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Old May 23rd, 2005, 06:46 PM   #1
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Breech of Contract

I am starting this question here since it is related to Wedding Videography but I am not sure if it belongs here. First, I had a client ask that I video their wedding. I described my services, cleary indicated payment was due prior to the event and wrote the above in a contract, signed by bride stating payment must be made prior to wedding with balance due upon arrival of product. Well, it took pulling of teeth to get the check on the night of the rehearsal from the bride but I got it on Friday. Staurday the wedding came and I took all the required shots. Monday comes along and there are insufficient funds to cash the check. At this point I am really tired of dealing with these people. I still have the contract signed by the bride and myself stating payment must be made prior to wedding. I have since left a message on thier phone machine stating that payment in full is now required before any work is done on thier video. I am also following up with a certified letter. The way I feel right now I don't want thier money or their buisiness.

What options do I have?

Has anyone else run into this problem?

What did you do to resolve or prevent it from happening again?

Could I have claimed that since payment was not properly recieved I do not have to video the wedding?

Am I under any obligation at this point (I have recieved no money whatsoever)?

Any input would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for your time.

Depressed.

Last edited by Gabriel Selmi; May 23rd, 2005 at 09:37 PM.
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Old May 23rd, 2005, 06:55 PM   #2
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I don't do weddings, however, it is still a job. You agreed to do the shoot, and bad word of mouth will hurt you. It is entirely possible an error occurred. The bride is under a lot of stress at this time. Contact her, explain the situation, and give her a chance to rectify the matter. They may be away, so you might have to wait.
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Old May 23rd, 2005, 07:33 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gabriel Selmi
I am starting this question here since it is related to Wedding Videography but I am not sure if it belongs here. First, I had a client ask that I video their wedding. I described my services, cleary indicated payment was due prior to the event and wrote the above in a contract, signed by bride stating payment must be made prior to wedding with balance due upon arrival of product. Well, it took pulling of teeth to get the check on the night of the rehearsal from the bride but I got it on Friday. Staurday the wedding came and I took all the required shots. Monday comes along and there are insufficient funds to cash the check. At this point I am really tired of dealing with these people. I still have the contract signed by the bride and myself stating payment must be made prior to wedding. I have since left a message on thier phone machine stating that payment in full is now required before any work is done on thier video. I am also following up with a certified letter. The way I feel right now I don't want thier money or their buisiness.

What options do I have?

Has anyone else run into this problem?

What did you do to resolve or prevent it from happening again?

Could I have claimed that since payment was not properly recieved I do not have to video the wedding?

Am I under any obligation at this point (I have recieved no money whatsoever)?

Any input would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for your time.

Depressed.

hello gabriel,

well, my main job is in retail, and unfortunatly insufficent funds is more common then you may think.
people moving money around, there may are times with nothing in the account, that does not makes them to "bad" people.

i guess this is a part of beeing in business.

i second keiths posting, talk to your customers, but still do your end of the contract. if it comes hard to hard, your on the better end of the stick.

greetings
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Old May 23rd, 2005, 07:40 PM   #4
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I would have to agree with Keith. Try and contact them to reach a solution with the money. Hopefully it was just a banking error and you will get paid in full. I would not however, provide any video to them until the balance is paid in full.

As far as preventing it from happening again, I always get a deposit from anyone (usually half the total amount) at the booking and signing of the contract. I also require the balance paid before or on the day of the wedding. People are less likely to stiff you if they have paid (and the check has cleared) at least a deposit up front. Because at that point you may have taped the wedding but at least you have received some compensation but if they paid a deposit they have nothing for their money until they pay the balance.
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Old May 23rd, 2005, 07:42 PM   #5
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I would definitely try to work this out with the client. Document EVERYTHING, and make several attempts to rectify the situation. This will prove invaluable if they should ever attempt to take you to court or vice versa. Keep in mind YOU hold one of their most precious memories now, if they want that, they'll need to pay! You could give them a deadline to pay and indicate that their footage will be destroyed if they do not pay. Not many people want to lose their wedding video.

If you wanted to take the time, make the video, put a HUGE watermark on it indicating it is a DEMO. Make it fabulous, then give it to them, lol. If they want the version that doesn't have the 300X300 screen centered watermark on it, they'll need to pay!
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Old May 23rd, 2005, 07:50 PM   #6
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"What options do I have?"

Contact the customer via certified letter demanding payment ASAP as professionally as possible. Don't be hostile b/c in some ways you are still at their mercy. Try at first giving the benefit of the doubt that 'maybe' this was an innocent mistake.

Tell them you will hold the tapes until you get payment. Don't bother editing anything until you get it. Why invest anymore time into the job if you aren't going to be compensated for it.
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"Has anyone else run into this problem? "

Yes, and we approached it just as I described to you. Also, I charged them a $30 returned check fee to cover my fees at the bank. AND we changed our contract to protect ourselves in the future.
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"What did you do to resolve or prevent it from happening again?"

We now require prepayment in full 30 days prior. Used to be 14, but too many brides screwed around and missed that deadline, so we changed it. So far so good. If I don't get it by that 30 days, I'll give it 2 days grace period, then make one phone call as a "gentle reminder." Then, if I don't have payment at least 14 days prior, a letter goes out stating: "We regret that you no longer require our services for your wedding day. As stated in your contract, payment was due on ____. We have not received your payment and therefore consider this a cancellation of our services. As stated in your contract, 'Failure to remit payment by the specified due date of ___ is considered a breech of contract and automatically releases VBM from this agreement; however, all fees are retained and remain nonrefundable."

And if I really don't want to deal with them, we will just send their deposit/retainer back and say, "Good-bye - don't let the door hit you..."

I'm not putting up with that crap anymore. We don't have time for it. Of course, you should check w/ a lawyer in your state to verify the legitamacy of your contract terms.
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"Could I have claimed that since payment was not properly recieved I do not have to video the wedding?"

That's what we do. BUT it's stated in the contract that way. And we allow enough of a timeframe where errors can be remedied, just in case it is an innocent oversight.
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"Am I under any obligation at this point (I have recieved no money whatsoever)?"

AGain, I would say, it may depend largely on what your contract states. But I would say no. If you weren't paid, why should you be expected to do the job. IF that was the agreement made prior to the transaction.


Best of luck. This is no fun. I KNOW. The best thing you can do is cover yourself in the future.
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Old May 23rd, 2005, 07:57 PM   #7
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Well said.
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Old May 23rd, 2005, 08:28 PM   #8
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WOW! After reading all your replies I am feeling alot better about the situation. You all have shown me that I should have a cool head, take it easy yet be firm with what is owed to me. Everyone one of these replies is right on the money and very useful for what I need to do. I will contact the client again in hopes of reaching them when they come back. Also, as suggested I will send certified mail requesting the same thing. My only question would be what I should ask for in payment. The original amount of the first of two payments or the entire balance prior to recieving any product?
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Old May 23rd, 2005, 08:31 PM   #9
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I agree with Jennifer, in that you have to protect yourself. And if you can get full payment well in advance then that is the definately the way to go. But for someone who is just starting out (depending on the market) that might be difficult. Unless you can demand full payment in advance you need to make sure you have an iron clad contract and decide on what amount of risk you are willing to take. Unfortunately, this is a side of business that is not fun.
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Old May 23rd, 2005, 08:36 PM   #10
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Gabriel,

I guess that is something you need to decide. To give you my opinion, I would not give them anything until they pay the full balance. You provided the service and they need to pay for it. But again, that is something you need to decide.
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Old May 23rd, 2005, 08:48 PM   #11
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"Also, as suggested I will send certified mail requesting the same thing. My only question would be what I should ask for in payment. The original amount of the first of two payments or the entire balance prior to recieving any product?"


The reason I do the certified thing is so they can't say they never received the letter or request for payment. That way I have proof. Also, as someone else said - document everything. In situations like these, I document every correspondence and every phone call - when it was and the gist of the conversation.

In one case, several years ago, I did request the balance come back to us in the form of a bank check - no personal check. The bride drove to our house the morning of her wedding and delivered it to me. Yes, it was a major inconvenience to her, but one she brought upon herself - so I had very little sympathy. And yes, we were treated like the bad guy for the rest of the day, but I just kept reminding myself - she did this to herself and at least we gave her the second (actually it was a 3rd chance) to follow through. If she wants to ruin her own video and frown at the camera during her wedding, that is her perogitive as well.

In your case, require them to send whatever amount you agreed upon, assuming you had some sort of written agreement. And if they still owe you $$$ upon pick-up and you don't trust them, ask for a bank check or cash instead of a personal check, so you know you are covered.

You may already know this, but you can call their bank and use the account number on the bottom to verify funds before depositing it into your account. It doesn't guarantee the funds will be there when it is actually cashed, but at least you know if they are available at the time you receive the check.

Good luck!
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Old May 23rd, 2005, 09:25 PM   #12
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I can't really think of anyone that would want to risk losing their wedding footage over a monetary issue. We made d*mn sure we had my cameras running as well as some guests cameras on, not wanting to miss a minute at my wedding. My point, you are at the advantage. Unless their marriage falls through... :) So I'd relax a little and come at it from the smart angle rather than emotional.


(side thought)
If they still refuse to pay, you could send them a nice anniversary card each year, subconsciously reminding them that you still have the footage.
(ok sorry, just mean like that sometimes)

I am no professional but I had this happen 2 years ago with a simple set of scenes a person wanted shot for test training film. He refused to pay when the assignment was postponed. I asked very nicely for several months for my COST at least, he refused. As irony would have it, a year later his superiors wanted revamp the project (thinking he had the test footage). He never explained to them that he never paid for it, thinking that it wasn't necessary. Hearing my story, seeing copies of some of his graphic emails, and seeing the need for the test footage the superiors called me, paid 2x the amount, and fired him.
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Old May 24th, 2005, 06:54 AM   #13
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1 For future jobs, change your contract to get paid sooner. Include a bounced check fee. Include cancellation clause. I never even book a date until I have a deposit. I will hold a date for 48 hours without one.

2. For current job, you have agreement to be paid on delivery, so that is what you must live up to. Forget about getting more money before you edit. But insist upon payment by bank check or cash when they pick up the DVD's.
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Old May 24th, 2005, 07:48 AM   #14
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Bob,

I agree with your first point but I question the second. My agreement stated that I must be paid prior to the rehearsal, for which I only received a check after the rehearsal. Now, I go ahead and video tape the entire wedding day from 10 to 10. At this point I believe I have provided them with a service that is chargeable to the client. They technically have access to raw footage of the day’s entire event. When I try to cash the check Monday, 3 days past the rehearsal date and find it insufficient funds I do believe they have not honored or fulfilled the contract in anyway. Without receiving any money as stated in the contract I was under the impression I owe them nothing and am under no obligations. Of course I am not a lawyer and am not aware of our state laws and how they apply here (currently looking into that now), but I find it hard to finish the job with no contract or agreement from the couple to pay me. I will try to renegotiate the deal and provide the couple a chance to resolve this issue immediately, but it gets more aggravating when I find out EVERYONE ELSE was paid for their services. I'm sorry but this jam I got myself into is taking a toll on my patience. I need to chill out.

P.S. I have now created a contract that includes all of the above mentioned suggestions plus more. Will send it to our lawyer for final review.
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Old May 24th, 2005, 08:17 AM   #15
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Your contract said: "with balance due upon arrival of product" per your first post.

You are right that you owe them nothing until they get that bounced check cleared up. But past that, IMHO you should just finish the job. If you are going to get hostile, involve lawyers, and claim a breech, then go for it. Also, let me know what equipment you have for sale.

Everyone else got paid up front because they demanded to be paid up front. The fault is yours, but you have learned from it. This is a fact in business, and you have to get your ego out of the way ("How dare they do this to ME!!!"). You need to just get it done and put it behind you, however you choose to do it. But when you are new, every reference counts, and a bad one can put you way behind the 8-ball.

FWIW, they overspent on the wedding and that is why their check bounced. Expect that they will not have the money to pay you when your final edit is done too. Just plan on giving them a few weeks. I have heard of wedding videographers who have waited 2-3 years to get final payment. The other risk in waiting is that they get divorced.

Your other alternative is to offer to give them the raw tapes and walk away (once your deposit check gets cleared up). This is best for you, unless you want the demo footage. They might agree, since they probably don't want to spend any more money right now. But if they don't like that solution, you are back to the referral/reputation risk. You might even just wait to start editing until they call and ask about it. If they call, they probably have the money. It's not easy being in business.

But do not talk to them until your anger and ego are put in check. Find a win/win and then move on.
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