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By craftychicklet On 03/25/04  

Hi All-
It seems like ages for me since I posted anything..I am having a dilema and could really use your input.

As many of you know I have a Consignment Art/Gift shop. I have over 100 artists doing all sorts of things.

Random Background
When I bought the business there were 3 Renters--they paid a tiny monthly fee and store kept a smaller percentage. I have since converted all of these peps to consigners.

A couple of weeks ago a woman came in and spent a small fortune on furniture and stuff from our store. All of this stuff was to be delivered this week as she was moving out of state.
Yesterday my friend took the 'stuff to her house and when he was there he noticed all sorts of other things from my store.
Here's where it gets tricky..
After the initial sale I contacted the artist who made some of the furniture as I needed her to fix it.. she asked about the sale we told her. She said she knew the woman but not well only thru another job.
So, about a week ago the Artist pulled about 4 large pieces from the store all of which total about $1200. Which is at her discretion to move things whenever she wants.
I liked 2 of the prices and have asked her for months to lower the prices as it was crazy expensive -- ie. not selling. She wanted to maintain her artistic integrity.

So super long story shorter...All of the prices she pulled and mentioned to me no less than 20 times the "she loved them and they were for her house" were at this womans house getting ready to load on a truck.

Soooo....
I'm in a quandry about this... I am not expecting her to pay me..but how should I approach it with her. Would you prefer a letter or phone call?

This is such a difficult problem for me ..on one hand the artist can pull her stuff out whenever and it is her stuff.... on the other hand the store has tried to sell that piece (to the woman who is moving as well)
and has lost inventory space.

The other thing is that this Artist is well known... not all favorably but known. She has been in the biz for a long time and has a following of people who know to find her work at our store.

So, please any input would be divine.
Thanks so much!
Meredith



By swank On 03/25/04  

Not sure that I have any advice on how to handle this specific incident, but would suggest that you add some sort of clause to cover yourself for this type of situation in the future.

I work part-time as a temporary nanny through an agency to supplement my business income and, while it's a different industry, they have a policy that seems like it would be beneficial to modify to fit your situation. The nannies as well as the families that use the agency are specifically prohibited from arranging jobs outside of the agency if the contact was initially set up via the agency. This makes sense since the nanny agency is the one maintaining the client list, doing the advertising, etc. I think you have every right to - and should - protect your business in this manner.

If the artist has not already signed an agreement with this in the clause, you might not have recourse in this particular situation, but I would suggest you either begin including it for new consigners and/or have your current consigers sign a rider with some type of policy like this.



By blibblob On 04/01/04  

That's a tricky one- I've had people come into our store and write down details of artists/makers right in front of me and then not buy anything...of course I don't know for sure that they have now gone and contacted artists direct but it bugs me so much after I spend so much time looking for art/work for the store. WE have limited exclusivity rights on somethings in the shop- but we are in the tricky position of being in the business of supporting diy people and to prevent them selling their own work somehow seems totally sucky!



By toomuchglue On 04/02/04  

That really sucks and I'm sorry you're going through this. Business is a constant trial and error for sure. I'm not a lawyer, but I think in order to not burn any bridges, I would just learn from the experience and, as you said, not reveal your clients to artists moving forward. It seems to me that she really did not do anything wrong, per se, just a bit sneaky. Your clients are the value that you add for the artist. You bring buyers to them, so that's your pot of gold.



By Koimichra On 04/02/04  

Hi Meredith,

I'm a board reader but I actually finally registered *just* so I could reply to your post.

I *am* a lawyer, and while I don't know what state you're in or the specifics of your consignment contracts, you CAN protect yourself from this sort of situation. Contracts that prohibit subcontractors or consignees or even clients from "stealing" clients from your contact list and doing work with them without going through you are quite common and you should not have a problem having such a clause added to your contracts.

Depending on what state you're in and what your contracts currently state, you may already have a course of legal action against this woman.

I urge you to contact a lawyer in your state and discuss the situation with him or her. You want a lawyer who does small business work, or possibly a general practicioner. You can look in the phone book and call around, or check your state's bar association webpage. Solo and small practicioners tend to be cheapest. If you don't already have a lawyer, I urge you to get one, and have him or her look over all your contracts and so forth. There is some cash involved, but in the long run it will save you money by protecting you and your livelihood from situations like this.

Best of luck with it!

-Koi :)



By SublimeStitcher On 04/02/04  

Right on! I'm so glad you got some good legal advice.

I just wanted to say that it is completely unethical...in this situation, the artist is using your store as a free showroom and underselling you. It would be as if someone went into a gallery, saw my work, contacted me, I pulled the piece telling the gallery owner I wanted to hang it at home and then sold it to the client, cutting the gallery out of its commission----which they deserve, because they are showcasing my work. Nice way to ruin a professional reputation, and hardly how you maintian 'artistic integrity'. Overpricing your artwork doesn't give it more integrity. I've lowered mine at appropriate times.

I'd consider pulling her current stock off your floor if you can afford to do so.

Go after this person. Let us know what happens!

eta: what about getting info from the person she sold to before she moves?



By Koimichra On 04/06/04  

As I pondered over your message again, it occurs to me that part of your concern is working WITH the artists and helping them out, and that you may not be eager to pursue exclusivity contracts (although if appropriate to you, I think it's a good idea) or "non-compete" agreements that keep them from taking your clients.

Another option you might consider, if neither of those is appropriate, is some sort of statement in the contract that any piece that is given space in your gallery and then pulled by the artist, for whatever reason, may not be sold for at least 6 months/1 year/whatever, unless you are given your full commission (or 80% commission ... or whatever.)

While any of these could be difficult to police (you may not find out the next time someone pulls something and then sells it immediately), it will certainly discourage artists from cheating you and give you legal recourse to recover the money if they do.

-Koi :)



By meepmeep On 04/04/04  

i sell my stuff through a gallery with a statewide exclusivity contract. if you want, i can mail a copy to you so you can see the wording. feel free to e-mail me off list. it's in my profile.
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