Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The check is NOT in the mail

You would think that after being away for 10 days, recharging my batteries and reconnecting with nature on a remarkable camping trip in the High Sierras, I would return to roundseventeen with some pleasantries and some funny, heartwarming anecdotes about friends and family.

But the truth is I don't traffic in predictability.
The other truth is, I don't do heartwarming.

Prior to leaving on my 'vacation' (I'm not sure camping can be called vacation) I was freelancing at an agency in Orange County. It was a great gig. I got to reconnect with old friends. And bask in the warmth of bitter, cynical colleagues who willingly shared their treasure trove of advertising war stories.

It was during one of these collaborative venting sessions that one former freelance copywriter, now gone staff, asked if I had ever been stiffed?

I went through the Accounts Receivable Ledger in my mind and was happy to tell him that it had only happened twice.

Once with a small agency in Santa Monica. They were having financial difficulties and were completely transparent with me. Also, they provided me with a lot of work during the financial meltdown of 2008 and were people I genuinely liked. So we came to an agreement and I wrote the incident off to the cost of doing business.

The other financial transgression I'm not so willing to forget. Even though it happened 7 years ago.

I received a call from a freelance art director in Florida. He had found my credentials on linkedin.com  and wanted to know if I would partner up with him for a job he was contracted to do for McCann Erikson in NY. He said we could do it all over the phone, with emails and the occasional Skype. We agreed to a price and got to the business of doing business.

But things got sticky right away.

He ignored every idea I put on the the table. Not most. Or virtually all. Every, as in 100%. He was only interested in developing his "concepts", if one were generous to call them that.

Now, I knew where my grits were being gravied. And since he called me, I obliged and did my best to make a silk purse from his sow's ear. By the way, I'm intentionally using a tired cliche because it seems like an appropriate way to describe this man's contrivances.


Him: "What if we did something with the Fun Police?"
Me: That sounds great. (thinking, I wish the Fun Police would shoot me)

Long story, mercifully shorter.

I sent him the invoice and got a check back about a month later. But it was only for 50% of what we had agreed. Then the ugliness ensued. Nasty emails. Heated phone calls. And threats of litigation.

I was never all that clear about words like "libel" and "slander", and though I had the truth on my side, I didn't want to risk going to court over a pittance. So I dropped the matter and tore up the column I had written for Adweek.

But I'm a self-admitted grudge-holder. I don't take kindly to being screwed over. So over the years I have made it a point to check in on this guy's linkedin profile. Just so that when he sees my name he starts wondering, "Why the hell is Siegel looking at my profile?"

And now I'm just about ready to put the matter to rest.
So last week I sent him an email...

Dear Tim,

Invoice #273 is now 7 years overdue. With a remaining balance of $2,000. I was going to ask you when I could expect a check? 

But here's the thing. 

I've retold this story about how you conduct business so many times and with so many advertising colleagues, including many high level Creative Directors that I've more than gotten $2,000 worth of laughs at your expense. 

In fact, this tale has proven so timeless, I feel like now I owe you money.

I'm more than happy to get out my checkbook. What is your current address? 


Rich Siegel

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