Deliquent Payment Issues Feed

TURN ON YOUR SCAM RADAR - Protect Your Work and Your Livelihood

After the recent series of posts about Good Galleries Gone Bad, a couple of artist/makers sent comments about how they had been contacted by galleries mentioned in the posts, but had turned down the overtures to be represented and sell their work. I wondered how these artists knew how to TURN ON their scam radar.

I asked Kerin Rose to elaborate on why her scam radar was on alert. She said,

"I think that Victoria Lansford spelled it out exactly....for starters, the gallery was unproven...brand new shop, no track record whatsoever.  Also, very pushy sort of sales pitch...I hope this doesn’t sound weird , but when retailers approach me with consignment offers like they are offering me the opportunity of a lifetime, I become wary....(I don’t like consignment at all, on principle), but antennae always go up when people act like they are doing me this great favor.

More specifically the guy’s terms....if I recall, was a 70/30 split (who does that these days?) and he said he would have your name/ website/ labels and all collateral laid out in the gallery. So to me, offering to direct customers away from the shop seemed odd. Victoria said it seemed 'too good to be true' and I agree...so all of that rolled together and my own sort of negative feelings around consignment.  I blew him off.

I also checked his site again after he got up and running, and he had this weird mix of manufactured (John Hardy, David Yurman) and beaded stuff too. The pieces just did not fit together at all...so it was a gut reaction and a logic thing. And to top it off, again, no track record. At the very least, dealing with someone who is established is important. I have never ever done start ups. I wait till someone has been in business a year, and then you can approach them if it's something you want to do!"

Radar1 Thank you Kerin.  Now let's examine how to raise YOUR scam radar when approached by a gallery and steps to take before sending your work. 

1. Look at the web site. Does it look real? That sounds odd perhaps, but one time, I was contacted by a gallery that had a very substantial, multiple page web site.  It looked very convincing, but my Scam Rader was turned on! Who knows where they found the images of the artwork and the gallery installation shots, but within an hour of research it was very apparent that this gallery was not what they professed to be.  Doing a Google search for the artists listed on the web site revealed that they were made up names - this was a scam.   Radar-dish_Antenna

2. Is the offer too good to be true? Legitimate inquiries about representing your work at a gallery or invitation to a show start out slowly. Multiple levels of discussion by both parties, including a review of the contract, gives everyone time to get to know one another. Scam Radar should tell you that something isn't right when a gallery approaches you about representing your work and presses for an immediate commitment. 

If a new gallery contacts you, ask for references. This could be from other artists, curators, or businesses where they have an account. Take a few days or weeks to let the relationship develop before sending your work.

Radar2 3. The same level of scrutiny goes when people want to buy your work unusually quickly without the usual careful inquiry or review. Bells and whistles should be going off in your head when this happens. On occasion, I have received emails from someone wanting to buy my work off my web site. Usually, the only difference on the surface between the scam offer and the real offer is a tingling on my Scam Radar.

At this point, I answer sincerely and directly, but add that all payments must be paid in full before shipping if they want to buy my work, PayPal is preferred, checks need to be deposited and cleared before shipping (if I don't know the person) and "Please, no scams." That is usually the end of all scam purchase inquiries.

Radar3 4. Work with your local bank. One time, a person even sent a check to purchase work, but my scam radar was on. Something wasn't right even though it looked just like a normal check. I took the check to my bank and asked them to look up the buyer's bank and the account. My bank performed this service quite willingly. My bank was just as interested in avoiding a bad check. Within a day, my bank informed me that it was a bogus check. [Unfortunately, the police won't follow up on fake checks unless you lost money.]

Radar4 copy 5. TURN ON YOUR SCAM RADAR in new situations.  One time I won an award from a competition. Unfortunately, the award was coming from a London bank and they wanted to deposit the money directly into my account. Very scary indeed, Scam Radar is ON. This time I went to the bank, told them that the competition seemed legitimate, but I wanted to be very cautious.  To solve the problem, the bank opened a new account. It took almost a week for this to be arranged but for peace of mind, it was truly worth the effort. I left only $20 in the account in case this was a scam.... only then, did I email them the account number for the transfer. Every thing worked out fine, thank goodness.

The point is that there is always a careful solution. If life and business are offering you a real opportunity, the gallery or store will be there for months and years to come. There is no need to jump into a new opportunity without checking your scam radar as your first line of defense.  

Harriete
Green Blue Starbucks Flower Pin by Harriete Estel Berman is jewelry constructed from recycled materials.
One of a kind Green, Blue, White June Flower with  Orange Flower Center
Constructed from layers of recycled tin cans by Harriete Estel Berman.
This Flower pin has a great dramatic appearance but is the size of a real
flower at  3  11/16” Diameter  Retail Price $375 Purchase on line.

Green Blue Starbucks Flower Pin by Harriete Estel Berman is jewelry constructed from recycled materials.


Good Galleries Gone Bad - Artists Need to Be A Voice for Change.

For the past two weeks, ASK Harriete featured a series of posts about galleries that did not pay the artists for work that was sold. These posts were only possible because Victoria Lansford was brave enough to speak about her experiences and be a voice for change.

Collect72gr
Collect Your Money © 2010
Recycled tin cans, sterling silver, pin
Artist: Harriete Estel Berman

In the past, many people have told me about their problems with either late payment or no payment, but only a few have been brave enough to publicly discuss the problem. While late payment or delinquent payment is not a new problem, I wonder why so few people are willing to address these issues publicly. I asked Victoria if she thinks people are afraid of repercussions or think that galleries won't want to work with them if they go public about delinquent payment issues.

Victoria Lansford said, "...from my experience, peoples' fears are probably unwarranted.  I've had lots of feedback from people emailing me about other matters and praising the posts.  Artwork sales have suddenly picked back up again since the crash of 2008, so no problem there.  Galleries with which I have regular contact have either said something positive, "so sorry you've been through that," or nothing at all. 

Today I received a call from a supplier who wants to carry my publications and tools.  The owner said he Google-ed me to check out my reputation, and very quickly found the blog ASK Harriete.  We had a nice discussion about the challenges of operating an art business.  I certainly haven't been black-balled as some kind of trouble maker, and if there are businesses out there that think that, they're probably ones that I never want to deal with any way!

Thanks again for the opportunity to speak out in the best venue to be heard and make a difference!

 

ChasingTelephonegr
Chasing Payment Over the Phone
© 2010 Harriete Estel Berman
Recycled tin cans, sterling silver rivets,
sterling silver chasing hammer.

As I said, problems with delinquent payment is not a new issue, but the weak economy is making the problem worse. Many comments to this series (on Delinquent Payment Issues and the previous series with Boris Bally) wonder why there isn't a Better Business Bureau/service/review website for evaluating galleries.

Yes, that would be great, if you have ideas how to make this happen, let's hear it, but for the most part, it is a huge project requiring validation of the facts and liability issues. While my dream would be for something like this to come too fruition, change will not come from enforcement or an official website.

Megaphonegr The first level of responsibility is for artists to speak up about the problem.  Change will come with visibility and discussion. It doesn't have to be on ASK Harriete. It can be on your own blog, your own website, or a social networking site like Facebook or Crafthaus.

Why are artists so unwilling to speak up?  It is simply the natural discomfort that keeps this issue hidden out of view.  I am fairly certain that a collector/purchaser who bought your work would be appalled if they learned that the artist had not been paid.  It is certainly not your fault and nothing to be ashamed of. 

Generating public awareness about this issue is the only way the current state of affairs will change.  It really doesn’t matter if the gallery did this on purpose or simply “forgot” to pay you. If you have spoken to them about late payment, and the check is not in your bank account, it is a problem. What about the galleries that don’t keep accurate inventory?  This is their business. This is why they are paid the other 50% on each purchase.

If a gallery or store can justify their position about this issue, I want to hear it. So do the artists they represent.

Dollargr If a gallery is having problems with their cash flow, then they need a loan from their bank. Artists are not banks. Sold work means the artist must be paid in a timely manner.

What can artists do?
Tell your friends and fellow artists if you are having a problem. Contact the other artists represented by the gallery. See if they are having similar problems.
 
What are you afraid of?
Are you afraid that if you complain they will never sell your work at that gallery/store again? Why do you want to leave your work at a business that does not treat your business relationship responsibly? Why do you leave your work at a gallery/store that is having obvious financial difficulties? Time to remove your work, politely and professionally and move on. A change in our behavior also means that the “bad galleries” will either go out of business or change.

Pricered-tags Are you afraid that if you go public with delinquent payment issues that new galleries will not take your work?
Good galleries have nothing to fear, they have no concern.
Good galleries pay on time and keep accurate inventory records, they are not party to any delinquent payment issue. Good galleries should be applauded for this standard of professionalism. This should be the norm.

I think that this issue surrounding delinquent payments in the arts community is similar to every other political issue that ever needed changing… whether it was segregation,  spousal abuse, gay rights and others. The point isn’t to compare whether those issues are more serious or less important. The issue is that until artists are willing to speak openly about the topic, nothing will change.

If the “bad galleries” go out of business, it just means more business for the good galleries that respect artists, pay promptly and keep accurate inventory records.  

LifeSavers Earrings are one of a kind earrings available for purchase.
   LifeSaveer Earrings © 2008
   Recycled Tin Cans, sterling silver posts
   Artist: Harriete Estel Berman 

It is time for change…not only is it time for a change, the internet can make this discussion public. The voice of the artists needs to be a voice for change.

Harriete


Help! My work’s been sold and I’m not being paid! What do I do? - a lawyer's answer

This post on ASK Harriete is by Chris Balch, a lawyer and arts advocate in Georgia. Familiar with the non-payment issues mentioned in the previous five posts on ASK Harriete. Mr. Balch offers his lawyer perspective on what to do if a gallery is not paying you for your work.

Note: The opinions expressed by the author, Chris Balch in this post are his and his alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of ASK Harriete or Harriete Estel Berman. No endorsement or refutation is intended or implied.  

Portrait of Chris Balch lawyer FROM THE LEGAL PEN OF Chris Balch: The short answer--sue them.  Your consignment contract provides a remedy for when it is breached or broken.  In general, most states allow the wronged party (that’s you) to recover damages associated with what the contract allows.  Things such as your wholesale price for the work, or your lost profits (which may be the same thing), or other provable losses may be recoverable.  In addition, if the contract provides (or in some cases the law of the state may allow) you may be able to recover any attorney’s fees associated with the breach of your agreement.

Chris Balch_chris_logo Usually you will not be able to recover damages for any mental pain and suffering associated with the loss of the work, the dispute with the gallery, or worry about how you will be able to pay your mortgage this month.  Those types of damages are generally recoverable only in non-contract actions.

But where (not as in what court but where geographically) do you sue the gallery and perhaps the gallery owner?  That’s the hard part.  Usually, there are at least two choices, i.e., the state and county where you (the artist) live or the state and county where the gallery is located.  However, other factors may limit that choice to only one--where the gallery owner is located.

The due process clause of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution (which applies to the states) requires a defendant in a lawsuit to have at least minimal contacts with the state where they are being sued.  That is easy to satisfy when you sue someone where they live and do business.  They have voluntarily elected to take advantage of the benefits of living and working in the state and thus it is no burden at all that the courts of that state may call them into court. 

It gets a bit trickier when you try to sue someone in another state.  This is best explained by way of example.  Suppose for a moment you are an artist in South Carolina and a gallery in Tennessee contacts you to represent your work.  After getting a contract and sending them work you discover they have sold your work but not paid you.  Can you sue them in South Carolina where you live and where it is more convenient and easier on you?  You can but it may not mean much in the long run.

State line Map After you get your judgment you have to collect the money.  This can be a very challenging step.  If your judgment is in the same state where the gallery and the owner(s) lives and works, then what is required is getting the right documents from the Court. The Sheriff of the county will go out and seize property owned by the defendants equal to the amount owed to you in the judgment of the Court.  You may also be able to garnish bank accounts to collect your judgment.

When your judgment is from another state than the one where the gallery is located you have an additional step.  You have to get a court in the state where the gallery is located to recognize your judgment from another state as a judgment of the state where you are trying to collect your money.  It sounds more confusing than it is but there is a hitch: the gallery and its owner now get to contest the judgment you obtained in your state (even if they did not bother to defend the case when filed) and argue that state’s assertion of authority over them violated the due process clause of the Constitution. 

Rb-inyo-court-house-5 It is your burden to prove that the people who owe you money had sufficient purposeful contacts with your home state that there is no Constitutional violation in collecting the judgment you obtained against them where you live.  The question is answered by looking to the law of the state where you obtained your judgment.  Thus, the Tennessee Court would have to look to and interpret South Carolina law to establish whether the judgment was valid or not.  If you have a lot of emails, telephone calls and other electronic communications with the gallery or its employees, (don't forget to keep accurate and detailed records of your communication) there are some states which will conclude those are sufficient minimum contacts to satisfy the traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice required by the Due Process Clause. 

This is not an easy area of the law to navigate.  Even seasoned and experienced trial attorneys will likely need to revisit the rules to provide accurate advice about where the best place to sue may be.

Disclaimer: The content of this post is not intended as legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship between the reader and Mr. Balch.  It may be considered lawyer advertising in some jurisdictions.  Hiring a lawyer is an important decision which should not be made solely based on advertising.  Mr. Balch is not certified in any specialty by any state.

Blog ASK Harriete offers professional advice to the arts and crafts community. FROM THE PEN OF ASK Harriete: Please keep in mind that suing is your last resort AFTER you have tried to contact the gallery, picked up all your work at the gallery and tried to arrange payment without legal action. There are several "lawyers for the arts" organization in the United States that may offer you help or guidance at no cost or a reduced fee.

Stay tuned for Victoria's update on her lawsuit next week.

Harriete

P.S. Did you miss the previous five posts?

Previous posts in this series include:

Good Galleries Gone Bad - Don't Let This Happen to You by Victoria Lansford,

Good Galleries Gone Bad - Don't Let This Happen to You by Jen Townsend

Good Galleries Gone Bad - The Saga Continues...Time to Sue - from Victoria Lansford

Good Galleries Gone Bad - Don't Let This Happen to You! Prevent Delinquent Payments

Good Galleries Gone Bad - 6 Steps to Take if Your Gallery is Not Paying You on Time by Victoria Lansford


Good Galleries Gone Bad - 6 Steps to Take if Your Gallery is Not Paying You on Time by Victoria Lansford

In today's post Victoria Lansford offers us six steps to take if your gallery in not paying on time. With this tough economy early intervention may prevent work from disappearing and the additional loss of potential revenue. We need to work together artists, galleries and the entire arts community. Let's not let a few bad apples influence the entire marketplace. 

Previous posts in this series include:

Good Galleries Gone Bad - Don't Let This Happen to You by Victoria Lansford,

Good Galleries Gone Bad - Don't Let This Happen to You by Jen Townsend

Good Galleries Gone Bad - The Saga Continues...Time to Sue - from Victoria Lansford

Good Galleries Gone Bad - Don't Let This Happen to You! Prevent Delinquent Payments

Note: The opinions expressed by the author, Victoria Lansford in this post are hers and hers alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of ASKHarriete or Harriete Estel Berman. No endorsement or refutation is intended or implied.

Portrait of Victoria Lansford FROM THE PEN OF VICTORIA Lansford:
If this "Good Gallery Gone Bad" happens to you:

1.  Get your work out of there!  If they won't send it back, find someone in the area (a friend, a friend of a friend, etc.) who can pick it up for you.  Provide him/her with a letter signed by you, stating that she/he is acting as your agent and has the authority to remove your work and an inventory list of your work.  Let the person know the gallery's store hours then let the visit be a complete surprise.  Consignment means that the artist owns the work until it is sold.  You or your agent are merely removing what is yours.  If you can't find someone to pick up the work and can't go yourself, keep calling and emailing.  If they don't return it, it's probably a red flag that they have sold part or all of it and aren't paying you for it.

Dollars in hand 2.  Remember, It's your money!!!  Do not give up too easily.  Yes, pursuing money you are owed can be time consuming and costly, so were the labor and materials that you put into the work for which you have not been paid.  Less ethical people tend to do what they know they can get away with, so if an owner owes you money and believes that you won't pursue getting paid, you could easily end up at the bottom of a long list of creditors and never see a dime.  

3.  Not just any type of lawyer will do.  You need one with experience in contract law.  Many lawyers will give a free initial phone consultation, so you can find out if they can help.  Get your paperwork together and give a concise account of what happened.  If legal help is too expensive, most states have "Lawyers for the Arts" type organizations, who will work pro-bono or on a sliding scale.
Telephone
4.  Keep up the phone calls, letters, and emails! 
This is one time when being a nuisance isn't just OK; it's necessary. 

5.  Breathe!  You may be victimized, but you don't have to be a victim.  By not giving up, you are doing your part to help keep the system safe and honest for yourself and your community.  You may or may not eventually get paid, but you will know that you didn't go down without a fight and may find that your future dealings with consigning with galleries is a more business like and professional experience.

6.  Consider creating a piece or series inspired by your experience.  I don't mean to make light of the situation by suggesting that you turn lemons into the proverbial lemonade.  Artists, who have work stolen sometimes have trouble with "artist's block" afterward.  Consciously working through your frustrations by doing what you love may have a cathartic effect.  Who knows?  If you sell the work, you could at least get paid for some of your frustration.

Eyebeholdergreen
Eye of the Beholder Pin © 2009
Recycled tin cans, sterling silver rivets,
pin stem
Artist: Harriete Estel Berman
Purchase Online

FROM THE PEN OF ASK HARRIETE:
I particularly like Step 1. and Step 2.  Go ahead, take your work out of the gallery if they are not paying on time. Every story that I have ever heard about poor payment or no payment started with late payment. This is your warning sign, like a sore throat, you know trouble may be coming.

Chasing Payment Over the Telephone Brooch by Harriete Estel Berman has a sterling silver chasing hammer over telephone as a pun.
  Chasing Payment Over the Telephone
  Pin © 2010 Harriete Estel Berman
  Recycled tin cans, sterling rivets and
  chasing hammer, plastic ring.

Are you in business to loan money? Do you  really think the situation will change if you continue to leave your work at the gallery? What motivation do these Good Galleries Gone Bad have to change? Absolutely none if artists continue to avoid looking into   a bad situation and take no action.

Stand up, and be counted as an artist who no longer is willing to act like a doormat and be stepped on.

Your professional behavior goes in all directions. Act like a professional in every aspect of your business. The Professional Guidelines offers 19 documents to assist and standardize professional practices in the arts and crafts community. Use this information to improve your artistic success. Let me know what topics would be helpful to you.

Harriete   


Good Galleries Gone Bad - Don't Let This Happen to You! Preventing Delinquent Payments

Victoria Lansford is the guest author for ASK Harriete as she tells us a couple of ways to prevent delinquent payments from galleries. She creates one-of-a-kind wearable art in precious metals and unique stones and is the author/producer of the Metal Techniques of Bronze Age Masters: All Chained Up book and DVD series.

Previous posts in this series include:
Good Galleries Gone Bad - Don't Let This Happen to You by Victoria Lansford,

Good Galleries Gone Bad - Don't Let This Happen to You by Jen Townsend

Good Galleries Gone Bad - The Saga Continues...Time to Sue - from Victoria Lansford

Photo of Victoria Lansford Note: The opinions expressed by the author,Victoria Lansford in this post are hers and hers alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of ASKHarriete or Harriete Estel Berman. No endorsement or refutation is intended or implied.

Preventing delinquent payment situation:

1.  Always obtain a signed contract before sending any work to a gallery.  It's becoming more common for galleries to send contracts via email, which the artists print, sign, and return with their artwork.  Because these documents are created in Word or Pages rather than scanned in, they are often unsigned by the gallery owner or manager.  DO NOT send your work until you have obtained a signed copy of the contract.  If you have to file a legal claim, an unsigned contract won't help your case and can certainly make you appear less than professional and an easy target.

2.  Get references about a prospective gallery.  Discover other artists that they represent and contact them directly to ask of their experiences concerning timely payment, the condition of returned work, and the accessibility of the owner or manager.

Past Due Notice 3.  If checks are few and far between from a gallery, contact other artists that they represent and determine if it's because sales are slow or because the gallery is not paying.

4.  Keep in contact with the galleries that carry your work on a consistent basis.  It's easy to check in every month or so via email without seeming like a pest.  You can let them know of new work you are creating and find out what interest there has been in your work, both of which can be helpful under any circumstances. 

FROM ASK HARRIETE:
The Professional Guidelines offers an excellent Consignment Contract with a complete overview explaining every clause. This can be found on my web site under the PROFESSIONAL GUIDELINES link or CLICK HERE.  The Professional Guidelines can also be found on the SNAG web site.

PGlogohorizontal

Here are the three Contracts currently available in the Professional Guidelines.

CONSIGNMENT CONTRACT

EXHIBITION CONTRACT

MODEL RELEASE CONTRACT

In the next post, tomorrow, Victoria will give us six steps to take if your Gallery has not paid you on time. Each step is simple, straight forward and relatively easy to do. With this poor economy, artists need to learn to be better advocates for themselves and each other in the arts and crafts community. If you have suggestions about how you have worked to prevent a poor payment problem, please share it as a comment. CLICK on the word COMMENT below this post.

Harriete



Good Galleries Gone Bad - The Saga Continues...Time to Sue - from Victoria Lansford

This is the third post in the series about Good Galleries Gone Bad by Victoria Lansford .
Let's get smart and business savvy and take these words of wisdom to heart, they're worth their weight in gold (even if you work in other materials).

In this post Victoria describes her experience when she wasn't paid for her work and her next steps to handle this difficult situation. In you missed the beginning of the story, the first two posts were:
Good Galleries Gone Bad - Don't Let This Happen to You by Victoria Lansford,

Good Galleries Gone Bad - Don't Let This Happen to You by Jen Townsend

Parallel Universe Woven Wire Bracelet by Victoria Lansford
 Parallel Universe
 Side Weave Mesh bracelet with a
 granulation clasp, sterling, fine silver,
 22K gold, dolomite.
 7" long x 1-1/2" wide
 Victoria Lansford   © 2001

Victoria Lansford creates one-of-a-kind wearable art in precious metals and unique stones.  She is also the author of the book, Metal Techniques of Bronze Age Masters: All Chained Up, and producer of the related DVD series. Future posts include tips on preventing delinquent payments, steps to take if your gallery is not paying on time, and more (including the opinion of Lansford's lawyer Chris Balch). 



Note: The opinions expressed by the author, Victoria Lansford, in this post are hers and hers alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of ASKHarriete or Harriete Estel Berman. No endorsement or refutation is intended or implied.

FROM THE PEN OF VICTORIA LANSFORD:
Ironically, soon after connecting with Jen and also with Zaruba & Zaruba’s former manager, Andrew called me with effusive apologies for not paying.  He claims to have an investor lined up and will pay me on May 21.  The date came and went without a check, and the phone message I left with his employee was not returned. It’s frustrating not being able to count on that money. To paraphrase Boris Bally’s earlier post on this issue, I’m an artist not a bank.  I don’t lend money to other businesses.

Entwine Necklace by Victoria Lansford
  Russian Filigree and Roman Chain
  © 2001 Victoria Lansford
  Necklace:22K gold, sterling-platinum,
  fine silver, chrysocolla drusy
  Pendant portion 3" long,   16" chain

Even more painful than the loss of income is how I feel about the pieces that I had sent to Twist of My Wrist.  I consider them stolen and am listing them as such on my website.  While Andrew has dragged things out and made his cash flow problems mine, I know that my artwork sold.
Some appreciative, yet unsuspecting customer is enjoying my one of a kind pieces for which the artist was never paid. Or my work could have been sold, stuck in some storage box somewhere, or melted down for the metal and the stones cut out.  The thought of all those hours of my life (that went into those pieces that are gone) haunts me and remains in the back of my head each time I work at my bench.  They were not merely cheap imports that I wholesale; my vision and my passion are bound up in them wherever they may have gone.

Victoria Lansford Star Dust Sleeve Cuff
  "Stardust on My Sleeve"
  Russian Filigree Hinged Cuff Bracelet
  22K Gold, Fine & Sterling Silver,
  Koroit Opals
  2-3/4” long x 2” wide x 1/2" high
  (Quotations around title indicate that
  it is taken from song lyrics)
  ©  Victoria Lansford  2001

Conclusion:
Both Jen and I relied on having contracts to protect us.  From a legal standpoint, they do, but that doesn't mean that they don't require enforcing.  Since Andre Zaruba's repeated promises of payments by specific dates have not been fulfilled, I have filed suit against him and Zaruba & Zaruba.  I'm in Georgia but will file in the gallery's state, Maryland, which may mean that I and/or my lawyer will have to go there if the suit goes to trial.  Suing Twist of My Wrist is trickier since the owners have disappeared, but I haven't entirely given up.  I keep the problem in perspective and will balance the amount of energy I put into it with doing what I love, creating more art,.  Still I have a responsibility to pursue these issues for myself, my family, who depend on me, and my community of artists. Stay tuned for more updates on ASK Harriete ....as this case develops.

FROM THE PEN OF HARRIETE:
I asked Victoria to tell us lessons she has learned and how to prevent this situation from happening to any other artists and crafts persons.

Next week she is going to offer us practical steps to implement if a good gallery has gone bad.

Harriete


Good Good Galleries Gone Bad - Don't Let This Happen to You, Part Two by Jen Townsend

This post is a continuation of Good Galleries Gone Bad - Don't Let This Happen to You. In the first post, Good Galleries Gone Bad - Don't Let This Happen to You - by Victoria Lansford, we heard a serious story of non-payment.

Note: The opinions expressed by the author, Jen Townsend, in this post are hers and hers alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of ASKHarriete or Harriete Estel Berman. No endorsement or refutation is intended or implied.

FROM THE PEN OF JEN TOWNSEND (Courtesy of Victoria Lansford):
At first, we did very good business. 
I am very wary of consignment, but really connected with Amy, the [former] manager at Zaruba & Zaruba, and she inspired confidence in me to leave work with them.  We signed a pretty standard boilerplate contract with a “net 30 payment” clause in it.  I felt protected by the contract, received regular inventory statements and checks.  She was also very skilled at selling my work.   The store is in a terrific location, had high-quality work in it, a good sales team and a lovely clientele. 

Problems started when Amy left the store and Andrew Zaruba was in charge.  The communication went down hill fast. I had about $20,000 (wholesale) of work in the store, so I decided to drop in and pull out my big gold pieces and leave the silver and a few smaller gold items.  When I arrived (unannounced) Andrew looked surprised and a little taken aback.  I discovered that he owed me $900.  He wrote me a check.  It cleared.  I chose to leave the silver and lower priced work there.  Things did not improve.  In retrospect, I should have listened to my instincts and pulled out everything, but I really loved the store, and, frankly, the checks I used to receive from the gallery. 

Andrew placed custom orders with me in the early fall.  I called in October to talk about Christmas season.  No callback.  Called again every week in November.  No callback.  Finally, Andrew answered the phone in early December.  He told me a couple of things had sold, but gave me a sob story about a new bookkeeper and being out of sorts in the business.  No check.  I didn’t send more work. 

In early January, I finally got in touch and was told that some more things had sold, but not much and he wasn’t sure what and that he’d get back to me.  A week later, I did receive an inventory statement, although there were penciled in question marks all over it.  I called to inquire.  No callback.  At this point, I decided to “pop in” with my tall and protective brother in tow.  Andrew looked freaked out this time and started talking very fast, saying he was “just about to call” and was “just figuring out what he owed” and was “just about to cut a check” and he thought it was “somewhere around $2,200”.

It turned out that he owed me $4,970! 
As I was pulling the work and tallying the costs, several customers came in and I saw Andrew pull in $2,200 (retail) in that half an hour.  I agreed to take the payment in two checks – one dated that day, and one post-dated for a month down the road.  The first check cleared without issue.  I also offered to call Andrew to make sure that the second one would clear.  He requested another week, but it still bounced.  He did not return my calls or my emails.

I recently returned home from teaching for two months at Penland and called Andrew, and he actually answered the phone and said he could pay me at the end of the week.  I don’t believe him.  I am also in the process of filing a complaint against him with the Better Business Bureau.  I became more frustrated when I connected with Victoria Lansford and heard that her story was almost identical to mine.  As makers, we care about our work, we go to great lengths to make objects of integrity and to put them into the world and find loving homes for them.  I don’t know any artist or metalsmith that has entered this field for the money – it’s always because we love it.  I love what I do.   I work very hard to run a profitable business.  While it is just business, it’s also personal!  This breach of trust feels awful and violating.  I hope that other artists can learn from this blog.  Listen to your instincts!  If you feel like there are red flags, there probably are.  Talk to other artists who have worked with galleries you’re considering.  If something changes dramatically in your communication or payment schedule, proceed with caution.  

I would like to thank Harriet Estel Berman and Victoria Lansford for opening this dialog and strengthening our community through communication.
Jen Townsend

 

HBerman_brownsTootsiePastPresent_flowerW
Past Present Future April Flower Pin
Harriete Estel Berman © 2010
recycled tin cans, sterling silver,
Photo Credit: emiko oye

FROM ASK Harriete:
The next post will be from Victoria Lansford again who will tell us the rest of her account with Good Galleries Gone Bad.  Part Three will offer information we can apply to our own business relationships with galleries.

Stay tuned for the past, present, and future of this saga. Victoria is also going to share with us several warning signs, ways to "Prevent this type of Situation" and what to do "If this "Good Gallery Gone Bad" happens to you. 

We have a lot to learn from these unfortunate stories. The arts community needs to be more vocal and visible when it comes to poor payment. It is the only way to effect change.

Harriete


Good Galleries Gone Bad - Don't Let This Happen to You - by Victoria Lansford

Victoria Lansford is the guest author for a series on ASK Harriete as she shares her experiences about galleries that don't pay their artists. These posts include words of wisdom for what to watch out for and how to navigate the situation if it happens to you.  Lansford creates one-of-a-kind wearable art in precious metals and unique stones.  She is also the author/producer of the Metal Techniques of Bronze Age Masters: All Chained Up book and a DVD series.

Note: The opinions expressed by the author,Victoria Lansford, in this post are hers and hers alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of ASKHarriete or Harriete Estel Berman. No endorsement or refutation is intended or implied.

Bracelet by Victoria Lansford
 From the series, Vertebracelets
 Vertebrate pattern bracelet with Russian
  filigree clasp
 Artist: Victoria Lansford
 Bracelet shown at Twist of the Wrist

FROM THE PEN OF VICTORIA LANSFORD:
As the saying goes in the retail world, cash is king, but in the art world, consignment is the norm, especially for higher priced work.  Consignment gives both artists and galleries freedom to take risks and create meaningful work without the primary motivation being about what will sell.  I do all one-of-a-kind work and have consigned it with galleries for over 20 years with great success... at least until recently.  In 2009, I began new consignment relationships with four more galleries.  Two of them have been a great working relationship. 

The other two have never paid me for work sold nor returned my unsold work when I requested.  One of the galleries, Twist of My Wrist, in West Palm Beach, Florida is now out-of-business.  One of the owners, John Bandy, contacted me in early 2009 about carrying my bracelets.  In retrospect, the deal they were offering to get me on board was too good to be true, a higher than usual percentage to the artist and the tags and contact info left on the work.  I checked them out extensively online.  Part of what made me less suspicious was that one of the owners had a link on their site to a more personal site.  I knew of other galleries with similar links, so my gut feeling was that a scam business would not go to so much trouble.  I also had a contract, signed by the gallery owner and thought that was enough.

ParallelUniverse2
Parallel Universe
Side Weave Mesh bracelet with a
granulation clasp;
sterling, fine silver, 22K gold, dolomite
Bracelet shown at Twist of the Wrist
7" long x 1-1/2" wide

I received fairly regular email updates about the gallery.  No check meant no sales, or so I assumed.  When I discovered one day last summer that the website had suddenly disappeared, I immediately contacted John and was told that he had been going through a difficult time, was in the process of returning the artists’ unsold work, and that he would send mine within two weeks.  Despite many emails from me and letters from my lawyer, that was the last I ever heard from John.  I’ve received no money nor any unsold work, and John and his business partner have vanished off the planet.

The other gallery in question, Zaruba & Zaruba, sold numerous pieces of mine, but the owner, Andrew Zaruba, has yet to pay me for any of them.  When I traded out work in time for the 2009 Christmas season, he sent back a bracelet for repair.  I was puzzled, since those types of chains usually don't come back to me, and the break could only have been caused by extensive wear and tear.  When I called and inquired, Andrew acted surprised that I had not been paid for it, but couldn’t provide me with any information on when it had sold, nor could he explain the whereabouts of two missing pieces on the inventory list.  He said that he thought they were still at the gallery and just hadn’t gotten packed, but if he didn’t find them soon, he would include payment for them along with the money for the bracelet.  I was mildly concerned but assumed he would pay on the 15th of the month.

I might be described as a hard-core skeptic, and am not at all easily fooled, yet my take on Andrew was that he was a busy, slightly disorganized business owner, trying to make it through tough economic times.  I believed his story, sent the new work in time for Christmas, and waited for the check to show up.  It never has.  Calls from me and from my lawyer elicited a few more promises at first and then were ignored and avoided.

Skyler's letter010
  Victoria Lansford son Skler's letter after
  asking for an explanation of the situa
  tion, pen and ink.

In early April a friend, who lives near Frederick, Maryland, went to the gallery unannounced and picked up my unsold work, of which there were only three pieces left.  Despite rough times, slow holiday seasons and two blizzards, most of what I had sent had sold.  Andrew had the nerve to ask her if he could just hang onto the work a little longer for an upcoming neighborhood gallery walk.  When told no, he signed the copy of my inventory list that I had sent with my friend, stating that he would pay me by April 16th.  The date came and went with no check in my mailbox and my subsequent phone messages left un-returned.

After connecting with another artist, Jen Townsend, who has had a fairly long relationship with Zaruba & Zaruba and who Andrew has more recently treated in much the same way, I found that Andrew owes money to a long list of artists, most of them women.  His lack of payments seems to have little to do with the economy, since sales are apparently good.  So where is the money going?

Jen Townsend has been kind enough to include her experience with Zaruba & Zaruba as our next post tomorrow.
   Stay Tuned!!!!!!!!

Harriete
www.harriete-estel-berman.info


Net 30 Application for your accounts - with Interest Charges for Late Payment

The past three posts regarding late payments from galleries or stores hit a raw nerve.  This fourth post on the topic focuses on purchase orders on credit and an example of Net 30 terms. (This is not about consignment situations.)

CHECK in the MAIL BOX How bad can it be?  If a gallery or store delays payment for purchased work, it permanently strains the relationships with their artists and makers.  In purely financial terms, it is equivalent to forcing the artists (without their consent) to extend a loan to the retail location.  In broader terms, it undermines the long term business of the gallery or store due to the hard feelings generated.

I have empathy for the gallery and store owners who must maintain minimum cash flows during these tough economic times.  But artists and makers depend on cash flow also.  So when an agreement has been made and a transaction occurs, it is not only common decency but good business practice to pay the makers on time.    

Dollars in hand As an artist, your best approach is to be a better advocate for your art, craft and small business.  Your purchase order policies and Invoice should clearly state your terms for payment and consequences of late payment from the very beginning to avoid confusion and misunderstanding.

Devil Inside Pin FRONT close up by Harriete Estel Berman If a new account wants to order your work, I recommend that the first several transactions be handled as full payment in advance of shipping.  If these transactions proceed without incident and they request credit, Net 30, or extended payment, then you should be prepared with an Application for Net 30 or similar credit application form that spells out the terms.

Boris Bally has graciously allowed me to show his Application for Net 30 for his accounts. Download NET30_Application.  An image of his form is shown below my signature and a discussion of each term follows.  This form is specific to Boris, so you should create a form that applies to your particular circumstances.  

Creditcards Credit card alternative. To avoid the NET 30 Application Process and the uncertainty of prompt payment, you could have the store or gallery pay for orders on their credit card. They would get a "float" for about 30 days, and you receive payment immediately. The fee from the credit card company (usually 1% - 3%) may well be worth the certainty of being paid on time. You can call the store just before you ship the work and they pay with a credit card to complete the transaction.

It is also important to note that Boris states (in his Application for Net 30) that he will not send more work if the account is past due. 

Past Due Why do artists send more work to galleries if they are owed money? From what I hear, many artists think that selling some work and getting paid 3-4 months late is better than not selling work.  I don't agree with this line of thinking. It encourages bad behavior because there is no negative consequence.  Think about it, there are only two scenarios.  If the owners simply have a bad habit of paying late, then an interest charge would give them an incentive to pay on time or you would earn interest on your funds that are unavailable.  And if they are using your money to pay last month's rent, then you are risking loss of the entire amount when they go out of business.  Is that a risk work taking? 

Harriete

Example Application for Net 30 as an image. Download NET30_ApplicationNET30_Application

The Application for Net 30 for his accounts is probably a pretty standard form except for the clause near the bottom. Boris Bally means "Business" with a capital B when he sends his work to a retail location. If a payment is late he expects the store/gallery to pay a late fee. I have copied and pasted this important clause below:

Credit policy and disclosures for NET30 Account:
All bills are due and payable, in full, thirty days after date on invoice. A finance charge will be imposed on any amount thirty days or more past due at a periodic rate of 1.75% per month. (annual percentage rate 21%) This rate is based on your past due balance at the end of each billing period. Please note: Orders placed on past due accounts will be held until account is current or may be sent COD at your request. No returns on orders unless prior written approval by Atelier Boris Bally. If your account is turned over to a collection agency or attorney for collection, or in the event of default, all collection, legal expenses and reasonable attorney fees will be paid by the debtor and be processed in and according to the laws of the State of Rhode Island.

You could copy this clause and add it to your invoice. The merit is that Boris Bally clearly states his payment expectations for payment within a specific period of time, interest rate per month, annual percentage rate, how the rate is established, returns, and what happens if the account is past due.   

Of course, you would want to check your state laws for legal compliance and change the final sentence to  "....according to the laws of the State of __(your state name)__.)

Boris Bally CoastersThank you Boris Bally from ASK Harriete and all the readers for sharing your insight, invoice examples, and personal experience.

If the readers of ASK Harriete have terms that they would like to share with this audience, they may paste it below in the comments or send it to me directly. It might be useful to compare terms and create momentum for prompt payment and appropriate interest payments if payment is past due.



Payment Terms for artists and craft businesses.

Pain The recent post on late payments from galleries and stores seems to have touched on a very sensitive nerve, judging by the number of comments.   Apparently a lot of people have had some painful experience.   I will continue to collect your opinions, comments, tales, etc. and will follow up with more action items soon. 

Today, though, I'd like to focus on establishing the right payment incentives at the beginning of a galley, store, or customer relationship.  Specific payment terms and the consequences of late payment should be written into the consignment contract, purchase order, or invoice, whichever you use.  Interest should be charged on payments not received by the due date, no exceptions.  If the establishment is holding your cash, they should pay interest as mutually agreed in the contract. 

Like so many over situations, it is best to be prepared in advance with your Application for opening new accounts and your Ordering Policy.

-Bally Transi tSeries Chairs from 1994 Boris Bally has graciously agreed to show his Order Terms (download Order Terms) as an example.  An image of his Ordering Terms is shown below my signature, followed by a review of the terms (and some practical suggestions).  This is fairly specific to Boris' business.  You should adapt to your circumstances.

Harriete

Boris Bally purchase order policy (Download Order_Terms)

Order_Terms

Exclusive** representation of an artist's or crafts person's work should require a minimum purchase. In Boris Bally's example this only includes the area code.  Note that the Exclusive Representation is not extended to an entire city or state. Keep in mind that everything is negotiable, but why should artists offer Exclusivity for their line if the retail establishment is not adequately representing or selling your merchandise or art.

Everything is negotiable but establishing a  minimum amount for annual retail purchases is one guide for an Exclusive Representation. The big picture is that the retail establishment should clearly establish that they represent and sell within a specified geographic area to demand exclusivity to a state or several state boundary. 

Terms copy Consignment*** is for select exhibitions. Consignment is a very difficult way to make a living from your work. You don't have any control over inventory, display or promotion and have no guarantee that your work will sell. It can sit there for months, or even years.)

Payment is outlined clearly for first time orders, Proforma**** and accounts.  It is suggested that you try to get credit cards for orders (which means prepayment so you don't have to chase down checks)  Even though that entails a credit card fee (usually between 1-2%) it's worth not having to worry about getting paid in 30 days, or subsequent phone calls and emails when the payment doesn't arrive.  Stores are more used to this and they get 30 days from the credit card company so it doesn't make a difference to them.

Delivery should be clearly described. Sometimes this might be called Shipping.

Dimensionalweight Shipping indicates who is responsible for shipping to the gallery or store and whether it is a a fixed % of the total order for simplicity, or based on the weight of the box(es), or the dimensional weight of the box. (Shipping companies charge by dimensional weight of the box, if the box  is very large but light.) Keep in mind that Boris Bally's example is for purchase of retail goods (not on consignment.) 

It also might be good idea to clarify your preferred shipping method, for example, ground or air, USPS or Fed Ex, etc.

Purchase Orders usually expect the store/gallery to pay shipping. Consignment Contracts usually expect the artist to cover shipping to the Gallery or store. This increases the cost to the artist.

Order Policy  specifies that the order may not be canceled and they do not offer cash refunds.

ADDITIONAL CONSIDERATIONS:

Plan72 SPECIAL ORDERS:  If you will produce special orders or custom items establish your policy in advance including lead time needed to produce the item, pricing, and returns or exchange on special orders. 

REPAIRS AND ALTERATIONS: How do you want to handle repair and alterations to your work? Are you going to charge for repairs? Are you going to charge for shipping? Can your work be re-sized or changed to fit the person or installation? 

ProfessionalSize72 MINIMUM ORDERS: Do you have a minimum order? Do you have a miniumum for first time orders? A minimum for subsequent orders? Is this a dollar amount or a specific number of items?  

INTERNATIONAL Orders and shipping?  International shipping is incredibly expensive. I shipped  a pair of earrings to Australia and it cost the customer $28.00. Unless you have lots of experience with International Shipping, perhaps you will want to handle this on a case by case basis.  

If the readers of ASK Harriete have a TERM Sheet, Ordering TERMS or Purchase Order Terms that they would like to share, please consider leaving your ideas as comments below or write to me directly. It would be great to develop an example Purchase Order Terms in the Professional Guidelines, but I need your help.

Harriete

Definitions and image information below:

"Pain" image found at: http://research.unc.edu/endeavors/spr2005/pain.php

Plan Pin constructed by Harriete Estel Berman from recycled tin cans is available for purchase online..

Professional Size Pin constructed by Harriete Estel Berman from recycled tin cans is available for purchase online.

Exclusive** representation: The term “exclusive” implies that the gallery will be the only representative for the artist usually within a stated geographic boundary, for a specific body of work, or extent of sales. The geographic territory could be limited to a single city or town, a radius of a specified number of miles, the region, one state, several states, or nationwide. As for the scope of an artist’s work, an exclusive representation could be limited to a specific body of work, or a specific medium or type of work (e.g. jewelry vs. hollowware).

In contrast, the term “non-exclusive” means that the artist may sell the same work to a multiple number of businesses within the stated geographic territory.

This definition was taken directly from the Overview in the Consignment Contract as part of the Professional Guidelines.

Consignment***: Consignment is where the artist loans the work to the gallery or store and is only paid after the purchase of work. In effect, they borrow work from an artist for display in the gallery, and then pay the artist only when it sells.  This arrangement limits the gallery’s capital outlay, so they can devote more of their resources to paying for rent, staff, publicity, or other costs of doing business.

A consignment arrangement has advantages and disadvantages.  For example, one advantage is that consignment can allow a gallery to show risky or difficult work, since their money is not tied up in purchasing inventory.  However, a disadvantage is that even though the artist’s work is in the gallery’s possession, the artist isn’t paid until the work is sold.  This business arrangement is complicated enough that misunderstandings and difficulties can arise if the parties have not been clear about the terms of the arrangement from the beginning.   

This definition was taken directly from the Overview in the Consignment Contract as part of the Professional Guidelines.

Proforma****: Proforma is a business term for "Assumed, forecasted, or informal information presented in advance of the actual or formal information. The common objective of a pro forma document is to give a fair idea of the cash outlay for a shipment or an anticipated occurrence. Definition from businessdictionary.com



Boris Bally's Bad Payment Experience! Does this sound familiar?

For this post, Boris Bally is the guest author for ASK Harriete. In response to recent discussions and the previous post on ASK Harriete, Boris Bally is sharing his own experiences with retail establishments that don't pay on time. We can all learn a lot by his approach to the problem. You are welcome to post your comments in response. 

Note: The opinions expressed by the author, Boris Bally, in this post are his and his alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of ASKHarriete or Harriete Estel Berman. No endorsement or refutation is intended or implied.

Boris Bally portrait FROM THE PEN OF Boris Bally:
Two recent incidents have left me very frustrated, but in sharing the battle scenes it can serve as a 'warning' to others in our field...

Case #1 The first is a case of working with a metalsmith (!!) and colleague, Robert Kaylor, who owns a very nice 'upscale' R Grey Gallery in Boise, Idaho.  We had a mutually beneficial working relationship for a few years.  He does some nice promotion and seems to do very well.  This gallery had been granted NET 30 status, and I had them apply for these credit terms on my standard application.  The terms outline a standard fee for late payments (since I would then be becoming a 'bank' loaning the money to them.)  

Boris Bally Rectangle Transit Table_ca1906 After taking their most recent order over the phone from his wife and gallery manager, Barbara, my family went on a two-week vacation.  Upon our return, Barbara had to remind me of a few items that I missed shipping the first time around..and the order was sizable - they even added a few items while I was making the work. 

Thus the order shipped in three separate shipments, which staggered the payment and added a bit of understandable confusion on all fronts.  When I didn't receive payment for any of the invoices within the 30 days after the LAST invoice, I sent a nice note asking for prompt payment and/or communication. To expedite matters, I included a statement outlining the fees their non-payment/actions were incurring.

1994_Table by Boris Bally This went on for a few months and I kept changing the tone of the letters to be a little more firm, and I continued to charge them interest, compounding. Download Copy of R Grey_Statement_12_17_09.  This drain on my time added unnecessary frustration. 

I did the work and delivered as ordered, now I wanted to get PAID! (Download Delinquent Payment Notice) No communication or payment came from them.  I left a few voice mails - nada.  Frustrated, I sent a 'final notice', approximately 4 months after the last order had shipped.  This time I copied my attorney on the e-mail; I had full intent of pursuing my payment and this was obviously the first step. 

Boris Bally Coasters Not surprisingly, the next day I received a call from the owner, who said 'business had been slow' and that the 'check was in the mail.'  I told him that had he picked up the phone and called, or even sent me a brief e-mail, I would have been more sympathetic and much stress could have been eliminated. So again I waited: When the check finally arrived, it included the principle only, no interest, no note, no apology.

Again, I was not surprised.  I continue to find it interesting that a gallery (one run by an artist, no less) apparently would see an artist differently than they might see a bank.  For goodness sakes, galleries wouldn't have anything to SELL if it wasn't for us!!??

If they did give us this equal respect, we'd be seeing prompt payment, apologies, better communication, and interest payments if they are late.  I have such a relationship with most of my other accounts...

I feel like we are 'family' and that is what I continue to seek. 

Boris Bally 2 CHAIRS Needless to say, I do not like to make the same mistake twice: This will be the last time I extend terms to this difficult account, as they have proven themselves to be undeserving.  A bank would do the same, AND additionally they would be able to make a mark against the credit rating of that business. In the future, if there is an ongoing relationship with this account, they will need to use their credit card and/or borrow the money from their own bank.  I hope they continue to work with me, but honestly, I see no reason to maintain a working relationship with them if the basic respect isn't there.

Case #2 The other case turns out to be far more devious:  This is the case of International Metalsmith Exhibition Center (IMEC) in Albuquerque whose director, Luis Demetrio Nolasco, asked me to participate in a Holiday Show '2008: Black & Gold.'

I thought, given the name of the gallery, this was 'one for the field' and accepted after 'okaying' with my main gallery in that area, Patina, with whom I have representation in that region. 

I made a series of brooches for the show, Luis was kind enough to pop an image on the invitation, and that was that.  Since the opening, not a peep.  Recently, Patina gave me a solo show (in Santa Fe) this past December 2009, so I thought I'd better get some of that IMEC work back... Luis and I communicated nicely, and he agreed to send Patina my 'unsold' work, which he promptly did.

Now, I hadn't heard of any SOLD work, so once I found-out what Patina had received, I made-up an invoice and e-mailed it to Luis.  Suspiciously, from that point on, I stopped getting any e-mails, or communication from Luis or IMEC... 

As fate would have it, I received a call just a month after I sent the invoice, from a frustrated colleague asking me abut IMEC (!!)  Imagine my surprise as we shared our stories.  It appears that Luis owed this well-respected artist thousands of dollars for several years now - What to do? 

Perhaps this is a pyramid scheme that we are all a part of - maybe there are other jewelers that have been screwed the same way?  I recommended to this jeweler that we put-out the word so that we can stop others from being burned.  Our silence would cost other metalsmiths the same fate.  At the very least we can attempt to get some of the money that is owed us via the legal system or a collection agency (!)

Boris Bally I wish we, as metalsmiths/artists could create a way of rating galleries for our own reference and protection.  Kind of a fair credit rating system for galleries we frequently deal with.  The cream would rise, and the bad seeds could be avoided.  If we could form a union of sorts (wouldn't it be easy if we could add this as a benefit to SNAG members??), the few bad galleries wouldn't be able to jerk us around like this.  All would be working to gain our trust, and our good ratings.

Bear in mind that the cases outlined above are two rare cases of many wonderful relationships with galleries and stores all over the world.  Over the past decades of being in business, there have always been a few 'shady characters annually.  However, MOST of the folks I deal with are wonderful, caring and responsible people who appreciate the importance of the relationships in our field.

Boris Bally
CLICK HERE FOR THE ADDENDUM TO THIS STORY FROM BORIS BALLY

FROM THE PEN OF Harriete Estel Berman:

Thank you Boris, for being so honest and outspoken about this chronic problem.  I do agree with Boris that most galleries and stores are managed by wonderful, caring and responsible people, it only takes a few bad apples to hurt many artists. Rarely, do artists have the financial fortitude to sustain non-payment for work.

If you have had a bad experience with a gallery, are you willing to step up and tell us about it? Are you willing to admit publicly that a gallery has not paid you in a timely manner?

How can we hold these retail locations accountable if we hide this "dirty secret?"

Stay tuned for the next posts which will include a sample invoice from Boris Bally including his policy for interest charges on Late Payment.

How do we establish a rating for galleries or transparency about this issue?

Do you have ideas?

Do you have experiences to share?

Please leave your comments and develop a dialog.

Harriete


My gallery isn't paying me on time, help! What should I do?

Harriete,

My gallery isn't paying me on time. They are well known with an established reputation, so I thought their representation of me would work out great.  Indeed they sold some of my work more than a few months ago.  However, when I've called them about paying for the work, they say there are some bookkeeping errors or "the check is in the mail" but it is only partial payment.  This has been going on for months! What should I do?

Without income,

A desperate and embarrassed artist.

CHECK MAILBOX This letter paraphrases a common problem that I hear from artists, over and over. Artists are frequently not paid on time, or maybe not paid at all.  This is an old story, but it seems that with these hard economic times it happens more frequently.

Galleries usually pay their bills once a month. That means that consignment items sold may (by contract) be paid as much as 30 days after the purchase. Your payment schedule should be written into your contract or on your invoice.

Some stores purchase work outright as inventory.  After developing an ongoing relationship, the store may request a Net 30 invoice arrangement (i.e. payment will be made within 30 days after delivery).

What I am talking about here is overdue payments months after items are purchased. These delinquent galleries or stores are giving themselves an interest-free loan out of your money.  I am sure that if a collector/buyer heard that they had paid a gallery or store for work and the artist was not paid in a timely manner, they would be embarrassed and appalled.

The real issue is what can artists do about this problem.  Should you keep sending work to establishments that don't pay on time? Should we keep these secrets to ourselves?

Check references  Before you send work to any gallery or establishment, check with some other artists or makers previously represented there.  A few minutes of calling around can give you plenty of information to make a "yes" or "no" decision.  Or if an ongoing gallery starts paying slower, check with other represented artists to see if they are having similar problems. 

Contract Terms   Your contract with the gallery should include terms of payment.  The Professional Guidelines offers a sample Consignment Contract that can easily be modified to suit both parties and adapted to the situation. An accumulating penalty for late payment may also be specified. 

CheckHAND Initial purchases from a store should be paid in full before merchandise is shipped.  Develop a payment track record over several transactions and check credit references before agreeing to a NET 30 arrangement.  (More information with a sample NET 30 Application will be posted next week.)

Documentation   You may have to prove that the store received your work and that you are due payment (whether they sold it or lost it).  Keep shipping receipts and Inventory Lists.  Get signatures on receipts and save email acknowledgments .  Take photos.  If there is ever a dispute, documentation is better than "your word against theirs."

SHIPPINGboxIf the retail establishment becomes "slow" regarding payments, discuss this issue over the phone first.  Find out about their reasons for late payment.  Maybe you need to be more assertive (e.g. the squeaky wheel) and a better advocate for your business cash flow.  (Note....I said assertive, not rude. There is never any reason to lose your temper or act unprofessionally.)

However, at some point you may have to take action. You may decide that it is time to discontinue selling at this particular venue and request that all your work be returned. Potentially, if every artist and maker who had work at a gallery or store, politely asked for all the unsold work back, or refused to send additional merchandise, this retail location would have to change its practices or go out of business. 

I know that we are all desperate to sell our work and that retail purchases are slow in this bad economy.  But if payment is even slower, then you must take responsibility to make a decision and move on. 

Invoice past due Another idea   We can help each other by spreading the word about delinquent operators.  We could share information about our own experiences and help inform other artists and makers and not let them fall victim to irresponsible venues. 

While most galleries and stores are honest and pay promptly, maybe a few disorganized and delinquent accounts are the "bad apples". Until we openly discuss these problems, the bad apples will continue to plague our community.  We can help each other with discourse and transparency to weed out the rotten few.

Artists, Collectors, and Galleries, this is a call to action!

Have any of you suffered from a similar situation?  Would you be willing to share your story? Do you know a gallery that is paying artist's chronically late?  Are you holding a heavy secret to avoid embarrassment?

The time has come to create visibility and transparency for this issue.  Can we maintain a list of good and bad venues like the Better Business Bureau?  Let's be better advocates for ourselves. Tell your fellow artists out loud that you are having a problem with slow payment.

Write down your opinion and experience as a comment here below this post.

Harriete
www.harriete-estel-berman.info