Happy Wednesday loves,
I have a bit of a different post today… I want to share my experience with a fellow artist Flaco Shalom.
Flaco Shalom is a talented Detroit based artist who does amazing work. I am all about fellow creatives and small businesses so when I see work that moves me, I am more than willing to support! The live painting aspect of his work reminded me of Alexa Meade, an awesome LA artist, but I loved that he was somewhat closer to me in proximity and not as big just yet so I was in a position to be able to support his art without breaking the bank lol.
So that’s exactly what I did a few months back in April when I saw that he was having a flash sale on his instagram account (which has since been deactivated). I even excitedly shared the post with my followers because I wanted to support him! The sale was just $50 for a custom canvas of any photo of your choice. Judging by the work I’d seen, I knew I would love the result so I was really excited. So excited I even included a $20 tip with my payment because I truly wanted to support my creative brother.
Well that began what would become a huge headache.
Flaco gave the initial turnaround estimate of one week which I thought was rather ambitious, but hey I’m not the painter and I don’t know how he works. I was super busy around the time that I made the initial purchase so time passed without my even realizing it and by the time I did, it was May. So I sent a friendly follow-up message and was told he had quite a few folks that wanted orders done by mother’s day so he wanted to get those taken care of first. Poor business practices but understandable. I don’t have an urgent need, I just wanted something nice to add to my art wall. So again the estimated timeframe I was given was a week.
At this point, here are a couple things I’d like to point out:
Flaco’s special was done via text message. This was my first red flag but I ignored it due to excitement. No real business does business via text message. Text messages are hard to keep track of, do not allow you to keep solid records, and can easily be lost if your phone is lost or stolen.
After Flaco’s initial instagram special, he had another one the very next day. In the messages we exchanged he shared that 25 people had already purchased custom pieces… So why in the world was he having another one when there’s no way he’d cared for the projects already on his plate? As his instagram and tumblr showed, he was also in the midst of traveling to different cities and hosting live painting events.
As I stated previously I don’t know how he works so maybe he very well could crank out 25+ custom portraits within a month- maybe even two months, but as the time passed and the shady elements piled up, I quickly saw that was not the case.
Each time I reached out for an update, it was either not responded to or I was given the timeframe estimate of “one week”. I don’t like being told stories as I’m sure no one does. Being in a service based business myself, I quickly learned that despite your best intentions, providing your client with realistic expectations on when they can expect to see their product is more important than trying to make them feel better by giving a false estimate with no follow-up. Because what happens when that’s not met? You’ve created an anxiety-filled client when they would have been just fine if you gave them a realistic expectation in the first place.
The last time I reached out for an update, I was told that he’d lost his phone and thus lost every client’s info who’d sent him a photo to be painted -_-
Let me tell you why that’s not an excuse: Everyone paid via PayPal.
He may have lost cell numbers, but he very well had everyone’s email address who paid him. Any conscientious business owner would have reached out to every person he received money from, explained the situation, and got the respective photos that everyone paid to have painted. That didn’t happen.
At this point it is 5 months post purchase and I have no desire to get my $70 back. I made the mistake of sending his money “Friends & Family” so there was no fee attached so I don’t have a way to open a claim due to fraud (major lesson learned on my part). So I chose instead to write. It took me a while to decide to do this because I am not at all about smearing anyone’s name but these are facts, I’m merely sharing them publicly. And I wanted to write not just to speak about Flaco’s poor business practices but to speak to other creatives and aspiring small business owners.
It is NEVER worth it to sacrifice your reputation for a few dollars.
Flaco may have walked away with a pretty piece of change, but that money was gone in what… a month? Maybe two. Now what? He’s soiled his reputation just for a few dollars. Which is really unfortunate because he clearly is talented.
To aspiring creatives and small business owners:
Beware of “quick specials”. You can’t sustain good customer service with super low rates. If that’s your goal, ok. But if it is your goal, just know that it will be a very short run for you.
I’d been meaning to write about this for some time when I saw Ash The Painter’s situation last year, but dealing with Flaco reminded me so here we are. A quick google search of Ash’s name will unfortunately pull up “Ash The Painter complaints” as the second most popular searched phrase. She blew up in popularity very quickly and now unfortunately has a soiled reputation along with many unhappy clients who never received their art.
So what’s the lesson? I guess I say all this to say that trying to gain a few quick bucks is never worth the trouble in the end. Especially if you knowingly plan to defraud people. The internet makes the world quite small and a quick search shows that I’m not the only one with this experience. I also want to apologize to any of my followers who purchased art from him because of my recommendation and never received it :/
This situation also taught me that just because I may never do something like this, doesn’t mean that all other fellow creatives are honest business people. I was so quick to trust because something like this was the farthest thing from my mind. But hey, lesson learned. I hope my $70 went to something nice lol.
Thanks for hanging in there and reading about my experience. Let me know what you think!
‘Til next time,