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#2154747 - 09/20/13 08:12 PM Non paying client  
Joined: Dec 2010
Posts: 18
lola2842 Offline
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lola2842  Offline
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Joined: Dec 2010
Posts: 18
New Jersey
Hello to all,

I need a bit of guidance here, I hope you can help. About 3 months ago, I tuned 5 pianos for a small community music school, and after sending 2 invoices, they still have not paid. I've called twice and left messages, none have been returned.

In my 12 years in this career, I've never had someone take this long to pay me, and I'm thinking I probably won't get paid unless I take some sort of action. I'm not sure what to do at this point, or what recourse I have, short of just showing up at their office door, which is 85 miles from my home.

Any ideas? Anyone ever dealt with this before?

Thanks in advance,
Gretchen

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#2154752 - 09/20/13 08:34 PM Re: Non paying client [Re: lola2842]  
Joined: May 2001
Posts: 1,399
Eric Gloo Offline
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Eric Gloo  Offline
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Richfield Springs, New York
Try sending another invoice, but go into the post office and send it so you get a return receipt. This way, you'll know when and what day the invoice was received. Also, keep calling until you actually speak with someone. Call every day, and even more than once until you receive payment.


Eric Gloo
Piano Technician
Certified Dampp-Chaser Installer
Richfield Springs, New York
#2154779 - 09/20/13 09:33 PM Re: Non paying client [Re: lola2842]  
Joined: Feb 2009
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daniokeeper Offline
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PA
Absolutely... bill them again either through certified or registered mail.

But, you may have some detective work to do if they don't answer in 30 days.

If this music school is privately owned, there could be other possibilities besides them stiffing you.

The school may have gone bankrupt. Or, maybe the owner is ill or has passed on.

You could also try email. If you use webmail rather than an email client on your own pc, there would be a reliable timestamp as to when you contacted them. The proof would live on someone else's server.

Last edited by daniokeeper; 09/20/13 09:41 PM.

Joe Gumbosky
Piano Tuning & Repair
www.morethanpianos.com
(semi-retired)
#2154799 - 09/20/13 10:19 PM Re: Non paying client [Re: lola2842]  
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Bob Offline
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Florida
If nothing works write it off as bad debt. Not worth suing them over.

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#2154800 - 09/20/13 10:20 PM Re: Non paying client [Re: lola2842]  
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David Jenson Offline
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David Jenson  Offline
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Maine
Fortunately it's rare, but occasionally it happens. I send three billings. I don't call. If nothing happens after three letters, I drop it and put them on my private dead-beat list. I don't make a big thing of it. Life is too short.


David L. Jenson
Tuning - Repairs - Refurbishing
Jenson's Piano Service
-----
#2154823 - 09/20/13 11:28 PM Re: Non paying client [Re: lola2842]  
Joined: May 2013
Posts: 375
Gary Fowler Offline
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Gary Fowler  Offline
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Joined: May 2013
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David is right. It rarely happens, but when it does, you simply have to let it go. It's the cost of doing business. Maybe you might want to tighten up your "lending practices". If it is a brand new customer, you may want to request(actually more like DEMAND) that the check must be there, waiting, upon completion of the work. Good luck


Making the world a better sounding place, one piano at a time...
#2154839 - 09/21/13 12:12 AM Re: Non paying client [Re: lola2842]  
Joined: Mar 2009
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bkw58 Offline

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bkw58  Offline

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Joined: Mar 2009
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Conway, AR USA
You might send the next statement with a note that you've placed them on a monthly payment plan until the acct is cleared. $40 or 50 /mo
Include a self-addressed stamped envelope with the first statement.
Slow pay is better than no pay. Leave it at that and wait.
Sadly, (unless the Fed tax laws have changed) we cannot write off unpaid service. Goods only.


Bob W.
Piano Technician (Retired since 2006)
Conway, Arkansas
www.pianotechno.blogspot.com
#2154846 - 09/21/13 12:27 AM Re: Non paying client [Re: lola2842]  
Joined: Jun 2003
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BDB Offline
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Oakland
That is not exactly true. If you are using accrual accounting, you should credit the amount when it is billed. If they do not pay, after a decent amount of time, it is written off as a bad debt. However, you are writing off money that you never received, so it is a wash. You can still write off expenses, like the cost of travel.


Semipro Tech
#2154849 - 09/21/13 12:49 AM Re: Non paying client [Re: BDB]  
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bkw58 Offline

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bkw58  Offline

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Conway, AR USA
Originally Posted by BDB
That is not exactly true. If you are using accrual accounting, you should credit the amount when it is billed. If they do not pay, after a decent amount of time, it is written off as a bad debt. However, you are writing off money that you never received, so it is a wash. You can still write off expenses, like the cost of travel.


Thanks,BDB. I recall my cpa always saying to leave my unpaid tunings for the year in my old shoe box. Unpaid tunings/service were very rare. With no real difference to the tax time bottom line one way or the other, I now think that she was probably sparing me an explanation that I probably wouldn't have understood anyway. Thanks again :-)


Bob W.
Piano Technician (Retired since 2006)
Conway, Arkansas
www.pianotechno.blogspot.com
#2154866 - 09/21/13 02:13 AM Re: Non paying client [Re: lola2842]  
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BDB Offline
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Oakland
It is a wash, so that is the best way for most people to handle it. There are always exceptions that one must be aware of. The tax program I use asks for 1099 form information, but since I do not know which of my clients will send me 1099s until I get them, all of the information is already in my records, and adding 1099s would result in me being taxed twice on it.

There is a quote attributed to Albert Einstein about income tax. Purportedly he said that you did not need to be a mathematician to understand it, you needed to be a philosopher. There is a lot of truth in that. At some point it makes sense, except where Congress has given a special break to some group or other.


Semipro Tech
#2154887 - 09/21/13 06:02 AM Re: Non paying client [Re: lola2842]  
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Loren D Offline
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You guys saying not to sue are daft. I've only had to do it twice in thirty years, but it was well worth it. Small claims court doesn't cost a lot to file, and when you win, they have to pay the court costs as well. Both clients were apologetic and called me for future services.

Try not paying a creditor, no matter how small the amount, and see if they let it go for you. They won't. You shouldn't either.

"Writing it off as a loss" sounds simple and tidy, but in the end you still sustained a loss. Not only that, but you performed services in good faith that you never were compensated for. Why allow that?



DiGiorgi Piano Service
http://www.digiorgipiano.com
#2154901 - 09/21/13 07:01 AM Re: Non paying client [Re: lola2842]  
Joined: Dec 2010
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lola2842 Offline
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lola2842  Offline
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New Jersey
Thanks to all who replied!

Writing it off as a loss is not something I want to do, and Loren D makes a good point, why allow people to take advantage? But taking them to small claims court doesn't sound pleasant either. I don't know that it would be worth it for this amount. I will try sending another invoice certified mail, and calling again.

This was a new client for me, and it is a family owned music school that has been around for about 40 years. Maybe there is some back story that I don't know about, but who can tell.

This definitely goes on the "Lessons Learned" pile, as I will be requesting payment in full at the time of service for any new clients in the future.

Thanks again for all your help!

#2154908 - 09/21/13 07:28 AM Re: Non paying client [Re: lola2842]  
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Rickster Offline
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Originally Posted by lola2842
Writing it off as a loss is not something I want to do, and Loren D makes a good point, why allow people to take advantage? But taking them to small claims court doesn't sound pleasant either. I don't know that it would be worth it for this amount. I will try sending another invoice certified mail, and calling again.

I'm on the outside looking in here, but I think the small claims court route would simply cause you more stress than you already have... and, winning the case in small claims does not guarantee you will get your money, especially from a small, private music school. Actually collecting the debt would be another set of hoops to jump through.

Just my .02.

Rick


Piano enthusiast and amateur musician: "Treat others the way you would like to be treated". Yamaha C7. YouTube Channel
#2154942 - 09/21/13 09:13 AM Re: Non paying client [Re: lola2842]  
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bkw58 Offline

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bkw58  Offline

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Joined: Mar 2009
Posts: 2,045
Conway, AR USA
I understand what you're saying Loren. And all of this is very easy for me to suggest when my money is not on the line. Just something to think about...

Small claims court is not available in some areas of the country; even if it is, by going that route one could win a battle but, at length, lose a war. Yes, the tech might collect via a favorable court decision. But, she may not. Either way, it'll be public record - in some markets even published in newspaper court reports - that a tech took legal action against a client. People read, especially the police and court reports. I cannot see this doing anything to help generate new business. Only the opposite. No one likes to be taken advantage of. But in a business where the tech is the sole product, good-will is vital. Good PR trumps everything. In the long run, it will do more for our bottom line to write "Charity write-off" on the final statement than suing them in court. It might even produce that long awaited check.


Last edited by bkw58; 09/21/13 09:18 AM. Reason: clarity

Bob W.
Piano Technician (Retired since 2006)
Conway, Arkansas
www.pianotechno.blogspot.com
#2154981 - 09/21/13 10:34 AM Re: Non paying client [Re: bkw58]  
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Loren D Offline
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Loren D  Offline
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PA
Originally Posted by bkw58
I understand what you're saying Loren. And all of this is very easy for me to suggest when my money is not on the line. Just something to think about...

Small claims court is not available in some areas of the country; even if it is, by going that route one could win a battle but, at length, lose a war. Yes, the tech might collect via a favorable court decision. But, she may not. Either way, it'll be public record - in some markets even published in newspaper court reports - that a tech took legal action against a client. People read, especially the police and court reports. I cannot see this doing anything to help generate new business. Only the opposite. No one likes to be taken advantage of. But in a business where the tech is the sole product, good-will is vital. Good PR trumps everything. In the long run, it will do more for our bottom line to write "Charity write-off" on the final statement than suing them in court. It might even produce that long awaited check.



Small claims court has never been published here in the newspaper. Sure, the cases are a matter of public record, but only if someone is searching for them. And even so, if the public record shows that I did good work in good faith and a customer tried to take advantage of me, I'm ok with it.

Expecting to be paid for professional services is not out of line, and I don't see how wishing to be rightfully paid for time, expenses, services and/or merchandise can be characterized as a lack of good will.

There are those who don't pay because they know most people won't come after them for it. And many won't. They enable the behavior, sorry to say!

Now all that said, I've only had to do it twice, and both times it was a last resort after months and months of letters and invoices, all of which had been ignored. Sorry, I just can't bring myself to say "Ok, you win." Right is right.


DiGiorgi Piano Service
http://www.digiorgipiano.com
#2154991 - 09/21/13 11:11 AM Re: Non paying client [Re: lola2842]  
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bkw58 Offline

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bkw58  Offline

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Joined: Mar 2009
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Conway, AR USA
Thanks, Loren.


Bob W.
Piano Technician (Retired since 2006)
Conway, Arkansas
www.pianotechno.blogspot.com
#2155012 - 09/21/13 11:45 AM Re: Non paying client [Re: lola2842]  
Joined: Sep 2006
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rocket88 Offline
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rocket88  Offline
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Question: How about a collection agency? They do all the legwork, and you do have to give them a big chunk of the money, but if they collect, at least you get something.


Piano teacher and Blues and Boogie-Woogie pianist.
#2155018 - 09/21/13 12:02 PM Re: Non paying client [Re: lola2842]  
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RPD Offline
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RPD  Offline
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Kalamazoo Michigan
In 30+ years we've never not gotten paid. In a few instances it took months and we usually send a couple invoices and drop it. Then, in each case the client paid us. My experience suggests to me that the music school you describe may be simply losing or innocently misdirecting your invoices.

I would call or stop in, making the assumption of innocence, and ask to speak to the person who ordered the work. In some situations where payment has been slow, we find that the person who ordered the work is no longer with the institution...then just follow the leads.

We are also very detailed to make sure going in into a new account that we get the info for invoicing. On one occasion, we tuned a S&S D for a concert for a school, but THAT tuning was being paid for by private doners and once we figured that out, we re-invoiced it correctly and got promptly paid.

I doubt seriously I'd actually take legal action to recover lost tunings. Its just not worth setting off that bomb in the butterfly factory of my happy mind!

Last edited by RPD; 09/21/13 01:06 PM.

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#2155157 - 09/21/13 04:55 PM Re: Non paying client [Re: lola2842]  
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David, OHIO Offline
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David, OHIO  Offline
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Coshocton, Ohio
I would think that 5 piano's amounts to a good days pay. I would pursue them and call daily until the invoice is paid. If you have to travel the distance for your check so be it. Talk to someone besides the office manager. Ask for the schools president or an accounting department if there is one. Definitely send them a invoice by registered mail. Daniokeeper makes a good point that the administration might be experience changes or financial difficulties. Get on a system of 3 payments if you have to but get paid for your services. Dealing with corporate owners of casinos and hotels in this town will drag their feet until I give up. I have found that a civil and businesslike approach to late invoice payments will be processed as long as you keep on their tails. You provide a service very few can do. Arts programs must know that piano services come with a fee.

Last edited by David, Las Vegas; 09/21/13 04:57 PM.

David Chadwick RPT
Coshocton, Ohio
1931 Mason Hamlin AA
#2155164 - 09/21/13 05:06 PM Re: Non paying client [Re: lola2842]  
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Bob Offline
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Florida
You would spend a day of your time filing and going to to court. For a day's pay, it's not worth it. Write it off as bad debt, and forget it. Even if you win in court, you still have to collect.

Life has taught me that staying out of court is a good thing. If it can't be resolved without small claims, consider if turning a loss of a day's pay into a two day loss of pay, plus the hassle of collecting is worth it.

And Loren, I don't appreciate being called "daft" because my opinion differs from yours. wink


#2155269 - 09/21/13 09:03 PM Re: Non paying client [Re: Bob]  
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David Jenson Offline
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David Jenson  Offline
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Maine
Originally Posted by Bob
... Even if you win in court, you still have to collect. ...
Therein lies the rub! You win, but you're still back at square one. -collection- Ugh!


David L. Jenson
Tuning - Repairs - Refurbishing
Jenson's Piano Service
-----
#2155357 - 09/22/13 03:03 AM Re: Non paying client [Re: rocket88]  
Joined: Mar 2009
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bkw58 Offline

Silver Supporter until December 19, 2014
bkw58  Offline

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Joined: Mar 2009
Posts: 2,045
Conway, AR USA
Originally Posted by rocket88
Question: How about a collection agency? They do all the legwork, and you do have to give them a big chunk of the money, but if they collect, at least you get something.


With no small claims court in this area, the Collection Agency was the method of most in business for no-pays and bad checks. I used neither. For umpteen years, I only had a few of these - four or five perhaps - to deal with. All were just for a single tuning. Not bad considering most of my business was charge accounts. Most of no-pays were cleared up with correspondence and patience. The one or two bad checks were re-issued (it helps that writing bad checks is a felony here). What little remained was forgiven.


Bob W.
Piano Technician (Retired since 2006)
Conway, Arkansas
www.pianotechno.blogspot.com
#2155706 - 09/22/13 05:44 PM Re: Non paying client [Re: Bob]  
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Loren D Offline
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PA
Originally Posted by Bob
You would spend a day of your time filing and going to to court. For a day's pay, it's not worth it. Write it off as bad debt, and forget it. Even if you win in court, you still have to collect.

Life has taught me that staying out of court is a good thing. If it can't be resolved without small claims, consider if turning a loss of a day's pay into a two day loss of pay, plus the hassle of collecting is worth it.

And Loren, I don't appreciate being called "daft" because my opinion differs from yours. wink



Bob,

Filing took me ten minutes at the magistrate's desk, that's all.

As for the "daft" remark....fair point, and I offer my sincere apology! smile


DiGiorgi Piano Service
http://www.digiorgipiano.com
#2155711 - 09/22/13 06:00 PM Re: Non paying client [Re: lola2842]  
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Withindale Offline
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Suffolk, England
I agree with David.

It is not much use going to court in England if you haven't made every effort to talk to the other side. More often than not there's a problem that can be resolved once you've found out what it is. As for the rest ...


Ian Russell
Schiedmayer & Soehne, 1925 Model 14, 140cm
Ibach, 1905 F-IV, 235cm
#2155852 - 09/22/13 10:16 PM Re: Non paying client [Re: lola2842]  
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Nash. Piano Rescue Offline
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East Nashville,TN Scottsville...
Before I filed anything in court I would be calling the US Department of Labor / Wage an hour division. Tell them what the issue is and if they can help they will.

We had someone stiff us on transport once, we didn't work for anyone but ourselves and although the amount we got was less than the invoiced amount the business that stiffed us got a nice federal raid on employment files and we got minimum wage plus 15% for each day we had to wait to get paid. Just a different option to consider


J. Christie
Nashville Piano Rescue
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Bowling Green, KY
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#2155861 - 09/22/13 10:34 PM Re: Non paying client [Re: Bob]  
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David, OHIO Offline
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David, OHIO  Offline
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Coshocton, Ohio
Originally Posted by Bob
You would spend a day of your time filing and going to to court. For a day's pay, it's not worth it. Write it off as bad debt, and forget it. Even if you win in court, you still have to collect.

Life has taught me that staying out of court is a good thing. If it can't be resolved without small claims, consider if turning a loss of a day's pay into a two day loss of pay, plus the hassle of collecting is worth it.

And Loren, I don't appreciate being called "daft" because my opinion differs from yours. wink


I never mentioned anything about going to court. You are right that it is a waste of time and money. Deal with it directly and you will find that as your requests become frequent your client might be better willing to meet your requests. Tell them what it means to you in business terms such as your accounts with outstanding debtors. Keep a personal connection (businesslike) and hopefully once they get to know you better an association will be reckoned.

Last edited by David, Las Vegas; 09/22/13 10:38 PM. Reason: spelling

David Chadwick RPT
Coshocton, Ohio
1931 Mason Hamlin AA
#2156380 - 09/23/13 06:08 PM Re: Non paying client [Re: lola2842]  
Joined: Aug 2011
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Dave B Offline
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Philadelphia area
The first red flag is calling a tuner 85 miles away.

I can remember musicians taking care of each other. Those days are long gone.


"Imagine it in all its primatic colorings, its counterpart in our souls - our souls that are great pianos whose strings, of honey and of steel, the divisions of the rainbow set twanging, loosing on the air great novels of adventure!" - William Carlos Williams
#2156396 - 09/23/13 06:45 PM Re: Non paying client [Re: Dave B]  
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Withindale Offline
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Suffolk, England
Originally Posted by Dave B
The first red flag is calling a tuner 85 miles away.

+1, regrettably, unless the call was for a good reason.


Ian Russell
Schiedmayer & Soehne, 1925 Model 14, 140cm
Ibach, 1905 F-IV, 235cm
#2156455 - 09/23/13 08:16 PM Re: Non paying client [Re: Withindale]  
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zissr Offline
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north jersey
Gretchen,
Please come to the next NJ PTG meeting. Don Mannino is presenting. Let us know the name of the school so they can be blacklisted.

#2156774 - 09/24/13 09:52 AM Re: Non paying client [Re: lola2842]  
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BrainCramp Offline
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USA
Gretchen,

Can you file a complaint with the school's local Better Business Bureau? I think the BBB would then bring it to their attention, which might shame them into paying you.

I've never done this; it's just a thought.

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