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Serious Business Question

Discussion in 'The Taxidermy Industry' started by Aaron Edelson, Oct 23, 2006.

  1. I am a part time taxidermist. To say I have had a bad year is an understatement. First born daughter had open heart surgery, I had a serious, staph infection, my wife was hospitalized after being kicked by a horse, and I was almost killed when a horse fell on me. To say I am behind in my work is an understatement. Here in lies the problem, almost all of my customers have been very understanding. When I take on a mount I tell thenm that there is No guaranteed completion date. I also require a 50% doen paymnet. Yesterday I got a call from a customer saying he was going to pick up his and 2 other deer since they wee not completed and it had been a year. I have tanned and shaved the skins, prepped the forms, and cleaned the antlers. I feel I do not owe him any of his deposit back. For those full timers, what do you think? Your responses are greatly appreciated.
  2. Mr.T

    Mr.T Active Member

    Inform them that you have the prep work all done and it would only take a day to put each of them together, then a week to dry. Give them a solid due date and get them done. If they still insist, keep the deposit for work done. The customer doesn't care about your health or family problems, and when we take on work, it is our responsibility to finish it no matter what, even if you have to farm the job out at our cost. Focus on finishing them or you will be talked all over the county about not finifshing jobs. Even if you couldn't because of family issues. It is a tough spot to be in, been there, find a way to finish them. And a no set date of completion is not good practice. Every customer should have a due date, even if it is a year away.

  3. Get them done now!! Better to use Epo-grip 2 part hide ahesive then risk loosing the customer.
  4. Becky P

    Becky P One must believe the glass is half full.

    You've already done work on it, no $ back. If he absolutely insists on taking them, he loses the deposit. You do have that in your signed contract, right?
    Good luck.
  5. Rick Krane

    Rick Krane Fish Taxidermist/ Judge/ Sculptor/ Instructor

    Hey Aaron,

    Man do I feel for you! Bad luck would be an understatement for sure. When it comes to business and that would be any business what is hard is as a small operation is to separate you from your business. When your business is you it is hard to do just that. Lets talk business for a moment… as a human being perhaps your customer feels for you personally about your life’s situation however he or she understands your problem but understands theirs better. A savvy business person would not throw the towel in but fall back on the business decision and protocol you have in place (if you don’t you will) Every business who serves the public wit some sort of service be it a restaurant or retail story will have a policy for inconvenience or failure to deliver satisfaction at some level. If you don’t care about staying in business then don’t have one. But like your word integrity means every thing.

    Rather then explain to your customer about your problem address theirs and make it all worth there while! What this may mean to say 1 word of negative reputation is to move them up on the completion list or to offer a discount (god I hate that word) but think about it if you spend 1 dollar to advertise you may have to spend 2 to save a negative reputation. It is one thing if you did bad work and your customer just didn’t like your work then you would have to do better but in this situation it is not your customers fault you didn’t deliver (as it typically is not) Again it is sad to hear of your life’s problems and I hear you!!! However in business the customer will only care a little but not lot about your personal problems so you must address them as a businessperson and not as Aaron the taxidermist.

    Be honest and forthright make an opportunity to sit down wit them or at least the gentleman who you’re dealing with. If your work is worth waiting a year for maybe it is worth waiting 1 more month for and a free plaque or special eyes or a real custom finish job. In other words don’t offer money back unless this is the last resort offer your talent as an up sell to your service for their inconveniences. Remind them that you full understand their frustration but never mention your own situation other then to say you had a few personal sets back and your value of there business is a life time value for you and you want their business as a good relationship because you’re the best in their area and the one who they want to think of for their next taxidermy endeavor. Sell it to them not as a problem you want them to understand but a problem you understand of theirs and that you can fix as a businessperson making a business decision for you!

    Good Luck Aaron and remember you make your own luck some times!
    A prayer for you may friend!

    My Best!

    Rick Krane
    Anglers Artistry
  6. mrdux

    mrdux Member

    I have also had a bad year--pneumonia in March and Lyme in Sept. I have not had a single complaint about falling behind on my scheduled completions. I have seriously considered sending a post card to all my customers who are waiting past their estimated times. If the phone starts ringing I will. One thing I can say is if my customers need to get hold of me, they can always reach me by phone or come by the shop during the 60+ hours a week I'm there. Avoiding them just puts you in the same company as some dishonest business folks they may have dealt with in the past. Throwing them a bone may be OK but I would not give them their animals back without the loss of their deposit. My contract states that in plain words. I have had many prospective customers come in and say so-and-so has had my whatever for too long. Could you go get it and mount it for me? The answer is always NO! I will never undercut another taxidermist and I expect the same treatment from others.
  7. AE

    AE Guest


    Thanks for the encouraging words. I am always honest with my customers and try to do the best job possible. What is so ironic is that this gentlemen will attempt to take his deer to another taxidermist. He will then wait 6 months rather than six weeks for his deer to be completed. Being a part-timer who does taxidermy for the love of the art. it confirms my decision to work only for friends in the future.

    Thanks again.
  8. Muthagoose

    Muthagoose You do your thing, I'll do mine.....

    If they have been informed of what happened and could still complain give them their specimen back.
    No return on deposit.
    Keep a list of anyone who isnt understanding and DONT do work for them again because the probabilty of them being late on picking up completed work is very likely.
    Im totaly with MrDux When anyone starts to play the taxidermist blame game I tell them it sounds like a issue between them and its none of my concern......
    In the future cut your self room and extend your timeline 4-6 months.If they want "you" to do the work they wont have a problem. Since we stopped all new found buddy deals and raised our prices to match the quality we have better than a year backlog which reminds me I need to get off line and get to work...
    Remember always they came to you.
  9. jim tucker

    jim tucker Active Member

    You will have to give them the form and any other supplies you bought for the specimen....at leat HERE in Ohio you have to do that in order to "keep" the deposit.

    I have had a similar problem this last year. I have explained to my customers and they ahve accepted it.....because i rarely take over 6 months in the past for any work. The hard times will blow over, you may need to work ahrder for more customers. Reward those that hung in with you.
  10. Explain that six month wait thing with another taxidermist and offer him something for his trouble. The problem with offering to do his mount next is word will spread and everyone will start to call you. The hunting community in any given area is pretty small and word travels fast. Then again, doing his mount next gets him off your back and his work out of your shop. Two things you need to accomplish anyway.

    Some guys get talking to their friends about this long wait and next thing you know one of their friends is suddenly a taxidermist and offers to do that mount for dirt cheap if the hunter can get it from the current taxidermist. It happens all the time.

    Stand your ground. If he insists on picking up his trophy he loses his deposit. I hope you have that in your contract.
  11. Ozwalt

    Ozwalt New Member

    This is my first time posting -- I generally lurk and eavesdrop. However, I had a good amount of experience in the drycleaning business before becoming a taxidermist. You want to talk about grumpy customers? Try running a drycleaner for a while. I ran three of them at the same time, and grumpy customers were not in short supply.

    The lesson I learned from that experience is this. Communicate with your customers consistently to keep them up to date. If I promise something for 6 months, I send them a letter at 5-1/2 months to let them know how we're doing -- especially if I'm behind. As soon as the mount is up and drying, I send a letter letting them know we're in the home stretch. I also use that opportunity to prompt them to order their engraved nameplates, customized panels, habitat work, etc. I'm in direct competition with half a dozen or so other taxidermists in my immediate area. When I pick up one of their customers, the complaint I hear 95% of the time is that it simply took too long to get their mount back. Very rarely do I hear that their last mount didn't look good. The biggest weakness of my competition is lack of customer service, and that's making my business a success.

    I know that doesn't help you in your current circumstances. In order to keep the customer and even turn it into referrals, I'm going to suggest something drastic. I'll probably get some negative responses from this one, but this is not the time to make sure you're not being taken advantage of. This is damage control time. I would tell these customers that you'll finish the mount in the next 2-3 weeks, and you won't charge them for the remaining 50%. Apologize all over yourself, but be clear that you are sympathetic to their concerns, and you want to make it right. Then stay up all night if you have to, but get the mounts up today.

    I know it hurts financially now, but consider the outcome. If you finish the mounts immediately and charge them full price, they'll be telling everyone "it took him over a year, and the only reason he finished them then is because I threatened to come get my animals." If you finish them for free, he'll have to temper his remarks to something like "I was really mad, because it had taken over a year, but he finished them real quick and didn't charge the last half of the bill. And I have to admit, they do look good." Of course, the only downside is that, if word gets out, you may have a parade of people clammering to get 1/2-price taxidermy done. You can always ask to keep the discount confidential. In spite of the risk, that's probably how I'd proceed.

    Now, if they still demand to have their mounts back, give them back with a smile. Tell them you hope they'll give you another chance in the future (be prepared for the inevitable snotty response). If they want their deposit back, tell them you'd have to charge them for the work you've done, quoting $50 an hour or whatever seems right to you, plus the cost of materials, tanning, etc. Use the opportunity to point out that they're coming out ahead by only losing their deposit. What's more, give them some free advice. Whoever eventually does the mount should give them a big discount, since the prep work has already been done. By God, you'll soften up those bastards yet.

    Good luck.
  12. paul e

    paul e New Member

    wow i feel like ive been to a seminar
    thanks and well said