Even the most seasoned veterans can still get burned on cosplay purchases, and newcomers can be quickly overwhelmed by how this whole commissioning thing works. Hopefully these tips will help you navigate the waters safely and protect yourself from falling victim to anything from a lazy seller to a full blown scam.
Commissioning a cosplay isn’t cheap.
Considering that you’re about to pass off a substantial amount of money to someone you may not have even met in real life, please don’t go into this adventure blindly or naively. I’ve seen way too many stories, some from my own friends, of getting royally screwed out of hundreds, with absolutely no recourse, just because they’re a good, trusting person, and the other party wasn’t.
Do your Research
Anyone who feels comfortable getting paid to make cosplay items has been doing this for a little while and will have some examples of their work to show for it. Pretty much any reputable commissioner is going to have a Facebook page, so review the photos posted there. Also, see if there are any reviews for their work. Google their name / company and see if any warnings pop up.
Is it Reasonable?
I know that cheap cosplay is something we all hope for in our deepest hearts, but if someone is promising you a screen accurate Trinity Blood cosplay for $50, I’ve got bad news for you. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Of course prices can vary by commissioner and most can adjust their prices based on what materials you want, but someone asking for a fraction of what others want for their work is probably up to some shady dealings.
The beauty of online interactions is that they always leave a record. Save every email or message that passes between your and your commission provider. You can even screencap for an extra layer of protection. If you discuss something through skype or other media that leaves no record, follow up with an email that includes those new details so that it’s indisputably recorded. This is just a way to cover your behind in case there’s a disagreement later.
Don’t EVER Send a Paypal Payment as a “Gift”
If you’ve ever sent money through Paypal, you’ve seen the 2 options: Send money to friends and family, or pay for goods or services. If you choose the former option you’ll be avoiding a couple of bucks in fees, but you’re also waiving your ability to use Paypal as a mediator if anything goes wrong. Do yourself a favor: pay the $3 or whatever, and guarantee that you can turn to Paypal to get your money back if that commissioner screws you over. Otherwise, you’re just gambling your money that they’re a decent person, and there’s nothing you can do if it turns out they’re not.
Repaying your friend for dinner is one thing, but when you’re paying someone hundreds of dollars for one item, it’s only smart to protect yourself.
Listen to Your Gut
If something about a transaction seems off to you, listen to your instincts. There are many commissioners out there, and you can find someone else. It’s not worth taking the risk. Unless your gut is that you found someone $10 cheaper right before your start date, in which case you should tell your gut to shut it.
Hopefully with a critical eye and a healthy dose of “just in case”, you can avoid a scam from a commissioner. Although there are too many out there looking to rip off cosplayers, there are also many great and reputable craftsmen who deliver excellent commission work. Don’t be afraid to commission, just be smart about how you do it.
Buying cosplay from sellers on ebay and websites is a whole different topic, and I’ll be covering that in a blog post very soon. In the meantime, Maridah.com has an excellent blog post on Avoiding Scam Cosplay Sellers.