View Full Version : Do you ever have a non paying customer?

George G.
Sep 10th, 2004, 09:52 AM
This applies to both professional detailers and those that do it on the side. Have you ever had a customer that tried to get something for nothing and did not want to pay after you're done? This is a little different that your average hot check writer where you at least have a chance to get your money. What do you do if they try to find some lame excuse to get a free detail and refuse to pay? This has not happened to me, hopefully it never will.

A couple of options and I hope to not offend anyone.

Are you selective when it comes to your customers? Do you do any kind of profiling based on what they are driving or how they converse with you. Obviously someone asking for a detail on a Porsche or Jag are less likely to doop you vs. someone in a Cavalier. Do you ask for payment up front? I hate to ask questions like this but let's face it, it's almost human nature to get as much as possible for as little as possible. And, quite frankly, there are lots of people that would pull something like this.

Sep 10th, 2004, 11:56 AM
Thankfully I have never had this problem, closest I have come was a bad check and the customer called to tell me it was bad and to drop by to pick up cash to replace it. This call was even before the bank notified me of the bad check.

Here are a couple things to do in the event of a deadbeat. I carry a steering wheel lock with me, if they wont pay put on the lock and call the police, you can file a mechanics lien on the car if it goes that far. For me I pick and choose my customers its easier to have a gtreat client if things are great from the begining, if people are diicult I just dont continue to service them. What I mean by dificult is that they have a hard to work around scedule or the show up late, forget to cancel in a timely manner when out of town etc, not because they are picky because that is my best client...the picky ones !

Sep 10th, 2004, 01:29 PM
This has never happened to me either but that steering wheel lock idea sounds pretty good!

Mike Phillips
Sep 10th, 2004, 01:50 PM
I'm happy to say I have never had a problem customer.


Sep 10th, 2004, 03:30 PM
Yes, I am very selective when it comes to my customers. It is not uncommon for me to turn away work just because I have a feeling about a new prospect. When I get that feeling I usually tell the person that they would probably be much better off having their vehicle detailed somewhere else.

About ten or twelve years ago I had a first-time customer who had a wreck of a car and thought that I could make it look showroom new. Well, I worked on that car for about six hours and it did look alot better. The customer even commented how good it looked as she wrote out the check. The next day she calls me and tells me that she thinks that I missed a couple of things and hoped that I could return to take care of those couple of items. I went back and ended up spending another hour or two re-cleaning things trying to make everything look better. After I was done I asked her if she was happy with the job. She said yes and at that point I took her original check out of my pocket, wrote VOID in very big letters on it, ripped it in half and handed it back to her. She looked at me a little strange and asked if I wanted her to write another check for more money. I said no, there is no need to write another check and told her the job was free of charge.

Now, you may be asking yourself, is this guy crazy? Working all those hours and not getting paid. Well, here is how I looked at that situation. Up until that time I was taking on just about every job that came along. You see, that job taught me a lesson that you can't please everyone. So from that day on I started to become very selective about the customers that I work for. In the beginning it wasn't easy to turn away work. However, you have got to use your own judgement and when something tells you that this isn't going to work out. It is much better to just turn it down and walk away.

Sorry for such a long story...

Sep 10th, 2004, 04:41 PM
Interesting situation Frank...

As far as clients go. Right now we work by appoinment only for friends and coworkers. Been working weekends for 3 months. No problems as of yet. I just don't forsee a friend or coworker doing this. I also don't see supporting my business with only these type of clients. As my network grows so does the opportunity for this situation to come up. We'll see when it comes up.

In the long run it's only my time and a little bit of products if someone bails on payment. I do take some pics of most jobs so the upside is I got some before and after pics to advertise with.

Sep 11th, 2004, 07:44 AM
I am a weekend warrior.

And I have not had this happen to me YET. The price they pay and the quality of workmanship they get they always walk away feeling they are getting the lions share. Now the size of the tip is another story.

The club Ha Ha Ha love it,
Working with the local PD I have seen it disabled rather easily.

Sep 11th, 2004, 08:01 AM
Originally posted by Beercan31
I am a weekend warrior.

And I have not had this happen to me YET. The price they pay and the quality of workmanship they get they always walk away feeling they are getting the lions share. Now the size of the tip is another story.

The club Ha Ha Ha love it,
Working with the local PD I have seen it disabled rather easily.

I have seen this too. Todays "safe" steering wheels make them pretty easy to remove but I'm also pretty sure that not many people are willing to take a hacksaw to their car to remove the club or keep a can of freon around the house. The damage that they inflict will likely be more costly than just paying you.

George G.
Sep 11th, 2004, 08:01 AM
Well that's reassuring. Hopefully that'll never happen to me as well. I think we all can read a person pretty good by the first impression they make and then use our own judgement. Like it was said above...worst case is you're out a few hours time and some product.

Sep 11th, 2004, 08:14 AM
You shouldnt accept it as what your out!! Its no different than if someone came in your house and took $150 out of your walet. I tell you if someone seriously tries to get over on a free detail I am going to impound their car and place a mechanics lien on it, I dont care if its a 150K benz and their bill is $150, untill they pay the bill they dont get the car PERIOD !

I work WAY too hard to get stiffed, now the situation frank mentioend was a little different, the customer was a pain in the but and he wanted to leave the situation having made a statement to the customer while still providing 100% satisfaction.

I have never come close to this situation because like I said I pick and choose, I also am very pleased to say my client list is the cream of the crop. They apreciate me and the work we do as much as I apreciate their business.

I know it sounds a little harsh but one day take your car to get a thermostat replaced and then try to pick it up without paying the bill, bet the car doesnt get far without payment. The situation is the same the mechanic is only out a couple hours labor and a $20 part.

Sorry for the rant, its just the only reason people try to get away with **** like that is that people let it happen way to often.

Have a great weekend everyone !

Sep 11th, 2004, 09:40 PM
Other than the occassional hot check, I haven't had a problem getting paid.

Right now, I am detailing with a bad check for a $175 job. I just got the check back from the bank today and will call the customer on Monday. If I have any problems with her making good on it, I'm going to scan and post the check on my website...and then turn it over the state's attorney general's office for prosecution. I worked too hard on her Yukon to get stiffed.

I normally don't have a problem though since my customers know I know where they live and what they drive. ;)

rusty bumper
May 15th, 2009, 02:46 PM

Interesting thread.

May 15th, 2009, 03:18 PM
The thread is almost 5 years old but probably more timely now in our current recession than it was in 2004. I don't detail professionally (yet...) but if and when I do, I see the advantage and logic of having the client sign off on an estimate with very specific language regarding the mechanic's lien for non-payment and a penalty fee for a hot check - legally the amount could be trebled (triple the original amount), but that's left to the contractor's discretion. It doesn't have to come off in a threatening way since such estimates are standard contract documents, but it leaves a mental bookmark with a potential deadbeat that a signed document gives you, the contractor, legal recourse for non-payment.