5 min. ago, one of my corporate clients stormed out saying he’s going to subpoena me unless I give him half his money back, because he’s not technically inclined to open a .dv file.
He first came to my house 3 weeks ago and said that he needed a movie for his friend’s birthday by April 14. I said I’d do it for $500 with $250 up front.
April 14th goes by before he can get me the audio and video he wants in the move. Now, when I say this guy’s not technically inclined, I mean oblivion. So he’s telling me “the file is on my Google! the file is on my Google!” He doesn’t know the difference between the internet and his computer.
On the last day before the party and after searching the four corners of the world for his content, I found 95% of it. He wanted 3 audio clips from When Harry Met Sally, but we couldn’t find them and he said he didn’t care. So I burned him a DVD and he paid me the rest and ran out the door.
The next day, I get a long distance call and he’s trying to get me to do phone support so he can open his .dv file. I’m like “Don’t they have techs in NC?” and he’s says “That’s what you’re for.” I tell him that I’d have to see what’s going on and that he should hire a tech to operate his advanced technology, but he wanted to save a buck, so I consulted him on the phone (for free) for 6 hours until I finally sent him a compressed avi. “THANK YOU, THANK YOU, YOU SAVED MY LIFE”
5 days later…
So he came over to my house to pick up his computer. He left it here because he got a virus and I repair computers. GeekSquad couldn’t fix it, but I did! He took his computer, wouldn’t pay me for my repair and said that he’s going to sue me over the birthday movie. He went onto this big rant about the product I sold him was not complete and that it’s my fault he couldn’t play the movie. So I stuck it in my computer and it played fine. So he started complaining about the deadlines that HE MISSED saying that it was my fault he missed them! “I called you Tuesday and you didn’t answer the phone and bla bla bla…” “I’m like, you didn’t give me the files by the deadline” and he’s like “That’s beside the point! I’m talking about Tuesday! You sold me a defunt product and you better refund me 1/2 in two days or I’m going to subpoena you! See you in court!!!”
What can he sue me for? That he can’t play a .dv file?
$250? Give him his money back and tell him to find someone else to handle his tech issues.
Seriously - $250 is nothing. As it is, he’s already gotten a LOT more out of you from the free work you did than he should have, and if he sues you it’ll just end up costing you a lot more. Refund his money and fire him. The last thing you need is abusive clients.
And next time, consider each job to be a separate contract, get your payment up front, and make sure it’s all in writing. Having an escape clause to prevent nonsense like this will help.
(And yes, I’m saying this from personal experience.)
I’m no expert in US law - I can’t imagine he’d actually get very far with this legally but still, the law of diminishing returns comes into play here. It’s annoying but for the sake of $250 I’d put it down to experience. You’ll always get annoying clients but hopefully you’ll spot more of them before you commit yourself to work and either politely send them elsewhere or protect yourself behind contracts.
The annoying client’s best bet (for a loss of $250) would be small claims court, to be honest. Anything more, and the “plaintiff” here would feel the law of diminishing returns PDQ - heck the lawyer would probably charge that much just to file the suit.
But since lawsuits are matters of public record (I should know - I was in two of them, thankfully both time as the plaintiff), the fewer you have on record, the better off you typically tend to be.
I’m just trying to figure out how you refund someone for intellectual propery.
There was no contract, he gave me cash. I gave him one receipt for the deposit and over the course of 3 weeks, delivered him a DVD movie. Now, maybe he can sue me, maybe he can’t, but the thing is, it doesn’t add up…
This guy’s fairly wealthy and I don’t know why he’d want to sue for $250. I’d imagine his legal fees run about $100 a visit… But then again, after seeing how cheap he can be, I wonder if it’s all front to scare me into refunding him. (some people do that) Maybe he stumbled upon a little money and bought a BMW. I myself did that. When I was (21)
Now, I just want him to go away, but I have to have something to show for all my time he took up extending this project. In laptop repair alone, he owes me $240. (4 hrs x $60). If I was the man I was 10 years ago, he’d be in big trouble, because I know all his passwords. He’s trying to turn me back into the old me…
No contract, huh? He’s really up the creek without a paddle then. This might work. Tell him you’re willing to refund him his money, but he will owe you for the laptop repair. Tell him up front that the bill for the laptop comes out to $240 (your rate multiplied by the time it took), and that his refund will be $10. Then if he agrees, GET IT IN WRITING.
If he signs it and then tries coming after you anyway, then stick him for everything you legally can. See, even I can be evil sometimes.
The guy sounds like a loon. You my friend need to stop working without written contracts - start getting agreements in writing, giving detailed receipts, etc, etc. And what’s with the free 6 hours consulting? Are you insane? You need to learn how to simply say NO when a client asks for something that unreasonable. These days, I generally refuse point blank to offer tech support for computer issues; that simply isn’t my job.
Basically even without a contract in writing, I would hope you have something to prove all this rubbish if it did ever go to court (sounds unlikely that it would IMO). For future reference, in the case of casual verbal agreements, I would advise you follow up the conversation with an email redefining the verbal agreement and perhaps request an email response from the client confirming that your understanding was correct.
Personally, I’d run a mile from a psycho like this - let him keep his meesley $250.
Is that because he’s in the corporate world? i remember hearing something like that before, that technicians were allows to work on corporate systems under certain rules. i think it’s his personal laptop, so i don’t think i can get him there.
He’s definitely a loon. He asked me if I knew any strippers to dance at the birthday party. I told him to go to the strip club and he said “I’m not paying for it! I never have, I never will!” What did you think strippers work for free? He’s always returning stuff too. He threw his camera in a violent rage and then send it back to Nikon for a full refund.
He disgusts me, how cheap he is. I have clients that make under 50k that easily pay $60 hr for repairs. My competitors charge $80+ and don’t even have as high of a success rate as I do. I have one client who gave me the keys to his house and leaves me a blank check on the counter when he’s not there. And I pass it all on. I tip my bartenders, waiters, drivers… I just don’t see how someone can be so wealthy being so cheap. Who would give this guy money? Believe me, I want to refund him, but I have self respect. I can’t let him compromise my work anymore.
He sounds like a typical “consumer bully” to me. They’re used to the big box stores that will give refunds “no questions asked”, and they take advantage of it. They scream “I’ll sue”, but they never do. That would require time, effort, and money. And these people are selfish, lazy, and cheap.
My advice is to keep his money and ignore him. The chances are minimal that there will be a subpoena, and if one comes, you can offer to settle or take the time to go to court (which, as Dan said, is almost sure to be small claims).
The danger in giving in to his blustering threats is that he’ll brag to people about how he got his money back from you (he obviously bragged to you about the other times he’s done this). That paints you as an easy mark to others like him. And believe me, those types love to share stories with their friends.
None of this means much, really. It doesn’t even make sense to threaten to ‘subpoena’ someone when you don’t even have a court case yet, but given the value of the matter (which is pretty low) I would rapidly seek closure to the situation as follows:
Write a brief and concise document that explains the terms of the deal. You give him $250 and he agrees to terminate all business liabilities between the two of you, including any debts, deliverables, or responsibilities for services, products, or any other matter. Add a second paragraph and clearly says that upon receipt of the $250 there shall be no outstanding obligation of any kind to or from either party, and that both parties relinquish the right to sue or seek arbitration, mediation, or any other resolution for any aspects of this business dealing.
Be sure to use the title ‘NEGOTIATED SETTLEMENT’ and in the first sentence, introduce that the agreement shall server as a complete and irrevocable settlement between party A and party B in the matter of the dispute over services/products/payments in 2008 (or whatever date).
Send it certified mail to his address. If he signs, give him a CHECK (not cash) and expect not to hear from him again.
Either that or just ignore him, but an annoying client is worth $250 to get rid of