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Re: Grounds for legal action. What would you guys do?

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Mark Suszko
Re: Grounds for legal action. What would you guys do?
on Jul 21, 2011 at 8:47:41 pm

Dylan, I think this is a really bad idea. Your legal case sounds tenuous unless any amount of money changed hands, you have no paper trail, even if it was only emails. It's your word against his.

Secondly, it's not smart to want to force someone to hire you if they don't want to. The guy has a right to shop around and find a better deal. IMO, your better response to the cancellation would have been to stay friendly, wish him well, tell them you'd still be there for them as a plan-B if the other guy doesn't work out. You could even have given him a few things to ask the other guy about, that point up how ready and capable you are to do the job, like: "be sure to ask that guy if his fee includes the jib shots I can do, or the added-value free dubs fulfilment". Remind the guy driven by price that price alone doesn't always cover all items in the project.

Third, I think you're setting a bad precedent by behaving like this and you're damaging your business rep in your local production circles. Makes you out as a sore loser and tantrum-thrower, not a problem-solver and pleasant guy to deal with. I understand you don't like to be taken, and you don't want a rep as a pushover, however, in this case, nothing much was "taken" from you, a potential future customer acted boorishly with you, is all. Happens all the time. Could have been you were never really going to get that job, they were just benchmarking the competition to see what the costs were. Also, if you remain polite and helpful, even when you're not getting the job, folks tend to remember that and re-consider you in the future.

Sometimes we let that boorishness or obliviousness go, because we want to do the work, and sometimes we choose not to do business with those folks again, that's each man's personal choice. But for such a small "crime", this seems a disproportionate and illogical reaction. Surely, you didn't spend any money for this job before you actually HAD it, did you? You're out an hour or so of your time on the phone. That's part of the cost of doing business with the public.

The only time I would have been thinking about legal action with someone like this, is if they had reserved a shoot day, you had to turn down another paying gig scheduled for the same day, and he canceled after the deadline, without paying a pre-agreed cancellation fee. If you don't have cancellation policies explained and agreed to in advance, you can't be applying them retroactively after something goes Tango-Uniform. If there was no deposit, there is no guarantee to hold a day for the client. The guy that pays, gets the consideration.

My policy on rental or wedding video cancellations used to be, no charge to cancel, and all deposits refunded, up to 48 hours ahead, no charge if I didn't have to turn away other business for that set-aside time, no charge for weather stuff, if it was just re-scheduled, but there WAS a modest charge against the deposit for cancelling in less than 24 hours for non-weather-related issues. That was there mostly to stimulate a client to make up their mind on a cancellation a little earlier than the same day.

The key to all those charges was to have them known in advance, and signed off by the customer on real paper.

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