Name of Commissioner:
Hope Estheim, FFXIII for $285
Link to Pictures of Commissioned Item: album here
I began the commission in mid April with a September event in mind. I asked for a mid/late August deadline.
E-mails were promptly answered. My specifications about the cut of the pieces were taken into account and the finished garment is fairly accurate in cut to the references and specifications I sent (I requested leg-belts, pockets, a shorter cut on the jacket and matte fabric for the scarf ~ all of which I recieved). The workmanship is respectable -- most stitches seem tight. The fabrics chosen are, for the most part great and not the cheap kind one usually runs into with cheaper commisioners and factory costumes.
Communication was very short and stilted. I was called "dear", right off the batt. I know it's silly, but it's a pet peeve of mine to be talked down to in diminunitive terms with someone I'm about to give so much money. My costume was not begun for the longest time, in spite of my early commission date. Instead, quite a few costumes commissioned later than mine were finished earlier and Mandy continued to accept commissions throughout. Nothing wrong with that in itself, but I was given a bit of a run-around reguarding the costume's progress:
May 23 - "I thinki can show you some pics soon."
June 24 - "I think it can get it done in about 2 weeks from now." "I will send u some pics asap."
July 13 - "should be finished in about 2 weeks from now dear."
Finally I had to confront the commissioner about the costume and the images promised. In the end, I recieved no progress pictures, reports or information about the construction process at all. I eventually recieved an apology and finished pictures. I requested one change be made -- in the trim on the scarf which was not provided. She could not provide it, so I requested $5 off the price of the commission, which I recieved.
The pants are the wrong color and while I understand why the mistake was made, I could easily have corrected it in the event I had been asked for clarification or had been shown progress pictures of any sort... The references I sent were figure references and have a sheen on account of the light reflecting off the plastic. Mandy interpreted this as black synthetic leather when it's actually a green matte fabric... this is partially my mistake, but still leaves me with a choice to make about re-commissioning/replacing the pants in 2 weeks or going with synthetic leather of the wrong color in 90 degree heat at Game Show.
I didn't have time to argue... so I paid the balance and had the costume shipped.
When the costume arrived -- it arrived not from San Diego, California where the commissioner claims to live, but instead from someone in China... Wait, what?!
The gloves are gigantic spatulas seemingly designed to fit, not a young woman but a man the size of a small mountain. They are unusable.
The pants fit very loosely... I can make them work, but it will take pins.
The capelet is held onto the jacket by three single stitches... I will need to finish the jacket myself or tape it on with double-sided tape if I want it to hang properly or not fall behind me whenever I move. The capelet is also a smidge too long and covers the detail on the jacket's arms when worn. I'll need to cinch it up.
$40 of the commission charge was shipping. According to the shipping slip, actual cost was a third of the cost charged.
An incredibly frustrating experience. Wonderful work and fabrics but with poor communication and disingenuous business practices. I still have no idea if she actually made the costume herself or just outsourced the work to a factory in China then charged a middleman fee before presenting it as her own work. This costume was obviously custom made by ~someone~ since so many of my initial requirements ended up being met... I'd just like a better grip on who...
Response from the commissioner via e-mail:
Recently i found myself banned on cosplay.com and found out that the reason was that people including you said I am a Chinese factory seller. I wish you could have contacted me first before you jumped to this conclusion. First of all, I am not Chinese! I am currently going to school in Shanghai. Secondly, about the shipping label you think proves that the costume came from a Chinese factory - in China, shipping is not done through the post office, it is done through private shipping companies who work with the larger carriers such as UPS and EMS. A friend put me in touch with a shipping company that can offer a discounted rate. This company works a lot with a Shanghai hardware company and therefore has that company's name preprinted on all of their shipping labels. If you had gotten the shipping label properly translated rather than jumping to a conclusion, you would have known that it was from a hardware company. And surely you don't think your costume came from a Shanghai hardware company! Before i came to China, everything I made was sent from San Diego, where I do actually live when not in school.
I have contacted cosplay.com three times via email, but they wont answer me, and I feel like my reputuation got destroyed by what you have said about me. So, I am asking you to please go on cosplay.com to write a retraction to your many misinformative posts. You tarnished my good name and only you can clear it.
Also, about your pants. You told me in the email that you "dig" the pants. So, why did you blast me about the pants on the forum? You never bothered to talk to me about any problems with the pants after you received them. If you had given me the chance, I could have rectified this problem for you.
You should try to understand why I am so upset. Maybe cosplay is just a hobby for you, but for me, commissioning is my livelihood. I am putting myself through school. I have scholarships and the Abroad Study program to help with tuition and such, but as far as housing, meals, etc., commissioning and a little bit of teaching English is all I have to make ends meet. If I lose my reputation, I lose my commissioning and I will be unable to stay in school. I understand that you are unhappy with your costume, but you never even gave me the chance to fix it. I am sorry if I forgot to tell you the package was being sent from China, but I really wish you had asked me instead of jumping to conclusions.
I really do hope you will do the right thing in this unfortunate situation.
1) I had nothing to do with your banning on cosplay.com. You've read the review I posted. That was one of many that seemed to be the impetus behind the decision. I was as surprised as you were.
2) I do dig the pants. The cut is perfect (and I said as much). They're just the wrong color/material. But since this was partially my mistake (which I also said in the review) and I had already had a confrontation with you over the due date and the multiple misrepresentations of the time in which the costume would be finished and had recieved none of the progress photos I was promised, I assumed that arguing would result in either my costume arriving after my deadline or that it would cause a charge for more materials or alterations which I could not afford. I decided it wasn't worth further confrontation, so I complimented the cut, paid the balance and took the costume.
3) It is not my responsibility to learn Chinese to figure out what's going on. It's your responsibility to tell your customers where items will come from, how and when. It's also your responsibility to charge them a fair shipping price. As someone who ships items worldwide all the time ~ I know that $40 was more than sufficient to send a package without using any discount services. I also know the package bore no signature and was suspicious to my post office. They very nearly sent it back because the package was not in compliance with Japanese postal code.
My advice would be to be COMPLETELY transparent with your customers to avoid misunderstandings... not to get angry with them when misunderstandings occur. Acknowledging that legitimate misunderstandings may have contributed to our deal going awry ~ I've posted your email in-full after my review. That said, I intend to retract none of the original review. I think it is a sound one and all of the concerns I had are still concerns that I would encourage others to consider before commissioning.