As many of you may know, I own a well known art gallery, Fascination St. Fine Art, in Denver, Colorado. The story I’d like to share is from an experience I had dealing with a buyer at the gallery. I want to share this story because I think it demonstrates a really important situation that all buyers should be aware of; especially when you’re out there trying to be the Donald Trump of wheelers and dealers.
About two weeks ago, this person, we’ll call him Steve, called one of my staff members inquiring about a few artworks by one of our artists, Charles Fazzino. We spent a great deal of time explaining options and combinations and after over a week of negotiating, we finally reached an agreement. Steve paid for the artwork and all appeared to be fine.
The next day, however, Steve called us claiming that he had received a better offer from another gallery. Essentially he wanted us to compete for the sale even though he had already paid. Negotiating between galleries does happen in the art world, but it needs to be done during the beginning stages of an art deal, not after it’s completed. In addition to this mistake, it turned out that Steve was actually lying about the other offer he had received. He was trying to play our gallery off of the other – hoping that one of us would actually beat his “made up” price offer. I quickly realized his game, and after all of his dirty dealing, I decided that it wasn’t worth the hassle of his dishonesty. I told him I would cancel his deal so he could take the supposedly lower offer he had received.
After I told him I would cancel his deal, Steve called back to say he wanted to give me another chance to offer him a lower price. It turns out that the other gallery wasn’t willing to match my offer, but as I said, at this point I wasn’t interested in working with him anymore. Now Steve has two galleries that dislike him as a client, and instead of getting a good deal on artwork, he’s paying for his greed with a more expensive deal through the other gallery.
In the end, there are a number of things you can learn from Steve’s mistakes:
1. It’s never a good deal unless you make the deal happen. What I mean by that is, when you walk away from a deal over a few dollars, you wind up the loser. There are too many occasions when people feel that they have to get the absolute best deal ever or else they won’t do it. Even though they could still make a great deal of money off an item, they weren’t willing to buy unless they felt as though they had practically stolen the item from the seller.
2. When you’re conducting a deal with someone, keep in mind that you’re starting a relationship with that person. If you’re doing the buying, there’s no reason to not make the seller feel good about the deal. You want to respect them as a seller because he could have other items that you’re looking for. He could also be a future resource for information on things you collect. If you’re able to complete a deal in which both parties are happy, it will benefit both of you in the moment and in the future.
3. Steve did not actually read the invoice or credit card receipt that was sent to him from the gallery. If he had, he would know that the gallery does not offer cash refunds after 48 hours. We do this to protect ourselves in instances just like this one. We had to order the artwork Steve wanted, and if we aren’t able to cancel the order in time, we are still on the hook for buying the artwork whether Steve wants it or not. So now Steve is legally on the hook. Typically we would offer him a gallery credit for the return; however, I don’t actually want to deal with Steve again, so I’m going to give him a refund, minus the costs of running his credit card. While he could be on the hook for a lot more, he’s still going to be losing money in the end.
4. When you’re doing a deal, whether at a garage sale, estate sale, gallery or antique store – know it is a small world, and people talk. Trying to dishonestly pit other establishments against each other is never a good idea. You never know who knows whom, like in this story. We know almost all of the galleries carrying Fazzino artwork, and we know how to get in touch with them to find out the truth of the situation. As I said earlier, when you’re negotiating on an item that you really want, it is always possible for everyone to feel like they’ve won. Don’t be a Steve and ruin the deal, but instead, be you, and complete an honest and beneficial deal.
Good luck, and happy hunting!