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Advise in dealing with non-paying customer/vendor

M.B. Naegle

Titanium
Joined
Feb 7, 2011
Location
Conroe, TX USA
I'm normally not one for naming-names and doxing people or companies, but I'd like the PM communities input on this one.

I've have a side LLC set-up for little machine tool repair and scraping jobs for a few years. Not something I plan to make a lot of money with, just to be organized and proper with any jobs I do along those lines separate from my day job. Back prior to Covid, I was contacted by a guy who wanted some help scraping the gibs of a turning center. I told him I'd be glad to help and drove to the shop down in Houston. The guy who contacted me wasn't there, but told me the other shop guys would tell me what they needed. It wasn't a hard job and only took a couple hours to complete, but I didn't have the LLC yet or documentation of what I do and what I charge, so I told the guy it was on the house and to please contact me if something like it comes up again.

Fast forward to last month. The guy called again and said he had another gib job and needed it done "yesterday." I agreed to meet him that day (a Saturday) down at a gas station in Houston, as he thought Conroe was a long drive and he handed me a box of tapered gibs with worn Turcite, a box of dirty way wipers, and a hundred dollar bill down payment. They needed the Turcite replaced, scraped, and oil grooves recut, but didn't know how thick the Turcite was supposed to be. I told him that that wasn't ideal but that I could do the job and if anything I recommended we go with material on the thick side and they could adjust to compensate, or worst case you can always cut it back further. The way wipers I agreed to try help find replacements for, but I'd get back to him on that, as well as a quote for the gibs.

So he needs these things "yesterday," so we agree that the material can be overnighted and as I'm doing this in my off time, I'll need a few days to get it all together. I bought the material with some extra for my own supply (for future "rush" jobs) and luckily have left-over epoxy from a past job and am able to get everything for around $500, approx. $300 for their jobs material and the rush shipping. I get the pieces cleaned up and ready for epoxy, get it all glued together and get the first two gibs done in a couple of late nights. Then he starts to worry about the material thickness. He has me get in on a conference call with the machine's owner so we can all agree what to do. I give the same advise that without having the machine on hand, I'd go with the same thickness as the original if not a little extra and adjust for the added material, or at worst scrape it thinner later. We all agree and I proceed to finish the job. This little break in the rush job lasted about a week however, waiting for them to make up their minds.

In that time I look up the company. It "looks" legitimate, but by this point it's obvious that this guy is either farming out jobs that he can't handle, or more likely he's just a middle-man connecting jobs with vendors and taking his cut. Their physical address is a little south of me in Humble Texas, but the machine is in Minnesota and before I was contacted, they apparently had been working on it for awhile. When I sent him my invoice which including the material, shipping, and time to do all x12 of these gibs, came out to a couple thousand dollars. He didn't say "no" but didn't think that the client would like it, so out of the kindness of my heart (and desire to see future work) I gave him a discount and cut some time. He comes to pick up the finished pieces and talks about some future jobs and drives away. The whole time I'm thinking about how he hasn't payed yet, but apparently they need to check if the pieces fit before we proceed. When the job started, he was talking in terms of cash payment while I was talking in terms of quotes and invoices.

So, as while they play with these gibs, I'm looking into the wipers and not finding much. They're not matching what I see out there, but the guy also won't tell me what model the machine is, only that it's a "1980's Milltronics". This guy keeps calling me telling me to call different suppliers, because he doesn't have time for it. So I'm just his Google guy now? He even asks me to go to Auto Zone and look at car windshield wipers. "I dunno man, F*-it, I'm ready to try anything" he laughs. I keep pressuring him for more info until he finally finds something on his own and sends a courier to pick up the old wipers. Still hasn't payed for the gibs and NOW he tells me that their accounting is set up so that they can't pay their vendors until the job is complete so they can distribute the payout. I tell him that isn't right, nobody deals with vendors or repairs like that. My job is done and the rest is up to them, but "I know I know, that's just how it is." If I told my power company that they'll get payed when I get my paycheck... they're still turning off my lights.

They also find that the gibs don't fit and apparently have almost no room for adjustment, so I give them a number of a repair guy in that can come on site to scrape them down. He's smart and bills the machine's owner directly and gets payed, but agrees that the guys working on the machine don't have a clue what they are doing, but that in this convoluted mess going thicker was the way to go.

So this "need it Yesterday" job took about a week for me to complete, not counting the delays in waiting for the repair-contractor guy to make up his mind, or come pick up the gibs, and it's been about a month since he took the pieces, and is now dodging my calls and texts. Looking at their site, all their "contact us" info circles back to the same email and same number. This guy has his wife working as his secretary, which is cool, but also kinda feeds the implication that this isn't a legitimate business. Can't find any other contact info or even evidence of other employee's.

IMO, I don't think the guy sets out to outright scam people, but try's to broker actual repairs and make a cut under the guise of this company. In the end it's all in how you draw the "hustle" line between scam and work, I guess.
NNG Industries

What do you guys think? I'm talking with my LLC's agent to see what I can do, but as he didn't sign any invoice and tried to keep it all "cash," I think this'll just be a learning experience for me. In the future I'm requiring signed quote with payment terms, and signed terms of service before any work proceeds.
 
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Ries

Diamond
Joined
Mar 15, 2004
Location
Edison Washington USA
Occasionally, I will do something "on the house". But usually when I do, I tell them first, they cant afford me if I charge my real price.
I think its important to tell em up front, say- "shop time is a hundred bucks an hour", so they know they are getting a deal or a favor.
In this case, if it was me, I would be applying pressure to the end customer, not the contact guy.
In a polite way- you know- "I rushed this job, made an effort to contact you to make sure you got exactly what you wanted, and there seems to be a problem getting paid".
Its true, sometimes, you dont get paid.
 

Garwood

Diamond
Joined
Oct 10, 2009
Location
Oregon
This kind of work is COD today. Too many shitbags out there. Services like yours are way more valuable than you probably think.

Also, you should have the entire way system to do the job or go to the machine. I have owned very large machines that had major 5+ ton sections of them removed and sent off for grinding/Turcite/scraping at one time. If you only have half the puzzle you can't really do the job. I think that should be a real lesson for you too. Thatw eek of their indecision could have been completely avoided if you offered them a solution instead of a guess.

If you really have no signed paperwork and you didn't require a green cash payment before pickup then good luck!

You don't need an LLC or anything official to charge money for your services when your starting out. You can write an invoice with your legal name and take their money.
 

M.B. Naegle

Titanium
Joined
Feb 7, 2011
Location
Conroe, TX USA
This kind of work is COD today. Too many shitbags out there. Services like yours are way more valuable than you probably think.

Also, you should have the entire way system to do the job or go to the machine. I have owned very large machines that had major 5+ ton sections of them removed and sent off for grinding/Turcite/scraping at one time. If you only have half the puzzle you can't really do the job. I think that should be a real lesson for you too. Thatw eek of their indecision could have been completely avoided if you offered them a solution instead of a guess.

If you really have no signed paperwork and you didn't require a green cash payment before pickup then good luck!

You don't need an LLC or anything official to charge money for your services when your starting out. You can write an invoice with your legal name and take their money.
Agree'd 100%. I told them that from the beginning that replacing the gibs was likely only part of the solution. They offered to have me go and inspect the machine, but I didn't have it in my schedule and my gut told me that my involvement in this mess needed to be limited if I wasn't able to offer them a complete package solution. From what I was told this was a large machine that would need bed grinding if the ways were worn, but I got the impression that in asking me to go inspect the machine, they were wanting me to take over the logistics of that process, which I didn't have the time/resources for. My offering was to replace the Turcite only and offer advise on the installation.

With the first job, I didn't have documented terms of service or rates yet (which I do now), and hadn't researched what this kind of work was valued at. On this second job I verbally explained what I would do and couldn't do and I've emailed that stuff to them, but in the interests of expediting things, I did the job before they officially acknowledged them, which is entirely on me. In my terms of service I include things like what level of flatness the job entails, as well as how that fits into the geometric alignment of the piece(s). I don't guarantee how long the job will last, only that it passes said measurements, as I have no control how the machine/parts will be assembled or maintained. The guy that fitted the pieces to the machine said the other guys working on the machine were very rough and not very clean, mashing chips in under the gibs, etc.

I don't consider myself a machine tool rebuilder, just a scrapper with some experience. If there were more hours in the day I'd be happy to take on more. It seems that there are a good number of machine tool repair guys out there (with varied skill sets), but very few seem to have any understanding of scraping or why/when it is needed, so that's where I try to fill in.
 

gustafson

Diamond
Joined
Sep 4, 2002
Location
People's Republic
Rush jobs
You get to thinking about how to get it done and not if you get paid
The guy never intended to pay, you got scammed, live and learn
People who you do not have a monetary relationship with do not pick up parts without money in hand.
If you are so big a piece of the pic that they cannot pay you out of what they have in the ash tray of their car, their business sucks and you want nothing to do with them
 

jaguar36

Cast Iron
Joined
May 13, 2015
Location
SE, PA
Did you contact the machine owner? I wouldn't expect them to pay if they've already payed this guy, but you could tell them that you haven't been able to get ahold of him and then maybe slip in that you were still awaiting payment. If nothing else it might let them know that he's just a middle man and they could come straight to you next time.
 

MaxPrairie

Hot Rolled
Joined
Jul 9, 2015
Had a customer about 2 months late paying for a job call me and repeat the order. I agreed to do it since they supplied the material anyways and reminded them I hadn't gotten paid for the last one. They called to ask how the job was going and I told them it was complete. Told me to ship it out, I said I would once I got paid for both orders. Made up the excuse the accounts were gone for the day, that's fine call me tomorrow. Customer calls me the next day and asks why the parts didn't show up, I said because I didn't ship them since I didn't get paid yet. Tells me to ship them right away, nah once they are paid for you can have them. Finally sinks in he won't get his parts until I am paid. I haven't heard from him for a while....
 

latheman78

Cast Iron
Joined
May 28, 2022
Location
Southern Ca Mtns.
Without proper documentation you are SOL as far as using the legal system is concerned.
I would get in touch with the machine owner, if you can and see if you can work out something with them. The guy you went through is probably a legitimate business but no way in hell he does everything he claims in his own facility, looks like he plays a lot of middleman.
 

Freedommachine

Hot Rolled
Joined
May 13, 2020
Sounds like somebody has forfeited their right to healthy knee caps.

If it's a few grand, I wouldn't let it go. He's hoping you will give up on it. Persistence often pays off unless the guy is a complete scammer.

Call him from a different # and see if they answer. Let him know you have waited long enough and will invoice his customer unless he pays you. He could be working on other machines there as well.

He is more likely to keep you in mind if he thinks you may cause drama for him.
 

M.B. Naegle

Titanium
Joined
Feb 7, 2011
Location
Conroe, TX USA
The guy who fitted the gibs mentioned that I hadn't been paid to the machine owner, I think a week ago, and he in tern questioned the repair contractor guy. That rattled their cage enough that they returned my call to confirm that they would pay me... but that was a week ago and they were still dodging my calls.

Another shady bit is that if they don't answer a call, it gives the whole bit about "the wireless customer is not available, please try again". Can't leave a message.

Today I texted them again asking if we needed to get a lawyer in this situation, and in 5 minutes had a call back asking how I want to be paid. I told them cash or PayPal. They apparently have a problem with their PayPal account and will send me a money order.:rolleyes5::angry:
 

cyanidekid

Titanium
Joined
Jun 4, 2016
Location
Brooklyn NYC
I hope the best for you, and you are probably right in your assessment of the situation, but you marked yourself a sucker by doing the first job for free.

not having an LLC is no reason whatsoever not to get paid, that's just nuts. you did the work, you should be paid. I do freebies for good customers (probably more often than in should!), but its just a way of saying thanks and cementing an already years long good relationship. first time's free only if you'r a drug dealer in the movies.

P.S. any talk of retaliating for non payment with violence is dangerous, stupid, wrong, and illegal. it's in YOUR best interest to disavow any and all such BS publicly and immediately, especially as the other party has been ID'd.
 
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gmc1724

Aluminum
Joined
Oct 24, 2013
Location
United Kingdom
I'm normally not one for naming-names and doxing people or companies, but I'd like the PM communities input on this one.

I've have a side LLC set-up for little machine tool repair and scraping jobs for a few years. Not something I plan to make a lot of money with, just to be organized and proper with any jobs I do along those lines separate from my day job. Back prior to Covid, I was contacted by a guy who wanted some help scraping the gibs of a turning center. I told him I'd be glad to help and drove to the shop down in Houston. The guy who contacted me wasn't there, but told me the other shop guys would tell me what they needed. It wasn't a hard job and only took a couple hours to complete, but I didn't have the LLC yet or documentation of what I do and what I charge, so I told the guy it was on the house and to please contact me if something like it comes up again.

Fast forward to last month. The guy called again and said he had another gib job and needed it done "yesterday." I agreed to meet him that day (a Saturday) down at a gas station in Houston, as he thought Conroe was a long drive and he handed me a box of tapered gibs with worn Turcite, a box of dirty way wipers, and a hundred dollar bill down payment. They needed the Turcite replaced, scraped, and oil grooves recut, but didn't know how thick the Turcite was supposed to be. I told him that that wasn't ideal but that I could do the job and if anything I recommended we go with material on the thick side and they could adjust to compensate, or worst case you can always cut it back further. The way wipers I agreed to try help find replacements for, but I'd get back to him on that, as well as a quote for the gibs.

So he needs these things "yesterday," so we agree that the material can be overnighted and as I'm doing this in my off time, I'll need a few days to get it all together. I bought the material with some extra for my own supply (for future "rush" jobs) and luckily have left-over epoxy from a past job and am able to get everything for around $500, approx. $300 for their jobs material and the rush shipping. I get the pieces cleaned up and ready for epoxy, get it all glued together and get the first two gibs done in a couple of late nights. Then he starts to worry about the material thickness. He has me get in on a conference call with the machine's owner so we can all agree what to do. I give the same advise that without having the machine on hand, I'd go with the same thickness as the original if not a little extra and adjust for the added material, or at worst scrape it thinner later. We all agree and I proceed to finish the job. This little break in the rush job lasted about a week however, waiting for them to make up their minds.

In that time I look up the company. It "looks" legitimate, but by this point it's obvious that this guy is either farming out jobs that he can't handle, or more likely he's just a middle-man connecting jobs with vendors and taking his cut. Their physical address is a little south of me in Humble Texas, but the machine is in Minnesota and before I was contacted, they apparently had been working on it for awhile. When I sent him my invoice which including the material, shipping, and time to do all x12 of these gibs, came out to a couple thousand dollars. He didn't say "no" but didn't think that the client would like it, so out of the kindness of my heart (and desire to see future work) I gave him a discount and cut some time. He comes to pick up the finished pieces and talks about some future jobs and drives away. The whole time I'm thinking about how he hasn't payed yet, but apparently they need to check if the pieces fit before we proceed. When the job started, he was talking in terms of cash payment while I was talking in terms of quotes and invoices.

So, as while they play with these gibs, I'm looking into the wipers and not finding much. They're not matching what I see out there, but the guy also won't tell me what model the machine is, only that it's a "1980's Milltronics". This guy keeps calling me telling me to call different suppliers, because he doesn't have time for it. So I'm just his Google guy now? He even asks me to go to Auto Zone and look at car windshield wipers. "I dunno man, F*-it, I'm ready to try anything" he laughs. I keep pressuring him for more info until he finally finds something on his own and sends a courier to pick up the old wipers. Still hasn't payed for the gibs and NOW he tells me that their accounting is set up so that they can't pay their vendors until the job is complete so they can distribute the payout. I tell him that isn't right, nobody deals with vendors or repairs like that. My job is done and the rest is up to them, but "I know I know, that's just how it is." If I told my power company that they'll get payed when I get my paycheck... they're still turning off my lights.

They also find that the gibs don't fit and apparently have almost no room for adjustment, so I give them a number of a repair guy in that can come on site to scrape them down. He's smart and bills the machine's owner directly and gets payed, but agrees that the guys working on the machine don't have a clue what they are doing, but that in this convoluted mess going thicker was the way to go.

So this "need it Yesterday" job took about a week for me to complete, not counting the delays in waiting for the repair-contractor guy to make up his mind, or come pick up the gibs, and it's been about a month since he took the pieces, and is now dodging my calls and texts. Looking at their site, all their "contact us" info circles back to the same email and same number. This guy has his wife working as his secretary, which is cool, but also kinda feeds the implication that this isn't a legitimate business. Can't find any other contact info or even evidence of other employee's.

IMO, I don't think the guy sets out to outright scam people, but try's to broker actual repairs and make a cut under the guise of this company. In the end it's all in how you draw the "hustle" line between scam and work, I guess.
NNG Industries

What do you guys think? I'm talking with my LLC's agent to see what I can do, but as he didn't sign any invoice and tried to keep it all "cash," I think this'll just be a learning experience for me. In the future I'm requiring signed quote with payment terms, and signed terms of service before any work proceeds.
Just a side note to this, I think you're massively underselling yourself with you're pricing, I was doing this type of work 15yrs ago and would charge around £500 per gib back then (normally about 12" x 2"), work was plentiful back then with a Ford & Vauxhall plant nearby, alas both plants have stopped machining operations and only do assembly work now.
 

M.B. Naegle

Titanium
Joined
Feb 7, 2011
Location
Conroe, TX USA
Could this be that "one in a million" time that Similar Threads is helpful? Or is this just the worlds biggest coincidence?

I missed that one but yep, that's the job!
 

M.B. Naegle

Titanium
Joined
Feb 7, 2011
Location
Conroe, TX USA
So you can blame Rich for this mess! ;)
I hadn't named him here before as I wasn't sure he wanted to be associated with this fiasco, but obviously he has a thread on it, so there you go. He's the guy who did the final fitting and got them going, but not the same guy(s) that decided that the gibs were a problem and pulled them out or tried to install the re-surfaced gibs the first time. I think Rich worked with them when he did the final fitting and it sounded like they were electricians or control repair guys. Not sure who hired them, but they knew enough to see that the Turcite was worn and they didn't have to tools to fix it. That was the point I was hired.

It's odd to me that this Houston area repair contractor was even involved and not some other company more local to these guys (like Rich!). Would have saved them a lot of time and hassle.
 
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cyanidekid

Titanium
Joined
Jun 4, 2016
Location
Brooklyn NYC
one other thing, any debt less than 90 days overdue isn't considered worth pursuing by collection agencies or the courts, so document your reasonable requests for payment, be persistent but not harassing, and make everything professional, on the record, and email with CC to an attorney after 60 days.
 

RC Mech

Stainless
Joined
Jul 21, 2014
Location
Ontario, Canada
one other thing, any debt less than 90 days overdue isn't considered worth pursuing by collection agencies or the courts, so document your reasonable requests for payment, be persistent but not harassing, and make everything professional, on the record, and email with CC to an attorney after 60 days.
That's a total crock. Copy an attorney after 60 days? No real business does that. There are a myriad of reasons why a business, particularly a small business, would be late on payment.

I'm not saying it's something to be habitual about but it happens. Want to burn a bridge and get put on a shit list immediately? Try getting a lawster involved before you have any real cause to suspect the other party is actively screwing you.

Never ascribe to malice what can be explained by incompetence (financial or otherwise).
 








 
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