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Customer decides to pay whatever they want??

Discussion in 'Business Fundamentals' started by underESTIMATED, Jan 7, 2013.

  1. underESTIMATED

    underESTIMATED Senior Member
    Messages: 188

    As a follow-up to my original post: Thread Here I wanted to find a majority opinion on what to really do next.

    I apologize now for the lengthy post, and hope I summed up the specifics enough to keep it short.

    Thanks in advance for continuing to read about my situation.

    Today, I received said payment of $330, short from the original $1,005.00 invoiced amount.

    Customer states they never authorized salt, and 2nd push on specific date. (I bill monthly)

    I have been servicing these people for nearly 3 years, as I'm good friend's (was?) with the son who's business of whom I've known for nearly 13 years now.

    Without airing out the family's dirty laundry, it's a trust-fund setting and the parents micromanage the son's business affairs, including paying his business invoices. I have charged them the same rate whether I push the entire lot, or drop the blade with a lot full of cars.

    Extremely long story short, the I've been charging the son's location the same rate on every invoice that I have since he opened this location. $75 to plow, $75 to salt. Since he opened, he's obviously had a lot more cars parked on location, and parked like 'tards. Making clearing the lot more difficult, and liability of hitting a random unaligned vehicle. That being said, I still continue to charge them accordingly. They signed a "per service" agreement back on 4/7/11, and have never disputed the invoices, or the services. After reviewing that agreement, I mistakenly never mentioned any specific time periods for which the pricing shall remain active, nor was there a specific "trigger", but the phrase: "Snow Plowing of driveways & Parking Lot (zero tolerance)" <---(Obviously an oversight on my part looking back).

    On 12/29/12 the son called to advise me that no one was going to be working that Saturday, and to push the lot at the end of the storm/day. He also told me to get a hold of his dad as he thinks his dad needed some locations cleared.

    After speaking with the dad, dad wanted me to clear their commercial locations that I quoted them prices for nearly 2 years ago, but never inquired about pricing per this phone call.

    After all was said and done, I invoiced at the end December like I have been doing for years. Within 10 minutes of the emailed invoice, the dad calls me going off on a tangent complained about me charging "$140 to do 10 minutes of work" as it was dishonest of me, and I was gauging them. I advised him that it took longer than 10 minutes, and I charged them what I quoted them for this property 2 years ago. Continued to verbally abuse my integrity, and threatened to tie up all of my money in court if it would get that far.

    That 9 minutes of verbal abuse ended after I got tired of trying to reason with someone that couldn't understand his negligence.

    The mom now sends me an email reply, telling me to revise the invoices and send it back immediately. I took my time responding as I knew it would be taken literally word for word as it would be in writing. Basically saying that based on her husband's phone call, I would not be revising any invoice that was generated for their 3 accounts.

    She responded with a final reply that they would make their own changes, and pay accordingly.
    1. Not paying for any salt for any location.
    2. Not paying for multiple pushes on son's location.
    3. My pricing that I quoted is nearly 2 years old, and "Whatever you quoted almost two years ago certainly does not apply now. "
    4. Not paying for son's 2nd location, and would include that location with that location's main bill (but still not paying for that invoice ($140)

    Shortly after this email, the son text's me that he would never have agreed to $75 per salt application, and let alone multiple services. (Basically a short case of amnesia all of a sudden after receiving some heat from parents.)

    I never responded to her email or the text, as it wouldn't end up making a difference.

    In the days following this email, the son “un-friended” me via Facebook, and unlike all of my business endeavors assuming severing ties. Which is another reason why you shouldn’t mix a friendship with business.
    After continuing to ponder the situation after a few days, I felt that I should respond with factual documentation and sending her the signed agreement basically just making myself feel like I have attempted to act in good faith. But I never sent the email draft, and it's still sitting in my email queue.

    Today I receive total payment of $330 instead of $1,005 as billed.

    ^^^^ I'm not going to deposit the payments, until I figure out what I'm going to do.

    At this point, I guess I'm not really sure what I should do. I have no issue filing a small claims on the balance. I'm considered filing a mechanic's lien on all 3 properties for the balance.

    So I'm hoping to hear some 3rd party professional experience from you as to how I should proceed.

    Thank you for your time in reading/comments.

    Below is the before/after Google maps overviews:

  2. grandview

    grandview PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 14,609

    Cash check under protest .Send them a letter you are going to small claims court and service is canceled.
  3. Meezer

    Meezer Senior Member
    from Indiana
    Messages: 300

    What grandview said or you can file a mechanics lien on the property/properties.
  4. hatefulmechanic

    hatefulmechanic Senior Member
    Messages: 228

    Take it as a $700 lesson to have an ironclad agreement on jobs, especially for people you are friends with or related to.

    Cash the check, fire them and move on. You will be throwing good money after bad trying to collect the difference.
  5. calikid79

    calikid79 Junior Member
    from Mo
    Messages: 6

    Depends on your state. In mo I add $100 and 20% to the bill as a collection fee. I send them a demand letter with copies of the lien paperwork and tell them I will file the liens in 10 days if not paid. I also state on the demand letter if they pay within 10 days the collection fee is waived. They usually pay. If not I file the liens and move on. They can't do anything with the property till that pay you.
  6. underESTIMATED

    underESTIMATED Senior Member
    Messages: 188

    Ive been through the small claims before in a previous life; but is it possible to do both the lien and small claims to see whichever sticks?
  7. hatefulmechanic

    hatefulmechanic Senior Member
    Messages: 228

    I presume these are in the Rubber City itself?

    I can spend time to verify the mechanic lien laws in OH, but I am pretty certain that unless you have a signed work order, estimate, or contract, you are gonna be up shyts creek.

    There are three red flags that come up for me:

    1. It's in Akron
    2. They own multiple businesses and likely have knowledge of collection laws in the state
    3. Lack of a signed order to perform services

    Also, is the phrase "payment in full" written on the subject line of the check?
  8. underESTIMATED

    underESTIMATED Senior Member
    Messages: 188

    Located within the same county, but the properties on in two different ajoining cities. I believe the county court would prevail for jurisdiction.

    I have a signed price agreement, agreeing to the terms, but not a specified contract with multiple pages like i would/should have normally done. They've paid every previous invoice for winter work without question before this ( multiple years). All of a sudden they purchases a plow for another truck, but it wasnt installed yet...and i believe this is the problem. They are just trying to dick the dealer here.

    They didnt write payment in full on the checks, but their emails elude that these checks are payment in full.

    So i asked my bank about the terminology for the "under protest" and they advised that anything else they couldnt accept the check with an endorsement because they arent the enforcee of the contract terms and arent aware of the payment schedules. Which makes sense to me.

    So thats why im reluctant to endorse the checks.

    I have to make a few calls to some attorneys this morning for a clearer answer.
  9. hatefulmechanic

    hatefulmechanic Senior Member
    Messages: 228

    From a purely financial standpoint, it is going to cost less money to accept what they have paid and simply cut ties.

    From an ethical standpoint, both sides have reasonable affirmations of their contractual obligations, and should work together to find an amicable solution.

    From a legal standpoint, both sides have reasonable affirmations of their contractual obligations, and whoever has a better lawyer will win.

    You do snow removal for a living, right? Cut your losses, take the money they paid, and never do business with them again.

    Over the first six years of operation at my repair shop, I lost over $100k due to non pays, NSF payments to me, vehicles being taken off the lot without paying, and me extending credit to people I should not have. I now have COD terms, and all vehicles are locked up till paid in full. The ones who owed me money I took to court, got a judgment, and still have not collected. I spent $10k trying to collect on those debts, and in the end I have received about $456 from all debtors.

    I get livid thinking about it, and quite frankly it does not help anyones stress levels. It is part of business, unfortunately. Sounds like they know how the system works too.

    Send them a nice, courteous letter informing them their business is no longer requested nor desired, accept the payment, and go on with your business. Karma will come back to them, eventually.
  10. hatefulmechanic

    hatefulmechanic Senior Member
    Messages: 228

    BTW COMPLETELY off topic, but I hope you have gotten a pizza from Mark and Philly's up in Cuyahoga Falls.

    ZOMG best pizza on earth. I detour off I77 every run I make to Thieveland to get me one.
  11. underESTIMATED

    underESTIMATED Senior Member
    Messages: 188

    Of all the time I've lived here, I have never been there. It was a Dairy Mart at one point, and perhaps why I haven't paid attention to the change over. Rocco's is pretty good too, it's about a mile away or so from there.

    Your previous points are pretty valid too. But at this point it's the principal. I'm a person of principal. Being that it's a small claims amount, having your business name/personal names on the local court dockets for future reference regardless of what happens I feel would far be worth any money received, or actions that occur afterwards.
  12. hatefulmechanic

    hatefulmechanic Senior Member
    Messages: 228

    I used to be based on principal. It don't work.

    Thinking the courts or police are going to help on just about any situation in business is wishful thinking, IMO.

    If OH is even remotely like VA on civil matters in court, they can drag this out for months going back and forth, and with the info I see, the judge will likely dismiss the case because they do not have a signed work order or estimate.

    It sucks, but unless you want to waste a lot of time at the courthouse, it aint worth it. Solely my opinion though, and I have been in your shoes countless times (before I Figured it out and changed my methods so I am not in that position again)

    Good luck however you go.

    Get extra garlic butter when you do go, its amazing.
  13. ducaticorse

    ducaticorse PlowSite.com Addict
    from we
    Messages: 1,426

    What hateful said.
  14. WIPensFan

    WIPensFan PlowSite Veteran
    Messages: 3,594

    I agree with this as well.

    Great answers Hateful.

    To the OP and all others in whatever business ventures you have going on...The customers are NOT your friends!!! No matter how close you think you are or how long you've had a great relationship, when it comes to matters of money, all that fufu goes right out the window. Trust me on this, and cover yourself no matter what.
  15. Laszlo Almasi

    Laszlo Almasi Senior Member
    Messages: 326

    One thing to consider that by cashing the partial payment check, you may be accepting their terms for payment. If you intend to go to court over the matter, do not cash the check. At least that is what can happen here in NC. Any time a partial payment is made/accepted, there is really no timeline for completion of payments.
  16. thelettuceman

    thelettuceman PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,218

    Hateful make some good points. I've been through this. Take the money and move on as Hateful says.. If it makes you feel better .... Plow them in next time ... that is after they get someone else to plow. No snow in the Baltimore area. I may come up there and help you. You just need to buy the pizza.
  17. Antlerart06

    Antlerart06 PlowSite Veteran
    Messages: 3,437

    I would do the lien people hear about this you might find your self getting burned by others Even if you only get 2/3 of it people will know they cant push you around
  18. woodchuck2

    woodchuck2 Senior Member
    Messages: 304

    Price for that size lot and hassle seems reasonable to me. Sounds like these folks only want to pay what they feel your time is worth. I would politely tell them good luck and walk away. You will find that money is not worth chasing and it will not give them or their son any reason to bad mouth you or your business. If you find they are trashing you verbally then i would pursue them for slander.

    I had one fella once fire me for not getting to his home quick enough so he could get to work so he called in to work. We had been forecasted with a dusting and ended up with almost 12" of snow so needless to say i was behind from the get go. Now, he and i never had an agreement to any time of him being plowed out nor had the time of my arrival ever been an issue in the past. He demanded i pay for his lost days wages and that he had found a new contractor. I told him i was not paying for his wages as we never had any time agreement nor even a written contract and it is not my responsibility to see him off to work. He owed me $90 for that month so i told him to keep it and good luck. This fella was out at a bar several months later and started trashing me in front of my wife and friends. I told him that apparently he had forgotten about some of the freebies i did for him such as punching out the scraper bank if the Town plow went through after i cleared the drive, free sanding on occasion, free boost's when his car would not start to be moved, free tow when he was stuck in the ditch because he had one too many the night before, etc. I also reminded him that i let him go on his bill so technically i plowed his driveway 3 times for free. I also reminded him he was grown man and that if he needed to get to work that badly he could either have called me or shoveled his way out but IMO he was being lazy and did not want to work anyway. My final question to him was "are you trashing me for doing you favors, plowing your driveway for free several times and just because you are too lazy to shovel you had to call in to work"??? He walked away with is head down and embarrassed.
  19. jmac5058

    jmac5058 Senior Member
    Messages: 431

    It dont work ?
  20. hatefulmechanic

    hatefulmechanic Senior Member
    Messages: 228

    Good friend of mine up in MA was telling me last night he had a guy who stiffed one of his customers (friend owns a repair and towing shop) who does plowing and excavating. Had the excavator plow his drive for an entire season, never paid. The next season rolls around, they get one hell of a good wet snow, and the excavator was hauling snow from one of his accounts, happened to drive by the aforementioned deadbeat who stiffed him the year before.

    Well, lets just say that the guy got all of his snow back from the previous season lol. To add insult to injury, the guy was dumb enough to try to drive through the pile of snow, essentially burying his car.

    Karma is in effect, even though some times you wish it happens sooner.

    Without having a concrete contract and work order, I highly doubt he would be able to get a lien recorded fruitfully. Sure, it might go and be applied in the clerks office, but the property owner is likely going to contest it, and have it removed.

    Also, being as they own multiple businesses, it is almost guaranteed they own the property in a different entity, so legally the only thing you can do is file a judgment against the entity that contracted the work, not the entity that owns the property.