What to do when things go wrong


After 14 years of supporting folks like you to do your thing, the team at Felt (mostly Lucy and Jo, to be honest) have seen just about everything that can go wrong. The good news is that things don’t go pear-shaped very often, and when they do, there’s usually a way to make it out the other side fairly smoothly.

Things that typically go wrong:

  • Something is lost or broken in the post
  • You or your buyer misses a message
  • You can’t get hold of the buyer
  • The wrong item is sent to the wrong customer
  • The customer forgets to tell you a crucial detail (like a custom name) until after you send the item

In each of these cases there are a few things to help you keep your cool and walk out the other side with a happy customer and ideally not out-of-pocket yourself! As a seller in New Zealand you have some obligations, depending on how (or if) you are set up for business, and as someone running a small business, there are some other useful things to consider.


When something goes wrong, the most important thing is to communicate simply and clearly with your buyer. You want to always remain polite and professional, even if they are not. Customers can be quite understandably worried and angry if they’ve sent you money and have not received their purchase or heard from you. Most people will be very understanding if you send them a quick note to apologise, explain, and offer a refund or timeframe for delivery.

There’s a balance between too much and not enough information, so don’t bombard people but don’t leave them totally in the dark either. Aim to offer a reasonable explanation and/or apology and helpful solutions, and remember that although a customer might not always be right or polite, it is fair for them to have a certain expectation of service from you. Try to stay calm, rational, and work towards an acceptable solution.

If you’re feeling a bit lost or not sure what to do in a sticky spot, then reach out to Jo at Felt Support and she’ll mobilise the army of experts to find a way through with you.

Refunds and replacements

If something is lost or broken in the post, it is your responsibility as the seller to refund or replace the item, and take it up with the postal service.

If you have an order that won’t be finished on time or can’t be finished at all, then be honest with your customer, apologise, and ask how they would like to proceed. Most buyers will understand that you are a real human person who is creating the item for them, and that sometimes life gets hard. If you feel the need you can offer a discount or refund, or include customisations or an added extra free of charge to make up for the delay. Whatever you do, give them options and ask for other ideas.

If you are a registered sole trader or registered business, then you are bound by the Consumer Guarantees Act, which essentially states that if you sell something that doesn’t work, breaks too easily, or doesn’t do what it is expected to do, you’re required to repair, exchange, or refund it. It’s worth spending five minutes reading about that if you are making and selling your work professionally.

Have some safety nets

We all know the importance of having a plan in an emergency, but do you have a plan for your Felt shop in a personal emergency? For instance, if you were hospitalised, does a partner, colleague, or family member know how your business works? Could they finalise or cancel and refund sales, or message buyers and Felt HQ for you? Even if they just know to alert the Felt team, we can help by letting any current customers know what’s happening for you (discreetly, of course!) and putting your shop “on holiday” until you’re ready to get back into it. It could be useful to write up some instructions for your back-up person to use in an emergency.

If you know in advance that you may need a break from selling, remember to use holiday mode – or make sure a trusty assistant knows how to do this for you.

Considering the chance of lost or damaged items can also have on impact on how you want to plan your pricing. Having an extra buffer to allow for absorbed costs in this way can turn a terrible headache into a minor inconvenience. If you are in the business of doing this full time, then you might do well to sit down with an insurance broker who will, free of charge and expectations, help you understand the realistic risks you are facing and how you might best protect yourself.

Share your comments or suggestions, or ask any questions below!


Image credit: Breathe organic essential oil blend by Freedom Oils

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