Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Ethical Dilemma

I received a letter today from a collection agency. They claim that I owe $70 to a local business. I called the local businessperson to inquire about the claim. According to her, in 2006 I agreed to a $70 advertisement in a local publication. I have no recollection of making any such agreement (though I recall the offer) and neither I or my wife recall receiving a bill of any kind, though the lady claims she sent two notices. Apparently the advertisement was run, though I never saw it nor did I receive any acknowledgement of it from customers. Additionally, the lady is a somewhat frequent customer of ours but never mentioned the bill in person. And lastly, she indicated that she remembers my agreement but that it was never a contract in writing.

I floated the idea of meeting her half way but she didn't seem to interested. Additionally, I confess to being a bit annoyed that she took this small claim to a collection agency even though she also apparently forgot about the bill-she recently discovered it on her computer when she sold her business. Will the claim harm my credit rating?

Chime in readers. How would you handle this?

11 comments:

Colt said...

If she is worth the $70 pay. If not ask the Bill collector to prove you owe the money.
Without a signed contract it is not a winnable case if the collector hurts your rating you can sue and win a case on the woman and the collector.

Denis Navratil said...

Thanks Colt. For the time being I have decided to handle this matter in the manner in which it was presented to me- as a legal matter. So I forwarded a request asking for proof of my debt. But after speaking with the business owner, it is apparent that her only evidence is that she indeed ran an advertisement for my business. Otherwise there is no signed contract or any other evidence other than her recollection of a phone conversation. I am pretty sure I have a legal advantage here but that does not leave me off the hook ethically, necessarily.

Mixter said...

If she sent you bills, as she claims, she should have copies of those invoices. Ask for those, also. Since the ad ran, you will probably get stuck paying it, but I'd at least ask her to prove that she billed you for it.

If she's going to continue as a customer, I'd pay it. But, let her put a little effort into it first.

Mixter

Anonymous said...

You need to tell the collection agency and this person that you will pay up if - and only if - the person provides a receipt for the work performed AS WELL AS evidence that the add actually ran - you need a receipt from the newspaper or whoever it was, as well as a photo of the add AS IT APPEARED in print (not just a photo of the add because anyone could have this without the add running).

According to your story, you did not agree to the add running BUT obviously you are screwed twice if you have to pay for an add that you didn't agree to AND didn't actually run.

You tried to solve this without the legal part and were rebuffed. You should deal with her (and collection agency) ONLY through dcouments now. DO NOT talk to her about this even if she calls or comes into the store, and don't let anyone on your staff talk to her. If she comes in to buy something, tell your staff not to let her work this into the conversation.

Anonymous said...

By the way - you owe me $14,000 for some work for you that I did based on a conversation we had several years ago. Several computers have crashed since then so I have no documentation about this.

Will that be cash or check?

Anonymous said...

Two bills in over two years? Obviously, she wasn't that anxious to get the money. No signed contract? How can she prove that you authorized the advertisement to run? How can the collection agency recoup money without a signed agreement. Sounds like she is trying to squeeze every last nickel out of this business before it changes hands. Laziness on her part (not sending monthly invoices-with late payment fees) and not securing a signed contract puts her on very weak footing, if you ask me. The collection agency will go through the motions (because they get 30-35% of whatever is collected) but I wouldn't expect them to put a lot of energy into this collection.

Urban Pioneer said...

Denis I would talk to the Collection agency and have them provide you with the proof, as suggested. Then Offer them 50 cents on the Dollar to resolve it. They will recommend the woman takes it as the best possible, result. Or they will eventually go away.

Post an explanation on your Credit report..and It will be a non issue.

Or offer the Lady a $35-70.00 Gift certificate to your store. With an explanation that it's easier than going thru all of the legal wranglings and she will likely loose, since she can't prove a signed agreement to advertise.

Good Neighbor said...

2009 claim for 2006 advertisement, something seems amiss.

Anonymous said...

. . . and one more BTW - if the collection agency initiated this with only a receipt that may or may not have been typed up in the past month, they are skanks and can be sued for damages as well.

Anonymous said...

$70 is a night out. Pay the bill, stay at home for a night, and be done with it.

Anonymous said...

$70 is also a down payment on the monthly losses through theft - in this case no one shoved anything in their pocket and walked out though -