Jump to content
  • Ultimatums: What, Why, When, & How


    Bornes
    Quote

    Ultimatums:
    What, Why, When, & How

    An ultimatum is a message, usually over email, that tells the creator (henceforth referred to as 'artist') that they need to deliver something or the customer/commissioner (henceforth referred to as 'you') will retaliate. This retaliation is usually an unsatisfactory outcome for the artist.

    An example of a very simple ultimatum would be:

    Deliver my artwork by 2 May, or I will open up a dispute with PayPal for a full refund.

    For the purposes of this guide, an ultimatum must have the following components to be useful:

    1. A summary of the transaction so far
    2. At least one desired outcome (e.g. delivering art that is due)
    3. An undesirable outcome (i.e. a credible threat)
    4. A deadline for compliance
    5. A formal closing

    When you pay someone money for a service or product, that person should be delivering that service and/or product. It is a business transaction. Since many of these transactions do not utilize escrow payments, you are left to trust that things will work out and artists will deliver what they promised or a refund if they're unable to deliver.
    An unfortunately common problem is that artists fail to do either of these things, and commissioners like yourself are left with no recourse.

    An ultimatum is an actionable threat to an artist. You have power behind you, and when you use it correctly, you will be able to finish the business transaction instead of wondering if you will ever get your product, service, or refund.

    You should use an ultimatum when:

    • You are WILLING and ABLE to carry out a threat if the desired outcome does not occur;
    • You want to finish the transaction with the artist as quickly as possible;
    • ALL OTHER ATTEMPTS TO FINISH THE TRANSACTION HAVE FAILED

    Ultimatums should ONLY be used as a LAST RESORT.

     


    Credible Threats Explained

    In order for an ultimatum to succeed, you need to have a credible threat. A PayPal claim is an action you can take that has actual, real consequences to an artist. A threat means nothing if you cannot back it up.

    An ultimatum that states:

    Deliver my art by 2 May or I will post a call-out journal about you!

    Is ultimately useless and non-threatening. It doesn't affect the artist's bottom-line: they still have your money. Even assuming your call-out journal has some power, it is inherently limited to who actually believes you and who sees it. In 99% of cases, that audience doesn't cross over with the artist's potential customers enough to damage their ability to make an income.

    Anything that has the potential to hurt an artist's income can be a credible threat. Below are some options:

    • Filing a chargeback
    • Filing in small claims court
    • Using PayPal's Resolution Center
    • If the transaction took place in a convention's artist's alley or dealer's den, informing the convention of the artist's behavior / lack of delivery. (this can lead to blacklisting of the artist from selling at the venue)

     


    Using the PayPal Resolution Center to Your Advantage


    Most transactions utilize a payment processor. For this guide, we will assume you are using PayPal. PayPal has a window of 180 days (roughly 6 months) from the date the transaction takes place to file a dispute or claim against it. Most payment processors have a similar dispute process.
    With respect to PayPal, however, let us define these terms and what they do explicitly:

    A PayPal Dispute:

    1. You initiate the dispute in the resolution center
    2. PayPal emails the artist saying you opened a dispute on the transaction
    3. The artist is told to contact you through the resolution center
    4. PayPal is not involved in the dispute
    5. The dispute automatically closes in 20 days unless it is escalated to a claim
    6. Once closed, it cannot be re-opened
    7. Nothing actually happens if the artist doesn't want anything to happen

    A PayPal Claim:

    1. You initiate a PayPal dispute
    2. You escalate the dispute to a claim
    3. PayPal immediately freezes the transaction amount in the artist's account (which can put their account in the negative if the money is no longer there)
    4. PayPal emails the artist saying you've opened a dispute and a claim
    5. You must provide proof that your claim is warranted
    6. PayPal becomes officially involved and decides the outcome based on the proof provided
    7. The outcome usually occurs within 30 days or less
    8. The artist is powerless in this situation unless they can prove that the work/service has been delivered/rendered

    A very informal summation of this is that a dispute is a serious negotiation and a claim is a court case judged by PayPal.
    Typically, if you have reached the point of issuing an ultimatum, you will want to immediately escalate your dispute to a claim. But you do not have to do this. You have 20 days to decide if you'd like to escalate and force the artist to respond.

    However, one thing that is absolutely certain: NEVER CLOSE A DISPUTE JUST BECAUSE AN ARTIST ASKS YOU TO!!
    Once you close the dispute (and/or claim), you will NEVER be able to re-open it. If an artist promises to refund you, but needs more time than the PayPal window allows, DO NOT CLOSE THE DISPUTE unless you are 300% sure they will deliver. Once the dispute closes, you are powerless.

    This information about the PayPal dispute process is important to know, because it means that you have an easy way to be refunded if something goes wrong. It means you have power.
    It means you have 180 days to get your commission done.

    Money talks. An artist who is ignoring you will suddenly become super interested in solving your issue when their money is frozen.
    An artist needs income to survive, so will likely always keep their PayPal email current. If you have lost contact with an artist, a PayPal dispute can re-establish communications.

    Remember: this is a business transaction. This is your money.
    Ultimately it is up to you whether you want a refund or not, but don't refuse to pursue one because you're afraid of being mean.
    This is a business transaction.

     


    Don't Make Threats You Won't Follow Through With


    Many people are unsure if they want to sever ties with an artist due to a transaction gone bad. If you make an ultimatum that tells the artist to deliver art on a specific date or you will file a PayPal claim, and they don't deliver the art... Are you still willing to file the PayPal claim?

    If you are unwilling to, don't make the ultimatum.

    If you have come to the point of making an ultimatum, you have exhausted all other options. Be prepared to NOT get the product you wanted when you issue an ultimatum. Be warned: once the 180 day PayPal claim window has passed, you have no power. Whether you get the product or a refund is completely up to the whims of the artist when you have no ability to recoup your money.

    Should you make an ultimatum and let it pass without carrying out your threat, you have let the artist know you are not serious and you can safely be ignored. If you make another ultimatum in the future, it will not be listened to.

    Never make an ultimatum if you are unwilling to follow through on your threat.

     


    When a Transaction Calls for an Ultimatum

    An ultimatum should be used as a last resort. Ultimatums are for when something very wrong has occurred during the transaction. Typically this "something" is no communication and/or not delivering the product/service within the expected time frame, but other situations can also be deserving of ultimatums.


    Let's say you commission an artist, and they state the art will be delivered in 2 weeks. You have waited 2 months with no updates or WIPs, and asking for status updates from the artist has only gotten you empty promises. You are well past caring about the outcome of the situation, and now just want your art or the money back, whichever will get you out of this debacle faster.

    You have entered ultimatum territory.

     

    However, you should be exhausting other, more kind avenues, before getting to the point of issuing an ultimatum.

    Have you contacted the artist yourself?
    Have you asked for updates? Estimated completion dates? Your spot in the queue?

    Have you listened to what the artist has told you?
    Did the artist say your commission would take a certain amount of time? Have you waited for that time to pass yet?
    Is the artist experiencing a personal hardship (such as medical emergency)? Have you given them time to solve this hardship before expecting your product/service?

    Have you attempted to negotiate with the artist?
    Have you tried to set realistic time frames for product completion? Have you offered to change the commission so it is less stressful/time-consuming for the artist? Have you suggested a partial refund or a refund given to you in payments over time? Have you offered other compromises so both you and the artist can be accommodated?

    Many issues can be solved without the use of ultimatums.

    If you are having issues with an artist but you're not sure of what else to try before issuing an ultimatum, make a post asking for advice on the forum! Many of us are happy to help with the specific details of your situation. Just remember that forum posts must be anonymous, so don't name the artist in question.

     


    How To Write a Useful Ultimatum

    For the purposes of this guide, an ultimatum must have the following components to be useful:

    1. A summary of the transaction so far
    2. At least one desired outcome (e.g. delivering art that is due)
    3. An undesirable outcome (e.g. the PayPal claim)
    4. A deadline for compliance
    5. A formal closing


    Before getting started, determine what type of ultimatum you would like to make.  I will refer to them as "standard" and "expanded." These are by no means official ultimatum types, they are just useful descriptors.

    Standard Ultimatum
    A standard ultimatum has all the components listed above, displayed in the quickest and easiest way possible. It it used when you are 100% sure you have all the power and will win a PayPal claim if you choose to make one.

    Expanded Ultimatum
    An expanded ultimatum details all the information of a standard ultimatum through use of specific historic dates and sometimes links. It is useful for (1) when you think you may have a chance of losing your PayPal claim, (2) you may pursue legal action, (3) you believe the artist is unorganized or has lost your transaction information, (4) you want to sound as intimidating as possible, and/or (5) you just want to be as complete and safe as possible.
    This type of ultimatum will take a long time to write (especially depending on the length and complexity of your transaction), requires you to have kept at least decent organization of the transaction history/details up to this point, and will have all evidence of the entire situation so far in this single message.

    Of course, you can mix elements from each type and cater your ultimatum's details to your specific situation.

     


    An Example Situation


    January 1:
    You contact the artist FandomArtist with interest to commission them for a single headshot of your original character (OC), Bornes. You provide them with the character sheet for Bornes.
    According to FandomArtist's commission information, they have a standard turnaround time of 2 weeks.

    January 2:
    FandomArtist accepts your commission and sends you an invoice for 30 USD. The invoice number/transaction ID is #ABCDE.
    You pay the amount in full immediately.

    January 12:
    You contact FandomArtist asking when the art might be done and if you will recieve a WIP.

    January 13:
    FandomArtist sends you a link to a WIP sketch for approval. The sketch looks nothing like Bornes.

    January 14:
    You email FandomArtist with the reference for Bornes and ask if they could please redo the sketch so it looks more like your OC.

    January 24:
    You email FandomArtist asking if they have a new WIP for you and when you might be able to expect the commission.

    January 30:
    You leave a comment on FandomArtist's gallery page asking for them to check their email.
    You notice some time later it is deleted.

    February 1:
    You direct message FandomArtist on one of their social media pages asking them for an update on your commission.

    February 10:
    You have still received no communication from FandomArtist. You have decided you are ready to pursue an ultimatum.
    Optional: You open a dispute (not a claim) on PayPal immediately after you send the ultimatum.

     


    Ultimatums for the Example Situation


    Remember that an ultimatum must have the following components to be useful:

    1. A summary of the transaction so far
    2. At least one desired outcome (e.g. delivering art that is due)
    3. An undesirable outcome (e.g. the PayPal claim)
    4. A deadline for compliance (at least 5 days in the future)
    5. A formal closing

     

    Also remember:

    • Avoid fandom-specific acronyms and abbreviations
    • Be as professional as possible (take your emotions out of it)
    • Keep it as short as possible (leave out the personal details)

    Standard Ultimatum Example
    FandomArtist,
    I commissioned you on 1 January for a headshot of my character Bornes. I paid you 30 USD the next day. When I received the WIP sketch later, I asked it to be reworked since it did not look like Bornes. It has been a month since then without any communication from you. At this point, if I don't receive the art by 28 February, I will be be forced to file a claim with PayPal for a refund.

    Thank you,
    [Your main screenname] / [the legal name on your PayPal account]

    Expanded Ultimatum Example
    FandomArtist,
    On 1 January, I commissioned you for a 30 USD headshot of my original character, Bornes [link to character reference]. I paid the invoice (Transaction ID #ABCDE) on 2 January. According to your page, the expected turnaround time for this type of commission is 2 weeks:
    [link to page stating this, or link to a screenshot showing this]

    I received a WIP on the 13th, which did not look like my character [link to bad WIP or screenshot of bad WIP]. I re-submitted the reference for my character and asked the sketch be fixed, but have not heard from you since.

    I've attempted to contact you through email with no response on the 24th, again on your gallery page on the 30th, and again through direct message on [social media site] on 1 February. It is now 10 February. If I do not receive the art by the 28th, I will be pursuing a refund through PayPal.

    Regards,
    [Your main screenname] / [the legal name on your PayPal account]

     

    Ideally, your ultimatum should only be one paragraph (with extra line breaks to accommodate unformatted links). You want to convey the most information possible in the smallest amount of text as possible. Remember that if you file a PayPal claim, an outside party, who knows absolutely nothing about your transaction except the details on the invoice and the proof you provide, will be reading this.

    Expanded ultimatums are great for this purpose as you can simply submit your ultimatum as evidence, and frequently it is the only proof you need. This reduces the mediator (PayPal)'s work time and they are not only more willing to side in your favor, but are able to do so much more quickly than if you had provided them 5+ emails they had to sift through and make sense of.

     


    Ultimatums When You Don't Have Power


    Previously, it was stated that affecting an artist's income was likely the only credible threat you could use in an ultimatum. This unfortunately means that if you have passed the PayPal window for a claim, you are powerless.

    This is only partially true.

    There is another threat you can make: An Artist Beware.
    A Beware is not foolproof or guaranteed to damage an artist; ultimately how a Beware affects an artist is highly situational. But the Artists Beware community is extremely large and its archive is very credible. Artists can live and die by their reputation, so if you are outside the PayPal window, you can fall back on the threat of a beware. Sometimes this works.
    But sometimes it does not.

    If you are writing an ultimatum where the undesirable outcome is a Beware posting on the artist, you should be writing the Beware post at the same time as your ultimatum. Many of the components of a beware and an ultimatum are the same, and writing both at the same time ensures you only need to sift through your records for links, screenshots, and dates once. It saves time.

    So let us assume that February 10 is outside the PayPal window and instead of threatening a claim, we must fallback on a beware.
    Here are some example ultimatums for that situation.

    Standard Ultimatum (Beware)
    FandomArtist,
    I commissioned you on 1 January for a headshot of my OC Bornes. I paid you 30 USD the next day. When I received the WIP sketch later, I asked it to be reworked since it did not look like Bornes. It has been a month since then without any communication from you. At this point, if I don't receive the art by 28 February, I will be be forced to submit a Beware on Artists Beware.

    Thank you,
    [Your main screenname]

    Expanded Ultimatum (Beware)
    FandomArtist,
    On 1 January, I commissioned you for a 30 USD headshot of my original character, Bornes [link to character reference]. I paid the invoice (Transaction ID #ABCDE - [link to screenshot of invoice]) on 2 January. According to your page, the expected turnaround time for this type of commission is 2 weeks:
    [link to page stating this, or link to a screenshot showing this]

    I received a WIP on the 13th, which did not look like my character [link to bad WIP or screenshot of bad WIP]. I re-submitted the reference for my character and asked the sketch be fixed, but have not heard from you since.

    I've attempted to contact you through email with no response on the 24th, again on your gallery page on the 30th, and again through direct message on [social media site] on 1 February. It is now 10 February. If I do not receive the art by the 28th, I will be posting a Beware on you on Artists Beware.

    Regards,
    [Your main screenname]


    If you use the expanded ultimatum, you can reuse all the same links/screencaps for the beware. You can use the entire ultimatum with minimal rewording as the beware itself. However, keep in mind that the Beware will not be accepted until the date you specified in your ultimatum has passed.

     


    Outcomes You Can Expect

    Give the artist time to process the ultimatum.
    Don't contact them to make sure they got the message. Wait for them to contact you.
    Make sure the date of compliance is at least 5 days in the future (ideally 7). This gives the artist time to receive your message if they are busy outside of the internet, and it gives them time to think of a response.
    You can open a dispute (not a claim) at the time of your ultimatum, but you do not have to.
    In fact, I would advise you not to open a dispute unless you would much rather just have the refund.

    The Artist may deliver your art.
    The artist might have finished your art and just not delivered it. It happens.
    The artist may have your art mostly finished, and after the ultimatum is received, they will finish it. This also is not uncommon.

    The artist may quietly refund you.
    Sometimes the artist just doesn't want to deal with you, and will refund you to get it over with without actually talking to you. This is okay. Let it go.
    Don't contact them again. Your transaction has been concluded.

    The artist may attack you.
    They might email you directly or talk about you on social media. If this happens, don't engage with them. Wait until your stated date (in our example, it was 28 February). If you still don't have the art or a refund, open a dispute, escalate it to a claim immediately, and get your refund that way. Once you have the money in hand, write a beware about the artist showing how they harassed you.

    The artist may give you excuses or plead with you.
    If you opened a dispute, they may ask you to close it. NEVER CLOSE THE DISPUTE. ONCE A DISPUTE IS CLOSED, IT CAN NEVER BE RE-OPENED AND YOU WILL LOSE POWER.
    You have 20 days until a dispute automatically closes. Give the artist 18 days to figure out what they want to do. If there is still no resolution, escalate the dispute to a claim on day 19.
    You can work with an artist in this time frame. If they are amicable, you can be too. You can compromise, ask for a simpler commission with a partial refund, etc. Just do not close the dispute.

    The artist may attempt to legitimately work with you.
    They may ask for more time, some other compromise, a better work schedule, guaranteed WIPs, etc. Remain as impartial as possible, and try to work with them.
    You can come to an agreement, like "OK, I will give you one more month IF you give me a WIP every 2 weeks" or something like that. Try to work with them.
    Especially if you would prefer the art, it is best to not file a dispute with the sending of your ultimatum. Without a dispute, the artist has more time to comply.
    However, do not let the PayPal window for a dispute close. These means, no matter how many extensions you give the artist, make sure the art is in your hands before the 180th day. Outside 180 days, you will not be able to initiate a PayPal claim.

    If you have filed a dispute or claim, the artist may deliver art of terrible quality.
    If you open a dispute, the artist has 20 days to respond. When you escalate to a claim, artists have less time to respond. Some artists may deliver art that is obviously not up to the expected quality of your commission during this time, and PayPal will determine that the artist has delivered the art and close the claim in the artist's favor.
    This is fairly uncommon, but it can happen. In this case, you should dispute the claim on PayPal if you are able, and write a beware on the artist.

    The artist will likely blacklist you from working with them in the future.
    Accept that this will probably happen to you regardless of the result of the ultimatum, and be prepared to not be able to commission this artist again.
    If you are thinking of issuing an ultimatum, something has gone very wrong in the commission process. In most cases, you should not want to do business with this person again anyway.


    Remember to use ultimatums responsibly.


    Only use them when you can make a credible threat and you are WILLING and ABLE to carry out that threat.
    Only use an ultimatum when all other options have failed!
    ALWAYS FOLLOW-UP ON YOUR THREAT THE DAY OF OR THE DAY AFTER YOU STATED IN YOUR ULTIMATUM!

     

     



    User Feedback

    Recommended Comments

    There are no comments to display.


×
×
  • Create New...