My gallery isn't paying me on time, help! What should I do?
Payment Terms for artists and craft businesses.

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

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