When you think about it, the Anthro community is a massive network of commerce that never sleeps. It transcends borders, timezones, and even language barriers! You can find artists, crafters, and writers from all over the world to purchase goods and services from and that is just another amazing aspect of our global community.
Business, no matter where it is conducted, is always a fluid process. If you are walking into a store, making a purchase online, or even buying art from your roommate, circumstances can change without notice. Weirdly, there always seems to be a negative stigma around the concept of refunds when it comes to art. I think it's strange to hear people complaining that they got their money back. Then there is the other side of the coin, when I see people celebrating the fact that they did a chargeback and potentially caused an artist a ton of undue hardship. Let's take look at refunds and chargebacks together, just to see what makes them so different and why one is definitely better than the other.
I'm sure you're aware that it's not uncommon to hear commissioners complain about artists, and vice versa, for a variety of reasons. Sometimes the complaints are legitimate, like when an artist leaves out something from a refsheet, or when a commissioner asks for 20 changes on a $5 donation sketch; but when I see someone complaining about getting a refund I wish I could step in and explain a few different things:
You got your money back, be happy!
Refunds are usually optional.
Getting a refund doesn't mean the artist is "unreliable."
The first point I want to expand on is the simple fact of, "Hey, you got your money back. That's great!" There isn't much reason to complain about a situation that worked out in your favor. Clearly the artist was understanding to whatever situation that warranted a refund, no matter who initiated it. This is just another part of doing business and it's not a bad thing. I will be the first person to tell you that I am guilty of this practice and now that I'm older I can see how silly it is. Getting a refund doesn't give anyone license to wander onto their social channels and whine about the artist. We don't need any more toxicity in our community and honestly, refunds are usually optional anyway.
"Hey, wait a minute! Refunds aren't optional! Someone can't just take my money and not give me anything in return!"
Actually, according to FindLaw.com, many states do not have laws regarding a consumer's right to cancel contracts or purchase agreements. Since most artists don't work on deadlines and commissions are not handled with formal contracts, they could technically take your money and keep it forever as long as they are following their set terms.
This is yet another reason why you should always read an artist's Terms of Service (TOS) before commissioning them. Finding out in advance how they handle things like refunds, or general dissatisfaction with their work, is paramount before you enter into a business agreement. More to the point, would you really want to sign a contract and give your money away without reading it first?
Now, I know some of you may be thinking that this is what services like PayPal's Purchase Protection are for. Just pay through PayPal and if you don't like it, you can just force a chargeback, get your money, and the artist can deal with it on their end. It's not your fault the experience was bad, right? Well, there are several issues with this:
First, issuing a chargeback without telling the artist is a very mean thing to do. That artist is counting on the money they have earned to pay bills, put gas in the car, and feed themselves and their family. Suddenly taking that money away because you're unhappy about something is effectively stealing from them. Imagine opening your bank account and suddenly you're missing $100. You have no idea why, it's just gone, and you have to figure out how to recover that grocery money on your own.
Secondly, chargebacks leave artist's queue in a state of disarray because they are often anonymous. That's right. The artist has no idea who took that money back; especially if they ran a special with several comms at the same price. So, if an artist took 10 full-body pictures at $100 each, and now $100 is gone from their account, they have no idea who's commissions are still valid. This creates so much work and waiting time. The artist has to stop what they are doing, email 10 different people, and wait for a reply from each of them before they can even start work! Imagine the headache and anxiety of sitting at your desk and not being able to work until you get emails back from everyone to confirm who took their payment back. And that's assuming that everyone responds that day.
Lastly, there are the repercussions: If you issue a chargeback without communication you will likely be blacklisted by that artist, forever. It will take time, but the artist will figure out who cancelled without communicating. What's more, with the way social media works nowadays, that artist can just as easily share your username on Twitter, or Discord, with all of the artists they know and effectively stop you from commissioning for a while. The last thing anyone wants in our community is to be pulled into a toxic thread, so don't do it! Read the artist's TOS, keep an open line of communication, and be nice.
When it comes to actually getting a refund, you should always remember to be polite. There are a ton of different reasons why an artist might choose to give you your money back and most of the time these reasons are very personal. Maybe the artist took on too much work, maybe they are going through a rough patch, or maybe they have just realized that it's time for a break. Whatever the reason may be, it's their choice, and as commissioners we should respect it.
When an artist reaches out with a journal about refunds, keep in mind that this does not suddenly make them "unreliable." Yes, you paid them to draw for you and no, that isn't what they are doing; but that's okay! They are doing the right thing by returning your money, and that's what really counts. The artist may never reveal their reason for doing so, and even if they don't, thank them anyway~ Remember that refunds are often optional and most anthro artist's don't work on deadlines, so if someone asks you about how that artist was, just tell the truth. There isn't any need to be upset over getting a refund instead of your art.
"But what if the artist took my money and ghosted?"
Unfortunately, this happens! I have experienced it myself and it's never a good time, but this is actually why tools like PayPal's Purchase Protection exist. There are many scam accounts out there and I have noticed that the community is not shy when it comes to putting them on blast. The latest one seems to be sending people notes, with links in them, over on FurAffinity with a brand new account. I'm sure everyone has realized that this is likely a blatant phishing attempt, so here are a few tips on how to avoid these scams from the Federal Trade Commission.
In the event that you pay for a commission and the artist disappears, or you realize that you've been scammed, I recommend that you contact your purchasing agent (PayPal, Venmo, CashApp, etc.) and open a ticket or file a claim. They will then walk you through the steps to get your money back. When you do this, you should also send an email or note to the account that you are issuing the chargeback to; if the account is still active. Keep in mind that this should be your last resort and only used if the artist has completely disappeared or stopped responding over a long period of time.
Our ability to commission pictures of our characters is a wonderful thing and the global economy that is anthro art really is a privilege. For us to find so many artists that have affordable prices well within the reach of virtually any budget is yet another benefit of being part of this amazing community. Keeping an open line of communication between artists and commissioners is always important, but remembering to be nice to each other during all phases of a transaction is even more so~