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Internet ad agency five months behind on payment

Can I let webmasters know about them?

     
3:28 am on May 18, 2009 (gmt 0)

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For the last four years I've had a company run banner ads on a couple dozen pages on my site. They paid $100 a month, which was satisfactory for them and for me.

In late 2007, I was told that they were having an internet advertising agency handle their advertising for 2008. The agency had me bill them quarterly for the banner ads.

I was notified in December of last year that the company was severing its ties with the agency, and wanted to go back to dealing directly with me. That was fine by me.

I invoiced the agency for the last quarter of 2008, but haven't been paid. I sent email after email and just got excuses. A couple of weeks ago I was sent an email explaining that the agency was having a hard time, was trying to keep up with paying utilities and salaries, and would try to pay me as soon as they can.

Well, that's a shame, but if they're able to pay salaries, I figure they should pay me. I've always paid my suppliers first, and me last. We're only talking a few hundred dollars here, but that's still a couple of weeks of groceries.

I've thought about spreading their name on webmaster forums, but I don't know if that could result in legal action against me. Does anyone know if it's legal for me to name them?

Thanks for any replies.

3:34 am on May 18, 2009 (gmt 0)

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Most likely not a good idea in a PUBLIC forum such as Webmasterworld. What you say face to face with others is a different thing.

Certainly sever the relationship if they have failed contractual obligations, and sue for past monies if applicable (or possible).

6:05 am on May 18, 2009 (gmt 0)

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If they are five months behind, and making excuses, I would say it is pretty unlikely you will see your money. You have to decide whether it is worth taking further action.

Possibly not, as the debt is relatively small, but it may be worth a conversation with a legal adviser specialising in debt collection -one letter can sometimes do the trick.

11:06 am on May 18, 2009 (gmt 0)

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Naming the agency will not get the money back. It may make you feel satisfied, but, if the agency is protective of its brand, you can be pretty sure it'll take action.

It's a distraction for you and for them.

I know you didn't mention WebmasterWorld, specifically, however, WebmasterWorld would not permit such action through its TOS. I could be pretty sure that any webmaster forums worth anything would also have some similar rule.

In real terms, it's a small sum, however, if you have dialogue with them, why not agree with them, say, $100 this month, then $100 on subsequent months.

In addition, it's worth pointing out that they may, or may not have had payment from the client, so this is another aspect to bear in mind.

As a final thought, in instances such as this, some terms and conditions of business often help. Making the agent and client jointly and severally liable may help.

HTH

11:35 am on May 18, 2009 (gmt 0)

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as implied by engine, TOS #12 [webmasterworld.com] covers this situation for the WebmasterWorld forums.
10:07 pm on May 18, 2009 (gmt 0)

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Oh, well. It was a thought.

As for the company, they paid the agency in full last year. So the agency took my payment and spent it.

I've been self-employed for over 22 years, but I still get angry with somebody screws me over.

3:48 pm on May 19, 2009 (gmt 0)

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Don't have a clue were you are but maybe file a report with the BBS, turn it over to a collection company, and have an attorney send them a registerd letter letting them know this can go to small claims court if needed.

The first one won't cost a dime, the 2nd gets a % of the collection, and the 3rd maybe you have a lawyer friend.

If it is turned over to a collections company this can and will go against their credit rating and this is something I am very sure they will want to avoid. Get the lawyer in the letter letting them know he/she will as well file this against their credit report.

I think if you take this approach your more than likely gonna get your payment pretty fast.

Smearing names is not something I do as it just not worth it. Be smart use the available methods to work in your favor.

4:54 pm on May 19, 2009 (gmt 0)

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I would spread the word [on other forums]. If they can't afford to pay you a few hundred bucks then they probably won't be around much longer. Warn others before they provide a service to this company.

You provide impressions for $100/mo.
Agency does not pay.
How could they possibly "take action" as someone else put it? Truth != libel.

10:22 pm on May 19, 2009 (gmt 0)

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bwnbwn, I was under the impression that a suit in small claims court required the plaintiff to be physically present. Am I right or wrong on that?

If they can't afford to pay you a few hundred bucks then they probably won't be around much longer.

No, they won't be around, at least not under the current name. I've known many people like this, though, and they re-open a business using a new name, never bother to repay their old creditors, and they're back to making nice $$ for themselves.

It's too bad that the friends I had years ago in the Mafia have all passed on. ;)

12:09 am on May 20, 2009 (gmt 0)

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they re-open a business using a new name, never bother to repay their old creditors, and they're back to making nice $$ for themselves.

We have a local gym that reopens under a new name just about every 6 months - I'm sure after they've collected many annual enrollment fees.

How could they possibly "take action" as someone else put it? Truth != libel.

You'd be best to check with a lawyer, but I'm also under the impression that stating accurate facts about a person or business isn't libel or slander. Look at how many "company x sucks" sites are out there. There is one for a major charge card company that the owner has kept up successfully for years despite numerous legal threats.

[edited by: Jane_Doe at 12:16 am (utc) on May 20, 2009]

7:40 am on May 20, 2009 (gmt 0)

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What you have to do is pretty obvious. Stop displaying the ads, get another advertising agency and start collecting the money right away, as long as they still have something of worth. They are an online business, they must have computers you can seize and auction off or other things of value.

If you spread the news, the only thing will happen is that others will enforce their claims first, and when you send the bailiff or marshal there will be nothing of worth left.

If you do not know how to get a court order for small claims, check wikipedia

[en.wikipedia.org...]

there is some background information along with links to websites on how small claims can be collected in different states. Procedures are different from state to state and country to country.

For example in my country all I have to do is fill out a simple form on a website, takes 5 minutes and costs less than a collecting agency. I have sent out the bailiff lots of times to collect money from credit card chargebacks or other outstanding payments and usually I am at least able to get part of the money.

3:52 am on May 21, 2009 (gmt 0)

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The agency is in California, and it looks like CA requires both plaintiff and defendant to be physically present. I'm in the midwest, so that doesn't work.

I'm running the ads, but the company (not the agency) paid me in full for this year. I've also found an ad agency that's reputable, and pays on time.

7:25 am on May 21, 2009 (gmt 0)

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dickbaker... check your contract (if there is one) for venue. Before you get undies in a bundle chat with a paralegal (less bucks than a lawyer) for strategy. Your total dollar amount pretty much precludes a lawyer. HOWEVER if VENUE is not specified it is possible to carry suit locally, etc. etc. etc. and summary judgment is possible... which means, in most cases, nothing.

YOU HAVE SEVERED your relationship with this company, correct? If you haven't continued relationship raises other legal issues WHICH IS WHY YOU GET A LAWYER, or get out.

It is the "get out" many bad-biz-who-don't-come-through depend on, particularly for paltry amounts.

Determine what your ruffled feathers are worth then go for it---either way.

9:56 am on May 21, 2009 (gmt 0)

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Has the advertiser paid the agency for these services?

If not, go direct to the advertiser for payment.

4:47 pm on May 21, 2009 (gmt 0)

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The advertiser (the company I've been dealing with since 2005) paid for everything last year. The advertising agency took the company's money, but isn't paying the owners of the websites.

I let the owner of the company know this was happening, and he told me that he had paid in full for the advertising, but had severed the relationship with the agency effective 12/31/2008.

Also, there's nothing in the insertion order specifying a venue for disputes.

4:23 am on May 25, 2009 (gmt 0)

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I've thought about spreading their name on forums, but I don't know if that could result in legal action against me.

Hey, google is out against those selling ads! Watch out ;)

You're talkin about couple hunderd of dollars?
if they sell goods, buy something from them, dispute the charges (reason: not satisfied) and let them run after you. Just a suggestion.

7:42 am on May 25, 2009 (gmt 0)

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This really is a small amount and it is more pride than commerce, but you mentioned something this last time around that begs a question:

isn't paying the owners of the websites

Does that mean there are others in the same boat as you? Do you know who they are? Have you considered joining with them to present a joint lawsuit? If there are ten of you with the same amount (or more) then a lawyer might be interested. If there are a thousand of you... the lawyers will queue up!

10:32 pm on May 25, 2009 (gmt 0)

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Tangor, I think the only way I could find out who the other webmasters were would be to contact the company whose ads were handled by the agency. I think that would be bad form.

$300 isn't nothing to me. It's a week or so of groceries, 7 or 8 tanks of gas, a performance tire for my car...you get the idea.

I checked and found that I can file a suit in CA court, requesting that I be allowed to appear by phone. If emails are allowable evidence, then it's case closed.

If these folks were having a tough time personally, I wouldn't bother with this. The fact that they're drawing salaries while stiffing suppliers, though, is a different story.

9:40 am on May 27, 2009 (gmt 0)

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#1 - If they haven't resolved your concerns in a timely manner and are now 5 months behind it's time to stop displaying their ads.

#2 - It would be bad business to badmouth anyone, even a deadbeat client, take the higher road and move along.

#3 - If you find the amount of money is worth pursuing and you would be willing to invest your time and money to recover it I would simply send them a brief but clear letter stating you wish to be paid. Be specific, describe the amount of money and why it is due as clearly as possible. Refer to your original agreement even if only by saying "as per your contract". Provide a deadline that is reasonable. When they fail to make good file your small claims suit, in California it will cost you less than $50 to file I believe and you get your day in court. Don't worry if you start getting threatened with lawyer talk because lawyers aren't allowed to represent clients inside small claims court, the owner will need to represent himself or send a non attorney in his stead.

10:08 pm on May 27, 2009 (gmt 0)

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I don't run "their ads" and never have. I've run ads for Acme Widgets, which was originally my direct client, then it was their client, and Acme is now handling advertising directly with me again.

I won't badmouth them on the internet.

I've written numerous emails, all very polite, explaining that they have owed me money since December, and that I need to be paid. If I don't get in line to be paid before they go belly up, I'll never get a cent.

11:52 pm on May 27, 2009 (gmt 0)

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Email is good for most business communications, but snail mail, signature required, is best for legal communications. Some courts accept email, others do not, but all accept POSTAL communications. Send that letter today!