By Keith Champagne
Like most artists in the funny book biz, once in a while I'll auction off a few pages of original art on Ebay; usually when I need some extra cash to handle whatever surprises life may throw at me. Other times, my cocaine and hookers funds run low. For whatever the reason, eBay has usually been a problem-free way to make a quick buck.
I'm guilty, at times, of being a bit slow on shipping artwork out. Thanks to the influence of Tom Nguyen, I usually polish off most pages in photoshop these days. Most of the art is done physically at my drawing table and then, to save time, I'll scan and finish the work on the computer. I'm not an Adobe master so basically, this amounts to spotting the blacks and doing the clean up in photoshop (not that I ever make mistakes), then templating and uploading the finished art to DC.
All in all, the magic of the computer saves me an hour or two on each page. Especially in a deadline crunch, that extra time might be the only hour or two of sleep I get on that particular night.
Nothing in life is free, especially time, and the flipside of this equation is that when I sell artwork on eBay I need to pay back that extra hour or two and physically finish the page so it matches the printed work. Unlike Tom Nguyen, I think that's only fair. So bid on my auctions, not his.
Usually, finishing up the artwork and shipping it out promptly isn't a problem. There have been a few times, though, when I'm in the middle of a deadline crunch and it takes me a few days to get to it. Paying work has to come first and I always communicate those situations to the buyer. My middle name is "100 percent approval rating."
A couple of months ago, I sold a two-page spread on eBay a couple of weeks before my older son and I were due to fly to Utah for a convention. I figured there'd be plenty of time to get it done and shipped out beforehand, but the buyer had difficulty in paying and it took him 12 days to process the money to me. I actually received notification of payment when I turned my phone back on once our plane had landed.
We were in Utah for five days total and I finished and shipped out the artwork the day after I got back. The day after that, while the package was still in transit, I received a message from eBay saying the buyer requested a refund because I was late in sending out the package.
"Bullshit," thought I.
I messaged the buyer and reminded him that he had severely defaulted on my payment terms (payment within 48 hours), explained I'd been away, and that I'd appreciate the same common courtesy I had shown him. But he insisted on a refund and the dispute escalated for eBay to settle.
I supplied eBay with the tracking information and spoke with customer service–who assured me that because I had proved I'd shipped the package, they'd rule in my favor.
A couple of days later I got a message from the buyer asking why I'd sent him an empty box instead of the artwork and that's when I knew I was going to have a problem, mainly that I was dealing with a troll.
Ebay has policies for these kinds of disputes. Basically, the buyer has a certain amount of time to provide eBay with a police report or sworn affidavit that he had received an empty package. There's not much I could do to prove I didn't send an empty box, unfortunately, but because I know I did supply the artwork I was hoping I wouldn't need to.
I spoke to eBay customer service again the day of the deadline and they assured me the buyer hadn't been able to provide the documentation they needed. They would contact him one last time before ruling in my favor. I felt a bit justified as I sat back for another day or two and waited for resolution. But when I checked in again, I saw that eBay had given the other party an extension.
I wish I could say this tale has a happy ending for me but unfortunately, it was eventually decided in the buyer's favor. I assume he managed to supply eBay with what must have been a falsified police report or affidavit. I know that after several attempts, eBay never supplied me with a copy of the document which I felt I was well within my rights to see.
Long story short, I took it on both ends on this one. I was forced to refund the buyer's money while also being swindled out of the original artwork I attempted to sell. Out of curiosity, I googled the buyer and learned he's part of a Christian Comic Collectors society in Houston, Texas. Interesting values he's learned as part of that group.
I'm at a bit of a loss when it comes to selling original art now. I feel burned by the system. I do have a long memory and I do have the buyer's home address in Houston. If I'm in the area, I'll knock on his door someday and introduce myself. If there is such a thing as karma, it'll come back around eventually.
I got a request a few weeks ago to talk about Countdown: Arena so next time out, we'll go behind the scenes on that project. Hope everyone is doing well this holiday season.
Feel free to contact me at email@example.com or follow me @keithchampagne. Twitter still sucks, by the way.