what would you do? Problems with a client
I videotaped a couple's 50th wedding anniversary on 9/4/04
couple paid me $699 to videotape party and give them 2 edited VHS tapes
included were 30 pic opening montage and recap
I booked this party when I was first starting out, thus the low price
I told the couple verbally, video would be ready appx. 6 months after they submitted pics and songs
they went away after the affair and I didn't meet with them until late October 2004
so I should have had their video ready sometime around the end of April 2005
We are a husband & wife studio
( wife does photography & all photoshop work, I shoot all video & do all editing)
we work hard on everything we do & we let people know
the length of the wait is due our personalized service on each & every project.
Well here is what happened
around March, due to a family emergency
I was running a little behind & called all my customers
to tell them all projects would be delayed more than usual
All and I mean all customers were ok with it, including this couple
then in April I came down with a bad case of Bell's Palsy
One of the things affected was my eyesight
bad eyes = lost editing time
so long story short, I fell further behind schedule
Again contacted all customers who were effected
again, all understood, most were very sympathetic
I kept in touch with this couple and when he called me on August 11 2005
to inquire when his video would be ready, I had my wife tell him
"by the end of August"
I heard him complaining thru the receiver so I told my wife he would have it a week from Sunday
which was 8/21/05
At this time he was OK with it
On August 14th, customer calls me and tells me, he changed his mind
he doesn't want the video anymore & he wants his money back
I tell him, that's not going to happen, I'm almost done with it
he hangs up on me
fast forward to 8/21/05
we drive to their house, my wife rings his bell
they refuse the tapes and slam the door in her face
the next day I take tapes to their Post office, mail with a delivery confirmation
and they end up refusing it twice on Tuesday, 8/23/05
On Thursday 8/25/05 I get a letter in the mail telling me to appear in small claims court
on December 7th, 2005, I'm being sued for $700.00
I also didn't mention that even though they didn't hire us for photography
They made my wife work as if they did
she took all shots they asked her to
over 300 pics all together
they were to buy pics they liked
they even made her take large family shots when she had put away her equipment
They didn't buy any pics because this one went home & wasn't in pic,
this one didn't photo well, this one had a funny smile etc.
they also asked her to design a thank you card
she designed 5 different choices
they didn't buy any, because the asking pice of $1.50 per card was "TOO EXPENSIVE"
the bottom line is I gave these people perks long before their video was taking a while
And I'm pissed off because they cancelled a week before promised delivery
they also have nothing in writing in when the finished video would be delivered
And to show it was about getting projects out & not money
I did hire an editor
except I made him work on wedding's I had to get out
I didn't want any unhappy brides
I did the smaller jobs
Any & all thoughts or comments are appreciated
I know this was a very long post
for that I apologize
What should you do?
"On Thursday 8/25/05 I get a letter in the mail telling me to appear in small claims court
on December 7th, 2005, I'm being sued for $700.00"
At this point, you should shut the hell up and do NOT discuss this on a public forum! Once the courts are involved, anything you say here could serve to work against you.
Contact an attorney IMMEDIATELY! Outline what you have stated here without embellishment, and ask if you have grounds for a counter-suit, going after monies owed as well as costs (attorney's fees, etc.)
It sounds like they took advantage of your ignornace (all the photos for free) - If you had emergant situations, and can provide ample proof, and made a reasonable effort to keep your clients informed and they were okay with this and most work was completed, I can see an argument being made for your side. However, without a written agreement, what actaully happens is anyones guess.
A qualified attorney is your best source of information at this point.
Good luck and be sure to let us know how this ends.
Event Video COW Moderator
Contributing Editor eventDV magazine
One more pitfall: Stay focused. Don't discuss with anyone but your wife and attorney. The last thing you want to get into is a self-imposed minefield of differing opinions, conjecture and general mis-information.
This is another reason you should avoid requesting public response. None of us (okay, well, maybe 1) are attorneys nor qualified to give you appropriate legal advice no matter how sound and resonable it may seem.
Don't believe me? Ask your attorney. :-)
Event Video COW Moderator
Contributing Editor eventDV magazine
Well part of the issue is you took way to long to deliver the product.
Did you expect the client to wait forever because of your personal and business problems?
But since the client has already paid you and you are actually delivering a product they have to be willing to receive the product and then refuse it on other grounds such as it is unprofessional, does not stand up to what was promised in the contract etc etc.
In small claims court you will have to show that you actually have a product to delivery and offer it as evidence that you have complied with the verbal contract to deliver a finished product.
I hate to say it but the manner in which you delayed delivery of the product would have pissed me off too as a client except I would have never given you as much time as your clients did. You have damaged your reputation as a professional because you cannot deliver within a timely manner. You need to develop a workflow in which you can spit out the products much faster even if that means you have to hire an editor to get the work done.
Good luck in Court - just state the facts and let the judge decide.
Having a lawyer come to small claims with you will likely, win or lose, cost more than the 700 bucks they want from you, so settling may in fact be the best *business* decision.
I do think you should pay between $50 and $150 to consult a lawyer or at least paralegal in his/her office or by phone or e-mail to get some guidance on your odds and if/how to contest it and what to bring/prepare, etc. Small claims is not quite like you see on Judge Wapner's TV show, but my experience of it was that if you have your paperwork in order and a simple claim that's proven by facts, and a trail that shows you tried to do the right thing all along, you get a sympathetic hearing. It goes by pretty fast, the cases I saw while waiting, and my case, from swearing-in to ruling and exit paperwork, took an average of five minutes per case. But nobody is going to hold you by the hand and walk you thru the process, pro se court means DIY, and you are expected to have done all your own homework. Sometimes the court clerk's office has some resources they can point you to, or you can bone up at the library or online.
My obervation as an ex-event video guy is, while everybody is sympathetic with your medical emergency situation, a business deal is a deal, and if you are suddenly incapacitated and can't deliver as contracted, you need to be able to refer the work off to a trusted peer, and be ready to take the financial hit for having to sub it out, or you have to efund the money. If you charged a realistic price for your level of service (which from your description, sounds like you lowballed yourself), your financial hit after referring the job would have been less, maybe not a profit, but maybe a break-even. But good referrals have a way of paying you back over time, a successful long-term events person builds a network of people he can lean on, andthat can lean on him as needed; you generate more business between you than if you only were competitors.
I think since they agreed to give you an extension, you might have some luck in court showing you did after all deliver the product. But you should ask a real lawyer.