General Question

gambitking's avatar

What should I do about money owed by a "friend"?

Asked by gambitking (4176 points ) January 24th, 2011

I wouldn’t worry about a friend not repaying money I lent to him, but what about services / business work payment?

I’ve had this friend for several years… he moved to another state a couple years ago so I only talk to him scarcely. But he contacted me in the beginning of January and told me he’d pay me a few hundred bucks if I helped him and the company he was working with to handle some technical tasks remotely.

I agreed, being that we’re friends of course. He needed the job done urgently so I went ahead and did the work. It’s been about three weeks and I still haven’t been paid even though it was supposed to happen “right away”. I’ve been getting ignored, blown off and every step of the way has been one excuse after another.

If I don’t get paid, this will surely end the friendship, not because I’m out a few hundred bucks, but because it has exposed the character of my so-called friend. Does he want to throw away a friend for that price? Do I have any recourse to get the money from him or the company he’s working with even though we have no agreement in writing? Should I go “undo” the work I did for them since I’m not getting paid?

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25 Answers

xjustxxclaudiax's avatar

Looks and seems like your “friend” is a bit of a flake..What you should of done was to do half the work, get paid, and then finish the rest…this happens a lot with friends and family, If I were you, I’d undo the work you have done…that’s if your willing to spend time doing so. If he’s going to be irresponsible and not pay you, might as well take it away.

john65pennington's avatar

Have you ever heard the phrase “he’s a user”? Will tell you what you want, upfront, and never follow through with it, like money.

Find a new friend. You probably will never see your money. You really have no legal recourse, only verbal words.

torchingigloos's avatar

That’s why you ALWAYS involve a contract. A true friend will understand and won’t have any problem at all signing their name to it… not to mention they would offer to pay you up front. Chalk one up to learning the lessons of life… chances are you got screwed.

Austinlad's avatar

With due repsect @torchingigloos, even contracts with a “friend” are problematic. Nonetheless, I don’t believe you have any recourse except to write him a business-like and unemotional letter (not email) requesting payment one more time. Don’t make any threats—simply say you did the work in good faith and would appreciate his repaying in kind. If he refuses to pay or doesn’t return your letter, write off the money and friendship, move on, and chalk up the experience as another life lesson

LuckyGuy's avatar

Did you send him an invoice for the work? You should. That will formalize it.

torchingigloos's avatar

@Austinlad I’m not saying a contract isn’t problematic… but it’s legally binding in most states and a great way to take the person to small claims to get your money when all else fails. Certainly a different set of problems, but puts the ball more in your court. I’m not trying to be an ass, just stating that you should always think in your own best interest first. Unless you’re rich and have money to toss around at friends who don’t pay ya back… I’m not so fortunate :)

CaptainHarley's avatar

Never lend money in the expectation of getting it back. If you can’t afford to lose it, don’t lend it.

If you do work for someone on a professional level, get a contract in writing. Nothing makes a friendship more strained than money.

Have a lawyer send him a nasty-gram demanding payment. If that doesn’t work, chalk it up to experience and move on.

Summum's avatar

I once worked for a guy that I thought was a bit shady but he needed some work done. After getting information for him and seeing how he was in business I decided to put a time bomb in the software I was doing for him. A time bomb that would go off at any date I decided if I had not been paid for that part of my work. Well in time he did what I thought he might and he would not pay me and asked me to leave. I had been setting the time bomb up each month to go off if I didn’t get paid. So in a couple of weeks I got a call and he was on the phone asking me to help him get his program running and that something went wrong. I told him I couldn’t help him unless I was paid first and then paid in advance from then on for anything he wanted done. It worked out, he paid me and I fixed the program. You can ask your friend to please honor his word and to pay you but unless you really need the money I would just chalk it up to experience and move on.

Austinlad's avatar

@torchingigloos, I agree with everything you say. A contract is better than no contract. It’s just that bitter experience has taught me that mixing friendship and business is tricky. It’s too easy for the “client” in such an arrangement to take advantage of the friendship.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Find out what his current financial situation is…..maybe he’s hit a really rough patch but is embarrassed to tell you about it. Also, it sounds like he’s paid something over the past few weeks, just not all of it. It hasn’t been all THAT long either. Be patient. And be a friend and find out what’s up in his life.

gambitking's avatar

Good answers by everyone. Of course most of it has been ringing in my head thus far. So I’ve built some consensus for some of my thoughts if nothing else.

I would’ve done a contract, but as I said I thought this guy was good for it, and the task didn’t take very long and he expressed it was urgent. The sense of urgency caused me to let my guard down and do it without contract. I could still undo all I’ve done within minutes, but that’s a last resort for me.

I’ve already accepted the learning of these life lessons, fortunately it wasn’t more expensive of a lesson. But I’m still hoping for some sort of positive resolution. Sounds like a couple of you have dealt with a similar type of person at some point.

marinelife's avatar

Have you invoiced the company for your work? Companies need a paper trail.

Also many companies take 30, 60 or even 90 days to pay invoices. It is just their process.

We need a few more details here before we can decide on whether he is stiffing you.

gambitking's avatar

Yes I’ve sent an invoice to the company who I serviced. Although I was told I’d be paid by the friend who was their employee / contractor. I’ve sent an invoice and a reminder via paypal.

marinelife's avatar

OK, good to know.

I would not undo the work you had done except as a very last step. I would call your friend and ask what the deal is. Perhaps he had to wait to get paid by the company before he could pay you.

As a last resort (I would wait at least 90 days invoicing him every 30 days marking the invoice 2nd Notice and 3rd notice respectively), contact his employer in writing (after letting him know that you are going to take that step) and let them know that you have not been paid as promised by him.

gambitking's avatar

He did say he had to wait to get paid by the company, that was the first excuse, then it was “I haven’t had a chance”, then it was “the check will be in the mail”, then after that it was “i’m in the hospital, the check’s in my car”. and so on.

funkdaddy's avatar

I’ve had this happen a couple of times, especially on “urgent” work as you mention. There isn’t a whole lot to do really except keep it civil until you completely write it off.

A contract unfortunately is only as enforceable as the other party wants it to be unless you’re willing to sue. For small projects like this, suing them isn’t worth it financially (it may be to even the score, but that’s not generally how we try to operate) so even if you had something on paper it would just be something to point to and say “you agreed!”.

In your situation, I would ask politely for a contact with the company directly. Someone in accounts payable, this guy’s superior, whoever you feel would be best. I’d mention it as “I know you’re busy and have other things going but I’d like to get this closed if possible. Who should I contact at <business name> so we can it wrapped up?”... if he’s already been paid he wouldn’t want you brining it up that he hasn’t passed that along as intended. If he really is too busy, in the hospital, having life issues outside work, then it will give him an easy out to satisfy all parties.

blueiiznh's avatar

I have been in the same side of things.
The fact that “your friend” came to you and asked in urgency and stated that he would pay you is a verbal contract. If you jumped at it with all this as verbal, you need to send him an invoice. As you did that, he may be awaiting approval that may never come. All the excuses you are getting shows the real answer.
I have done this plenty of times. I however know that if they do not honor the invoice, it will be the last time it is done. If it was a remote session and you spent a few hours to no more than a day, consider it a lesson learned about your “friend”.
Sounds like gratis work considering high skill emergency work goes for about $100/hour in my area. This couple hundred bucks is a throw away.
Seeing he didn’t have the skill or time, if it comes asking again, use your lesson wisely.

stratman37's avatar

Can you take him to small claims court even tho’ he’s moved out of state? Can a private citizen turn this debt over to a collection agency?

Buttonstc's avatar

Another thing to consider is that you’re only out the time rather than any of your hard earned money being taken out of your bank account.

I certainly don’t mean to imply that your professional skills and time are not valuable. Of course they are. But at least you’re not out of pocket several hundred which you would need to re-acquire.

You’ve learned (hopefully for the last time) the age-old wisdom expressed by Shakespeare :

“Neither a borrower nor a lender be. For, a loan oft loses both itself and friend.”

Words of wisdom to live by for the future. Continue to do whatever you can in terms of invoicing for ninety days and then put it (and him) out of your mind and don’t allow the bitterness of the whole mess to continue to clutter up your emotional life. Let it go and move on to better things. Life is too short and too full of positive possibilities to spend excess time dwelling in negative draining energy.

Just move on and be grateful that this lesson wasn’t far more costly for you. Just learn from it.

iamthemob's avatar

In terms of the general idea in this – I feel like if you lend money or a thing to a friend, it’s best to think of it as a gift. If the amount in question is too much to be considered a gift, you should be clear about terms…and make sure the person knows that something like this could cost you your friendship. And, as always, what the money is for affects how much is too much (I lent someone $7000 because their dog had been brutally attacked and needed emergency vet services. I could afford it at the time, they said they’d pay me back, but I never pressed the point, and later told them that they knew that it wasn’t something I was expecting back…if that had been for, you know, something they wanted on ebay and time was running out…they probably would have been SOL.).

In terms of your specific situation, this is not about your friend, this is about business. So it’s cut and dry. If you provide services and aren’t paid, serve the business and the individual to get your money. Actions like this also have a Constitutional element – technically, you just worked for this person for free. There’s an amendment for that. ;-)

So, as a principle thing, it seems like you’re getting the runaround. It’s time to threaten the business and this person’s livelihood, or hint that frustration might lead you there. His duty is clear, and if he’s not responding respectfully to your requests as a friend, switch to business mode and if the person takes offense and brings up the friendship as a shield, he needs to be informed that the friendship was the thing that stopped you from doing this a long time ago…and any real friend wouldn’t make you go through that.

This is one of those disputes between friends, and life moral issues, where you find yourself in the unique position of being 100% morally and ethically justified in bringing the hammer down. Enjoy it…it’s a rare pleasure.

gambitking's avatar

Thanks alot for really thoughtful and helpful answers to all.

zzzpatzzz's avatar

If it’s near Los Angeles I will get your money but you will have to split it with me

BarnacleBill's avatar

You could give him notice that you are going to undo it unless you’re paid or he takes your calls.. Could he be waiting on payment from someone else?

mrrich724's avatar

Give him one final voicemail. Say that if he doesn’t respond with an acceptable payment scenarion within 24 hours you will undo the work.

Then undo it.

(Kinda like @BarnacleBill said but without the whole benefit of the doubt thing, if he’s waiting for payment from someone else, he’s a grown up, he doesn’t have to blow you off. The excuses and the blowing you off makes me feel like he doesn’t intend on following through with his end of the deal)

Carol's avatar

It sounds like the money and the friendship are intertwined….in your brain. Time to untwine them.

The money: he stiffed you once by leaving town without paying you the money that was owed. He stiffed you again when he wanted you to do work prior to his paying off his debt. How could this have happened? Once shame on him. Twice, shame on you. Ahhh, life’s lessons are a bitch if you learn from them. It’s time to stop waiting for payment.

The friendship: It seems that friendships can continue through quarrels and disagreements if they are expressed….not left to fester. However, this is not a disagreement or an arguement. How do you define friendship? Could you rely on him if you were in a bind, for money or work? Not. You mentioned that he needed something right away….what are your demands of a relationship?

You have now seen a character flaw that hopefully won’t be ignored. Arguements get resolved, character flaws stay forever. Once your global view of a person fundamentally changes, it doesn’t go back.

Should you “undo” the work you did for himthem? Probably not if just a few hundred bucks are involved but you can and should threaten to do so. It’s not clear whether you had an arrangement with this deadbeat or a company. If it’s a company definitely ask them when you will get paid and how. It sounds though, that your arrangement was just with him, in which case, I wouldn’t threaten or explain. Have no more contact, do whatever you decide to do with the doing or undoing and call it a day. There’s nothing up for discussion.

Personally, I’d invoice him through snail mail on heavy linen paper. I’d cc the company CFO and whomever you think hired him for this particular job. I’d mention a future date that the work is good through unless immediate payment is made. Use verbiage such as “I have been advised that” and “it is our policy” (invoking the royal we) and “collection of funds” so it looks like you have a lawyer.

But I’m mean and you’re not.

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