How to protect yourself from scammers

We all come across someone that is trying to scam, rip us off, or just try to get lower pricing at some point of our time in this venue. Sometimes you don’t catch it and it can cost you big money. In my case I did lose a bit.

Follow along with this article to learn how to spot a fishy customer, and how to properly respond to still bring in a sale.

How do I spot a scammer?

Scammers are sneaky and have an agenda. They want to gain something by using the least amount of something to get that goal. In our case it’s usually using less money for embroidered goods. They will say what they need to in order to convince you their purist intentions, even if it’s a lie or could cause you to not be able to bring the bread home to feed your family.

Samples & Bait-and-Switch

Consider the situation below (don’t worry, it’s a fake conversation). You get a notification from Facebook Messenger that a person is seeking a semi-large number of patches. It may sound like a legit request for a quote, but always be skeptical.

You may see that he is asking to be quoted for 100 patches. This may not seem to be a red flag, because it really isn’t at this point.

The issue lies when they ask for a sample, which seems like they are asking to have it produced and shipped for free. Paid samples, or even just a photo of a sample is a common practice to provide.

There’s a couple of situations that could be brought up from this conversation, so let’s cover a few of them.

So we know that he originally wanted one hundred patches, but he is now asking for only one. RED FLAG! So what is the issue? A lot of people want to get a custom patch, but they don’t want to pay the full rate for a single one. So the most common method is inflating your order. In this situation they were only looking for one patch at the beginning. Since they are trying to not pay much they just ask you for 100, only to reduce it later.

To elaborate on this. Imagine you and your spouse need a new car, but you don’t want to pay $30K for a new one. You go to the dealer and ask about buying ten cars so you can get a better deal, which would normally be $300K. They give you a quote for the ten cars totaling $250K, five thousand dollars off each car. So now that you know that they are selling you one car for $25K you respond with: “Can I buy one car now and come back in a month for the rest?” However, you have no intention on coming back.

So now instead of paying $30K for your car, you only paid $25K. Any car dealership will know not to fulfill the sale since you can’t prove you’ll come back. They would likely ask for $30K for the first one and take $5K off the next ones, and $5K back for the first one you bought.

The caveat to this is that not everything is a bait-and-switch notion. Some customers really do want to see your quality before they invest their money into you. You need to really read into their messages and see if their tone changes and what their true intentions are.

How to combat Bait-and-switch orders

Here’s a real situation. I had a USAF Squadron come to me and ask to make them 150 patches for them. When I submitted the design to them they asked for 20 first (and in a week). Normally I wouldn’t give them the pricing for the 150 and apply it to the 20 they requested first, but I knew that their word was good. It was odd for them to go from giving me a month to make the patches to a single week. I just simply asked for the reason behind the rush and they said they had an awards ceremony and they wanted to had a few out before they sold them to people.

Now you may not be as fortunate to know the people personally like I did, so let’s cover that. The best thing to do is prepare a pricing guide on samples. This is where a simple Design Fee comes in. You can say that you’ll charge $50 upfront for you to make the design. That doesn’t include the price for the one patch. So for example you may charge them based on the following table:

Individual Patch
priced at 150 pieces
Design Fee$50
Shipping & Taxes$7

So in this case you will charge them $50 additional to the one patch. That should cover your losses if they don’t return. In the hopeful case they do, you can reduce their total bill by $50 since they already paid for it. That’s how I personally do it, but my design fee would differ based on the order.

Materials are a big factor too. If you are embroidering on a finished product like backpacks, hats, or shirts you should have a clause for a fee if you are buying the materials. You don’t want to buy twenty hats and they only end up buying one of them. You don’t want to be stuck with extra materials you can’t use because they look like the image below.

What if I made the mistake already?

So in the off chance that you fell victim to this ploy before you read this article you may have produced a number of patches where the person vanished. In an example I made patches for a shipping company manager. He wanted to get ten patches with a simple design with a year designation on it. He told me he would be back and order more, but with a different year on it, in a week or two. Unfortunately that was the last I heard of him. I took my time and added the other years on my website, digitized them, and even made a few so I could send them out quickly. About a month later I decided to reach out and probe him to let him know I had some ready to go if he wanted them. I never got a response. They sat on my shelf for a few months until I recycled them.

So the best thing to do is to reach out, while not sounding desperate, and ask them if they are still interested.