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Need some advice on a non-paying customer

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  • Need some advice on a non-paying customer

    So, without naming names or boats, I'm in a situation now that is a first for me.

    Back in March, I completed a pretty significant buildup for a customer and let him know that it would be ready to ship within a few days. My policy is typically 50% down and 50% when complete. In this case I strayed and only took a $500 down payment. I figured I would be okay as he was supplying the actual kit. He let me know that he'd need a week to 10 days to get the cash together. Not a big deal. I wasn't worried.

    Then he disappeared... until June.

    When I finally managed to get a hold of him, he let me know that he was in deep doo doo with the IRS and got hammered with a massive tax bill. I let him know that I'd be willing to work with him. I offered to sell the boat, take my labor from the proceeds and then forward the remainder. He didn't want to do that as the boat is pretty unique (and turned out pretty awesome, if I do say so myself). He said he needed to make payments. I was okay (not happy, but okay) with that.

    Then he disappeared... again.

    No response to email or phone calls for the last 4 months. For all I know he's in jail for tax evasion. Does anyone have any idea what I should do? I'd hate to have to turn it over to collections, but I'm getting close to needing to. I still have the boat, so selling it is an option, but I'm not sure about the legalities of that as he supplied the hull. Would that be considered his property, or do I have the right to liquidate to recoup my expenses?

    Any help you can offer would be greatly appreciated! I'm interested in hearing what you think.


  • #2
    Not sure how it works over there Bob but do you have anything in writing ?



    • #3
      Unpaid invoice. Not much more than that, unfortunately...


      • #4
        Here's some free advice Mate. Laws are different everywhere. Here you would be covered by the invoive - offer and acceptance - but who knows what the law is where you live? Answer - not us; no matter how well meaning we are we simply don't know (unless we're lawyers of course). You are dealing with an unfortunate situation which involves a lot of money. Ten minutes research into your local consumer rights and regulations will be time very well spent. It is very likely that there will be a time limit after which you can claim the goods in question and recoup your loss but you MUST know what the law says before you take any action - ie your laws, governing your juristiction. The consequences of accepting uninformed advice from idiots like us is very unlikely to make the situation better. In the words of some important guy, "Speak softly and carry a big understanding of the rules".


        • #5
          That is some great advice. Bob, the big question a judge will look at is what was the agreement, any documentation, in absence of that, why do you get full pay for your labor and your customer does not get full pay for the hull? If you went to small claims, then maybe you can get a judgement that the sub hull and parts are yours. Once that is done, you can sell it and keep all proceeds. Get legal council, if you have an attorney friend who will offer free advice that would be great. Lacking that, it is murky waters you are traveling in. So, from now on, document everything, contracts/agreements are all written out, and continue building.
          If you can cut, drill, saw, hit things and swear a lot, you're well on the way to building a working model sub.


          • #6
            Ah, yes... thanks Tom. Just to clarify Bob. My point is that YOU can check up on the consumer law in your juristiction by doing a simple internet search. That will inform you of the rules. Once you know the rules you can plan the way that you conduct your business. Do you rerally want to have each and every transaction documented in a contract - probably not; do you want to get legal on every infringement of your trust - probably not. Judgement is something that you exercise - not something that you want a judge to do for you. Getting involved in the legal system from ANY perspective is expensive. (Why are lawyers better test subjects than lab rats? Because there are some things that lab rats just won't do!) Know the rules and decide on the course of action that you will take, and then take it. That might mean just walking away, it might mean setting a dead line, it might mean holding the product until payment, it might mean going to Disneyland and chilling out. The point is, when you know the rules, YOU decide.


            • #7

              Mechanic's lien might be the way to go. Option two would be to out this guy in every forum that caters to our interests. He's made your life 'interesting' so far. Return the favor!



              "... well, that takes care of Jorgenson's theory!"


              • #8
                Plan of attack (so far):

                Once I get back from this trip to Chicago I'm going to send a registered letter to his address outlining my intentions of liquidating the model if I don't get a response from him by the end of the month. If I don't hear from him by then, I've actually got two guys who ferreted out which model I'm talking about and are standing by to purchase (provided we can agree on a fair price). Once that's done, I'll take my cut, send the rest to him via certified check, and call it good.