the flaws.....

  3. James Parrish

    James Parrish Tundra Swan...Its What's For Dinner!

    It took you 10 years to get an unhappy client? That's pretty good.

    You will have those types of customers from time to time. When I did deer, I would get a customer every now and then that swore his deer had a bigger neck than the mount. Even after measuring the mount and comparing the measurements to those on the work order, they would still complain. I got one or two complaints from folks who swore that I switched capes on them because their deer was a different color, etc. On the first switched cape complaint, I rehydrated the scalp and showed the customer where the punched code in the forehead matched the invoice. He didn't believe me. Other times, I would get someone who didn't like the color of the inside of the ears or around the eyes, etc. I'd fix quick stuff like paint, etc. to make the customer happy, but I never offered to do a remount because of complaints like that. I can just about bet that he won't be truly satisfied with a remount. He will always tell the folks who see his mount how you messed the cape up and had to redo it with a different cape, etc. The best thing you could have done is tell him to pay you and take his mount. The only time I would even think about offering a complete remount is if I made a mistake and mounted it in the wrong pose, etc.

    I would stop the lifetime guarantee stuff. While it is a great selling point, it opens you up to all kinds of crap. You have no control over the mount once it leaves your shop. All kinds of damage can occur and you will be expected to fix it free of charge even though it is not your fault. Bugs can get into any mount. Humidity can cause capes to rehydrate, expand, dry out, and contract which can cause cracking that not even the best glue will stop in the long run. Direct sunlight can fade paint colors. Fireplaces can be an absolute nightmare on mounts over time. The list goes on. If you refuse to fix a problem like that, there is a chance that a customer will sue you and cause you a lot of headaches. When I first started, I offered a lifetime guarantee but quickly did away with it on the advice of more experienced taxidermists (similar to what I've given you).
  4. 3bears

    3bears Well-Known Member

    I understand that this is a sticky situation for you and it sucks. I think I would have let him pay and move on. He is likely going to badmouth you, no matter what. Some people are just plain aholes. Yes, use the experience as a learning tool, that way it won't happen again.
    It is nearly impossible to go over everything, with the customer present, with things often frozen. I thaw them out as I get to them and document all damage with notes and pictures, I then contact customer and discuss condition and options if need be. I do this with the fresh unfrozen when I can as well, with the customer present.
  5. Kerby Ross

    Kerby Ross KSU - Class of '83; U.S. Army - Infantry (83-92)

    Listen for red flags ..........

    I have actually turned down a couple of customers because all they would do is bad mouth other taxidermists that had done work for them ...... GREAT taxidermists at that. So I let them find someone else to take on the burden of a customer that will NEVER be happy.

    Too bad you had already committed to another cape....... otherwise I would have sent the guy on his way.

    I also note any damage to the cape, etc. Write it down on their invoice/job ticket and have at times taken pictures. And sometimes when they drag a deer or elk out of the woods I show them the damage and ask them if they want a replacement cape or leave it as is. I also inspect ears in front of the customers. I have the customer sign their invoice/job ticket.

    Where I live we have a lot of antelope that have fence rubs on the back of the neck. You would be surprised how many hunters that don't realize that antelope crawl under fences and damage their capes ..... or even know that their cape is damaged.

    Sometimes you get THAT customer .... I like to be prepared.


  6. George

    George The older I get, the better I was.

    The only way to give a "lifetime guarantee" is if he dies walking out the door. You're damned lucky to have not been bitten by that long ago. As for this guy, two BIG mistakes: not documenting the hide issues when it came in (and again before mounting), and #2 was in not taking his payment and making sure the door didn't hit him in the ass on the way out.
  7. Richard C

    Richard C Well-Known Member

    The only thing out there with perpetual care are cemetery lots.
  8. mrdux

    mrdux Member

    When I first met the customer I had in today, I was pumped because he is a big real estate guy with lots of potential to generate me lots of business. His deer was caped and frozen so I didn't see it until I thawed it for turning and prep. I'm going to chalk it up as bending over backwards too far to make somebody happy. I'll probably end up feeling like I've been bent over forward instead of backwards. Chances are he won't be happy regardless.

    I do qualify my guarantee and have specific terms in writing that will disqualify work from the lifetime stuff. Fireplaces, non-climate control environment, wood stoves, bug and animal damage are some of those.

    After all the happy clients I have dealt with, this guy put a lot of things in perspective and will make me much more cautious in the future. He still won't be walking out of my place without paying the balance owed.
  9. Never offer anything to a dissatisfied customer. Not one darn thing, why you may ask. Because in a court of law that is an admission to wrong doing, even if you did everything right.

    We all get those bad capes!

    I had a couple call me at home on a Sunday morning, just had to drop a fish off. So went to the shop took in their fish, nothing special just a 17 lbs striped bass. Told them in would be about a year, two weeks later the man starts calling, is the fish ready? ok repeat this every week for 9 months. I tell him its ready and now he says I have to ship the darn thing. I replie I am headed that way Labor Day weekend and will meet them and a few other customers to drop the fish off.

    Well they called and made threats and accused us of loosing their fish and all kinds of bipolar statements and then failed to show up to get the fish. We arrived back home to several very nasty calls for those people.

    The even called the police and said we had stolen their fish, then the prosecutor who loled at them because he knows the whole darn story.

    Funny how things get twisted up, they said several phones that the guide would never use me again!!! Well last lol is on them, the guides have used us again. Now to just file the counter claims with my Attorney Generals office.
  10. duxrus

    duxrus Active Member

    I 100% guarantee you will be wasting a good cape on someone who will only complain in hopes of getting something for free. I make sure each client is happy before final payment but once a mount leaves the shop, that is it. You are setting yourself up for a reoccurring nightmare with potentially getting past clients looking for free touch ups as the years go by. You cant guarantee every client actually having a brain to where a mount is cleaned properly and regularly along with enough common sense to understand something just aging.

    I have only had one unhappy client myself who brought in a early season canvassback with a picture of a mount done by one of the best bird guys around . He said I want this and I told him no one can take a subpar bird and make it look like a prime late season bird and all I could do was match the pose . I suggested him waiting on a better bird but he insisted on that one. I did the work and it turned out pretty dang good for what I had to work with. He picked it up and left as if happy, three weeks later he called saying that it just didn't look as nice as the one in the picture do it bothered him. I told him, no $&@# and refreshed his memory on our original discussion . I told him that I would mount another one for him whenever he got a good one. Guess who called the next season on opening weekend saying he had a good bird for me... I told him unless he brought me a late season bird to save his gas money since I roils only be spinning my wheels again. The best part was seeing his multiple posts on forums asking why his taxidermist was being so difficult with doing work for him and making up crap about him having poor specimens to work on. Some people are born clueless and remain that way through life...

    Sorry to hear you found his long lost cousin but I would just call him back, give him his mount as is for free, and never look back
  11. wings II

    wings II New Member

    Where I come from - what that guy pulled is called a "shakedown". He put on a show to get a better cape....and it worked. I'm willing to bet he practiced that BS in the mirror before he came to your shop. If that is the only one you've had in 10 years you're doing something right, so don't beat yourself up about it.
  12. critterstuffr

    critterstuffr New Member

    Might be to late to say this but put the new form charge towards a replacement cape and keep your great capes for yourself. Mount his deer and when your done tell him thanks for the business and don't bother to come back. JMO
  13. Dan Gill

    Dan Gill New Member

    Guarantee? Tell the customer you will guarantee his $600 deer head for the same time the Chevy dealer will guarantee his $50,000 pick up.
  14. deerheader

    deerheader New Member

    Too bad as taxidermists we all didn't have a data base of "bad customers" that take advantage of small business like this douche bag obviously does. Even just in your area if your friends with other taxidermists might not be a bad idea to pass the info along. Lets face it you can only take so many pictures and make so many notes. A simple "back ground check..lol" maybe would have alerted you to tell this guy to hit the road...before you even excepted his mount. I know now I'm really dreaming!!!!!