Wednesday, September 07, 2005

A (Pet Portrait Artist's) Cautionary Tale

A couple of months ago, I received an email from a new client who is commissioning a portrait of her border collie. She lives in Canada, so sometimes the mail can be a little slow, but it wasn't this time. I did receive the pictures in a timely manner, looked them over and sent her an email telling her I got the pictures and how cute her doggie is! (The theme we're cooking up, by the way, is sure to be very fun too, but that's another post.)

So cut to about two or three weeks later. Things were pretty crazy, my mom had discovered that she had an urgent medical condition that required immediate surgery and until the surgery was completed, she was pretty much in the danger zone. Stress city - - plus the fact that, when it rains, it most definitely pours: there were a few other things that had happened that week that also threw me off my game.

Consequently, during this time, I happened to misplace this client's pictures. This had never happened before (and will never happen again) and I was utterly dumbfounded. My husband and I tore the house apart. We looked everywhere - up, down, backwards, sideways, diagonally - we looked in every single place they could possibly be, and we came up empty each time. I even went so far as to pick through our trash at 11:30 pm, on the curb and awaiting the morning garbage pick-up, plastic gloves and extra trash bags in tow. Yes, it was an ugly scene. I was devastated - HOW could I lose a client's pictures? I could not believe it. I am so careful, I am organized, I keep good records. Nothing added up.

I sat on it for a few days and, though my hopes were mostly gone, I still held a small flicker of hope. But, by a few days later, I'd accepted the truth: the pictures had not just been misplaced, they were gone. Forever. This was unchartered territory.

I called the client as soon as I was absolutely sure that the pictures were not going to miraculously resurface. She was away, and I left a friendly yet vague message. This was not a message I felt comfortable leaving on an answering machine.

She called me back when she returned. I broke the news about the lost pictures, but I'd decided ahead of time that I was going to offer to do her portrait gratis. She accepted the offer, could not have been nicer, and was really quite easy-going about the whole situation! I was so glad, and so relieved!

Cut to about a month later. I'd recieved the new batch of pictures, but had filed the entire envelope until a later date when I would be able to properly go through it. That time came tonight, and I opened the envelope. Imagine my surprise to find a wonderful gift in the envelope in addition to the pictures - a generous gift card to Starbucks! That really made my night! Not only do I get to draw such sweet doggies, but I get to work with such kind, thoughtful and generous people, too!

What I learned from losing those photos....

-Always ask for electronic pictures, and if that is not possible, plan to scan the pictures and send them back to the client as soon as possible.

-Make sure the client understands that, while I make every effort to keep their photos safe while in my care, there is always a (very) remote possibility of something happening to the photos. I never thought I would lose anyone's photos, yet somehow it once happened. I don't think it will ever happen again (as well as my now-hyper-carefulness about these things), but it is always better to be safe than sorry.

-Some people are so thoughtful and kind. It's a treat to be on the receiving end, especially when it's so unexpected. :)

-ALWAYS check your envelopes, as soon as they arrive. :)

Katrina Update: $285 Donated thus far


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Nat said...

Kathy - I'm so sorry that this happened. I've had it happen once too. Accidents happen and I hope you didn't beat yourself up about it. One day, in a remote corner of the house, on a day when everything is going just fine, those pictures will turn up and you'll remember that Starbucks gift card and that will make the whole thing even sweeter. :)