So I'm back from a fresh round of defeats in trying to get a commission proposal through via Akari Funato via Skeb, and since it looks like I'm going to be playing the waiting game for a bit, I thought I'd chronicle what I learned from my recent bouts with the platform, in a "someday, someone may experience these bizarre events; hopefully, they will find my notes useful" fashion.
- 1) You have to have Twitter. The only way you can log in to Skeb is to link a Twitter account with the platform. Twitter is a sine qua non for most folks nowadays, but: I didn't have it, for privacy and social media disengagement reasons. (I'm one of those people who doesn't even own a smartphone.) That said: even if you do already have Twitter, there's enough sketchiness around Skeb where it may not be a great idea to link your primary account to it. (I haven't heard of any incidents of trouble, but there's enough about my experience to set off a few yellow if not red flags, and the platform has absolutely no customer support in any language.)
- 1a) You have to have multi-month access to a phone number Twitter will not block. I say "multi-month" because any number of the factors listed below may go wrong and prevent you from submitting a commission within a given window, pushing your attempt forward to the next month or whenever the artist reopens requests and requiring you to reauthenticate your Twitter account at that time.
I was reluctant to give my own phone number to Twitter, linking a Twitter account to me in a personally-identifiable way, but asking around turned up only a couple unknown companies that allegedly rented phone numbers short-term for business purposes, as well as suggestions to get a burner phone. (Some brought up Google Voice, but Google itself requires a phone number to log in nowadays, so that's self-defeating. Twitter did block all of the "free phone number for account authentication" pages I found.) I ultimately did surrender my own phone number, since, at the time, Funato had closed requests, and the prospect of successfully paying in an anonymous manner for and receiving a phone number, then getting a Twitter account up and running in the short couple-of-days time frame in which Funato typically has requests open seemed dim. Given what I subsequently discovered about the ease of wrecking a Skeb account, I think I made the right decision (you can link one phone number to multiple Twitter accounts, so it was easy for me to get a replacement Twitter for a new Skeb account up and running) - but it's one with tradeoffs. I'm going to be changing my phone number soon anyway, but that's small comfort, as providing my phone number to Twitter has linked that account with all the businesses and organizations to whom I've already given that number.
Whatever. This is probably a non-issue to most people, and those actually concerned are probably better versed in privacy protection than me. Be aware, though.
1b) You have to have a supply of email addresses Twitter will not block. I say "supply" here because you can very well render your Skeb account unusable (see below), necessitating the creation of a new Twitter account for a new Skeb account. Unlike phone numbers, you usually can't reuse email addresses for new Twitter accounts. Personally, I'm just using one of the domains I own to generate infinite email accounts. I haven't tried the "free email for account authentication" sites out there like Guerrilla Mail with Twitter, but I imagine they're blocked. Again, be aware, and do what's right for you.
2) You have to have an email address registered with Twitter at the time you sign up with Skeb. Failure to do so will brick your Skeb account. This was what wrecked my first attempt to submit a request. I knew beforehand that Twitter would require a phone number to create an account, so I ended up signing up with just the phone number only. I had created an email address for use with the account, but considering the internal Sturm und Drang accompanying me giving my phone number to the Great Satan of Twitter, the email address was far from my mind, and when Twitter let me create the account with just my phone number, email fell beneath my radar completely.
So I signed up with Skeb using my new Twitter account and submitted a request to Akari Funato, only to be greeted with an error message informing me that I had to complete email authentication. (Though Skeb auto-translates its site for U.S. IPs, this error message is untranslated, so you're out of luck if you don't speak Japanese.) I checked the email account a few times, resubmitting the request in the hopes it would resend the authentication email that mysteriously hadn't arrived, before I realized that - duh! - I hadn't provided Twitter with my email address at all. This was quickly rectified, but it was too late: outside of a single opportunity immediately following registration, Skeb has absolutely no way of resending the initial authentication email. Its FAQ will suggest you check your spam folder, but - did you think I was exaggerating before? - Skeb has absolutely no customer support, in Japanese or English. No contact email; no support form. If you do not have an email linked with Twitter when your sign up with Skeb, then you will miss your sole opportunity to authenticate your account, and you will never be able to submit a commission request with that account, ever.
3) Immediately after registering with Skeb, you have to a) wait for the authentication email to arrive and click on its link to authenticate your account or b) click on the tiny blue/green stripe that appears on the Skeb home page immediately after registration (and at no other time or place) to resend that email until it arrives, then click on the enclosed link. Failure to do so will brick your account. Now, during my second attempt to sign up with Skeb, I was, understandably, very attentive for any mention of an authentication email. It was in this manner that I noticed, immediately after I registered, a very narrow blue or green (I don't remember which) horizontal stripe on the top third of the Skeb homepage to which I was returned that provided a link to click if your authentication email hadn't arrived. I honestly don't know if this appeared after my first registration. I don't think it did, but it certainly is easy enough to miss. I wish I'd gotten a screenshot to illustrate. In any case, if your registration email got caught in a spam filter or rejected by the server - and it might, because Skeb isn't considered a 100%-trustworthy platform by many businesses, probably with good reason - you have to keep your browser on that page until you resolve that problem and ensure the email can get through. If you move away from or close that page before you get your authentication email, you have lost your chance at authentication forever, and your account will be bricked.
Also, the emails expire in 24 hours.
4) You need to make sure your request as sent by Skeb reflects your actual intentions, whether through getting someone to translate it or by checking the machine translation. Skeb attempts to machine-translate English-language commission requests using DeepL. Sometimes this works; sometimes it doesn't. In sifting through other users' experiences with Skeb in a futile attempt to resolve my initial registration woes, I encountered numerous people complaining that their commission requests were rendered completely incomprehensible by DeepL. The popular suggestion was to run your request through DeepL and back into English to make sure the machine translation reflects an approximation of what you actually want. (The back-translation adds an additional layer of unreliability, but if you don't know Japanese, what're you gonna do.)
Now, there's usually a very small character limit on requests - and I note the typical requests accepted by Funato, at least, contained only the character to be drawn, with no additional notes regarding costume, setting, facial expressions, etc. for the commission. So "keep it simple" seems to be the order of the day in any case, regardless of any translation woes. That said: keeping your request simple is also going to minimize the possibility that the machine translation will mangle your words. Having a Japanese-speaking friend translate your request would be optimal, but that's not an option for everyone.
5) The card you enter when you submit your commission request is the card with which you're stuck for the life of your Skeb account. There is no changing the card you use for Skeb commissions. The first time you attempt to submit a request, Skeb will ask for a card number. Whether or not your request is successful (regardless of email authentication failures, artist rejections, or the follies below), Skeb will then save that card info to your account and use it for all future commission attempts. There is no option under your account settings to change your card info and - I must again emphasize - no customer support at Skeb. I have no idea what happens when your card expires. Presumably, your account expires, too.
5a) Regardless of whether your request is successful, a charge in the amount of what you offered for your commission request will stay on your account for up to 60 days, so make sure that's not a problem beforehand. The charge is processed more or less (*more or less* - see below) when your request is submitted, too, not when the artist accepts, so be prepared.
6) *sigh* Try to make sure your bank will accept the charge from Skeb in advance. Even then, you might be out of luck. This was the source of today's disaster. On Saturday, I had finally gotten a request accepted with my second Skeb account. Now, during the attempts to commission Funato with my first account, despite the lack of email authentication, Skeb nevertheless placed trial charges on my card (you know, charges of like 10 cents that are refunded same-day just to make sure your account's legit) that I had to authenticate with my card. Even so, their very presence triggered my card being temporarily frozen for fear of fraud, as I learned on a trip to the grocery store later that day.
Right, so, being aware that my bank was treating Skeb charges as suspicious, I did everything in my power to ensure any charges associated with the commission attempt via my second account went through. I received a text alert from my bank when Skeb made the latest round of trial charges; this I cleared. I had explained to my bank before when I called to get my card unfrozen that the Skeb charges were legit and that I would be making future purchases with this company; even so, I called my bank immediately after successfully submitting the request to ask if a charge from Skeb in the amount of my commission had been submitted. No way, not yet, my bank assured me. Once again, I explained that I had a big charge coming from that company, and I was assured it would be let it through.
Well, you can guess what happened. I logged in on Monday to check my request status, and the request was listed as "Canceled." Not by Funato, apparently; by Skeb, as, despite their profuse assurances, my bank had rejected the charge. Of course. I called up the bank, livid, and was told by a not-very-helpful but sympathetic employee that a) the system actually auto-rejects most overseas purchases unless authorization is given by the cardholder after the fact; b) I should never have been told that the purchase could have been pre-approved on my end; and c) their system sent a text message to me really honest. (No text message was received.) The employee told that putting in a travel alert for my card beforehand might reduce the chance of this happening again but that there really was no way of making sure the charge is processed unflagged. In the meantime, Funato had, of course, closed commissions again.
Now, my bank isn't exactly tiny - it has a multistate reach - but it's fairly regional nonetheless: provincial enough where international purchases freak it out. I have no idea how long Skeb waits for purchase authorization before declaring "well, fuck you" and cancelling a request. Given their literal complete lack of customer service, I imagine the window is quite short.
Since I haven't yet had success in shepherding a Skeb charge through successfully, I also don't know what to tell you to guarantee success in this endeavor. Personally, for my next attempt, before I submit my commission request, I'm going to call my bank to put that travel alert on my card (telling the bank to expect international purchases); then, after submitting my commission request, I'm going to call the bank every hour until the charge has been attempted so I can clear it for processing ASAP. You have to babysit the damn transaction every moment until it's cleared by all parties, in other words. Don't presume that Skeb or your bank is going to act with due diligence in any capacity. Don't take any facet of a normal transaction that would be handled with complete ease in any other circumstance for granted. To that end:
7) Submit your request as early as possible to give yourself babysitting time. If your favorite artist isn't currently accepting commissions, check their Skeb every day until that narrow window opens. Presume that everything that can go wrong with the transaction will.
Looking back at this garbage, I really can't blame my stupid bank for rejecting the Skeb charge. Would you consider Skeb a trustworthy company after all this? I have to return to my earlier complaints about some of gaming and manga's most desirable material being available only through the absolute worst platforms. Funato's releasing her most recent manga (Peko no Suke, a romantic comedy about a young girl making traditional Japanese cuisine) on DLsite.com, which to this day deals primarily in the most safe search filter-straining of hentai. I understand thoroughly that Japanese artists would want to deal with a native, locally-run platform rather than relying on the U.S. tech giants for everything. Japan, though, is at the forefront of cybertech. Why are so many of these local platforms so skeezy? Walled gardens and Japan go hand-in-hand, but these platforms aren't inaccessible due to xenophobia, primarily; they're inaccessible due to incompetence - incompetence that's entirely inexplicable.
Back into the breach, I suppose.