My latest project reminded me of something that happened a while back…


Once upon a time, when I was on the Bar Vocational Course, the subject of managing client expectations was covered. It’s important for a lawyer not to raise a client’s expectations too much. A lawyer is duty bound to be honest about the merits of a case, no matter how convinced a client might be about the success rates of their litigation. Courts are funny places, and the most worthy of ‘on paper’ cases can fall apart once a trial gets underway and the evidence is tested. A nervous client can come across as shifty, the rogue trader can come across as Mr Butter-Wouldn’t-Melt himself (let’s face it, he got where he is by lying convincingly).

It’s the same with what I do now. I have to balance a client’s expectations. On the one hand, I want my furniture to look good in the photographs, I need to sell to earn a living, but on the other hand, I don’t want to mislead a prospective customer. For that reason, I don’t Photoshop my photographs, or tweak them in any way. Of course I dress the furniture with ‘pretties’ to enhance, pick out the best of the bunch of photos, and try to photograph in good light, from flattering angles, but that’s about as far as it goes. I could do with a better camera; mine’s an old point and click Sony Cyber-Shot, but I know little about photography, so tend to shy away from anything with too many bells and whistles. So, I stick to my old camera and hope the photos turn out ok, and that they give a realistic, but attractive portrayal of my furniture.

Which brings me onto Edward. Edward bought two items of furniture from me earlier this year. I didn’t speak directly to Edward about the furniture, but understood  that he wanted a nice telephone seat, so that he could sit near to the radiator. The open back of the telephone seat I had for sale was just the right height to let some warmth through from the radiator. A little cabinet also took his fancy, so he had that too. Edward hadn’t seen the items ‘in the flesh’; he only had the pics to go on. Edward was a little bit wary. Several reassuring emails were sent.

There was a delay in delivering Edward’s telephone seat. We had sub zero temperatures and freezing fog for a couple of days, so I couldn’t drive the van out of the village. I knew the main roads were clear, but the gritters hadn’t ventured into the village and the roads were very icy indeed. I postponed Edward’s delivery. Edward got worried. The roads were ok at his end. I had his money and the goods, and Edward had only my word that I wasn’t taking him for a ride.

The weather ‘improved’ to rain and hubby and I duly set off to take the goodies to Edward. We got there to find that some cloths and newspapers had been thoughtfully set out in a trail through the house, so that we could carry the furniture inside without having to try and remove shoes en route.

We placed the furniture in the spaces made, where it was wanted. We stood and waited for a reaction and there was utter silence, followed by tears. Not from Edward, but from his mum. It was the first time that furniture had been purchased by ‘desire’, rather than by ‘necessity’. This had been a house of make do and mend for many years, and my furniture was a major treat. Edward’s mum was a little overwhelmed. So was I, but I pretended I’d got a cold.

Jaycee telephone table/seat painted Annie Sloan ‘French Linen’

But, there was a problem. Edward didn’t like the fabric on the seat pad. It had lovely roses on it, but Edward wanted the fabric with little birdies on it that I’d mentioned in an email. So, I took the seat pad home (along with 3 items of Edward’s furniture to paint), and made Edward a new seat pad cover. All in a day’s work, and I do try my best to please and all that…

Alas, despite my best endeavours, Edward didn’t like the telephone seat and refused to sit in it. I did my best, but it just wasn’t good enough. I’d tried to manage Edward’s expectations, but failed. I’d over egged the pudding, waxed lyrical and led him astray with fantasies of sitting by the radiator, chatting on the phone to his friends. I’d failed! I hadn’t managed Edward’s expectations.

I should perhaps point out that Edward is a very special sort of customer…

…a sort that I hadn’t had the pleasure of doing business with before…

…Edward is a chihuahua.

CHAPTER II to follow…