Withheld payments?

Subject: Withheld payments?
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 1 Feb 2002 09:12:14 -0500

Edwyn Kumar reports that <<... the company is hesitant to pay me for the
editing I did at the end of 2001. It was a contract position that extended
from February to the third week of November. They still owe me for October
and three weeks of November. They claim that the product was unfinished,
which it was because the contract was terminated before the book was done.>>

The _product_ may well not have been done, but if your editing work was done
to their satisfaction, then they have no recourse but to pay you. Assuming,
of course, that the contract didn't contain any concealed clauses such as
"payment only if the product ships". Gentle persuasion, plus an offer to
resolve any issuese related to unsatisfactory work, will often resolve the
problem quite elegantly, with everyone coming out of this process reasonably
happy. Threatening legal action should always be your _last_ step, since a
lawsuit poisons your relationship with the client and can get you informally
blacklisted (word of mouth) in your area. The fact that you were correct and
fully justified in this approach can still lead to a pyrrhic victory if it
loses you significant future work.

If you really need to establish a rep as one bad dude who nobody messes
with, you could invoke one of the nastier legal tricks a family friend once
tried (successfully) in such a case: Explain to your contact that you plan
to take the case to small claims court, and have the judge call in every
person who dealt with you, from the company president to the lowliest
engineer/developer who provided text, as a witness. Even if they think
they'll win, the inconvenience and lost time this process would entail is so
huge that they'll probably cave in. But be aware that this is swatting a
housefly with a howitzer, and leaves craters and scorched earth in its wake
that seriously disrupt your future business landscape. Use only in truly
desperate cases and if you're prepared to deal with the consequences!

--Geoff Hart, FERIC, Pointe-Claire, Quebec
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
"User's advocate" online monthly at

"Every man is a damned fool for at least five minutes every day. Wisdom
consists in not exceeding the limit."--Elbert Hubbard, author, editor,
printer (1856-1915)

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