Funny story: On August 1st I was sitting on a porch in the mountains of Tennessee, reviewing the damage the bears had done the night before to the furniture. In the midst of it though, it hit me: I was on vacation and had forgotten to post the InkedFur.com Furry Friday post for the month of July (By the way, there’s a special code for you reprobates at the end of the post)! Those weren’t bears! Those were furries! Furries tracking me through the mountains to make me pay for forgetting about them! So, this month, in hopes you guys won’t come to my actual goddamn house, here’s a special mid-month edition of Furry Friday where we’re gonna start talking about a highly requested topic: Fursuit Contracts.
Holy shit, you little fucks suck at money. I mean, you guys make enough of it, a lot of you, and you invest it and shit, and I know for a goddamn fact that there are a lot of you out there who are good, responsible people with your cash in your day to day lives. But Jesus, for the past four months since I started doing these Furry Friday posts all I’ve fucking heard about is people wanting me to start talking about fursuit contracts. It seems like every goddamn time I open up Twitter, one of you is diving headfirst into my messages with a tale of how you gave hundreds or thousands of dollars to a creator only to wait years for someone to deliver a fursuit. You know. If the fursuit was ever delivered to begin with.
Then there’s all the salt over on the other side of the creative fence, where fursuit makers are contacting me and saying shit like “They did a chargeback, what can I do?” or “I shipped and they never paid,” or my new personal favorite: “Could you review my terms of service?”
Terms. of. Service.
…Jesus fucking christ on a pogo stick, my tiny lawyer heart withers a little more each day.
Oh, and let me clear:
Commissioners: I’m gonna piss you off today.
Fursuit Makers: I’m gonna piss you off, too.
Fuck it. You all goddamn well deserve it.
Also, let me be clear on one more thing: This isn’t the end. These fucking commission agreements and how these things are being done have more than one problem with them, and I’m gonna be coming back to this shit.
Today, though, I want to talk about what seems to be one of the biggest fucking sticking point I’m hearing about: Paying.
PAYMENT IS PAYMENT.
So today we’ll talk about the payment terms, how the law relates to them, and what practical considerations or alternative methods are out there.
I’m gonna piss off a lot of fursuit makers with this line, but here’s a common thing I’m seeing in each and every one of these fursuit “contracts,” and I’m using that term loosely, that I’m reviewing:
Work will only begin when payment is received.
Now, that’s seemingly the standard I’m running into with a lot of people: The commissioner pays the full purchase price in advance, and the fursuit maker then begins working on the fursuit. I can get that to some extent, because fursuit makers are working with what will often be unique character designs. It isn’t like they’re making a chair or something to order for you, and then when it’s done if you don’t pay they can just sell the thing off to someone else. On the other hand, it isn’t like what’s being sold is a fucking chair. This isn’t a $100.00 item out there that’s being made, this is an item that runs into the thousands of dollars, and what a lot of fursuit makers are telling people is “We want it all in advance. Every penny of it. Period.”
Then people are gleefully ponying up the dough and hopefully getting their suits.
LEGALLY, THIS IS FINE.
In my learned opinion, what a fursuit maker is selling to the general public is not a service. They’re selling a product. They are offering to construct and sell a single special-order product to the customer, namely a fursuit. A tangible good. And when it comes to tangible goods, we can almost fucking certainly take a look at the Uniform Commercial Code, Article 2.
The UCC, as we lawyers like to call it, is a standardized proposed law of many, many fucking things, but for the purposes of our discussion we’ll be looking at Article 2, which deals solely with the sale of goods. As a proposed uniform set of laws, there’s no guarantee the UCC is adopted in your jurisdiction, or that the statute adopting it is exactly the same, so again: Talk to a fucking lawyer in your state about if and how it has adopted the UCC. However, Article 2 has been generally adopted by the majority of states out there, so it’s a pretty cool starting place for our conversation on Fursuit Makers and Contracts.
So what does all that jargon-y bullshit mean to you, Johnny Jackal, who’s waiting for his fursuit as the days pass slowly by? It means that we can look to the provisions of the UCC in determining what is and isn’t okay in these contracts, and how they are applied to real world situations, and in respect to “Payment in full in advance,” the UCC has this to say:
UCC Section 2-301 states the obligations of a party to a contract are as follows:
The obligation of the seller is to transfer and deliver and that of the buyer is to accept and pay in accordance with the contract.
In English, the basic obligation under any of these agreement is “Seller gives buyer shit, buyer pays for that shit as agreed.” However, that’s not necessarily the order things go in because we can take a look at UCC Section 2-511(1) which states:
Unless otherwise agreed tender of payment is a condition to the seller’sduty to tender and complete any delivery.
Law to English Again: “If you don’t pay the fucking seller, they don’t have to give you shit.”
Oh, yeah though: I should point out that the UCC also has this neat thing about when payment is due under UCC Section 2-310:
Unless otherwise agreed
- (a) payment is due at the time and place at which the buyer is to receive the goods even though the place of shipment is the place of delivery
Law to English: “Unless the contract says different, the default is the buyer doesn’t have to pay shit until the shit is actually ready to be delivered.”
Now, here’s the thing: Most of these parts of the UCC are open to negotiation through the contract, and can be modified because the law won’t stop you from agreeing to some stupid shit. So if you, the commissioner who really wants that suit with the “secret holes,” agree to pay in advance in a contract, then you’re paying in advance. Them be the breaks, and you’ve agreed to be fucking moron.
But I’m sure you guys aren’t morons.
PRACTICAL CONSIDERATION: You’re all morons.
That shit works fine if everyone involved in the system is scrupulous and willing to work their ass off to honor the agreement, but those aren’t the stories I’m hearing. The stories I’m hearing are shit like “Oh, I paid in full 5 years ago and haven’t heard anything since. They’ve blocked me now. I’m never seeing my suit.”
[Boozy’s Caveat: I’m sure the vast majority of fursuit makers aren’t trying to keep your damn money.]
From the other side, I’m hearing from the makers that they have bills to pay and supplies to buy, and can’t afford to simply start working on suits out of pocket until they have the money for the supplies and shit to make sure the suit will be finished and won’t sit somewhere in the corner, looking like a partially disassembled minor league mascot.
Here’s my problem with both of those positions:
Commissioners: If I told you that you’re going to buy a car, pay me in advance, and I’ll get it to you when it’s okay by me, would you be alright with that? Didn’t fucking think so. Fact is, you’re buying a spec product (a product that has been proposed but never actually produced) well in advance, with no guarantee of delivery at any time in the near future.
Fursuit Makers: You’re running a goddamn business. You either hold back enough capital to start the funding of the next project, or you don’t. If at the end of the day, though, the deposit and your holdover isn’t enough to get the job started (not completed, I’ll get to that in a second), that’s a fucking business issue. Do smaller and easier to complete projects to build the capital and holdback before accepting full suit commissions.
The key issue is the buyer is paying an obscene fucking amount of money with no guarantee they’re ever getting the product. Meanwhile, the fursuit maker is trying to figure out a way to cover living and business expenses while making the damn suit. The end result is shit fucking explodes when these two things conflict.
This isn’t furry specific, numbnuts.
You think you little shits are special? To repeat the words of my loving mother, “You’re not special fuckwit, now get me some wine.”
This exact goddamn situation has an analogy in the real-world day-to-day practice of law and business representation, mainly with contractors and sub-contractors. Construction is a narrow margin business, meaning that each job barely covers the costs and the company expenses to hold a reserve for the next job while still producing a profit. But that narrow margin is specifically because the contractor holds back something for the next job they have coming up, assuming they’ll have to cover the costs of materials or some shit.
Think about it. A contractor gets a job. They receive a 30% advance payment. That advance payment will generally not go towards paying salaries or operating expenses: It specifically goes towards the purchase of materials and shit needed for the job to be done. After that, the contractor then begins work…but they have several things they need as the contract goes along. So how do they make sure to cover the costs of the contract and the operating expenses of the business as shit goes along without demanding full payment in advance?
What’s a fucking progress payment? Alright. Here’s how it works. Say the contractor takes a job. The contractor demands a 30% advance to purchase materials for the basic shit. So that’s payable at the contract signing time. But the contract also knows at 50% completion, they’re going to need more money to buy…like…wiring and shit. I’m a lawyer, not a contractor, I just sue contractors. So, in the contract there’s a term that states something like “30% due at signing, 20% due at 50% completion.” Why do that? Because A) it reduces the general outlay for expenses in the beginning and B) it makes sure the contractor is only buying what is needed for each stage of the work. Take another 25% at 75% completion…then the last 25% plus shipping costs due at 100% completion.
See, this is a way that protects both the fursuit maker and the buyer: The maker has decreased costs, using money only as needed after each progress payment, while the buyer has the knowledge that they get to hold something back, especially in light of everyone’s apparently favorite contract term in this little micro-economy: “No refunds.” The maker is getting paid for the portion of the work to be completed at first, then paid as the remainder of the work is completed, and still has no obligation to deliver the suit until paid in full.
This means the maker, if they never see a penny past the first 30%, can declare a breach, retain the materials purchased, and put them towards the next fucking job. Of course, this requires a real goddamn contract which you should definitely fucking have with everyone who’s hiring your ass because goddammit it’s 2017 and how fucking hard is it to email a form contract out to people that want to buy from you for this shit and get a signed copy back from them?
This Sounds Complicated.
Yeah. It is. But here’s the thing:
The system currently in place is rife for fucking abuse, as Reddit comments on the topic that say things like “I’ve been waiting 6 years” and “The maker said he’s too horny to finish my suit” show. You know how you cut back a system rife for abuse? You goddamn well start standardizing it with actual legal documents that clearly spell out the responsibilities and rights of the parties signed by fucking everyone involved.
Payment, the actual transfer of money from one person to another, though, isn’t the only fucking issue I have with these things. No. Not at fucking all. And that’s why I’m gonna talk about “Time for Performance” in Part 2 of Fursuit Contracts: You’re all Morons.
In the meantime, head on over to my sponsors at InkedFur.com who for this month only are having 50% off sale on any of our wall scrolls or acrylic standees (up to four items per person) when you use the checkout code “GOTTAHAVEMYBOWL”. Because, you know, they pay for this shit.