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So we met and they paid me a 25% deposit. I built the entire web site, and it went on line. The first month's payment came, even earlier than my due date. They exclaimed how much they loved the site. The second month came and the payment was 2 weeks late. I finally heard from them with a sudden nasty email with "all sorts" of twisted & reworded accusations and issues, stating that I should consider their debt being paid in full.
I took the web site down. However, I worked hard and built the entire web site, which is what the amount owed is for, whether it was online or not. The site was built and finished.
Not only is it terrible for something to go wrong with a client, but I'm out almost $3000.00.
Does anyone know if that type of acceptance of proposal is legal in the state of Washington when it comes to getting your money?
That said, here are a couple of articles that may encourage you, although the applicability of these cases to your specific situation is best left to the opinion of a legal professional: "Can e-mail seal a sales deal? [realestate.boston.com]" (Boston Globe 16/Mar/2002) and
"An e-mailed contract is legally binding, too [baltimoresun.com]" (Baltimore Sun 29/Feb/2004).
Try to find out why they are unhappy. If you sue (the only way to really force them to pay you) you'll have to 1) pay a lawyer and 2) it generates bad publicity and bad word-of-mouth. Only the laywers win in such cases. However, if you can fix whatever they have a problem with, even if it takes you 20 hours of work, it could be cheaper in the long run (how much do lawyers ask for retainer and per-hour these days?), and if they like it, they will tell other people.
If they only want something for nothing, you'll have to accept that and move on, cutting and/or recovering your loses (collection agency, law suit, etc.). You can't please everyone.
(IANAL -- I Am Not A Lawyer)
I don't like payment plans. Period!
50% or so upfront, and 50% on competition is okay. But, nothing goes live at their domain name until all payments are made and collected in full, backed by a contract.
If they don't have the money (red flag), they shouldn't have you as a web designer. If they want cheap and cheerful let them go there....prospective clients get what they pay for!
Thanks ALOT for the articles 'Can e-mail seal a sales deal?' & 'An e-mailed contract is legally binding, too'. I appreciated having them to read.
Wow, did I ever learn that 'financing' does indeed involve risk.... I was thinking I was helping my client make the payments while also getting some regular income for myself and family throughout the year.
<"Try to find out why they are unhappy.">
It was a major shock to me that they were unhappy. I think they were just trying to get out of the bill because they ended up not having any money. About trying to find out why they're unhappy, everything was great. I never heard anything from them except for how much they loved the site. Then all the sudden the 3rd payment was due in February and I never got it. They wouldn't reply to any of my emails or phone calls, then I finally heard from them on the 8th of this month with a nasty email! I couldn't believe it. They were accusing me of all sorts of things. A couple of the rediculous 'issues' they all of the sudden had was that a few people she knows tried to buy items and use the shopping cart. She opted to use PayPal so it opens a new window when you add an item to the cart. She complained that 'some of them have been blocked as they have pop up blocks installed on their computers and have not been able to add items to their shopping carts. So that is a issue also.' I can't control the fact that some people may have pop up blocks installed on their computers! That has nothing to do with the Shopping Cart or the web site I built.... she's also furious because "I have her account information". WHAT!? I AM THE ONE WHO WAS PROVIDING HER WEB SITE HOSTING, AND THE ONE WHO CREATED HER ACCOUNT! I just read her email with my mouth open. I couldn't believe all of the accusations and twisted accusations she has.
She could have called me with any issues, I would have worked with her and she could stil have her web site online, but I still think she just didn't have the money.
<"Yeah, you need an Attorney. But for $3,000 it is hardly worth it, other than proving a point. Small claims would probably take care of it, so might collections. But either way it is a bunch of aggravation!">
So true. I met with an attorney this morning, and bottom line is, the emailed acceptance of proposal just isn't strong enough. You can imagine how I am kicking myself. I never perform work without a signed agreement. My other 30 clients and other customers have all signed agreements, whether it's for a site project or site management.
The attorney was great to talk with, but he said it would cost $5-10,000.00 if I took her to court. I could take her to small claims court, but if she fights that, it could go to Magistrate, last I could turn her into collection, which I hope I can do. I need to find out first, if she tried to fight that, I don't want her to sue me then I'll have to go to Magistrate court anyway, and pay everyone's court costs! I am sick that I lost my money, but I have to admit 80% of it now is to prove a point.
So sad that to a small business owner $2000 is alot of money, but to the court, it's nothing.
THANK YOU SO MUCH AGAIN FOR YOUR REPLIES!
It gives a chance to work with the customer and make changes and get them satisfied. It also protects my work until I get paid. Fortunately, I've never had a customer object to this idea.
That rant being done. Since you have a lawyer, have your lawyer send a letter to your client and tell them that they have to pay the $$ by a certain date. This type of letter was $250 from my lawyer. Lawyer fees are different, so it could be less. If they do not pay by that certain time, take them to small claims court. You have proof that you finished the work and that they agreed to the payment arrangements. Yes, you did a stupid thing by not having them sign an agreement (I did the same thing with the client above and my other clients have signed it!), but you will hear a short lecture from the judge and then he/she will get on with it. If your client doesn't show up, you get a default judgement and go through the garnishment process. I'm not a lawyer, but when you have that email proof, I don't see how that wouldn't be a case in your favor. Maybe find a new lawyer that actually specializes in the tech industry?
Good luck and let us know what happens!
Also, if nothing else you can write this off as a loss on your taxes, which while not returning the whole of the owed amount will at least absorb some of the damage and maybe a bit of the pain.