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Moral/Ethical Business Dilemma

Fluffy

New Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Jun 22, 2011
Messages
2
Location (City and/or State)
West Virginia
The problem with "the customer is always right" is that we are dealing with live animals, and there's a million things that can throw off a new baby. Many many (many) people will not tell you that their dog carried it outside or that they left it in a hot car or that their 2 year old took it in the bath with them, but that stuff does happen, and it happens a lot. More than once we have had people tell us a tortoise we sent them died after whatever amount of time (outside our normal 7 day guarantee). We always ask them for information and try and figure out why, but many times there's no obvious explanation. Many times I'm sure they know why it died, but they won't tell you that in the hopes of getting it replaced. We almost always ask for photos of the setup which about half the time you will never get a response to. More than once we have had photos taken from google sent to us claiming that was their setup (they were familiar photos to me when they sent them, I had seen them before). Someone sent me a photo I posted on facebook 5 years ago saying that was their setup. A few months ago, someone called my wife about this, said they had a "nice little setup." She asked for more information and they were unclear, just that it was set up right per our website. She finally got a photo out of them, and it was literally in a metal pan with no substrate, no light, no hide, placed next to a window with a couple of crumbs of food in there. This was like a month after they got it, they were asking why it wasn't eating (I'll try to attach a photo below, I kept this photo because I knew this would come up again). In their opinion, being next to the window was a light and heat source. People don't want to spend $100 on a tortoise and then be told they need to go spend $150 more to set it up right. They want to take shortcuts, and think they know better how to do it.

We have also caught past customers that we gave the benefit of the doubt to trying to take advantage of that again. I hate not believing the things that people tell us, but you have to be skeptical because more often than not, you can find the hole in their story. If you simply sent a replacement tortoise to everyone that said it had an eye closed one morning 3 months after they got it, you'd be going broke trying to keep up with that. If you know you're not losing animals when you keep them or grow them up yourself, you can be confident that you're not sending out sub-par animals. I think Tom was absolutely in the right here, but I think the guarantee needs to be clarified ahead of time for future transactions. If the customer had been told (or better yet, signed) something saying it was guaranteed for 3 or 7 days (or whatever), their expectation of a partial or full refund after 30 days may have not happened. Many of us selling tortoises don't make their primary living from tortoises. For us, my day job covers my daily bills. My wife does women's hair and eyelash extensions to the tune of a few clients a day, and she keeps that money so I don't have to buy her clothes and shoes LOL. The tortoise money, if we make a profit in a given window of time, allows us some fun money for the kids, and more importantly to me, creates a bunch of tax write-offs. There is a lot of costs in keeping large groups of tortoises, we shouldn't feel bad trying to make money at the end of the day.

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I don't disagree with you at all. I even stated that this is where dealing with a live animal is different. I will say that the biggest difference here is Tom apparently didn't have a 7 day guarantee in place and he says he rarely has these issues. I realize you can't give away your tortoises to everyone who "claims" a problem. You both seem to do this as a hobby and that also changes the way you can treat these issues. The customer is always right is how I will always run my business, it's not a hobby and I can't have a bad reputation and continue feeding my family. I will tell you that a well written and explained contract or warranty is often the best way to insure happy customers and eliminate most of these problems. Again I just want to say I do not disagree with you because I wouldn't want to send a live animal to it's certain death but if there is no reason to think that is the case I prefer to side with great customer service. Tom was in the right but even giving half the money back instead of a new tortoise would probably appease most people. I know this person took that out of his hands but I'm just using this as an example. P.S. I wish my wife had a side job for shoe money, I could probably retire years earlier lol
 

Tortoisefanatic88

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 23, 2015
Messages
273
Location (City and/or State)
PA
Thanks to all for the thoughtful replies and supportive comments.

The customer took it out of my hands and took it to arbitration with the payment company. I asked for some time to consider everything, and my plan was to offer half the money back, as many of you suggested, but the customer took that decision out of my hands. I did offer a replacement at half price, if we could figure out what went wrong with the first one. My customer told me that he didn't trust that I'd send him a healthy animal or that I'd ship it correctly and declined my offer. He also went from asking for half of the money back, to asking for all of it back. He said that if we couldn't reach an agreement, he thought it would be better to let a third party decide.

The payment company found in my favor. I'd have been pretty pissed if they hadn't, but I really can't say that I'm happy that they did. What I wish is that something could have been said or done to save this baby. I wish I had another happy customer with another healthy tortoise. I don't think this was an attempted scam, although I guess it could have been.

The whole thing doesn't sit well with me. This is not what I want to deal with in my hobby. This is not a business for me. This doesn't pay my bills. I do it because I love it, and I want to share that joy with others. This customer is not experiencing joy, and I'm not happy about it.

I'm just going to try and put it behind me and move on to better days. If my customer ever reads this, I am wishing good things for you and your family, and I'm sorry that your baby didn't make it.
The highlighted quote angers me somewhat. Tom you did nothing wrong and even offered a replacement tortoise at half price. For the customer to say any of that I would not offer anything now that the 3rd party has decided in your favor. When I discovered this forum I spent days on here doing reaseach about sulcatas. I knew the person I’d be contacting for a sulcata and all questions I had after just a few days on here......enough said
 

leotortoise1

Member
Joined
Jan 26, 2016
Messages
33
Wow Tom I just caught up on this thread and I am so sorry they did that!

You save babies everyday, you couldn't save this one from their new owner but that is NOT your fault. They didn't call or reach out for help, you shipped a healthy tort responsibly that was fine for weeks under their care. You can't control your customer's actions but you spend hours of your time everyday making sure we all have the tools, knowledge and as much help as possible to get it as right as we can. They did this, not you. Again, you SAVE torts everyday.

When I wrote my original post about just refunding half the amount even though it was clearly a healthy baby, I offered that solution to simply bring closure and move on in good faith. I didn't think offering another tort was a good idea because of the customer's history and original response with you. The customer wasn't technically right, but in my experience I've learned sometimes it's best to have closure with certain people and be done forever.

The credit card company backed you on the chargeback because your actions and reputation has established a clear pattern of doing business ethically and responsibly. Please don't let this owner who had options for help and chose not to use them put this back on you. You reputation cannot be harmed, you have far too much trust, support, and respect on this forum and in the the tort community. Thankfully it took this many years for you to come across one bad owner and hopefully he is the last. Implement any possible changes/contracts/care sheets/trouble shooting tips (if the baby starts to do this, you do that...) to improve the future and be done. And then remember all the good you do everyday for all of us and so many babies, how truly thankful and trusting we are, and sleep well at night.
 

AsaPatrick-Ricard

New Member
Joined
Mar 15, 2019
Messages
14
Location (City and/or State)
Yuba City, CA
The highlighted quote angers me somewhat. Tom you did nothing wrong and even offered a replacement tortoise at half price. For the customer to say any of that I would not offer anything now that the 3rd party has decided in your favor. When I discovered this forum I spent days on here doing reaseach about sulcatas. I knew the person I’d be contacting for a sulcata and all questions I had after just a few days on here......enough said
This made me pretty angry, too. It sounds like they're trying to absolve themselves of responsibility, if it's definitely not a scam. I don't believe people like that should be allowed the privilege of caring for an animal and I'm glad Tom did not send another baby to their household.
 

kathyth

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Feb 28, 2012
Messages
3,157
Location (City and/or State)
Beaumont, CA.
Something similar to this happened to me. I purchased a Redfoots hatchling from a good Breeder, that we all know. The hatchling was maintained in an appropriate closed chamber, with a healthy diet and daily soaks.
I didn’t consider asking for a refund. How would it be the breeders fault.
I don’t think you are responsible at all, to refund anything. I’m surprised the buyer, asked.
 

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