Times they are a-changin!
This week I was reminded as to why i have all my clients sign a contract. And why each time the contract is modified it is a good idea to keep records of said changes. I recently was trying to be nice and help a family out, and it ended up biting me in the rear. So I am going to tell you about my experience, that way hopefully someone can learn from my mistake besides me.
The Back Story
On May 8 2017 I was contacted by a man, lets call him Frank. Frank was in desperate need to find someone to keep his dog for him for 2 weeks while he and his family found a place to live that would accept dogs. Something had gone wrong during the purchase of their new home and they were staying with his parents. The parents would not allow the dog in their home. A friend of mine had kept the dog for 2 weeks, before letting Frank know about me and my dog sitting service. I spoke with Frank on the phone and since it was such a long stay, and because I was trying to be nice, I agreed to a discounted price (much lower than my standard rate). I met with the wife and daughters to pick up the puppy, had the wife sign the contract, and we went on our way. I took the dog home and we began our adventures together. They sent with her about half a bag of food (Ol Roy) and a couple of bowls. Upon arrival at home, I decided that the poor dog was not going to eat the food that they brought for her, as they were having trouble getting her to eat it in the first place, and because I feed my dogs a higher quality food and she seemed undernourished, so she could just eat from our food.
Some Issues we encountered
Sparkle was a very cute German Shepard mix and was a bundle of energy and extremely fun to play with! However, she did have some behavior issues that we had to work on. She was really bad at jumping on people, especially my grandson (4) when he had food. We were able to break that habit, but the one that we never did break was the fact that she would piddle on the floor when she was excited! New people, doorbell rang, anything that got her excited, she would just squat and pee. She could spend an hour in the back yard with our other puppy and come in and would still pee on the floor. Also she dug many holes in the back yard, which is not a huge deal and easily fixed with some dirt, so not one of the major concerns.
Two weeks is up
So the two weeks passed without much incident, things that are fairly easy to deal with and can be expected with any puppy. I have not heard from Frank in about a week or so, I send him a text asking when I can expect the puppy to be picked up. His response (he is a truck driver) he is stuck out of state and could I keep her for another 2 weeks. After a bit of discussion in regards to the amount of the bill if I kept her an additional 2 weeks, I agreed to keep her until he was able to get back in to town and find a home for his family (still trying to be nice and still not having ANY payment).
Fast Forward to June
So after nearly a month of having this puppy, again super cute and fun, but still with a few behavior issues, I message dad and tell him that the puppy needs to be picked up by Friday afternoon as I have a concert in Tampa to attend, and need the puppy to be gone. He had arrived home and we agreed to meet at an undisclosed location for him to pick up the puppy. I got to the location, and waited and waited and waited…finally messaged him (as I still needed to drive to Tampa for the concert) to see if he was getting close, said he was close, so I waited. Thirty minutes late, he arrived with his family, and no cash with which to pay me. Said he needed to run in to the place and get some money from the ATM. And so I waited with the wife while he ran into the store. During this time frame the wife tells me that they need someone to just keep the dog for 4 more days. Frank comes out and could only get part of the money that he owed me from the ATM at one time and being the sucker that I am, I agreed to keep the dog for another 4 days, but told them she had to be picked up Tuesday(by now June 6) morning because my mother in law was coming in to town and staying at my house, and didn’t really care for puppies much.
Still nothing has been changed as far as the contract is concerned. We had not changed the dates, and we had not changed any pricing. So Tuesday June 6, 2017 rolls around, and I had told him he would have to call my son as I would be at work and unable to deliver the dog to him. (We are now 30 days of dog sitting) He tells my son that he is coming to pick up the dog and my son tells him that is fine as we are home. I had taken the day off work as 2 of our 4 cars had temperament issues that day, and decided not to run correctly that day. I was in one car to go and pick up the mother in law from the airport when Frank showed up to pick up the dog. Suffice it to say that I did not have much time to talk to him. I asked him to wait outside while I brought out the dog (so she would not pee all over my home before the mother in law came in) and ran into the backyard, where she was playing with one of my dogs, got her attention, put her harness on her and took her through the garage. I told him I can wait until Friday (per his request) for payment because I really have to get to the airport to pick up my mother in law.
Friday rolls around, I have heard nothing from Frank since he picked up his dog, even though I sent him a message apologizing for being quick at pick up but was due at the airport. I sent him a message (Now June 9) asking him about payment. He sends me a message that he is not happy with my services and that he is not going to pay me. Stated that i brought the dog out of the garage she was panting like i had not given her any water( there is ALWAYS a fresh clean large bowl of water in my back yard,,, and he said that she had a scratch on her eye. The scratch could have happened during play, that happens sometime with puppy teeth, they are sharp and puppies like to chew on each other for some reason. And had to have happened that morning, as the scratch was not there the night before. These are the water bowls at my house today and every day they look like this. I have 125lb dog, I have to have XL water bowls around and plenty of fresh clean water.
At this point I am livid and decided that at that point, all new clients would be required to pay me in full at the time of booking. This may not happen, I am pretty lenient where dogs are concerned. I did not charge this guy for the baths the puppy got while she was with us, or the nail trim she received, or the holes she left in my yard, or the quality food that she ate while she was there, and for him to act like I neglected this poor helpless puppy left me with a very sour feeling in the pit of my stomach. This has been the story of my life, try to be nice to someone and end up being on the bottom of the barrel for it. There are several mistakes that I will not make again.
- Always alter your contract when there is a change
- Always get signatures to said changes if possible
- Always require some type of down payment (typically I charge 1/2 at time of booking for new clients)
- Remember that you are running a business and not a charity
- Make sure the contract is legible
- Make sure you have good contact numbers for all parties involved
- Ensure that you receive payment before turning pet over to owner or have them sign a promissory note on when they intend to pay you
- Make sure your contract stays up to date, if the customer moves, be sure you have their new address
- If there are any new dogs, be sure they have a contract as well
I have learned many things from this latest venture, and I am a little disappointed since I gave him such a large discount on the sitting to begin with. Frank ended up with almost $1600 in services for a mere $400. I am depressed and angry at this point I am considering small claims court. If anyone has any information on the small claims process, in Florida, please let me know, either in comments below, or via message if you have my number. Feel free to comment below, there are so many things wrong with this situation, I am just at a loss for words, but needed to vent, and that is what this blog is for, so fire away!