Time for small claims court

Discussion in 'Business Operations' started by dfor, Jan 2, 2002.

  1. dfor

    dfor LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 828

    This is a long time customer. Moved into a new house this year. ($528,000). Let me loose in August. He still owes me $150 from May. He says that he paid me, said it was ck. #----, and was cashed on 7-9-01. I keep very good records. He has been ignoring every bill that I send him, asking that he send me a copy (front and back) of check for my records. I DO NOT believe him, (nor should I). Should I warn him of small claims or just go ahead with the suit??
  2. Lawn Dog2001

    Lawn Dog2001 LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,030

    I would send him a certified letter first. Let him know that if he does not pay within 10 days of receiving the letter, he will be taken to court. Sometimes just getting something by certified mail is enough to scare them into paying.

    If he still wont pay sue him.
  3. Stonehenge

    Stonehenge LawnSite Bronze Member
    from Midwest
    Messages: 1,276

    For $150?

    Let it go. You'll spend $500 in your time collecting that $150.
  4. parkwest

    parkwest LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 678

    If this is a long term customer with a good payment history, I would give him the benefit of a doubt. Check with his bank and explain to them that you can't find this check and give them the number and date. They should be able to tell you if you endorsed the check or not.

    I don't think someone who can afford a 1/2 million dollar home is going to be intimidated by certified mail from their lawnboy. But they could sue you for harassment if they did indeed pay you.

    You should check with your state to find out exactly what the collection and lien laws are where you live.
  5. Lawn Dog2001

    Lawn Dog2001 LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,030

    Stone Henge

    The more business owners let nonpayers off the hook because they dont feel like collecting. The more consumers are encouraged to not pay small businesses in the future. Plus the money he spends collecting can be added into the judgment.


    dfor said he asked to see a copy of the check. Instead the guy chose to ignore the situation. If he really thought the bill was a mistake he would show him a copy of the check. It is not harrasment collecting money that is owed to you. If thats the case, I think I will stop paying my mortgage and then sue for harrasment if the bank complains about it.
  6. SCL

    SCL LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 543

    I'm with Stone on this one. Write it off and save the $150 in aggravation.
  7. JML

    JML LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 415

    This is what I do for any customer who owes me ANY amount of money. I send them a certified letter stating that if payment is not made within 12 days, I will file a criminal theft of service and criminal theft by deception charge.. These are serious charges. If they still don't pay, go to the police department in the township it happened and file the charges. They will get served by a sheriff, that really lets them know that you want your money. 9 of 10 times I get paid. you then go back and drop the charges if you get paid....
  8. gogetter

    gogetter Banned
    Messages: 3,256

    It's about principle guys! Not the $150 bucks.
    See if what parkwest said is possible. I don't know whether the bank will give that information to you or not, but worth a try.

    If not, try the certified letter with the mention of court in the letter.
    Good luck.
  9. Stonehenge

    Stonehenge LawnSite Bronze Member
    from Midwest
    Messages: 1,276

    I agree. The more we let people slide, the more people will want to have us let them slide.

    But the pure economics of it will tell you that it is going to cost you more to collect it than it is worth. And that 'more' includes things you can't get back in a judgement - sales calls you couldn't make because you were too busy chasing this down, hours spent fuming after this phonecall or that, or the court proceedings not going the way you want. And after you get a judgement, then all the legwork of actually collecting, which can be another large hurdle. Not to mention someone who, I assume because they have a large home, are well connected and successful. You can bet that they will be telling all their wealthy friends about you.

    What's more, there is no guarantee the court will find in your favor. Then they can get a judgement against you for legal fees.

    The thing can occupy every free minute of your waking time for weeks or months. It isn't worth $150. If you let it go, you can get about a quarter to a third back in tax write-offs anyway.

    Know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em.

    I see I was slow on the draw and another post came up, so I'll address that one, too. Your business is about business. $150 isn't enough to worry about principles.

    I'm in the midst of a suit for $10K. Been going on for over 2 years now. If they'd offer to settle for $3K and sign off on a 'hold harmless', I'd take it in a second! I'd happily write off $7K, just to be done with these people.
  10. SprinklerGuy

    SprinklerGuy LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,778

    Man is this an issue I piss and moan about all the time to my wife and colleagues. This is the part of the biz that sucks the most!

    I always have 3 or 4 people that owe me money. Most of them less than 100 bucks, I believe in the principle thing too. It makes me so mad that they won't pay or that they lie about paying and having the check etc. blah blah blah.

    I wish I could learn to just "forget about it" or " fold em". I have trouble with that.

    That being said, and as long as noone flames me for not practicing what I preach, I agree with stonehenge, as usual. Do not let this get you upset. Some people are just jerks. Forget about the 150. Call all the LCO's in your area and warn them about him, then they won't work for him.

    Something else I have done, called all the sprinker guys I know and shared names of these types of jerks, they shared their list with me too. Then if we ever get calls from them we have some choices. I would love to do the work for one of these deadbeats, get paid upfront of course, and double charge them and give the money owed to my buddies. Or I would love if they would do the same for me. Wouldn't that be great? It's a shame it hasn't ever happened. There I go dreaming again.

    Someone please write a book on how to let this stuff slide off of our backs......i'm beggin!

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