Friday, May 14, 2010

Beware of Craigslist

Ahhh the recession or should I say depression. Well needless to say the last 18 months have been quite challenging for many folks, present company included. As a self employed free lancer you need to be prepared for the down turns. In other words do not blow all of your 'big bucks' consulting fees on flashy cars and a lucrative lifestyle. And I have saved for this rainy day and in no danger of starving. However, it gets boring applying for rediculous jobs on that require every skill in the book to qualify for an H1B rate (translation insultingly low; translation barely a salary). This takes a couple of hours a day; then what. Enter craigslist.

There are lots of easy, short term, gigs on craigslist. Perfect for a consultant in between projects. Yes, I know; don't you feel embarrassed lowering your self to these type of gigs? No, it's honest work and quite frankly can be fun. I have done beer and scotch promotions, some modeling, and street level marketing. One of these gigs however bit me in the ass by not paying me. This really, really pisses me off; even though it's not for a lot of money.

In July of 2009 I hooked up with Shaun Luckett of E & A Mobile Media, a little marketing company from Missouri. They had a contract to distribute pamphlets promoting the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's Light the Night Walk in the Syracuse area. Of course they were not direct to the L&L Society, but several levels down. The goal was to distribute a stack of a dozen pamphlets to area businesses where the public frequents (restaurants, grocery stores, department stores, gyms, etc.). Shaun himself came to Syracuse with 8 large boxes filled with the pamphlets. He was nervous about the quality of the help he found on CL. It seems that I should have been nervouse about him. The responsibilites of the job were as follows: text Shaun when starting to work; distribute the pamphlets to businesses (a small minority actually said no); document the names and addresses of businesses; text Shaun when fininishing work; email the list for the day to Shaun. It took almost a week to make a little over 400 drops. I walked into businesses that I never thought I would visit. Places on the south side of Syracuse; Liverpool, Baldwinsville, Fayetteville, etc. At the end I documented all of the drops in a nice little Excel spreadsheet.

Now, show me the money. After the work was done I sent an invoice to Shaun and waited for the check to come. But it never came. I emailed and called. "Oh payment will arrive shortly". "I'm waiting to be paid then I will pay you". "I sent the check yesterday". After October I never heard from Shaun again. I threatened to sue and no response. I asked him if he wanted to go on Judge response (he knew he would lose). I asked the advise of colleagues on how to get paid and this is what I did. 1 - Sue in small claims court. The clerk said that since the company does not have an office in New York, the court has no jurisdiction. 2 - Call the New York State Attorney General's office. They said to contact the DOL. 3 - Better Business Bureau. I issued a complaint with the St. Louis BBB and they closed the case saying that they were not a collections agency. 4 - IRS 1099-C -- cancellation of bad debt. The IRS says that this is for financial institutions. 5 - Federal DOL. They can only help employees not independent contractors. They refer me to the state DOL. 6 - New York State DOL. I filled out a failure to pay wages form and waited. After 2 months I followed up with an email to the NY DOL. Two days later a Chris Anderson at 518-485-1220 called me to reply to my email. She was very direct and a bit rude (actually a good person to deal with scoflaws, but not clients). She actually got through to Shaun and he made statements like the following: "He didn't do the job"; "I didn't get paid and lost the client because of the lousy job he did". I defended myself and told Chris that I had proof (emails) that I did do a good job and that Shaun promised to pay me repeatedly. She cut me off and asked that I print the emails and mail them to her. When it came out that I was an independent contractor for the job, Chris abruptly ended the conversation and said that the case was closed. Apparently no jurisdiction again.

What's left? I could try to send this to a collection agency (my last step). I could try to sue in St. Louis; of course the amount of the lawsuit is less than the cost of the travel (gotcha). Perhaps if I land a west coast gig (a real one), then I could connect in St. Louis and take care of business during a layover? I could let it go? Naaahhhh!! The moral of this long story is if you deal with an out of state company, make sure that they are reputable and perhaps require some upfront payment.

Glenn Allen
Syracuse, NY


ZGriff said...

I'm not sure if there's any chance that you still use this account, but I had the same experience recently. I was able to find this blog post on Google and was hoping that you might be able to offer me some advice (I actually live IN St. Louis and am still attempting to get paid). Maybe this is a long shot, but I'm very frustrated (as I'm sure you understand).

E said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
E said...

His wife is the CEO of E & A mobile media and lives in both New York and St. Louis, so you can sue her. I will help in anyway possible. Shaun is a convicted drug felon and his wife is an does not have her citizenship, so her being sued will be great for her. Please let me know how I can help if any!