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customer runs off without paying the bill.

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Rick Turnerscustomer runs off without paying the bill.
by on Dec 2, 2011 at 12:18:03 am

I was doing some post/editorial work for a client, (they produced a show for PBS which aired, with my work).

Client met with me, we agreed on a handshake (huge mistake) client sat in with me for a few sessions/hours while I did the task, client took drive, aired show, and then I sat around waiting.

After a few months of emailing every couple of weeks asking what the deal was, I called the manager of the company I was working with. "Hi, this is Rick, I was just wondering what the status of the payment is on X show"

He says "Oh, we re-edited it and uh, well it wasn't good so we no pay you". Yet.. the work on TV that aired matches the cut on my system verbatim? Also.. they approved the cut with me? I dont see any ethical logic here?

I have emails of the clients admitting/saying that they owed me the money and that it was in processing. Now that I've been calling, they have been ignoring my emails and calls. I figure I better take the next step.

Do I have a case against them?
What should I do?


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Shane RossRe: customer runs off without paying the bill.
by on Dec 2, 2011 at 9:04:51 am

Do they not pay the restaurant if they didn't like the food they ordered? Do they not pay the architect or the builders if the house built for them isn't to their liking?

Hardly. They pay for your time. PERIOD.

Well, some people here have taken to going to the offices of the company and sitting in the lobby until they pay. And telling everyone that comes in that you did work for them, but they didn't pay you for X many weeks, and refuse to pay. Told everyone. And they were soon paid.

You can also threaten legal action. Small claims if the amount owed is under $5000 (well, that's the rule in California anyway).

Shane
Little Frog Post
Read my blog, Little Frog in High Def


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Bill DavisRe: customer runs off without paying the bill.
by on Dec 2, 2011 at 6:34:37 pm

[Shane Ross] "Well, some people here have taken to going to the offices of the company and sitting in the lobby until they pay. And telling everyone that comes in that you did work for them, but they didn't pay you for X many weeks, and refuse to pay. Told everyone. And they were soon paid."

As someone who once flew to LA and camped out in a reception area in order to collect from a client, I can verify this.

But the important business lesson you must take away from this is to adopt an inflexible strategy of never extending credit to any business unless there is a massively compelling reason to do so.

Many will tell you that even when working with large, stable, national companies, sometimes personnel come and go, paperwork gets lost, and there are a thousand things that can get between you and your payment. Just as a reality check, I imagine that there may be some KODAK invoices out there today that small vendors are having issues getting paid. That's speculation, but it points out that even massive household name players may be struggling in this era of change.

Requiring appropriate deposits to protect you from ruinous loss, and even "cash on delivery" policies are the best tools to insure that you actually get your money.

And acknowledging that the moment you deliver usable work to a client, you've essentially lost any leverage you might have had and from that point on, are relying totally on the "honor" of them to compensate you.

Harsh, but reality, IMO.

FWIW.

"Before speaking out ask yourself whether your words are true, whether they are respectful and whether they are needed in our civil discussions."-Justice O'Connor


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Steve MartinRe: customer runs off without paying the bill.
by on Dec 2, 2011 at 4:57:38 pm

Farging Bastages...

You should hang 'em on a hook!

Production is fun - but lets not forget: Nobody ever died on the video table!


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Mark SuszkoRe: customer runs off without paying the bill.
by on Dec 2, 2011 at 7:38:07 pm

Rule one: your copy of the master is your only real leverage, it doesn't get handed over, no matter what, until you get paid.

Now you'll need a lawyer to write a threatening cease-and-desist/ payment overdue notice combination letter.

Your homework is to read the COW article on "Grinders". Because you got ground.


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Bob ZelinRe: customer runs off without paying the bill.
by on Dec 3, 2011 at 2:48:32 am

Mark beat me to the punch. The greatest article ever written on our business - Grinders - by Ron Lindeboom. Read it, and consider your experience a lesson in business 101. And when you read future crying babies on Creative Cow spouting the same story - you will say "I was there once, but I learned my lesson the hard way". Guess what - we all learned this lesson. Everyone gets screwed at some point - then you learn. Then you are PROFESSIONAL.

Bob Zelin



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Jeff CadgeRe: customer runs off without paying the bill.
by on Dec 3, 2011 at 4:17:06 pm

When working for a big company we’ll have a contract or PO and I’ll make sure we have 50% before releasing masters mostly for our cash flow, with terms for the 50% balance.

We’ve had problems with independent producers that I would consider under cover grinders whom seem very nice & knowledgeable but have a hard time paying. They usually run their own production companies, with these kind of clients we’ll get 100% payment before releasing masters. When working for an independent producer whom your not familiar with, never take on a job that requires you to hire crew or rent equipment without getting an advance to cover ALL your expenses BEFORE starting the project.

Some bigger clients try to wait until after the production to pay our advance, claiming it’s “in the system” and can’t be paid before the shoot.
Then we say we’ll have to postpone the shoot until we receive our advance and somehow the advance check appears….

Best,

Jeff Cadge


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Rick TurnersRe: customer runs off without paying the bill.
by on Dec 3, 2011 at 7:08:01 pm

Yes, I hear all this.

I normally do not hand anything over until I get payment.

I let this go because the people seemed rushed, and had an entire show coming my way, what can I say.. the one time I let myself trust someone this happens...very ironic.

I guess I'll be talking to a lawyer to get a letter written!


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Malcolm MatuskyRe: customer runs off without paying the bill.
by on Dec 6, 2011 at 11:43:49 pm

With out a written contract, properly executed, you are in a very difficult situation. Do you have any other leverage over the offender?

As the project "aired" it seems as though you are stuck, you can contact a lawyer, but without a contract you probably will not be able to go to court, so your legal remedies are non-existent unless you can "prove" that money is owed.

A letter to PBS may be useful, it is possible to "shame" a non-payer, by letting their clients know their behavior, don't' lie or exaggerate your claim, just lay out the facts.

Do you know any other vendor that does business with this person? Write them a letter as well stating your situation.

"camping out" at their office is trespass, they can call the cops on you. So this may not be as effective as you may wish.

Contracts are only worth something if you are willing to pay for an attorney and go to court, most low-life clients know this and will screw you anyway if the legal costs are less than your bill.

The only real protection is to retain masters till payment in full, only release materials with time code burned into the image or a blur filter applied, that's what I give out till the bill is paid in full, and also have a "contract" but this is no where as valuable as keeping the work in your control till paid in full. With some "clients" this means cash, not a check.

Good luck, and if the bill is not too steep, just let it go and move on to better clients and tighter financial controls on your side to prevent this from happening again.

Malcolm
http://www.malcolmproductions.com


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Rick TurnersRe: customer runs off without paying the bill.
by on Dec 9, 2011 at 7:27:30 pm

The only real evidence I have is them admitting via emails that they owe me and that payment is coming.

Is an email a court worthy document?

Is there some app where I can set it to auto call them and read a message everyday until payment is made?

It's not chump change.


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Malcolm MatuskyRe: customer runs off without paying the bill.
by on Dec 10, 2011 at 5:52:18 pm

If you know, or have ever used an attorney, this would be a good time to "consult" not necessarily hire one. A 30~60 minute evaluation of your case would be worth $100, cash, Get your legal options and go from there. Many business cases are dropped because they are too expensive to litigate and are written off.

Good luck.

Malcolm
http://www.malcolmproductions.com


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