“I Want My Two Dollars!”

Thursday, June 13th, 2013

When a client stiffs you, especially one you liked and have had forever, unless it’s for a lot of money, there’s not much you can do.  But it sure feels bad. It makes you feel like all the effort you put into cultivating a relationship with that client was pointless, worthless. It makes you (even a little) nervous that future efforts to go above and beyond with other clients could be met with the same result. The rapport you thought you had was really just meaningless. You might as well be the plumber. Hell, I bet they pay the plumber.

Having tried to collect this meager balance since January 25, I inquired with several strong-arm collection agencies and anything under $500 doesn’t seem to be worth their time. It’s not really worth my time either, but I was hoping it would quell my desire to light shit on fire whenever I log into my accounting software or see that client prancing about online, smiling on social media, excited about their new business ventures.

It’s not about the money. If they had been honest with me, if they’d said, “I just can’t, I’m so sorry, times are tough.” I’d probably have waived it. I do that kind of thing all the time, to my detriment sometimes. But I take care of my clients and am usually pretty understanding and flexible.  Yet, this client ignored me for months, totally flat-out ignored my emails. Their services were completed in January, but it took until I sent a somewhat shame-laden email in late April for them to give me some cockamamie story about how they would pay me at the end of May, which of course, despite my kind reminder emails, they never intended to do.

They could afford to open a new bakery in another country, but couldn’t afford to pay me a few hundred bucks? It costs multiple thousands of dollars to open a brick and mortar business, especially one in food service. In a last ditch effort, I even offered them the chance to pay me the principle, saying I’d waive the couple hundred dollars in late fees they’d racked up if they just would pay me the initial balance. Crickets, of course.

I just wanted to win, honestly. For me, for all of us who have ever been stiffed. It would’ ve been a small victory, but a matter of principle.

If your toilet stops up, you call the plumber and you pay him. If your spleen falls out, you pay the doctor. If you need a haircut, you pay your stylist. What makes people think that they don’t have to pay someone who does work for them? I’m not in the business of working for free. I bet the client expects $5 for that eclair they painstakingly crafted.

And while it happens so rarely, it disappointments me most that I was shafted by someone I thought was a trustworthy person, a long-standing, kind, honest client with whom I’d done a lot of work for almost a decade. If they’d decided to hire someone else, I’d be less offended.

So, consider our bridge burned, dear client. I’m sad to see our long-standing relationship pissed away over $280. I hope your flan gives everyone the runs.

New-ish in Work
  • 6/13/13 9:03 April:

    If it was me, I’d send a demand letter threatening legal action asking for the principal, interest and late fees and reasonable attorney fees. You don’t actually have to sue – often the demand letter is enough.


    • 6/13/13 10:01 Joelle:

      I could, but I’d rather save my lawyer favors for bigger issues. :D


  • 6/13/13 9:14 Another April:

    Oh, man, do I relate. It is rare but so disappointing… My favorite was when a client on a payment plan just decided they had paid me enough for my work and wouldn’t be paying the balance (because they thought it was a “fair value”) despite everything having been completed. I went to small claims court, where they threatened to countersue me for who knows what. The stress of it all was so annoying that I just let it go and made another tick line on “Reasons Against Being Generous.”


    • 6/13/13 10:02 Joelle:

      I love how they just decide what is fair. I wonder if someone came to their business and said, “You know, I think this accounting you did is fine, but I don’t intend to pay you because what I paid so far is a fair value.”

      That would never fly.


  • 6/13/13 10:57 Laurie:

    I too can relate – I think it’s the nature of our kind of business. The worst I ever had to do, and this pretty much combusted any kind of bridge doing this, but after 15 months of trying to get paid and getting ignored, I logged on to their site and deleted my files. They were seriously pissed, but in the end I got paid.

    I’ve noticed that any client who starts disputing the price after the contract is signed and work is underway is going to be a nightmare when it comes to actually getting paid.

    But I think it sucks even more when it’s a client you have a long-standing relationship with.
    Laurie´s last post: Take Two


    • 6/13/13 11:03 Joelle:

      Yeah, this was my client since 2004. I didn’t think I needed to pre-charge her for work that was “urgent, right now, please fix, the sky is falling”, you know? I assumed she knew, by now, that asking me to drop everything and fix something wasn’t free.


  • 6/13/13 11:10 Ms. Pants:

    I send her the Yeast Infection Salute.


  • 6/13/13 12:58 sizzle:

    That is such a dick move on their part! WTF? PAY UP BITCH. I am totally annoyed on your behalf. Can you start talking legal action just to scare them? That’s what we’ve begun with the landlord of the karaoke terrorists.


    • 6/14/13 8:21 Joelle:

      The karaoke terrorists deserve, in addition, a pile of week-old fish thrown over the fence.


  • 6/14/13 13:04 Billie:

    Can you just go in, as Laurie mentioned and delete the files, or contact the hosting company about blocking their site until they pay?


    • 6/17/13 15:16 Joelle:

      Eh, I don’t feel good about that. I feel that ultimately that makes ME look bad, not them. I’d rather just walk away.


  • 6/17/13 14:27 Brian:

    My company puts clients like that on a “Credit Hold” list. Meaning when the end-of-the-world-happens-again, and you know it will, they must pay the money owed plus a late fee. Maybe a strongly worded letter telling them that they are on a list like this and that if any issues are to be fixed in the future, fees will apply. Seriously, browsers will be updated and they will need your services at some point. :)


    • 6/17/13 15:15 Joelle:

      Thanks for the tip, Brian! :D


  • 2/15/14 10:46 Lila:

    That seems kind of unusual from a long-term client, but it still sucks, I hate it when people do this to creative types. We work just as hard as accountants, doctors, lawyers, engineers, and anyone else that has a profession. For some reason people love stiffing designers and artists. :(


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