Monday, January 31, 2005

The Fan, Bryanston

Monday, January 31, 2005

Service: * * 1/2
Food: * *
Ambience: * * * 1/2
Babe Count: * * *

I'm playing Harold. It's my third match of the season. Early days. Plenty of time for me to display my backgammon might.

It's been an interesting few days. I've been leaving messages for an ex employer of mine, the producer at a tv production house. I was hired as a director on a tv series, and finished my gig with them some time ago.

I was supposed to work a total of two months, but for scheduling reasons, I ended up working four months, for no extra money. I've had to consult a lawyer to be able to say what I'm saying here, so I'm sure you've got an idea of what's coming.

My ex-boss hasn't been returning my calls. Neither has the company accountant.

Yesterday I left a message on her cellphone. On it, I said something to the effect of this: "Hi, I'm getting really concerned about the fact the you haven't been answering my calls or acknowledging my SMSs. Tomorrow is the end of the month, and you guys owe me the balance of my fee, and I really need to know if you intend paying me what you owe me or not so that I can try and make a plan to have money in my account to cover this month's debit orders. The fact that you're ignoring my calls leads me to suspect that you intend not paying me. Will you please do me the courtesy of phoning me back to let me know, so that my debit orders don't bounce at midnight tomorrow night."

No reply.

This morning, I sent her accountant another SMS, asking her to let me know when they're paying me. Again, no reply.

Until lunchtime.

My ex-boss phones, and says, "Roy, I'm afraid I've got bad news for you." She tells me that she's consulted her lawyers, and that she's entirely within her legal rights. She says that she's done a reconciliation, and that I actually owe HER money, and that she refuses to pay the outstanding R8500 that she owes me.

I ask her to pay me the outstanding amount. It's my fee. And it was the amount agreed to. She says no. And we end the conversation.

The awkward thing is that this ex-boss is a member of the same backgammon club as me. We play each other fairly regularly. So the fact that she's now refusing to pay me the money she owes me makes things a little tense.

Which is probably why I'm not playing terribly well against Harold tonight. Either that, or he's better than me. It's been close all night. We've been neck on neck. Until we get to 16--15 in his favour. And he offers me the cube to 4. And instead of thinking about it, I simply take the damn thing. This means that if I lose this game, we go to 20--15 to him, and I'm likely to lose the next game. So like a putz, I take the cube, and we play on. And I lose the game.

Harold says, "Why did you take that cube? It was an obvious drop." And he's right.

But I'm thinking about the new blog I've created in response to this fiasco with the production house. It's called ScrewTheFreelancer, and it's at I've created the site to allow the community of freelancers to write about people who haven't paid them. Once I've got their story, I'll email the employers who didn't pay them, and they have uncensored right of reply.

So this afternoon I did the honourable thing, and sent my ex-boss an email explaining to her that I'm going to be taking action against her if she refuses to settle her debt to me. The action I tell her I'll take is to write about my experience with her on the new blog, as well as alerting a company called Media Web, and Hello Peter. These sites are similar to my new blog in that they deal with people's complaints. I include the full text of my writeup in the email I send her.

The way I work in the world is to play open cards. I'm not trying to screw her. I'm trying to collect the money she owes me. And I'm being completely transparent about it.

I get no reply to my email.

When I get to backgammon, she's not there. Eventually, near the end of my last game with Harold, which he wins, beating me 21--15, I hear her voice. I thought she hadn't come, but I simply didn't notice her arrival.

I finish packing my backgammon pieces away, and I go over and greet her. I'm hoping she's brought my cheque for R8500.

She greets me, and says, "I've got something here for you, but it's not what you think it is." She pulls an envelope out of her bag, and hands it to me. "Read it, and if you still want to discuss things with me, we can talk."

I've asked my lawyer if it's okay to reproduce this here, and he says go ahead. Here is the full text of the letter, with the names of the company directors removed:

31 January 2005


We have sought legal advice following your e-mail, and advise you that if you proceed you do so at your peril. We record that your threats are both defamatory and will cause us damages. We will take legal action against you, which will include the obtaining of an interdict, and seek damages against you.

We record that you are seeking to extort monies of (R11 470.65 less 25% PAYE, being R2 867.66) a nett amount of R8 602.26 from us, and this is a criminal offence. Unless you withdraw this extortion, we will be forced to report it to the police.

All our further rights are reserved.

Signed 31 January 2005

Naturally, I have taken legal advice myself. And if my email came across as extorting money from her, of course I withdraw it! If it came across that way, that's purely a mistake. I meant it as part of normal debt collection procedure.

And of course, I too will be taking legal action if I don't get the money owed to me. Sadly, I'm not able at this time to publish any of the details, since she claims that my doing so is an extortion attempt. My lawyer tells me that to publish details would just be provocative.

I really do wish my ex-boss would just do the honourable thing and pay me what she owes me. Nobody needs the misery of courts and labour courts. And I certainly don't need the ugliness of letters threatening me with the police. But hey. Who knows? The person I know and love from the backgammon club IS an honourable woman.

And she's a damn good backgammon player. I'd like to be able to play her again without rancour. And beat her, of course.

At backgammon.

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