A mix-up with a customer

Bad debt: how Dave got his money back

“Did you make any New Year’s resolutions, Dave?” asks Simon, as they sup a warming beer in the Minstrel’s Rest.

“Just the one”, says Dave, grimly. “Never to go to the Troubledoor again.”

“That’s no sacrifice”. (The Troubledoor – or to give it its real name, Le Troubadour, – is a French-ish restaurant in Woodham that neither Dave nor Simon frequents.) “But what’s brought this on?”

So Dave tells him….

Back in June, Le Troubadour marked its fifth anniversary. Privately, Dave thought that this was indeed an achievement worth celebrating, as he believed it was something of a miracle that the place had not been closed down by environmental health officers in its first year. However, being a practical man, he said nothing, particularly since Carrie Mihaume, the proprietor of Le Troubadour, approached him to hire some equipment for a week of musical events they were putting on.

“They wanted some top of the range kit”, says Dave – so I quoted them £5K: £3K on making the booking, and the other £2K on return of the kit.”

Dave doesn't know whether he's woofing or tweeting

Dave doesn’t know whether he’s woofing or tweeting

“Let me guess”, says Simon. “They didn’t pay the £2K.”

“Got it in one. They’re claiming that I substituted lower-spec equipment than I quoted them for…”

“And did you?” Simon interrupts, not very innocently. Dave gives him a filthy look, but not deigning to answer, continues:

“Now they say they won’t pay for what they call sub-standard kit. So I’m out of pocket to the tune of £2K with little prospect of getting it back.”

“O man of little faith” says Simon pompously. “You’ve thrown in the towel, thinking it’s going to be complicated to get back what’s owed to you. I’m disappointed in you, Dave.”

“Not just complicated. Expensive, too.”

“Why do you say that?”

“It’ll cost me an arm and a leg to hire a lawyer. It’ll hardly be worth it once I’ve paid for that.”

Simon’s response is a single, highly expressive word. Then patiently he reminds Dave that Simplify the Law has all the information he needs, including the fact that Dave will not necessarily have to use a lawyer, and that his claim comes within the small claims limit.

“Doesn’t feel small to me” moans Dave, but concedes that maybe he hadn’t really thought it through.

“Naturally, but if it’s a straightforward claim and is for less than £10,000, it’s likely to be regarded as a small claim.”

“Did you have a written hire agreement?” Simon continues, risking (and receiving) another hard stare from Dave.

“Of course.”

“And did you get someone to sign for receipt of the kit when you supplied it?”

“Of course.”

“And have you tried to sort it out with them?”

“Of course not.” Dave is surprised. “Why should I do that? They owe me money – it’s that simple.”

“Four reasons. One: The Troubledoor may pay up when you point out the facts and show them the evidence you have; or they may agree to settle, or who knows what. Two: it could save you a court fee. Three: if you did get as far as court, the court would ask you if you had tried to settle; and if you haven’t it can count against you. Four: who needs the bother of going to court? Five: it makes you look reasonable and keeps business channels open. That’s five reasons.”

“I thought you said that it needn’t be complicated.”

“It needn’t. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a hassle. It makes much more sense to sort things out informally or by negotiation than to, er, court litigation.”

Simon is unaccountably proud of this joke. Dave glares at him yet again, and linking to Simplify the Law, he quickly drafts a letter to Le Troubdaour claiming the amount owed….

….and a week later his New Year’s resolution has gone the way of most New Year’s resolutions. Having just been paid for the equipment hire, and all misunderstandings behind him, Dave can be seen enjoying a surprisingly good meal at Le Troubadour, discussing with Carrie the prospect of making the place a regular music venue requiring new kit and a maintenance contract.

View the solutionletter to the debtor

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