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Lost Check - Client Not Paying/Communicating - Time To Push Back Hard?

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Bill ParisLost Check - Client Not Paying/Communicating - Time To Push Back Hard?
by on Apr 29, 2009 at 6:46:45 pm

Hi Everyone,

Over the past couple of months I've been posting a situation with a client out of Atlanta that goes like this. Client hires us to shoot a segment for a FOX Sports special.... the client promptly sends a check the weekend of the shoot via UPS...... we do the shoot....the client is extremely happy, says its the best segment in the show .... I start getting very busy with other projects...... when things slow down I notice that the check was never deposited for the shoot. After checking through my records and with the bank, the check was never deposited, probably thrown out by accident. I called my client... asked him to cancel the check and cut a new one (I was very humble and thankful for his help).

Since that time (2-3 Months) the client has come back with some strange reasons why he can't resolve the issue including: The bank can't find a cancelled check...... then he said there appeared to be fraud within the bank and he was having the situation investigated via the police..... At this point I'm not getting any response via email.... no information about what is going on..... I really think the guy either doesn't have the money or thinks he can stall long enough for me to go away. My last email communicated the following.... If he can send me a cancelled check showing that someone found it and cashed it due to my negligence, then I will take the hit...... my bad for losing it. Otherwise please pay the amount owed. No response.

My question for the group is now what. I have some ideas for "pushing back", but would appreciate some tactics that have worked for others in this situation. I'm based in Hawaii and the client is in Atlanta.... the amount owed is $3200. The "nice guy" approach has not worked.... anybody have a velvet hammer?

Thanks for your help!

Bill Paris
Producer/Director of Photography
Crew Hawaii Television




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Chris BlairRe: Lost Check - Client Not Paying/Communicating - Time To Push Back Hard?
by on Apr 30, 2009 at 12:01:30 am

You can keep doing what you're doing primarily...or:

1. Get a collection agency involved. Though most of them aren't all that good from what we've heard and read, and they'll take a healthy percentage of what's collected. Many of these companies' track records for actually collecting anything is pretty dismal.

2. Get your lawyer involved. If they're like ours, their tab adds up pretty quick and they rarely have much more success than collection agencies.

We've been trying to collect a six-figure debt from a company owned by a multi-millionaire (he owned an NBA team for 15 years if that give you an indication of his wealth...think Mark Cuban rich). We've sued in federal court, won default judgements and still...there's little hope of getting adime. Why? Because these folks hire people to "take care of their money." Meaning they find every loophole available in setting up their corporations and hide as much of their assets as is possible. This company and owner have multiple six-figure breach of contract lawsuits pending in federal court amounting to $750,000. They have a California state judgement against them for $150,000, and there are likely a half-dozen other companies owned similar amounts that haven't bothered to pursue it in court.

None of us will probably ever see any of the money regardless of how many judgements are handed down. The law just isn't set up to actually force people with means to pay what they owe. They can afford to work the system and delay having to actually pay anything until most small to medium size companies give up because it's not worth the money they've invested in attorney fees.

The only punitive recourse is to sue for fraud and that too gets expensive and is also unlikely to result in any significant reprimand (fines or jail-time), and even if it does, they can afford the attorneys who know how to appeal and motion and delay these rulings until the plaintiffs again give up.

It's really a sad state of affairs when it comes to collecting from large companies. Sorry for the long post, but seemed like a nice opportunity to vent and pass on the

Chris Blair
Magnetic Image, Inc.
Evansville, IN
http://www.videomi.com


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Mark SuszkoRe: Lost Check - Client Not Paying/Communicating - Time To Push Back Hard?
by on Apr 30, 2009 at 11:20:19 pm

I forget; how much money are we talking about that's due?


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Bill ParisRe: Lost Check - Client Not Paying/Communicating - Time To Push Back Hard?
by on Apr 30, 2009 at 11:56:56 pm

Mark,

It's $3200 ...... not a lot of money, but enough to fight for.

Bill





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Terry MikkelsenRe: Lost Check - Client Not Paying/Communicating - Time To Push Back Hard?
by on May 1, 2009 at 12:33:55 am

I've spent 6 months to recover only $50. (It was from the DNC and I had a point to make) As was said earlier, you could get a collection agent, but I think its a waste of money. All that they will do is call everyday until they get tired or get paid. You can do the same thing. There are only so many excuses that someone can come up with. It becomes a battle of endurance.
Another good try is a formal letter. You find a few college buddies who live together (say, Bob Young, Steve Miller, and Rich Smith) and get them to send it for you. "It has come to our attention that.......sincerely from the office of Young, Miller & Smith"
Lawyers are your last resort. It all comes down to whoever has to most money to spend will win in court. It is a sad truth.
I hope things work out for you. Good luck.


ps - Don't ever lose your cool. Keep it professional. I know it really hurts the pocket book, but try to distant yourself from the emotions of the situation.

Tech-T Productions
http://www.technical-t.com


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Bill ParisRe: Lost Check - Client Not Paying/Communicating - Time To Push Back Hard?
by on May 1, 2009 at 2:43:00 am

Ok this may be crossing the line.... please pull me back in if it is. Is it too much to use a little leverage such as contacting the sports figure who's name was on the special? We exchanged some photos and emails... got along great..... they may be interested to know the guy producing the show is not paying his crews? Also sending a mass email to all the DPs on the ABC, NBC, CBS, ESPN email lists alerting them that this guy does not pay? Is it crossing the line to use that threat to motivate him to pay? I don't like confrontation and strong arming a client, but what other recourse is there?






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Zane BarkerRe: Lost Check - Client Not Paying/Communicating - Time To Push Back Hard?
by on May 1, 2009 at 3:23:39 am

[Bill Paris] "It's $3200 ...... not a lot of money, but enough to fight for. "

Offer to accept half. After all it was YOU who lost the check. Also all the time you are putting into attempting to collect is time you could be putting to doing work for paying clients.



There are no "technical solutions" to your "artistic problems".
Don't let technology get in the way of your creativity!



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Mark SuszkoRe: Lost Check - Client Not Paying/Communicating - Time To Push Back Hard?
by on May 1, 2009 at 2:15:45 pm

3200 is worth escalating this over the head of the guy you've been dealing with, to their boss. But I would still try to play this cool and professional, and don't use threats or anything like that. Take it to the guy's boss, and keep pushing it up the chain. Do not drag the sports celebrities into this.

I would say you could take it to small claims, and likely win, but you have to appear in court for that; you might use up the 3200 in travel expenses alone. If you turn it over to a collection agency, you may only get half of what they collect.

A wise person told me once to never first attribute an evil motive to someone's action if stupidity or laziness would also explain the action just as well. I am guessing that in this case whoever is really responsible for settling the matter is just uninterested in doing the heavy paperwork to straighten this out. While it is always possible they are merely trying to screw you as policy, the fact they were quick to pay the first time argues against that. I really think this sounds more like a bureaucratic issue where someone's ducking the job. Going further over their heads should poke them back into action.

Also, ask your accountant if you can just write this off on your taxes as a loss. It doesn't buy you groceries, but maybe it can help you make back some money by putting you into a slightly lower bracket.


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steven matthewsRe: Lost Check - Client Not Paying/Communicating - Time To Push Back Hard?
by on May 4, 2009 at 8:04:59 am

$3200 is a large sum. And you earned it! Recently, I sued a mobile phone operator for the return of $1.50 (they added a monthly insurance premium despite the salesperson agreeing not to). They paid me about $50 including my small claims court fee here in the UK.

I haven't yet, in about 8 years of business, had one bad debt. My system on late payments is:

informal email announcing an item is overdue;

letter in the mail stating that interest and collection fees will be added, but not if they pay within 14 days;

Notice Before Action - a cold and formal affair which I have used maybe 3 times - giving them a vivid visual image that we really are moving to the next stage: "at 10am on 1st June 2009, at Eastbourne County Court proceedings shall be commenced against you for recovery of the debt". I've never needed to take a debt case any further than this so, leaving aside my time, my costs have been nil.

Although its much easier to click "send" on an email, I feel a tangible letter in the hand reminds them that their slow payment is affecting a real person, not a virtual one.

Steven


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Chris BlairRe: Lost Check - Client Not Paying/Communicating - Time To Push Back Hard?
by on May 5, 2009 at 1:15:10 pm

Wait until you deal with a really large company with a really wealthy and well-heeled owner. You can win judgement after judgement in court but finding their assets to actually collect is near impossible.

But I will say that since the original poster was paid once right after the shoot...I would think that just keeping after the issue would get it resolved.

In our case, the company we're dealing with actually changed their name and the state where they're registered to do business since stiffing half-a-dozen vendors for at least $750,000 and likely much more. The original corporate entity (very well-known by the way), which is a franchise corporation, still exists but they have no assets. Why? Because they moved them all to the new corporate entity.

Our attorneys couldn't find this new company when doing their discovery. We found them through one of their former employees who feels badly about how we were treated. He only knows because he was formerly an executive of the company.

We also had zero bad debt for the first 12 years we were in business, including dealing with a couple of large corporations for a number of years.

But if a large company really doesn't want to pay you, for whatever reason, believe me...if you're a small company, there's little chance you'll see it no matter what happens in court here in the U.S.

Chris Blair
Magnetic Image, Inc.
Evansville, IN
http://www.videomi.com


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walter biscardiRe: Lost Check - Client Not Paying/Communicating - Time To Push Back Hard?
by on May 5, 2009 at 1:23:12 pm

[Chris Blair] "Wait until you deal with a really large company with a really wealthy and well-heeled owner. You can win judgement after judgement in court but finding their assets to actually collect is near impossible. "

Or a terrible contractor for your house. Winning judgements doesn't do a whole lot unless there is pressure in some way for them to pay.



Walter Biscardi, Jr.
Biscardi Creative Media
HD and SD Production for Broadcast and Independent Productions.

Read my Blog!

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Chris BlairRe: Lost Check - Client Not Paying/Communicating - Time To Push Back Hard?
by on May 5, 2009 at 5:02:00 pm

Walter Biscardi, Jr. Or a terrible contractor for your house. Winning judgements doesn't do a whole lot unless there is pressure in some way for them to pay.

Yep...and putting that pressure on people who can afford to pay attorneys to act as a buffer is expensive and from what we've read and been told, rarely results in settlements.

Chris Blair
Magnetic Image, Inc.
Evansville, IN
http://www.videomi.com


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