Challenging Customers…We All Get ‘Em!

Most of my customers are fabulous and the buying transactions are smooth and easy. Any communications are short and a good portion of the folks take time to leave a review. But a small group of people will contact you and they’ll suck up your more than their fair share of your time and energy or leave you shaking your head in disbelief.

Here’s my list of the most common types of challenging customers. Would love to hear if these resonate with you or if you’ve had other types!!

The High Maintenance

I have some folks contact me on Etsy with a question about an item. No problem. Even if the information is already in the description, I am okay with providing it again. But every once in a while I get someone who asks question after question, all in separate messages. And they want more photos. (One wanted a video of a ring, but the photos I had already provided were so clear and detailed that my attempted video added nothing.) They want obscure measurements or color clarifications or assurance it will fit. Sometimes after days of back and forth messages, they then ask if I would take less for the item! And many after all this personal attention, do not make a purchase, but if they do, they’ll be the ones asking where is it two days after they buy it.

The Lowballers

There will always be folks who make lowball offers. Always.

A lowball offer refers to an offer that is far less than the seller’s asking price or is deliberately too low, as a means of starting negotiations. To lowball also means to throw out a purposely lower than reasonable number to see how the seller will react.

Lowballers think “it can’t hurt to try,” but in my books it does. You’re telling me: Your item is not worth what you want for it. You don’t know what you’re doing. You’re a rube and I’m hoping to take advantage of you.

My standard reply: “Thanks for your interest in this item, but I can’t accept your offer.” That’s it. Period. I don’t counter. Some continue the conversation with more offers or cut to the chase with “What’s your best price then?” Frankly I have no interest in working with them. None. While I am not an expert I do spend a lot of time researching items and I know my prices are fair market value. And I am never desperate to sell an item, even if I’ve had it for years.

Even today, as I was working on this post, I received an offer of $15 on a small 950 silver and lapis lazuli pill box that I have priced at $48–a 68.75% reduction! Yikes!

The Sob Stories

If you’ve been selling online for any length of time you’ve probably received an offer with a sob story. Who even knows if the stories are true. I expect a portion of them are just pure grift. But in my books it doesn’t matter. You can either afford the item or you can’t. I can appreciate that you are a veteran or a student. I can sympathize that you disabled or have limited means. But I’m running a small business and an antique sterling cup or a vintage charm bracelet are not necessities. Sometimes I offer a 10% discount which is not what they were hoping for and they don’t buy.

The Uber Picky

I sell vintage and antique items. Almost all of them have had a previous life and a certain amount of patina. I try to both photograph and describe any wear or issues as do most vintage sellers. But some buyers do not seem to understand that a 60-year-old item is rarely pristine. Frequently the uber picky will demand a partial refund or leave a negative review. Thankfully, I’ve had very few of these type of customers, though others have not been as lucky. One gal sold a ’70s Pyrex dish to a customer and the buyer was upset and left a one-star review because “It appears to have been used.”

Dealing with Customers of All Types

  • Respond quickly, politely and professionally, always. Keep a calm head.
  • Keep all communications with the buyer within the platform’s messaging system. If a customer escalates a conversation, the company will have a record of it.
  • Allow returns. A lot of vintage sellers don’t allow returns and it is a personal choice, but I’ve found it builds trust with potential customers. It’s a way of saying “I stand behind my items.” And in 10 years of selling on Etsy, I’ve had just 12 returns. None last year or the year before.
  • Negotiate only if you want to. While haggling is common in the vintage/antique market space, no one says you have to. I’ve had a few customers contact me about an item over a period of months, making repeated offers and asking “What’s the lowest you’ll take?” etc. I typically respond “I’m not accepting any discounts on this item at this time” or “The price is firm.” One lady contacted me and said she had a “limited budget” and would I accept $200 for a $250 antique sterling silver purse. But I knew this purse was already a good deal at $250. It was stunning and her “limited budget” was not my problem. I declined and within minutes she bought it for full price. The mailing address for this purse was her high-end antique store! Well, well, well.

Would love to hear your stories.

Happy hunting and selling,



  1. Karen, what interesting reading !
    I just spend most of my afternoon dealing with a prospective customer who kept asking this and that (in a foreign language, luckily I knew a bit) and whether I would take less and so on. As the price was reasonable (we have to pay postage and all taxes) he didn’t buy. Oh well ….
    Then there’s the trolls – they don’t want to buy to start with, just entertain a conversation. I have someone who keeps messaging me about an old cross that d/he thinks is Greek (it’s not, it’s likely Eastern European). Or someone asking the artist of a painting when a picture clearly shows it, just to tell you it’s lovely and then “nada”. And of course the low ballers…. What fun 🙂
    Karen, we should write a comics book!!!
    Sending you hugs & good vibes xx

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I also research the items I sell and usually price them alittle lower than most, so they move quicker. I had a Native American ring stamped LC Sterling, (I listed for $80, well below what other sellers are asking for a similar ring) and 3 signed photographs of famous hockey players, individual listing with total price all together of $120). I had mentioned in my profile the I am taking a BREAK from selling, so I received a generous offer of $70.00 for all 4 items with a message from the buyer “since you are not going to be selling anymore”….aaarrrggghhh!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. In these cases, my reply is a respectful, “Sorry, no. Thank you for your interest” (similar to yours.) And he upped his offer…”how about $80.00?” (must be really interested in those items). I blocked him after that, which might have been not the nicest thing to do 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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