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Thread: Any Ideas on How to Collect a Debt?

  1. #1
    Pre-tty, pre-tty good!! MWM's Avatar
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    Any Ideas on How to Collect a Debt?

    A little background: about a year and a half ago I began sessions with a husband and wife personal trainer. These went on for several months and I prepaid 20 sessions at a time. One year ago when I still had 8 sessions remaining, for various reasons these trainers were no longer able to continue training me. They owed me $560 and committed to paying within a few months due to financial difficulties they were having trying to open a new gym.

    Not wanting to be a jerk, I told them this was OK. The new place was supposed to open in July and they said they'd pay in August.

    At the end of August I emailed them and their response was that they had no money to pay me. Here's a quote: "We have absolutely zero additional income at this point to reimburse your sessions at this time. Once we are in a financial position to do so we will follow through on this promise. Sorry for any inconvenience, but we are literally hanging on by the proverbial thread." Again, not wanting to cause undue hardship I said fine.

    Fast forward almost 8 months later I've tried several times to contact them with no response. their email address is no longer active as is the phone number I had. But back in January they finally opened a new studio gym with a nice new website and everything. So I sent them an email through their website last month, and still no response.

    Does anyone know of any resources I have to collect this debt. Sure, it's not going to make or break me, but it's not insignificant either. And more importantly, I gave them the cash and they spent it. It was my hard-earned money and now I think they're hoping I'll just go away. I may just be screwed here, but I'd be curious if anyone here knows how I can go about collecting this in a way that they have incentive to pay.
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  3. #2
    Rally Onion! Chip R's Avatar
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    Re: Any Ideas on How to Collect a Debt?

    Small claims court?
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  4. #3
    Et tu, Brutus? Brutus's Avatar
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    Re: Any Ideas on How to Collect a Debt?

    Quote Originally Posted by MWM View Post
    A little background: about a year and a half ago I began sessions with a husband and wife personal trainer. These went on for several months and I prepaid 20 sessions at a time. One year ago when I still had 8 sessions remaining, for various reasons these trainers were no longer able to continue training me. They owed me $560 and committed to paying within a few months due to financial difficulties they were having trying to open a new gym.

    Not wanting to be a jerk, I told them this was OK. The new place was supposed to open in July and they said they'd pay in August.

    At the end of August I emailed them and their response was that they had no money to pay me. Here's a quote: "We have absolutely zero additional income at this point to reimburse your sessions at this time. Once we are in a financial position to do so we will follow through on this promise. Sorry for any inconvenience, but we are literally hanging on by the proverbial thread." Again, not wanting to cause undue hardship I said fine.

    Fast forward almost 8 months later I've tried several times to contact them with no response. their email address is no longer active as is the phone number I had. But back in January they finally opened a new studio gym with a nice new website and everything. So I sent them an email through their website last month, and still no response.

    Does anyone know of any resources I have to collect this debt. Sure, it's not going to make or break me, but it's not insignificant either. And more importantly, I gave them the cash and they spent it. It was my hard-earned money and now I think they're hoping I'll just go away. I may just be screwed here, but I'd be curious if anyone here knows how I can go about collecting this in a way that they have incentive to pay.
    I'm not an attorney. My advice should not serve as a substitute for legal advice.

    (yada yada)

    Seriously though... first, I would type up a "demand letter." Put a date in the top right hand corner, their names & address in legal letter form on the left with a simple "Final Notice of Demand" in bold as a title.

    Simply be brief and lay out all the terms. Put how much they owe, for what reasons they owe it and a chronological synopsis of the events that transpired. Be as direct and emotionless as possible.

    At the end, give a stated date (usually 7-14 days) that they have to pay the debt and what method you want it paid (i.e. check, money order, etc.). Put an address for them to send you the money.

    State that if the money is not received on 'x' days from the date of your letter, you will pursue further legal collection of the debts.

    If they don't pay by that date, then file a claim with the small claims division in your state and in their jurisdiction. If you need any other help, I can help you locate the proper channels (I'm not an attorney as my disclaimer said, but I've had to go through these processes before).

    Hope this helps!
    "No matter how good you are, you're going to lose one-third of your games. No matter how bad you are you're going to win one-third of your games. It's the other third that makes the difference." ~Tommy Lasorda

  5. #4
    breath westofyou's Avatar
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    Re: Any Ideas on How to Collect a Debt?

    Life's a lesson, is your time and resources going to equal small claims court?

    If not then I'd paper their parking lot and walls of their new place (and neighborhood) with warnings of their less than scrupulous business dealings. If they have a chat board on their web site (or comments forms) FLOOD it with the truth you have about them.

    My bet is you hit up the radius of their work place area you'll trigger their interest. In fact create a gmail account rippedoffbyINSERTNAME@gmail.com and place it on each flyer you hang up.

    Harass them, make them sweat, make them think you're nuts. make them afraid to lose their business because of a bad reputation.

  6. #5
    Bread Gloves Razor Shines's Avatar
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    Re: Any Ideas on How to Collect a Debt?

    Quote Originally Posted by westofyou View Post
    Life's a lesson, is your time and resources going to equal small claims court?

    If not then I'd paper their parking lot and walls of their new place (and neighborhood) with warnings of their less than scrupulous business dealings. If they have a chat board on their web site (or comments forms) FLOOD it with the truth you have about them.

    My bet is you hit up the radius of their work place area you'll trigger their interest. In fact create a gmail account rippedoffbyINSERTNAME@gmail.com and place it on each flyer you hang up.

    Harass them, make them sweat, make them think you're nuts. make them afraid to lose their business because of a bad reputation.
    And whatever you don't ever screw over WOY.

  7. #6
    I'm gettin paper Homer Bailey's Avatar
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    Re: Any Ideas on How to Collect a Debt?

    Quote Originally Posted by Razor Shines View Post
    And whatever you don't ever screw over WOY.
    Might be the hardest I've ever laughed on this board.

    P.S. It's threads like this that make RZ great.

  8. #7
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    Re: Any Ideas on How to Collect a Debt?

    Quote Originally Posted by Brutus the Pimp View Post
    I'm not an attorney. My advice should not serve as a substitute for legal advice.

    (yada yada)

    Seriously though... first, I would type up a "demand letter." Put a date in the top right hand corner, their names & address in legal letter form on the left with a simple "Final Notice of Demand" in bold as a title.

    Simply be brief and lay out all the terms. Put how much they owe, for what reasons they owe it and a chronological synopsis of the events that transpired. Be as direct and emotionless as possible.

    At the end, give a stated date (usually 7-14 days) that they have to pay the debt and what method you want it paid (i.e. check, money order, etc.). Put an address for them to send you the money.

    State that if the money is not received on 'x' days from the date of your letter, you will pursue further legal collection of the debts.

    If they don't pay by that date, then file a claim with the small claims division in your state and in their jurisdiction. If you need any other help, I can help you locate the proper channels (I'm not an attorney as my disclaimer said, but I've had to go through these processes before).

    Hope this helps!
    This is great advice right here. I was in a similar situation...although I was owed money for services rendered. They drug their feet, I wrote the demand letter. No payment, took them to small claims, they didn't show, judge awarded me what I was owed. Granted it was more money than you were owed, but still. One thing that Brutus didn't mention though is if you do decide to go that route, make sure you send your demand letter registered return receipt. This is very important as this is proof you sent it to them and will be needed in court.

    WOY's idea is pretty awesome too...but sometimes it's about the principle.

  9. #8
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    Re: Any Ideas on How to Collect a Debt?

    Send Guido.

  10. #9
    KungFu Fighter AtomicDumpling's Avatar
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    Re: Any Ideas on How to Collect a Debt?

    Go to the health club and talk to them so everyone can hear you -- employees and customers. Don't be rude or nasty, just tell them you want your money and you are not going to go away until the money is in your pocket. It is easy to ignore an email or phone message. It is harder to ignore face to face communication. Be calm, polite, honest and direct and good things will happen.

    I have been in this situation more than once for my business and I have always been able to get my money.

    If that doesn't work, make him an offer he can't refuse.

  11. #10
    Danger is my business! oneupper's Avatar
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    Re: Any Ideas on How to Collect a Debt?

    I have had great success with the Better Business Bureau.
    You just go to their website and fill out the complaint online and they will "harass" these guys for you.

    This isn't probably a good case for them, but I wanted to put that information out there, because it's a great resource.
    I have enlisted the BBBs help on several occasions with success. Vendors, Doctors, etc.

    They even got United Airlines to give me some miles that they had initially refused to.

    Totally free.
    "A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals and you know it."

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  12. #11
    For a Level Playing Field RedFanAlways1966's Avatar
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    Re: Any Ideas on How to Collect a Debt?

    I had a situation that was similar. Small claims court was simple. I went there, got the paperwork, filled it out and paid $25 to file.

    A date was set. My case, like yours, was pretty much an open-n-shut type of case. The other party did not show up. As a matter of fact they had moved from Dayton, Ohio to Arizona. They still owned a house in the Dayton area and were trying to sell it. They applied for a mortgage to buy a house in AZ and were denied because a lien was put on their property here in OH. Why the lien? Because after the judge awarded me the judgment, they never paid me. These idoiots went so far as to have an attorney contact me and threaten to sue me if I did not go to the courts and tell them that I was paid so the lien would be released. I laughed at the attorney (and the thought of how much money they spent for the attorney to avoid paying me the $600 they owed me).

    Long story short... I got my money and they had to pay me the $25 filing fee. And to boot... they owed my 10% interest on the original amount of money due to the amount of time they held MY MONEY. Not the sharpest knives in the drawer.

    As Doug Llewlyn (for those old enough to remember) used to say, "Do not take the law into your own hands, take them to court." Stay away form their new gym. Small claims takes about 1-1/2 hours of your life.
    Small market fan... always hoping, but never expecting.

  13. #12
    Be the ball Roy Tucker's Avatar
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    Re: Any Ideas on How to Collect a Debt?

    I do the small claims court thing. If nothing else, a life lesson as to how to do that.

    And I wouldn't go to the gym and confront them. Nothing to gain there besides a punch in the nose or getting shot.

    And remind me to always stay on the sunny side of WOY.

    Pay attention to the open sky

  14. #13
    Waitin til next year bucksfan2's Avatar
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    Re: Any Ideas on How to Collect a Debt?

    I would go to the Better Business Bureau if they have opening up a new gym.

    Small claims court is an avenue.

    I know you can obtain a lawyer but I don't know if it would be worth it.

    Do you have a signed contract?

    As for advice I would go to their new place and see if you can't come up with an acceptable solution. Could you get the remainder of your PT classes? That would probably be the easiest way to get your money's worth. Meeting them face to face would put the most pressure on them. People are very adept at lying over the phone or via email, its not so easy when you are face to face. If they refuse then I would go with a version of the WOY method. I would talk to people at the gym and around the gym about their financial dealings and the money they owe you.

  15. #14
    Test for fancy coffee yab1112's Avatar
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    Re: Any Ideas on How to Collect a Debt?

    Introduce em to your two friends, Jack Johnson & Tom O'Leary



    Just kidding of course. Brutus has some pretty sound advice, I'd go with that. I think the most important thing is that whatever action you take next, make sure to have a plan for where it's going.
    My name is Cheesy Beef Burrito

  16. #15
    Kmac5 KoryMac5's Avatar
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    Re: Any Ideas on How to Collect a Debt?

    Great advice so far all around. Folks always talk about what a hassle it is going to small claims court, it really isn't that bad. I just recently went over a landlord dispute and it was the best 10 dollars I have ever spent.

    In the original post MWM you don't mention if the contract for the sessions was in writing or not. Much easier to prove your case if it was in writing. Save all your emails and correspondence with these folks. I know Yelp and Angies list are great ways to voice your displeasure with someone's service, as long as you are stating facts. Also the BBB might not be a bad idea in this situation. As the BBB has to contact them to discuss the situation.

    I would definitely try and contact them in person, bring a friend as a witness, prove to them that you aren't going away. Much easier to ignore you through emails as they don't have to see you in person.

    The demand letter has to be sent in most states 30 days prior to going to court. As folks have said it needs to go certified mail. Good luck and keep us posted!
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