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Would you pay?

     
12:55 pm on Oct 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

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You hire a consultant to fix a problem. The consultant gets so far, then says they can't help any further and abandon the project. Their waffling extends the problem another week.

Consultant is paid hourly. The project is extremely time sensitive and inability to fix the problem is costing thousands.

I'm curious what folks would do in this situation - would you pay the consultant when invoiced? Or not? Or something else?
3:18 pm on Oct 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

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On the face of it, you should pay for the work done.
What does the contract say?
3:58 pm on Oct 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

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No contract. They were called to fix a problem. Part way through I get an email that says 'I can't be of any further help, you're on your own'.

I know what I'll do, I'm curious what others would do.
4:58 pm on Oct 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

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No contract


Oh dear.

Part way through I get an email that says 'I can't be of any further help, you're on your own'.



Well, that looks like the point where the agreement ended.
5:19 pm on Oct 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

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My 2cts..I have a highly skilled developer whom I value immensely..When I hit something that I cant do ..or that I know my solution will take me a while ( that I may not have ) to find ..or that my solution will not be as elegant as it might be..

I contact them..I pay them to read the "problem"..they tell me how long to solve it..frequently I know that they will probably not need to spend as long on it as they say ..however.. I consider that I'm also paying for their knowledge and not merely their time..

So I almost always pay extra to what they have quoted me..

On occasion they have said that what I wanted is not a good idea, or is not the best way to do something ..they don't charge me for that advice..

They don't take on what they cannot solve..they have turned down work , saying that it was "not within their competence"..I paid them for their time in reading the brief..

re: your developer..

If the problem did not change in midstream ..I would pay them for time spent reading the brief ..and no more.

I personally would / do not charge for what I cannot do..I would charge for reading the brief..otherwise life flashes by whilst one reads other people's dumb ideas..:)

I suspect the developer I use would agree with me ..but I would feel honour bound to pay him for the time he would have to spend reading the request for his opinion and answering me :)

[edited by: Leosghost at 5:22 pm (utc) on Oct 18, 2011]

5:21 pm on Oct 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

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My wife who is the Delivery head of medium sized IT co. and works with US customers says..

If milestone is not reached or deliverable is not met, she doesn't get paid. She can't bill hourly if the objective as defined in an agreement is not met.
6:28 pm on Oct 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

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One of the first things I do when approaching a previously unsolvable problem is spend the earliest amount of time making SURE I can fix it. They should have been able to tell you after the first day if they could pull it off, doesn't matter how "complex" or "technical" it is.

From what I can gather, with no contract, but you know they were hourly, some form of compensation is appropriate. First I'd open a dialogue. If they have half a sense of honor they'll at least discount it.
6:39 pm on Oct 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

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their waffling extends the problem another week.


No contract, work for hire, you agreed to pay by the hour, pretty cut 'n dried.

You let them waffle if you weren't seeing results, bad management.

You should've booted them before they quit IMO.

The upside is they quit before burning more hours and not admitting they couldn't fix the problem, at least you now know before it dragged on even longer.

I would negotiate a partial payment and if they don't accept, pay in full and never use them again.
6:54 pm on Oct 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I'm not arguing about the payment part, but I didn't let them waffle. They tried this, they tried that, then they up and said that's all they could do. Under a lot of time pressure, not everything works the first time.

I emailed for a resolution on a Friday, they said they were busy. Saturday they emailed and indicated they were working on it (but apparently emailing me was the only work part). Monday I emailed and said what's up? Tuesday I emailed and said 'are you working on this or am I going elsewhere' and they finally respond that they're busy, sorry for the delay.

I've hardly been waffling.
8:48 pm on Oct 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

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This is-- sorry-- not a moral question, it's a financial one.

If you don't pay them at all, you will probably end up in court. Even if it's only Small Claims, it will cost you more in response-filing fees and lost time from work than it would have cost you to pay them in the first place.
9:12 pm on Oct 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Even though they haven't solved the problem have they made any progress in partially solving the problem or perhaps ruling out possible solutions ?

If so, quantify what you feel that work is worth to you in saved time and offer to compensate them appropriately.
9:15 pm on Oct 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

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So you'd pay due to threat of court? That's about the last reason I'd pay. Either they're properly owed, or they're not. If I figure I owe them, I pay. If I figure I don't owe him, I don't mind standing in front of a judge and explaining why that is. It would be because he's not owed, not because I don't want to pay.

For me it would be a moral decision, not a financial one.
9:23 pm on Oct 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Even though they haven't solved the problem have they made any progress in partially solving the problem or perhaps ruling out possible solutions ?

Nope, they made things worse AND they cost me two weeks - thousands.

So, do you pay?
9:37 pm on Oct 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

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So, do you pay?

Depends on the initial dialogue.

If you asked

"I have got a problem can you fix it ?"

and they replied

"Yes, but it will cost you $X an hour"

Then I wouldn't pay a penny because they haven't fixed the problem.

If the initial conversation was more vague then I would try and find some middle ground and pay them a token amount for their time.

The obvious supplemental question is what would you do differently next time, in terms of drawing up contracts etc. ?
9:54 pm on Oct 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Nope, I'm not getting all contracted up. It was a contractor I've used before, and they knew the job at hand. It seems in retrospect they simply didn't have the technical skills to actually fix the problem.

It's odd, people seem to have the idea that they'd pay or not depending on some very different reasons that what I do.
11:38 pm on Oct 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Even in absent contract, there are industry standards which can be (and are) applied regarding contract labor / hourly work.

You determine the number of hours they expended up to the point they declined to continue (you determine those hours, not them) then cut a check as payment for those hours WITH a stipulation that the check covers all hours expended and, when cashed, constitutes their agreement the fees are paid in full (in the memo line, ALL FEES PAID IN FULL will suffice). If they cash it, you're done. If they don't, let them take you to court if we are talking about THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS/POUNDS (etc.)

As plaintiff, they have burden of proof. As defendant you have their email terminating. And with your email history of Asked on Oneday, contacted on Twoday, they quit on Threeday, at BEST which can be asked is 72 hours (assuming they worked 24 hours a day) but in reality is no more than 24 hours for the three days. (That's how I would calc ---8 hours/day---, cut check, and do as stated above).

AND, if sued by contractor, you have COUNTERSUIT for Breach, Reliance, and Lost Revenues, Now and Future, at 3x your losses.

BUT we can't give legal advice... anything offered is merely an opinion and may vary in your location. Seek an attorney if needed.
12:06 am on Oct 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Depends on the initial dialogue.

If you asked

"I have got a problem can you fix it ?"

The dialogue was:
I have an urgent problem, can you fix it.Sure.

They tried this. They tried that. Nothing worked. Eventually they said they can't help any further. The problem was not resolved. I was basically offline for a week during this timeframe.

I picked up the ball and solved the problem myself.

THen I found another urgent problem. Went back again. They agreed, then went silent. 3 emails later asking about status updates (this was an extremely urgent problem, i.e. primary money making site completely offline) and 5 full days later, they holla back with an email about how they appreciate my frustration, I can't expect them to just shut down all their other clients and look after me. Huh? My site's offline - it's urgent, if you can't fix, tell me 5 days ago and move on. Don't put me in the queue me and not tell me. Anyway, a sensitive situation that on my end has nothing to do with legal and is more about how I feel about whether I owe him for work done and if so how much.
2:38 am on Oct 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I've hardly been waffling.


When they said they were busy, and you obviously weren't important enough to move to the top of their list, you were waffling when you didn't go elsewhere.

Actually I was in a similar situation with a tech writer, 2 weeks on the job and we got nada but he was working off site and 2 weeks was the first date for a deliverable and the guy was highly recommended, he had everything he needed to get going, didn't think anything about it.

No tech writing happened, he was 'styling' the document, for 2 weeks?

Told the idiot exactly how I wanted it to look, there was no 'styling' to be done, it was already decided.

I wasn't going to pay either, ended up in court, even had another tech writer on my side pleading my case to the judge, lost, had to pay up regardless of the nitwit not doing what he was told to do.

That's why I said you might as well pay because moral issues don't impress a judge.
8:30 am on Oct 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

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is more about how I feel about whether I owe him

Now I'm not concerned. Do what you want to do (or feel like). Me... contract or no, if I pay by the hour to get things done and they diss me, fail, or otherwise not complete, they get squat.

That's how I feel about biz... YMMV
8:34 am on Oct 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Actually I was in a similar situation with a tech writer, 2 weeks on the job and we got nada but he was working off site and 2 weeks was the first date for a deliverable and the guy was highly recommended, he had everything he needed to get going, didn't think anything about it.

Contract? Signed? Fail to deliver, no need to pay.

One of those "duh" moments in biz.

That said, been there, done that (wrong) way too many times and don't doubt I'll do it again even though I'm watching out for that! The world (and the critters who reside there) is a screwy place from time to time!
5:23 pm on Oct 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

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how they appreciate my frustration, I can't expect them to just shut down all their other clients and look after me.


"YOUR mismanagement is not MY problem! You're fired!"