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Anyone ever take customers to court....

Discussion in 'Business Fundamentals' started by lazerslicer, Jan 3, 2007.

  1. lazerslicer

    lazerslicer Member
    Messages: 74

    Just wondering, I was just going throough getting out late bills for the 2006 cutting seasoon wondering how im going to make money with no snow and im owed 800.00 dollars from the cutting season and was wondering has anyone ever went to small claims court to recover moneys owed? and how did it go ? did they show up?? did u end up getting your money?
  2. ThisIsMe

    ThisIsMe Senior Member
    from Mass
    Messages: 745

    If you never want them as a customer again (duh) take them to court, if you have the free time. Just make sure you have proof of the work performed, invoices sent, witness to the work etc..it will be up to them to prove they paid it. Most states you can recover the court fees as well. Make sure you ask for interest before and after the judgment.

    To me it is a good gamble. Here is would cost $40 to sue them in small claims. That is 20:1 odds for your $800. If they do not show up you win by default. Collecting the money is the hard part. Find a link for the laws of your state on what can be done to collect if they do not pay. If they do not pay you will have to follow through on the legal procedures. Any costs to collect the payment will be on them in most states I believe.

    Good luck,
  3. Superior L & L

    Superior L & L PlowSite Veteran
    from MI
    Messages: 3,035

    Currently we are suing a builder for almost $20,000 in lawn mowing and have leans on 9 homes for another builder witch we will be foreclosing on the houses at the end of January. I also just finished lean paperwork for another house that I'm filing tomorrow. Never done this before until this year. As the economy tanks people think they dont need to pay there bills. The one builder with the lawn bill got served on Christmas Day. (tryed three other times and he dogde the guy)

    :gunsfiring: :gunsfiring:
  4. Mick

    Mick PlowSite.com Veteran
    from Maine
    Messages: 5,546

    I sued a builder for goods paid for and not delivered for a total of just over $2,000. There was documentation of things having been paid for and no evidence that they were delivered. He did not even dispute my claim. He just kept ignoring lawyers' letters and prolonging proceedings. Two years, three lawyers and approx $1,000 in legal fees later, I told the last lawyer to just forget it - it was costing me more than it was worth. But worse than that was the emotional cost - the wife insisted on dropping it and just try to forget it because of the strain it was putting on me even though we were basically letting the lawyer handle it.

    So my advice is to first decide if it's worth it and are you willing to go through with whatever it takes.
  5. ThisIsMe

    ThisIsMe Senior Member
    from Mass
    Messages: 745

    To be honest I would find a new lawyer if he did not advise you to take that to small claims court and handle the case yourself.

    Small claims court is easy as pie.
  6. StratfordPusher

    StratfordPusher Senior Member
    Messages: 948

    I Don't Sue, I get Even

    Last year we had a good sized residential customer we serviced for Nov and Dec. Bill was almost 400.00. Called the customer, left messages a number of times, Sent invoices, notices etc, Come Jan 15 06 he still had not paid his account.
    Since it was mild and no snow falling I took the time to sit in front of his home early one morning until he left for work.
    No way he could avoid speaking with me, me being parked across the end of his driveway.

    Owner comes out and freaks, states he did not sign a contract so I am **** out of luck when it comes to getting paid. My only reply to him was, I took it away and expect to be paid, if you don't pay I can always bring it back. He laughs gets in his car and locks the door. I gave up and left.
    Come to find out later that day, I am not the first snow contractor he has stiffed.

    One week later still no payment. Well I am pissed and the wife is on my case to sue this deadbeat. Well as you know it's not worth sitting through a day in court only to win and still never be paid.
    Being a man of my word, I got together with the last snow contractor
    he took for almost a grand from the year before. He owns a tri-axle dump truck and hauls a lot of snow. :p

    Well we wait a few days until he is hauling again through the night, well by 3am we managed to dump 3 full heavy loads smack dab in the middle of his double wide 250' long drive way.
    Wish I would have had a camera on his door in the morning when he came out to go to work and found mountains of snow blocking his way.

    To make a long story short, he called the police. Police contacted me, turns out I went to school with the cop.... ha. ha....
    Since no one witnessed the dumping and I don't own a dump truck he had no case, as well the word was out in our small town and he couldn't get a single contractor to help him remove the piles. So he hires and out of town guy with a loader 2 days later. I am sure he stiffed that guy as well.

    Well one week later I call the guy and get him on the phone, well you can imagine what mood he is in now.... again I state to him that nothing is over until I get paid and we still have lots of winter left and by the way, the last contractor you stiffed he wants his money as well.
    I guess he must have seen the light .....

    Well guess what, the very next day we both got paid our outstanding invoices in cash.....

    My Motto, don't get made, don't sue for under a grand, don't get caught, and get even.... sometimes it all works out and the good guys get paid.....

    We now insist on getting a Credit Card Number as well we keep a copy of all customers banking info on file. No one complained and we have no more deadbeat customers...

    Regards Al

  7. YardMedic

    YardMedic PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,266

    Yes there is great satisfaction in making people pay. It can bite you in the butt, as you almost experienced, but sweet justice was served AND you got money! I've done similar (much smaller scale, but it got her attention!)
  8. 2moresleeps

    2moresleeps Senior Member
    from Ontario
    Messages: 131

    I dont plow unless I get paid. In fact, I bill ALL OF MY CUSTOMERS (except 1 long timer) on the 12th of the month and the invoice must be paid by the 15th. In my letter to ALL OF MY CUSTOMERS I state: "We service fewer properties as to not overextend ourselves. We rely on the prompt payment of our customers to ensure our ability to maintain their businesses when they need us most." So far this year, I had one slow payer but handily dealt with him and now he is a good boy.
  9. Mick

    Mick PlowSite.com Veteran
    from Maine
    Messages: 5,546

    Bill on the the 12 and paid by the 15th? Three day turnaround??? That and the attitude of "now he is a good boy" would get you a "bye bye" from me as a customer. Matter of fact, today I just fired the trash collection service I'd had for over ten years for having a similar attitude. There are others out there providing the same service without the attitude. I don't put up with crap, either.
  10. carl b

    carl b PlowSite.com Addict
    from Ohio
    Messages: 1,330

    i built a wall [sandstone] for a guy and didn't get last payment so lawyer put a lein on the property so if he sells i'll get paid but i have to renew every 5years so i would call one or two times a day first!!!!!!!
  11. Rcgm

    Rcgm Senior Member
    Messages: 613

    You send the bill out on the 12th and expect them to have it back to you by the 15th?Ok let me get this straight goes in the mailbox on the 12th probally get it on the 13th or maybe it fell on a sunday so say the 14th they get home late on the 14th because they had say a kid that was sick so they took him to the emergency room so now here is the 15th OW CRAP the invoice is now late.:confused: 3 day turn around? Come on.

  12. ACA L&L

    ACA L&L Senior Member
    Messages: 362

    deadbeat customers...............

    Same situation mine was two brothers didnt pay for the winter months of service. They said they didnt see us there even though i had spoke with both of their wives.

    ( not to mention the great service we provided all summer as well as the 20 some odd neighbors we also service)

    Fast forward to March still had propertys on same street as these two idiots One of my guys accidently sprayed round up on both of their front lawns as well as thier pretty flower beds, I have no idea how this happened. Ran into one of them at the grocery store
    (i live in the same neigborhood) dude acted like he didnt know me (hes a doctor) I politley refreshed his memory in front of his two kids and wife and a few other people standing in line, that nite i get a phone call asking if he paid the bill could i remove the late fees,
    (330.00) i said i would half it. Picked up two checks the next day, dude called his brother and told him what happened i guess, sure made my weekend. Lawn was a bonus or accident whatever.........some people :waving:
  13. Mick

    Mick PlowSite.com Veteran
    from Maine
    Messages: 5,546

    Just for the benefit of anyone else thinking of doing this. I would not recommend it - It's called harrassment. Keep your business professional.
  14. exmark1

    exmark1 PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,320

    Originally Posted by ACA L&L
    Ran into one of them at the grocery store
    (i live in the same neigborhood) dude acted like he didnt know me (hes a doctor) I politley refreshed his memory in front of his two kids and wife and a few other people standing in line, ....

    Just for the benefit of anyone else thinking of doing this. I would not recommend it - It's called harrassment. Keep your business professional.

    I don't know if it would be harrassment if you just ran into them at the grocery store! It's not like he was stalking him or intentionally looking for him at the store, it was just a reminder since he ran into him in public I do it all the time!
  15. Mick

    Mick PlowSite.com Veteran
    from Maine
    Messages: 5,546

    This is a statement directly from a site about debt collections: In most cases, the collector may not tell anyone other than you and your attorney that you owe money.

    By being in a public place, you told other people that the person owed you money.
  16. 2moresleeps

    2moresleeps Senior Member
    from Ontario
    Messages: 131

    Mick, I totally understand your thinking. However, this is not "NEW NEWS" to the customer.

    When my partner and myself take on a new customer, we clearly state that we as a company do NOT overextend ourselves. In fact, we service accounts that pay our expenses and these accounts choose us to salt their property which provides additional income.

    The companies we service (gas stations, strip malls, etc) are all on board and expect great service....not excuses or "okay" service but top notch.

    When it snows, our customers do not wait or have to call and wonder when we will be there. They pay for this service and that means receiving an invoice (which, by the way, is hand delivered) on the 12th and I/we pick up the check on the 15th.

    95% of the time, our clients pay on the spot (on the 12th).

    Our philosophy is simple: We service FEWER accounts to ensure we provide the fastest response time possible. That is why it is imperative that our payments are received on time.

    I totally understand how that wouldn't fly in certain areas and to be honest, some companies could care less how quickly they are plowed as long as it gets done. These particular customers don't require time sensitive servicing so they are not a good fit for us nor are we for them.

    Our plan works for us. Believe me, I have had more than one door slammed on me regarding this very topic. We have been fortunate enough to find the businesses (gas stations, medical office etc) that need to receive fast service.

    I think Mick it is safe to say that your statement would be true for a number of business practices. I am not a plow nazi and DEMAND payment or they are cut off. I simply tell it like it is.

    The reason I made the comment of him being a "good boy" was more of a joke. This customer was fully aware of our billing schedule so it should not have come to that point.

    Last edited: Jan 5, 2007
  17. Mick

    Mick PlowSite.com Veteran
    from Maine
    Messages: 5,546

    I see where you're coming from better, now. I've never even thought of hand delivering bills. Like they say, do what works for you. You've found a good marketing tool for your area and are capitalizing on it. Go for itpayup .
  18. Superior L & L

    Superior L & L PlowSite Veteran
    from MI
    Messages: 3,035

    You may want to check with the state on this info. In Michigan you have a year from when you file a lean to collect. If they dont sell there home you have to forclose on it to get your money. If you dont start forclosure with in one year its wiped out. File the notice of furnishings and leans by yourself but i would us a lawyer for the forclosure part.
  19. Freddy_Kruger

    Freddy_Kruger Member
    Messages: 44

    Stratford pusher, You let your dead beat customer get 2.5 months behind and that is rediculous. (so is three days btw)

    I deliver bills on the 15th and with the due date on the 1st. For slow payers I phone immediately and offer to go pick it up, while I'm there I ask for post dated check for the next month since I'm going to be billing in the next week or so. Half will pay me for two months.

    This spring when lawn care starts I'm going to bill on the 1st with due date on the 15th. I was actually going to do this with snow and told all my customers as much and you know not a single one of them had a problem with it. In fact a few people gave me 5 post dated checks for the entire winter all cashable on the 15th. The reason I didn't bill on Nov. 1, was because there was no snow and I was shy.:rolleyes:

    One lesson for sure is that you can have a million dollar house and be broke and on the edge of bankruptcy.
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2007