Dealing with a Difficult Customer and Refund - Opinion Neeed

Hi, fellow OzBargainers. First time poster, long time lurker.

We run a small t-shirt printing business, where customers send in their designs or company logos and we print them after they approve the mock-ups. It's been going for almost a decade now and doing relatively well, however we came across a strange customer. Here's the timeline of events:

  1. Customer places and order for 50 t-shirts. We give them a sample, they approve it and the job gets completed.
  2. They come pick it up, inspect a few and say it looks great.
  3. Three weeks later, they place another order of 50 t-shirts. We complete the job and it gets picked up.
  4. One week later, a very long email comes in saying there's issues and some alignment is off, colour's are off on the fabric or whatever (This is quite common in this industry, there's small variances here and there). We are very happy to reprint them or even refund them in some cases, however with this customer, they gave us no opportunity to remediate.
  5. Now here's the interesting part. He says he will drop all the boxes off at the front door and in the email he provides his BSB / ACC requesting a full refund for every single t-shirt, including the first batch.
  6. We kindly say no, this is not the right process. Please send with a proper courier with tracking and only send the t-shirts which you have found issues with.
  7. He sends the entire lot (pretty much ignoring our request). Again sends his banking details requesting for a full refund. This time he adds 'we would prefer if we didn't write any reviews about your company'. Not sure if that's a threat.
  8. We send the boxes right back, again requesting he does it the right way.
  9. He says we weren't authorised to send it back to him. He will leave it at his front door as it's not his problem now. Again sends an email with this banking details asking for a full refund. This time he adds 'we would prefer if we didn't have to take this to small claims'. Now this time I'm pretty sure it's a threat.
  10. We (following some advice from a friend who's deals with this stuff) send an email in a legal format asking him to do exactly as told. Label each item he wants to return with issues on it and put it into an excel table so we have reference.
  11. Sends the stock back as requested with a table filled out. All 100 t-shirts on there, saying it's crooked. Took a few pictures with a tape measure, saying it's off by a few millimeters etc (some off by centimeters apparently).
  12. Sure, a % may be crooked or completely off, happy to fix it. He adds he has already gone with another supplier and got it all printed. The supplier apparently told him all our recommendations were wrong, doing it the screen printing way is better etc. This doesn't really affect us as it's just opinion, but seems he's just naive and bonded right up with this new supplier.
  13. Threatened again with Small Claims.

What are our rights here? For us it's not actually about money and we can certainly refund it. It's really about the principle. This person has been behaving like a complete immature baby, throwing threats and tantrums. There's right processes to follow, but seems like some people have limited brain capacity to follow it. Most suppliers require RMA's to do proper returns.

We do admit that t-shirts aren't exactly 100%, and so do many other suppliers, especially bulk batches. End of the day it's still a manual job for staff to do. We strive to improve after each and every order.

(Yes I know, some things aren't worth chasing. Just want some opinion).


  • +49 votes

    If as you say, its not about the money and you can refund his money then just do that.
    You need to make an astute business decision here, not an emotional one.
    This guy will cost you time and resources that will ultimately have a detrimental affect on your business and destroy part of you as an individual.
    You know his company and his logo, just sit tight, let the dust settle and then bad mouth his company to everyone in your community and destroy his reputation.

    • +2 votes

      Seems like the sort of guy that would pursue a defamation case as well lol!

      • +1 vote

        You don't bad mouth the business in-person. Make a Youtube video about it and watch him $hit his pants as his reputation goes down the tube.

        Youtube, Google, etc. won't care-less who he is if/when he complain about it, leaving him forever screwed.


        Do it the Rossmann way.
        YouTube Rossmann group (the guy that fixes apple laptops)

    • +18 votes

      You know his company and his logo, just sit tight, let the dust settle and then bad mouth his company to everyone in your community and destroy his reputation.

      Well, that escalated quickly.

      • -2 votes

        That's stupid idea for running a business. Bad mouth another company will not only get yourself more trouble but also it can ruins your reputation. To deal with this customer is drag it to the tribunal. Tribunals are more favorable to the business then some of the retards.

    • +8 votes

      You say OP should make business decision, not an emotional one and then you say bad mouth his company and destroy his reputation. That sounds much more emotional than simply following the procedure for returns as a business should. After all as a business you must maintain every single detail of a transaction so that if the customer threatens with court proceedings, you have everything documented that holds up in court in your favour. So OP is already making quite good business decisions. Yours is the opposite.

    • +1 vote

      But if OP lets this one slide, then other people will do it too and next thing you know everyone will be complaining because a small percentage of shirts were faulty.

  • +90 votes

    I'm guessing he needed the t-shirts for an event, and now the event is over, is trying to get his money back. I would be searching his Facebook/Instagram and finding proof

    • +7 votes

      Or on instagram. Usually the logo on the t.shirt is the hashtag for the event.

  • +18 votes

    Do nothing, let him chase

  • +4 votes

    What's your return policy as this forms part of the terms and conditions customer agreed to?


      Unfortunately this one slipped the cracks, the invoice was a vanilla invoice without much terms or policies on it. Hence I'm here on OzBargain. Our invoices are usually 14 days.

      There's actually a majority of suppliers that don't do refunds after 7 days. This guy managed to wait 3 weeks, place another order and take all the stock before any reaction..


      My company put something like "our full trading terms and refund policies can be found on our website at xxx"

      Better that way I think.

      • -1 vote

        Bad idea. Recommend you give them to the customer immediately before the purchase.

        • +1 vote

          why bad idea.
          most company do that.
          most invoices will states 'see full term & conditions at www.xxxxxx"

          and with online shopping, you usually have to tick the box to say you accept seller's T&C.

          Printing 100 lines of small prints is a thing in the past.

          • +1 vote

            @Bargain80: Not a lawyer, but a short google regarding this shows this:

            A browse-wrap agreement is where the terms and conditions are not on the same page as the “I agree button,” and can be accessed by a hyperlink on the same page. The consumer is normally not required to access the hyperlink and view the terms and conditions before being allowed to proceed with the contract. This form of agreement is less likely to be enforceable as a contract.


            The issue with having the T&C's to be available at their website is that the T&C's are 'subject to change'.

            If you want them to be enforceable, i would imagine that the terms and conditions that you specifically agree to at that point in time would be enforceable. Why should i be held up to the T&C's that have changed when I didn't agree to them?

            A browse-wrap agreement will place the vendor in a weaker legal position because it does not provide the same degree of reasonable notice to the user, and are not recommended for business owners.

            As Mentioned, i am not a lawyer, and you should probably seek proper legal advice regarding your contracts.

            But, being in the accounting profession, we always include our T&C's appendixed to our engagement letters to our clients.


              @Thazza: T&C has versions.
              The version that you are bound to depends on the date you purchase.

              Some company still prints T&C on the invoice.
              And of course you need to if it involves large purchases.
              Btu for day to day transactions, you don't need to.

              When you buy something from Kmart, do you receive a printed T&C on a piece of paper?


                @Bargain80: Kmart (and the like) sell minor items. They automatically offer a refund, at practically any time, without reason. They don't need the T&C's on a piece of paper. If a dispute occurs they just refund it anyway. Then the customer has no recourse. That's the business model of most large retailers selling small goods.

                OP's type of business does need T&Cs and needs to ensure they don't contract out consumer guarantees.


              @Thazza: You can add automatically via pdfs to email.

              Nobody reads them anyway.



            most invoices will states 'see full term & conditions at www.xxxxxx"

            Most large businesses, or savvy businesses, are moving away from this to reduce exposure. You can't always rely on terms and conditions on a receipt given after the transaction has occurred as the customer didn't have knowledge before purchasing. Many legal precedents back this up.

            and with online shopping, you usually have to tick the box to say you accept seller's T&C.

            Exactly my point. They provide the terms prior to the transaction.

  • +35 votes

    Find his facebook/instagram.
    Locate the photos of him / his posse wearing the shirts.
    Send the photos to him, and let him know to come pick the goods up.

  • +21 votes

    If this happened to me, I would try to minimise my own stress and…

    Refund his money, and save the expense of negative reviews always reminding you of this bad customer.
    Fire him as a customer and never deal with him again.
    Donate all the shirts to the homeless.

    • +11 votes

      Hahaha. There will be a lot of homeless people around promoting his business. I don't know if this is a good or bad thing.

      • +1 vote

        Maybe run through screen-printing "… are d!cks" or something below the logo, before handing them out :-)

  • +58 votes

    Say you left his refund on his doorstep

  • +8 votes

    A fairly similar story was posted here a few years ago Consumer rights on a return.

    According to the OP's last update, a partial refund was offered. Unsure if the customer accepted it though.

    • +2 votes

      Thanks for that! Very similar story indeed

    • +5 votes

      I thought of this very post when reading this.

      @OP you basically have two choices … decide TODAY if you're going to refund and move on with your life, or you're not and are prepared to fight this to whatever end (small claims court) that it comes to. Only you can decide whether you want the fight, or if you want to fold and get on with your life.

      • +14 votes

        Hey that's me! Thanks for remembering me =)

        In the end we offered to repair as he refused the partial refund / discount to keep the shirts. This dragged on until he never bothered to follow up with us again. I think he either found it cheaper, or needed it for an event. So the offer to repair really did him no good.

        Your scenario is different because he seems to be a local customer (his dropping the shirts off at your doorstep) at a much higher quantity. He will most likely not just drop it.

        Don't be scared by the small claims court threat. You are protected by ACL as much as he is. You have the right to repair, refund, replace on minor faults and this comes under a minor fault. If he goes to small claims it's a simple matter of going through the 100 shirts and refunding (do not replace as this guys obviously not someone you want to do business with again) what is deemed unsatisfactory. It'll never go that far anyway.

        Try to make a deal with him if you want to minimize losses. If you want to just stop losing sleep over it then offer him the full refund. However I would personally feel very dirty about that as the guys obviously found it cheaper somewhere else or no longer needs them.


    Were the shirts for an event? Is it possible he only wanted them for a day and is trying to scam a refund now he's done with them?

  • +8 votes

    He's changed his mind. Interesting technique for getting a refund. Offer partial refund as you have cost of labour and materials. They are not all defective. They are fit for use. Was the sample to the same standatd as that were produced. He's trying you on. Tell him thats all you can offer. Or he can simply pick up the shirts. No further offer. IMO


      I've tried to research into the 'fit for use' and in the ACL 'fit for purpose or job' but can't seem to grasp what that means. If the logo is off by 1cm, does that mean it's not fit for purpose?

      Again happy to replace or provide a remedy, but this guy wants everything refunded.


        Unless he specifically said logo had to be at XY cm because of specific reason, like to cover the nipple or something, then it's fit for purpose. Purpose being a t-shirt.

        He's got no case.


        Here's part of the problem. You're looking at the wrong consumer guarantee. The customer isn't saying the shirts aren't 'fit for purpose' are they? They are saying the products received don't match the original description, and match the proof you had them authorise. You've already admitted several are out of alignment.

  • +14 votes

    custom order. no refunds. if you can't re-use the t-shirts you're losing money. so no refund.

    pretty much the case with custom anything in the world.

    he can't do jack to you. small claims? argue your case and he will argue his (he has to pay the small claims court fee).

    a negative review on google or facebook can be a blessing in disguise if you respond rationally and explain how unreasonable he is. it might even go viral with the right amount of sarcasm!

    he didn't pay by credit card? haha, he can't even do a chargeback.

    unless he's a bikie i wouldn't be too worried about this.


    What brand shirts are you using? There's a lot of nasty blanks that no one would really want to wear. And what printing method do you use, HTV/DTG/screen? The shirts are no good to you, maybe find out what's really bothering this guy. Maybe he just can't afford them anymore, maybe some people complained to him the shirts look poorly done and he's feeling foolish now in front of his friends and workmates or whatever. Maybe you can turn this back into a happy customer.

    • +2 votes

      Agreed, and happy to refund or replace the portion which do have issues. The supplier is wanting a refund for the full order because the 'entire lot' is unusable.

      • +10 votes

        Your offer sounds fair to me. If you have verified that only some are off by cms, and judge the ones which are off my mm to be "fit for purpose", then offering to replace or refund the portion of shirts which are significantly different from the spec ordered is enough. If I buy 50 headphones, and 5 are broken, I don't get to refund 50 headphones, particularly when I have my logo irreversible printed on them.

        I think your offered solution is fair, let them chase it up in small claims if they like. Make your point there. Unless you make way too much money to care in which case refund the lot, write if off as a business loss, and never do business with this customer again.

        Meanwhile, future contracts should specify that a few mm variance on position of logos is expected, anything worse than 2cm will be refunded/replaced. Just to avoid ambiguity in future.


          if %10 of a large order was stuffed… i'd want a refund on the rest… how long are the rest going to last? it seems i may have bought sub-standard products from an unreliable wholesaler… refund?


            @Well Wasted: The complaint wasn't that the logos are peeling away or rubbing off, in which case I'd agree with you regarding questions as to their longevity, the complaints were about placement.

            Nonetheless. Even if 10% were rubbing off or peeling, as a retailer I'd tell the customer they are welcome to claim refund or replacement on the remaining 90% if and when then peel away. As a customer I'd want the same as you, but I might not get it.

  • +6 votes

    big leap between threatening small claims and actually doing it. also if he does, it'll just cost him more money.

    • +2 votes

      Especially when he has to hire some big-boobed models to demonstrate his claims.

    • +3 votes

      Costs less than $100 bucks. Won't cost the customer much at all honestly.


        Need to serve the docs too, can be free if you don't use process server but it takes your valuable time.


          It's a business or trading company. Costs a stamp.


            @zeggie: No it's not? You either need to serve the docs personally or use a process server, both has costs. Assuming your time is valuable then serving it personally does costs money. Unless you think your time per hour worth a stamp then yeah, it does cost a stamp.


              @rave75: You don't have to personally serve documents on a company. Do you require a link?

              • +1 vote

                @zeggie: @zeggie I didn't say you HAVE to do it personally? I said you EITHER need to do it personally (cost your time, going to post office, not to mention you need to use registered letter) OR you need to ask someone else (which is not free obviously). Is it that hard to read these days. Do you require assistance to read?

                For reference you need to pay $200 (business) and $100 (individual) to start the claim. Further down the road, you also need to start other processes such as apply for judgement and enforce that judgement which costs further money.

                So no it doesn't cost a stamp. Do you require a link?

                • -1 vote


                  1. You don't need to use a registered letter.
                  2. You'd never use a process server to serve a company when a letter suffices.
                  3. The fees are $65.30/$93.30 in VIC or $51/​$102 in NSW. Which state are you in?
                  4. There are no Judgments in Tribunals. Only Orders. They don't cost additional fees.

                  Feel free to share a link to back up any of your incorrect information. Bet you can't.

                  • +2 votes

                    @zeggie: I speak from experience in NSW:

                    1. Then the other person can just say they never receive it. Your claim will be thrown down the trash.
                    2. Letter only suffices if for statement of claim. Other such as judgment, enforcing judgement via garnishee need a signed affidavit served to the person/business address
                    3. WRONG. in NSW to start a statement of claim in Local Court-Small Claims is $103/$206:
                    4. Not sure about tribunal but we are talking about Local Court-Small claims here which has judgement for money owed.

                    See above, now unless you can give me a valid link that says it is $51/$102 in NSW then you are the one who is spreading incorrect information. Bet you can't.


                    @zeggie: very quiet now, eh?



                      very quiet now, eh?

                      Some of us work very long hours at unusual times or locations :)

                      1. It's called an affidavit. Are you forgetting s 109X of the Corps Act? Posting implies delivery and thus service unless evidence otherwise. If OP claims non-receipt after the fact, they have to apply for it to be reheard. They can't complain about non-receipt then :) Affidavit is the only requirement.
                      2. The affidavit is never served on a Defendant. It is filed with the Tribunal or Court. Obtaining an Order or Default Judgment is all an online process for all east coast jurisdictions.
                      3. I think you are referring to the Local Court incorrectly. OP's matter falls under the jurisdiction of NCAT (provided we're talking about NSW which isn't clear from OP's post) as this is a consumer complaint with involves a dispute and not simply a debt. Why would the customer go to a higher Court involving higher fees if not required to? From other posts it is indicated the shirts were ~$2k or thereabouts. In any event they could obtain an Order and uplift and still pay a far less amount in fees.
                      4. See above.

                      Not sure about tribunal but we are talking

                      See above. No wonder you were posting nonsense.


                      General consumer or commercial proceeding
                      ​Includes matters about agent commissions and fees, agricultural tenancy, consumer claims, redetermination of a consumer guarantee direction, conveyancing costs, dividing fences, holiday parks, home building, motor vehicles, and pawnbrokers and second-hand-dealers
                      ​• Claims not more than $10,000 (or no amount) ​$51/​$102

                      What was the bet again? Pay up.


                        @zeggie: Need to make sure you get proper rest for your health. Long hours & irregular sleep time are very bad for your body =)

                        Last point in OP's says customer threaten small claims. I simply said it is costly IF you go to small claims court. From the beginning I mention the fees are for statement of claims in Local Court and not NCAT/Tribunal and I speak specifically for small claims court.

                        RE: why I said registered post is needed with statement of claim is because when the defendant claimed he/she never received the statement of claim in their defense, I had to send it again and get a signed affidavit which prolong the case. The point is that spending a little bit more for registered post means the defendant cannot claim non-receipt and saves you time further down the track.


                          @rave75: Comes with the job. No choice in the matter at the moment.

                          You didn't say 'Court' actually but Tribunal and Tribunal fees were mentioned several times in this thread before these posts. Next to nobody (with a clue) files a Minor Claim in NSW as it has higher fees and formalities that aren't required at the Tribunal. You could also get a savvy defendant who gets the proceeding held anyways.

                          Your last paragraph makes no sense as a defendant filing a Defence confirms the matter has been brought to their attention. :)

                          The Claim isn't "thrown down the trash" by claiming non-receipt

                          In any event I'm assuming the person you tried to serve with an individual? If so you required an Affidavit for the first service by post. Registered Post doesn't matter. (or just pay $44 like everyone else and the Court posts it :) )

                          If it wasn't and it's a corporation you tried to serve, then your paragraph still doesn't make sense as Rule 5.4 comes into play courtesy of s 109X of the Corps Act.


        if you were to take Google to NCAT, who turns up? Do they turn up at all?


      Option 2: Cape Fear

  • +11 votes

    let him take you to small claims and deal with it there. It's not just about you but this is something that should never just be paid to shut the customer up. He will do it again to someone else.

    If there was a problem, he was supposed to notify you and give you a chance to rectify the issue. I've had a customer pull the same scam on me for some work I did - after a month he asked for his money back, saying a few functions didn't work properly. He took me to small claims, turns out a friend of his offered to do it cheaper so he just wanted his money back. Tribunal says noooo.

    I understand it's easier to just pay for the silence but that's what breeds these idiots.

  • +5 votes

    We send the boxes right back

    This part was interesting. He returns the order and you re-shipped it straight back instead of trying to identify which stock had issues or try and resolve it with the customer?

    No offence, this is one of those posts that you just know there's 2 sides to the story, especially when you admit there were faults with some of the stock.

    • +2 votes

      The story is pretty accurate. It's all recorded in email with no phone calls or sms in regards to this. I wrote this post on the same timeline as the email conversation too. I'd post it but obviously there's too much info that would identify them.

      We sent it back because it was the entire order. If I went to Woolworths and bought 6 apples, 3 tubs of yoghurt and 9 packets of chips, I don't push the trolley back when there's 2 bad apples, then say I want a refund for the whole thing. I'd return the 2 apples, not 6 apples, not the whole trolley.

      This guy made no effort.

      • +4 votes

        Ok, so when you reviewed all the shirts returned, how many exactly were faulty?

        I just find it highly unusual you would post the entire order back, at your cost. You admitted there was some faulty stock. No spite involved?


        Woolworths don't send a "legal letter" asking for a excel spreadsheet either ;)


          We didn't review it, we wanted to know exactly what is wrong, how many and offer to refund or replace them.

          It's a procedural thing. Again with the Woolworths example, if I bought 50 apples and 12 were bad, staff won't sit there checking the other 38 just because.

          We will implement an RMA system soon. Good lesson learnt from this.

          • +1 vote

            @MisterX: I'm not sure what state you're in. It's very inexpensive for them to lodge in Small Claims list or equivalent. IMHO they are very, very sympathetic to individuals seeking refunds from large businesses and the refund has been refused.

            The fact you posted all the stock back to the customer will not be a good look for you.

            There's right processes to follow

            It's a procedural thing.

            We didn't review it…"because Woolworths won't"

            This mindset will not assist you if it goes to Small Claims list.

          • +2 votes

            @MisterX: Woolworths would in fact refund 50 apples if 12 were bad, and would check the other 38. I've witnessed these sorts of scenarios there and they very much approach the majority with bending over backwards to help the customer out.


              @Macsak88: Thats Woolworths option too, there is no requirement to replace non fit for purpose apples.
              Saying that they don't want pictures of rotting fruit.

              A t-shirt with a 1cm difference in logo position is obviously not that much of an issue (unless the client specified that particular need).


            @MisterX: Woolworths would refund the whole bag of apples without question.


          Yes there's usually an industry standard. Some suppliers have 10% some 5% variances.

          No spite involved at all. Maybe it's the way it came about initially.



            Sure, a % may be crooked or completely off, happy to fix it.

            The fact you are unsure of the exact percentage also does not assist your position.

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