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Unread 15th February 2013, 11:25 AM   #1
Ben Palmer-Wilson
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Default Would YOU do this if someone didn't pay...?

This has started to go viral, after a fitness website, Fitness SF, didn't pay up to the web designer, Frank Jonen, was taken down and replaced with a lovely letter to Fitness SF's customers. The letter/website, can be seen here:

Agency Replaces Client's Website With Nasty Letter After Not Getting Paid | Adweek


If somebody didn't pay you, would YOU do something like this?

Personally, I think this is pretty funny; people tend to take advantage of freelancers (I've had my fair share), and it's satisfying to see someone stand up to this type of indecency.

Still, I wouldn't do this myself. I'm a professional, and while I do get frustrated when I'm cheated, I'd prefer to maintain my professional appearance. That's just me, though!

So, your thoughts?

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Unread 15th February 2013, 11:52 AM   #2
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Default Re: Would YOU do this if someone didn't pay...?

That's pretty funny.

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Unread 15th February 2013, 12:03 PM   #3
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Default Re: Would YOU do this if someone didn't pay...?

They are getting destroyed on Yelp. Cheats should think twice before they act badly. It won't be hard to embarrass someone publicly and the damage to reputation is lasting.
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Unread 15th February 2013, 12:10 PM   #4
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Default Re: Would YOU do this if someone didn't pay...?

So you're mad at a client who didn't pay promptly..


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Unread 15th February 2013, 12:17 PM   #5
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Default Re: Would YOU do this if someone didn't pay...?

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Originally Posted by Kay King View Post
Aaah, so word's getting around then!

I don't often travel to other forums, so I know not what's going on!

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Unread 15th February 2013, 12:33 PM   #6
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Default Re: Would YOU do this if someone didn't pay...?

Well. They say "half a year's worth of work" - no interim payments? Why not?

Anyway, aside from the funnier side of things, let's see what we can do for the future. Because these guys are the archetypal bad client. Usually they're a lot harder to spot - so Frank Jonen has been luckier than most.

Put another way, he won't want to see anybody like them again. Will he?

Nope.

So what was their character like? Actually not so far from the whingeing clients who trolled our building business in the UK. I unwittingly got rid of them through an act of kindness to those people we liked doing work for. They had said that they liked having our terms explained to them - how we did things, when we expected to return to fix things and all that sort of thing. It reassured them that we weren't fly-by-night.

The most amazing thing was that if someone butted into this and said "how much would it be for cash" I answered that they would get the same invoice marked as 'paid in cash'. Not content with this they asked "Won't it be cheaper for cash?" to which I answered "no, it's the same work, it's the same money".

They really didn't like this at all. Now one thing to mention here is that if you infringe your own terms and conditions for their benefit - they are steering you not vice versa. I kept a tight hold on our contracts, made sure that things happened as planned. For our best customers it was a god-send. For us too as we lost a lot of bad clients, the ones like Frank Jonen's.

The ones that cost you money.

The ones that say "could you repair that door for us while you're here" to which the poor carpenter can't say no because there's no agreement not to. There are other tricks bad clients play, getting you to do more work is the most common.

In future, make sure you are paid monthly and on time. If not, ask them why it hasn't been paid. There might be a genuine reason. If they flounder around, give you the brush-off, you should be hearing alarm bells. That is when you underline the terms of your agreement - not directly, but in the way you handle them. Just make sure that everything you do for them is inside the agreed scope and timings. Otherwise they'll take you for a ride.

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Unread 15th February 2013, 02:44 PM   #7
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Default Re: Would YOU do this if someone didn't pay...?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Moriarty View Post
Well. They say "half a year's worth of work" - no interim payments? Why not?

Anyway, aside from the funnier side of things, let's see what we can do for the future. Because these guys are the archetypal bad client. Usually they're a lot harder to spot - so Frank Jonen has been luckier than most.

Put another way, he won't want to see anybody like them again. Will he?

Nope.

So what was their character like? Actually not so far from the whingeing clients who trolled our building business in the UK. I unwittingly got rid of them through an act of kindness to those people we liked doing work for. They had said that they liked having our terms explained to them - how we did things, when we expected to return to fix things and all that sort of thing. It reassured them that we weren't fly-by-night.

The most amazing thing was that if someone butted into this and said "how much would it be for cash" I answered that they would get the same invoice marked as 'paid in cash'. Not content with this they asked "Won't it be cheaper for cash?" to which I answered "no, it's the same work, it's the same money".

They really didn't like this at all. Now one thing to mention here is that if you infringe your own terms and conditions for their benefit - they are steering you not vice versa. I kept a tight hold on our contracts, made sure that things happened as planned. For our best customers it was a god-send. For us too as we lost a lot of bad clients, the ones like Frank Jonen's.

The ones that cost you money.

The ones that say "could you repair that door for us while you're here" to which the poor carpenter can't say no because there's no agreement not to. There are other tricks bad clients play, getting you to do more work is the most common.

In future, make sure you are paid monthly and on time. If not, ask them why it hasn't been paid. There might be a genuine reason. If they flounder around, give you the brush-off, you should be hearing alarm bells. That is when you underline the terms of your agreement - not directly, but in the way you handle them. Just make sure that everything you do for them is inside the agreed scope and timings. Otherwise they'll take you for a ride.


Thanks for that reply, Moriarty.

Yeah, I have a contract lying around, clearly stating terms of work, payment structures and so on. I use it for higher-paying projects. It's plenty of hassle, but worth it if there's plenty of money involved!

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Unread 15th February 2013, 02:50 PM   #8
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Default Re: Would YOU do this if someone didn't pay...?

And the return volley:

"UPDATE 2: Fitness SF gave this statement to Adweek on Friday:
"On Wednesday evening, our domain name Fitness SF was hacked and stolen by an individual named Frank Jonen. Frank was hired on May 16th, 2012 to develop a functional website for our brand. A $5,000 payment was made to him on the same date. In his proposal, he stated that the website would take 10 weeks to complete. He missed numerous deadlines including our brand launch in September. In December, he voluntarily passed the incomplete and non functioning website to our new design firm.
Now, Frank is attempting to portray himself as the victim when truly the victim is Fitness SF as he attempts to get paid for work he did not complete and has decided that blackmail is the way to accomplish that.""


Agency Replaces Client's Website With Nasty Letter After Not Getting Paid | Adweek

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Unread 15th February 2013, 02:59 PM   #9
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Default Re: Would YOU do this if someone didn't pay...?

Yeah, yeah... if you are doing websites... you should be prepared!

Most "clients" want you to do more work... and of course, for FREE.

Better have some good clients then lots of bad ones... true words

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Unread 15th February 2013, 03:03 PM   #10
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Default Re: Would YOU do this if someone didn't pay...?

As both a pro and a blackhatter I could not imagine what I would do to a client if they didn't pay me for work completed. Clients that do not understand the online world also do not understand how quick the rug can be pulled.

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Unread 15th February 2013, 03:08 PM   #11
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Default Re: Would YOU do this if someone didn't pay...?

I like it. The client pulled their FB account to hide in shame. Also, if they're so in the right, why not show the original invoice and their timely check?

Any prospect that wouldn't want to work with the designer is probably the kind he wouldn't want anyway.

Also, this is why you get all your payment upfront.
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Unread 15th February 2013, 03:15 PM   #12
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Default Re: Would YOU do this if someone didn't pay...?

Personally, it's not something I would do, but heck, that must feel GOOD to do that!

There are a few people from this forum who have done this with me -hired me, not delivered payment when I kept my end of the bargain.

As a single mother where every penny counts, it damn well hurts...Especially when it means you struggle as a result.

Yes there are unscrupulous vendors out there (yup, been burnt too) not delivering work, but there are FAR more clients wriggling out of payments that cause us smaller freelancers harm.

I say good for Frank for standing up to them. Of course there are two sides to every story and I guess the only way to ensure you don't get stung is not to sting others first.

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Unread 15th February 2013, 03:18 PM   #13
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Default Re: Would YOU do this if someone didn't pay...?

You're an idiot if you've done that much work for someone without pay.

They both need to be ashamed of themselves.
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Unread 15th February 2013, 04:39 PM   #14
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Default Re: Would YOU do this if someone didn't pay...?

I wonder if anyone has contacted Fitness FS and also Frank Johen to offer "Reputation Repair Services".

I think both of them will need it in very large doses !!

Seriously though, I really question the wisdom of Franks's actions.

If Fitness FS go bust as a result (or lose market share) then innocent employees could lose their jobs and their livelihoods.

Has Frank thought through all the implications and repercussions properly?

The fallout could cost him his business and land him with a huge legal bill. Cases like this can take years to resolve, and in the meantime if a clients hires Frank, at the back of their minds, they will think, will Frank hijack our website too, if we fail to pay him on time.

I suspect that as this has gone viral, Frank will become un-hireable, although it could cause the opposite reaction by giving him a massive amount of free publicity worldwide.

Time will tell, but this is not someting I would ever do to a client.

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Unread 15th February 2013, 04:49 PM   #15
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Default Re: Would YOU do this if someone didn't pay...?

This whole episode could potentially be an amazingly successful Public Relations exercise for Fitness FS, especially if they are portrayed as the innocent victim, who has been "blackmailed" and "held to ransom" by their webmaster.

This sort of publicity could be worth $millions, and Fitness are getting it for free!!! But with some inconvenience of a hacked website!

It will be interesting to see the eventual outcome....

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Unread 15th February 2013, 05:06 PM   #16
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Default Re: Would YOU do this if someone didn't pay...?

Reply to Charismatic Mannequin

Quote:
Yeah, I have a contract lying around, clearly stating terms of work, payment structures and so on. I use it for higher-paying projects. It's plenty of hassle, but worth it if there's plenty of money involved!
This was for a building firm - $1000s at a time. What's more these time-wasters really hit our profits - which I found out later. My point was that I didn't even get to the "contract" stage. I simply itemized the more important points over the phone, the reaction at the other end was enough to tell me if they were interested - or just wanted a cheap job.

It was like a proper sales funnel (though I had never heard of such a thing then). Once we had filtered the nasties out, then came the time for appointments, visits and contracts.

What's more, my husband got back home in time for dinner.

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Unread 15th February 2013, 05:12 PM   #17
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Default Re: Would YOU do this if someone didn't pay...?

Obviously there's a major potential lawsuit against the website developer.

You can't do this to someone.

Did they send advanced notice of their intentions?

Do they have documented proof of a request for payment?

Do they have a contract?

Are they even authorized by SF Fitness to develop a website?

I'm thinking the web developer is in a lot of hot water.

I would guess the web developer doesn't have an attorney on staff. The fitness facility probably does.

Wouldn't want to be the website guy right now.
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Unread 15th February 2013, 05:18 PM   #18
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Default Re: Would YOU do this if someone didn't pay...?

Quote:
Originally Posted by max5ty View Post

I would guess the web developer doesn't have an attorney on staff. The fitness facility probably does.
Maxy,

A judgement against a freelance with no assets is worth about as much as one of your fake Picasso's.

Adam

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Unread 15th February 2013, 05:26 PM   #19
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Default Re: Would YOU do this if someone didn't pay...?

Isn't entering upon someone's premises and defacing their property a criminal offense?
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Unread 15th February 2013, 05:26 PM   #20
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Default Re: Would YOU do this if someone didn't pay...?

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Originally Posted by copyassassin View Post
Maxy,

A judgement against a freelance with no assets is worth about as much as one of your fake Picasso's.

Adam
Oh, that's great...

you know too?
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Unread 15th February 2013, 05:32 PM   #21
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Default Re: Would YOU do this if someone didn't pay...?

Meant how did you know about my fake Picasso's?
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Unread 15th February 2013, 05:54 PM   #22
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Default Re: Would YOU do this if someone didn't pay...?

Quote:
Originally Posted by max5ty View Post
Meant how did you know about my fake Picasso's?
During one of my astral projections (while do research of course) I entered one of your mansions.

Luckily, your security systems aren't meant to block astral visitors.

I then noticed Guernica in your bathroom (btw, what a large bathroom!)

Now, since I've been in Spain before (and seen the "real deal") I thought it odd you'd have bought the original since my last visit.

So, I guess in reality you may have the original, but I'm pretty sure you have a fake. The shading is just a bit off.

Although, it is a well done replica.

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Unread 15th February 2013, 06:07 PM   #23
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Default Re: Would YOU do this if someone didn't pay...?

Quote:
Originally Posted by copyassassin View Post
During one of my astral projections (while do research of course) I entered one of your mansions.

Luckily, your security systems aren't meant to block astral visitors.

I then noticed Guernica in your bathroom (btw, what a large bathroom!)

Now, since I've been in Spain before (and seen the "real deal") I thought it odd you'd have bought the original since my last visit.

So, I guess in reality you may have the original, but I'm pretty sure you have a fake. The shading is just a bit off.

Although, it is a well done replica.

Adam
The hell with that local Dollar General store.
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Unread 15th February 2013, 06:10 PM   #24
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Default Re: Would YOU do this if someone didn't pay...?

Quote:
Originally Posted by max5ty View Post
The hell with that local dollar general store.
LOL

you are too funny.

yeah know, I've got about 10K of prepaid work on my desk, and yet, I spend about 20 minutes on this site a day.

but comments like yours just make my day!

I really need a laugh every now and then!

adam

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Unread 15th February 2013, 06:14 PM   #25
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Default Re: Would YOU do this if someone didn't pay...?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pusateri View Post
Isn't entering upon someone's premises and defacing their property a criminal offense?

you might be VERY SURPRISED what the law says.

I recently did a interview with Mike Young, you might find this interesting:

http://adamlibman.com/mike.young.interview.mp3


http://mikeyounglaw.com/

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Unread 15th February 2013, 08:49 PM   #26
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Default Re: Would YOU do this if someone didn't pay...?

is always terrible when one good work do not get pay or pay in time. In brick and mortal bsuiness,there are small claims courts for justice at small cost...online,I too wonder if there are similar way for justice.

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Unread 15th February 2013, 09:50 PM   #27
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Default Re: Would YOU do this if someone didn't pay...?

Quote:
Seriously though, I really question the wisdom of Franks's actions.

If Fitness FS go bust as a result (or lose market share) then innocent employees could lose their jobs and their livelihoods.

Has Frank thought through all the implications and repercussions properly?

The fallout could cost him his business and land him with a huge legal bill. Cases like this can take years to resolve, and in the meantime if a clients hires Frank, at the back of their minds, they will think, will Frank hijack our website too, if we fail to pay him on time.

I suspect that as this has gone viral, Frank will become un-hireable, although it could cause the opposite reaction by giving him a massive amount of free publicity worldwide.
Quote:
Obviously there's a major potential lawsuit against the website developer.

You can't do this to someone.

Did they send advanced notice of their intentions?

Do they have documented proof of a request for payment?

Do they have a contract?

Are they even authorized by SF Fitness to develop a website?

I'm thinking the web developer is in a lot of hot water.

I would guess the web developer doesn't have an attorney on staff. The fitness facility probably does.

Wouldn't want to be the website guy right now.
When you actually read the letter you see that Frank is in Europe. It seems to me that SF Fitness tried to use this to their advantage, knowing that the chances of him coming to the US to fight the case in small claims court are slim to none. SF Fitness got their just reward. Although, I imagine they still haven't learned a lesson, sociopaths run businesses with a sociopathic cultures.

How is the employees losing their jobs because of this situation Frank's fault, if he wasn't paid? If SF Fitness is such an upstanding company, they should have considered all of the repercussions of their failure to pay. I have a feeling SF Fitness functions like many of the other yuppie/hipster businesses in SF, they feel just because they exist, they can do whatever they want, and everyone is suppose to bow and curtsy to them.

Most of us have had clients who threaten us with none payment(or withholding the balance), after we have done the work, because they don't want to pay or don't have the money. Here in California just to register a case in small claims court costs over $300. Then there are the attorneys fees to put the case together for you($500/hr min.).

The final costs can be a few thousand dollars, just to recover a few thousand dollars. The court case will probably take well over a year to get before a judge, the court are over crowded due to major budget cut backs.

I don't know that I would have had the courage to do it, I am happy he had the courage to do it.

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Unread 16th February 2013, 04:28 AM   #28
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Default Re: Would YOU do this if someone didn't pay...?

As cool as it is this is a huge mistake on the designers part
for all kinds of reasons.

Would you hire him to create a website for you after reading
what he did to a past client?

Even if you're fairly certain he was ripped off there's always
that element of doubt.

Also what he did was almost certainly illegal and actionable.

If you follow the first rule of pricing you're not going to have
problems like this...

"Always charge enough upfront so that if you never get paid
another cent you're happy doing the work."

This goes for ongoing fees for ongoing work too.

Charge enough at the start of the month (or whatever time
period you bill in) so you're happy doing the work for the
month.

If they don't pay you don't do the work until they do.

Kindest regards,
Andrew Cavanagh

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Unread 16th February 2013, 04:44 AM   #29
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Default Re: Would YOU do this if someone didn't pay...?

Andrew agree with many of your sentiments but not sure what he did was illegal if Fitness SF were in breach of contract that being said we don't know the FULL story and i bet Fitness SF were not happy with the standard of work and baulked at the cost...

This stuff happens all the time. I had a similar problem, we just pulled the plug on the site and left a nice message "Site Unavailable" on a nice white background we were then duly paid very quickly.
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Unread 16th February 2013, 05:56 AM   #30
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Default Re: Would YOU do this if someone didn't pay...?

I would definitely do that if somebody didn't pay me for my work.
Actually, my friend is in a situtation you can compare to this one. He works from home as a server admin in a small, local company, and they don't want to pay him "because all works fine, so he doesn't have to do anything". They can't see that it works fine because he is a good admin I have to show him this article...
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Unread 16th February 2013, 09:22 AM   #31
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Default Re: Would YOU do this if someone didn't pay...?

An alternative course of action for Frank (he may have already done this) would have been to create the same holding page, but to have put it onto a SUB-DOMAIN instead.

He could then have written to Fitness's accounts dept. cc'd to the Finance Director, the MD and Chairperson, (and even perhaps the Shareholders!!!) and told them that if they didn't pay the balance as agreed, then at precisely 11.15am EST on Feb 15 the page on the sub-domain would be transferred over to the main domain for the whole world to see and emphasise that this was NOT a threat, but a PROMISE !!!

If the deadline come's and go's without any communication or payment from Fitness, then the holding page goes up.

By using this method, Frank would be more likely IMHO to get paid, and secondly, Fitness would have less recourse to legal action.

---------------------------------

I have heard about freelancers writing to their client's biggest clients and telling them what has been going on ref. non-payment, and explaining their course of action and how their supplier's subborn action could jeapodize their very own businesses.

In this case, Fitness's best clients and partners (i.e. the gyms etc.) may start piling on the pressure for Fitness to pay their bill's - if they fear losing business as a direct result of this dispute.

In other words, there are other methods for Frank to deploy in order to embarrass Fitness without risking being bitten by horrendously expensive legal action.

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Unread 16th February 2013, 11:58 AM   #32
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Default Re: Would YOU do this if someone didn't pay...?

This guy Frank reminds me of Nedry in Jurassic Park.

Anyway, I'm pretty sure that defacing their website involved some sort of hacking into the system, even if he had access to their control panels, seems like he would have had to impede their access to it in order to leave his manifesto up and running.

Maybe it will get him some sympathetic clients, or maybe it will get his ass sued, but like Andrew, I have to question anyone's sanity that would hire him to do any work for them.

As far as payment goes, sounds like he got paid $5000 up front, and then they must have continued asking for more changes or additions to the project. We've all seen clients like this, and it's important to stop what you are doing, say how much more it will cost, and if possible write up a "change of scope" agreement for the project that will now include the additional requests and the fees associated.

Why he would continue working without the additional payment is beyond me, unless he somehow didn't fulfill the original terms of the contract.

It's hard to say - there's two sides to the story of course, and neither party is coming out without dirt on their hands.

Now as far as contracts go, they are only as useful as far as they can be enforced and acted upon. Many contracts are pretty worthless. You can write up a contract and have it breached, but it's very likely that you're dealing with people or companies that have no resources to go after in the event of the breach. They are useful to define the scope of projects and the terms, but seriously, the odds of paying a few thousand bucks to a lawyer and dragging things out in court and then getting paid anything at all are pretty slim.

I've had my share of unscrupulous promoters that hired me to perform (with contracts) and thought they would make a ton of money and pay me from that. When the show wasn't promoted properly or they lost money on the gig, you end up holding the bag. "Here's $400. I don't have any other money. So sue me." It's shitty, but it's true. There's not much else you can do about it, contract or no. Hire an attorney. Get a judgement. Guy files bankruptcy or shows no assets, and you get zilch.

So very important to prescreen clients and weed out the potential trouble makers. I learned this eventually in music, and apply it to copywriting as well. If someone agrees to pay me a boat load of money for a copywriting project and they have no idea what they are doing, or if the product is a stinker ... The safest bet is to say "No thanks," because it ain't gonna turn out well for anyone.

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Unread 16th February 2013, 07:56 PM   #33
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Default Re: Would YOU do this if someone didn't pay...?

It's pretty hard to know all the facts here, but overall I'm siding with the web designer, Frank.

And as to the comments that Frank's tactics will likely turn off future clients, I don't think so.
Maybe a few potential clients, but not enough to matter. The small guy and gal is taken advantage of everyday when it comes to freelance work. It's hard to blame them for occasionally fighting back.

..and it's easy to arm-chair-quarterback his actions, but when emotions are running high, people just do things.

If Frank gave the client every chance to pay, and they still didn't, then they should expect consequences. ..and consequences they should get.

The problem is, too many client companies DON'T EXPECT CONSEQUENCES.
So this kind of thing remains a big problem
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Unread 17th February 2013, 12:13 PM   #34
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Default Re: Would YOU do this if someone didn't pay...?

This guy's an idiot who changed the fitness website.

It's indicative of a businessman who needs to spend more time talking to interested prospects versus getting his revenge.

Imagine if the Fitness company brings suit and draws this out.

Let it go and move on to the next prospect to sell something to.
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Unread 17th February 2013, 12:48 PM   #35
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Default Re: Would YOU do this if someone didn't pay...?

I might consider doing it but most likely would not. But it would make me very angry and I would pick better for next time.

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Unread 17th February 2013, 04:12 PM   #36
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Default Re: Would YOU do this if someone didn't pay...?

What Frank Jonen fails to appreciate is that he has now created open-season on his company's reputation and standing in the business community. And to make matters worse, he now has to fight two wars. He'll be fighting that fight against Fitness SF and doing damage control for his web business. Not only is it childish and unprofessional, it's just not worth the freakin' stress. He didn't really think this one through. Internet trashing works both ways.

High School's over. I mean . . . seriously.

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