No mercy in business
By the girl next door who’s never experienced that
You have to read the other story “Develop a product they said….” to get the first part of this story.
After finding out that my math was wrong on the unauthorized and hidden markups imposed on me from JA. The range was actually much much worse 145%-294%. JA says that it is his right to make a profit. Interesting.
Having a hair removal business means I have a client base that has a vast array of connections and professional expertise. I consult with them. I actually consulted with three attorneys, one criminal, one contract and one international business attorney with a focus on China. All of them agree that there is no language to suggest that JA had any right to impose hidden fees on me that I never agreed to. In fact the only language is the exact opposite…fixed fee to the tune of $15,000 that I paid in full three years ago.
I suggest that JA consult his attorney. Radio silence for a week or so. I’m hoping that means that JA is asking someone, anyone about his side of the story. Finally JA resurfaces with an email that has a very accommodating tone.
“We have finished sub-assembly on 500 units, would you like us to continue with sub-assembly on the other 500 units? Also would you like us to implement the paint solution for the see through issue with the plastic parts?”
Delighted I feel that he must have consulted someone that told him he is wrong for charging the fees. Knowing that I can’t afford to have someone else assemble my units I decide to simply respond with:
“Yes please continue with sub-assembly. Can you please paint and complete assembly with 10 units so I can visually approve them to proceed with all of the units. Please let me know when the 10 units are done.”
JA responded “Great thank you we will proceed and let you know when the 10 are done”
I wait 20 days. I’ve heard nothing at all from JA. I check in….”hi, how is sub-assembly going and are the 10 samples ready?”
JA responded “the 10 have been done you just haven’t come to look. we have a business to run so we set your stuff aside and did no further sub-assembly”.
I thought that was the most anger I have felt in a while. I had no idea I was going to get much more angry in the near future. The next day I drive an hour and a half to view the 10 samples. Trying to still be respectful I arrive at 11:00am. JA tends to work during strange hours due to time zone differences dealing with China and India. I walk into the office and announce that I am only there to view the 10 samples.
JA “well they aren’t done, you will have to wait”
WTF, less than 24 hours earlier I was told they were done a long time ago. This visit turns into an hour long argument. JA is demanding an additional $12k. I insist that I am not resolving any money issues today because we are in dispute over the hidden fees.
Round and round we go.
Over an hour later we decided that JA will continue with forward progress on the device and we will meet with a witness the following Friday to try to resolve our money dispute. I’m asked to recap our agreement in writing. The second I got home I constructed an email recapping our agreement and ask that they respond that they mutually agree to this no later than 8pm the following day which was more than 24 hours.
Well that came and went. I waited 48 hours with no response. I have no reason to believe that they are proceeding with anything with my device based on the last experience. I then write again that the deal is off the table and I’ll see you Friday to try to resolve the issues.
Five days later JA finally says that he was busy with other clients and didn’t have time to respond. He goes on to further say that his witness is not available until a later time.
I’ve already asked my father and friend to take off work to be my witness. There is no way I’m changing the time. I tell JA to find someone else.
I picked one of the three attorneys I consulted with to pay and write and a legal opinion. In order to get that any good attorney will put me through the ringer to try to prove me wrong before putting their good name and reputation on backing me up. It was a painful process that brought up many additional trickery methods imposed on me. However, not only did I have an answer for every question, but I had documentation to prove it.
I’ll be the first to say that I don’t know all of the issues around the world. I try to watch the news regularly and stay impartial to any one side. I thought it was genius of me to ask my friend to attend that knows the culture of JA and speaks the language. Never in my wildest imagination would the world conflicts almost kill the meeting before it even started. JA’s side of the table almost walked out before it started because of cultural conflict between Pakistan and India. My friend was kicked out..
At the same time JA’s side wouldn’t agree to the conversation being recorded. They might as well have worn a red flag as a shirt. They had no intention of coming to a reasonable and fair resolution that day. In fact they had no interest in seeing or considering any of my supporting documentation. The legal opinion I brought was deemed invalid and had no interest in even reading it. The two men on JA’s side would barely speak to me directly, they would only speak towards my father who repeatedly redirected their attention to speak to me.
It was clear that this meeting is useless. Four hours later there is no resolution of course. I went ahead and presented my offers. All of my offers include me covering the cost of something, but I was not negotiating on the markups.
Discouraged I learned through the process of obtaining a legal opinion that undisclosed markups are common, unethical, but common. There are two main parts of the way JA charged undisclosed markups that make it uncommon, not reasonable, not ethical or allowed.
What is common, unethical, but common is a certain percentage every line item. For example every line item is marked up by 10%. The other common practice, unethical, but common is that the markup is within industry standard range which is 10–50%.
JA charged each line a different percentage. In other words, whatever he felt like. I’ll remind you here that I had no idea he was doing this and paid in full a year ago. F**k. The percentage JA decided he deserved was between 145% and 294%. Clearly not even close to industry standard.
The meeting was left that they will review things and come back on Tuesday with something. Before Tuesday I emailed some additional supporting documentation to the uncle since he was designated as the point of contact. Those were ignored. I called the uncle to ask that I have a chance to share my side of the story in a neutral location away from that dreaded office space and JA. The response was highly disrespectful.
“I have listened to your voicemail. Unfortunately I am not in town. Even if was in town I have no desire to meet you any place public/private. As I stated in our last meetings on Friday. Smart Tech legal advisor will contact you regarding The Mella project hardware, software and what else requested in the last meeting. We are committed to fulfill all this. I hope there is no reason to bug me any further”
What an AHole and a clear signal that there has never been any intention of actually trying to resolve this, it was purely another attempt to extract more money from me. As expected Tuesday came and went without a word. Since they accepted my dad much better than me, I had my dad email the uncle one last attempt to separate and another olive branch to try to resolve things. He also notified them that I will be coming to pick up my physical property and please send the files necessary prior to that so I have time to cross reference. The uncle never even opened the email.
I continue to try to get files sent to me. Then finally I got an email that was even nastier than anything else so far. The email claimed that I was belligerent at the meeting. He sent the same bill demanding $12k. He sent two more bills that are crazy and have no basis or right. One was for $17k for storage of my product that he doesn’t want to release to me and has threatened restraining order to keep me away from it. One was for $21,600 for hours spent on sourcing components which is all part of Stage #1 under a Fixed Fee agreement. I call your bluff JA.
Obviously he still is not represented by an attorney. No attorney would advise their client to commit theft and extortion. No attorney would validate him deserving any further money from me and in fact would or should advise their client to settle. I call your bluff JA.
A text came in from another attorney client of mine that I haven’t involved in this mess. He said that JA contacted him looking for legal services. He of course turned them down. I called your bluff JA.
After that I have unleashed my bulldog friend who is an attorney and a former prosecutor. The gloves are off. I have rented a uhaul and a large man to accompany me Friday to attempt to pick up my stuff. To be clear I didn’t rent the man, he is a friend. I’ll call in a civil police escort as well. If he refused entry then my attorney will file an emergency junction court order to force release of my stuff.
Still attempting to keep my word, I gave sufficient notice to make sure they knew I was coming to retrieve my product and files. The response was less than friendly. “There are still $50,645.00 invoices are unpaid…” this number is the $12,045 on Final Bill that is the markups / the rest is the silly new invoices he created a couple days ago Storage of something he won’t give to me and hours spent on newly created stages 3 and 4. Our contract has only stages 1 and 2 plus it is a flat fee agreement. This guy is bat shit crazy now. JA went on to say “We are willing to review and resolve this issue but we are affirm not to release anything till we get paid for the time and effort we made towards…”. As Inigo Montoya said, ‘I do not a’think that word a’means what you think it means’. Nothing about JA’s actions are amicable or negotiating. So I canceled the Uhaul and filed a police report for theft.
I spent the day with my lawyer instead of getting my stuff. Any lawyer new or experienced can see all of the things wrong with this situation. She was almost giddy explaining this will be fun. Any lawyer that can almost guarantee winning a case also can structure the retainment as she will collect her fees from the other side on the back end. In other words, I’m out zero right now. If JA doesn’t want to answer to me, then he can now answer to the law. I received an email and phone call from an attorney claiming to represent JA. The visit from the cops must have finally convinced him that I’m not kidding and he needs representation. The team that took him is all female and brand new some just graduating last summer. That’s fine, maybe they can talk some sense into him.
Strategery at it’s finest. Up until this point I’ve attempted several times to resolve this matter without going to court. Each attempt on my part was a compromise including me covering the cost of various items. In business, it’s a promise that you’ll have to eat something along the way and suck it up. My lawyer plants yet another attempt showing my repeated efforts to resolve this out of court. Monday following his restraining order threats JA’s new attorneys receive a letter with the attached cashed checks, final bill, legal opinion, contract and a cover letter explaining that if he doesn’t release my stuff by Friday we will file a lawsuit at the Supreme Court of Washington.
Best case scenario for me is that he releases my stuff this week but takes us to court for the money portion of the dispute. I can then move forward with my product and eventually win the case and possibly get something refunded.
Stay tuned readers….