Let us say, for whatever reason, something has gone wrong and you are out of pocket by it, and that’s the key thing here, you are actually out of pocket. As irritating as it may be, if a wedding supplier can no longer offer you a date you discussed last week, but you’ve paid nothing, if something that was offered for FREE is no longer on offer or if YOU changed the specification, and the price went up, or didn't come down, then you are not out of pocket and you have far fewer options.
What to do next? Well its a lot of reading, but heres the short version.
1. Nothing for 7 days. Seriously, we are all allowed a holiday and a few days off and anything you do in that first 7 days is likely to be done in anger and MAY have an impact later on, also consider that you may be concerned because someone else has just shouted “scammer” about one of your suppliers, it may not even be true, so calm down, take a few days to draw up a plan based on the following.
2. Document in detail what went wrong, YOU might know what happened, but always assume right at the start that sooner or later you will be explaining this to a judge, you need copies of all the paperwork, you will have proper paperwork because texts and messages, facebook posts are no good to anyone but, print out screen grabs, minimise phone calls to or from the “scammer” and make notes when they happen. Print off emails and draw up a timeline. At no point EVER has anyone gone to court unprepared and won the case. The most annoying thing is to get to the point where you have won the case, the Judge asks you a question and your answer is different from your evidence. Be clear and be honest.
3. Keep the hell off Facebook. Just in case you missed it DO NOT NAME AND SHAME ON FACEBOOK! Theres a time to do that, but it isn't now and for good reason. If you set out now to trash their reputation, well what have you got left to threaten them with? What happens when YOU are in court charged with Defamation (like Libel or Slander) We all love a good old rant, we all like to get people on our side but the important thing is getting your money back.
4. Write to the person you were dealing with. Avoid terms like “Stolen” “Scammed” “Conned” and do it properly, Typed, on paper and posted with a recorded delivery. BEFORE you post it, get it proof read by someone with a good grip of grammar and spelling, a badly worded letter typed by a 7 year old and full of slang is NOT likely to win you the case.
The letter needs to:- Set out what you believe you agreed including the service, the goods and the price agreed. State why you feel you are not being treated fairly and what you need to make it right. Always state you expect a reply within 14 days and allow 21 days for it to happen.
5. Be realistic. A £5 fish bowl being chipped has not ruined your wedding, A wedding car being 5 minutes late has not caused the entire day to be ruined so identify what you want out of the complaint, but keep it sensible. You requirement should be corrective, not punitive, posh words for “It cost me £££” and “Pay me £££ to shut up”
6. Review any offer of compensation and reply firmly but politely, either declining the offer or accepting it. Keep an eye on the conditions attached too, you might be happy with the amount offered, but unhappy that it is dependent on a glowing feedback on the website.
7. Never make threats you are not going to carry out, never make threats you ARE going to carry out, theres no point, just state what you will do, and do it.
8. Still unable to reach a solution? Then your next step is either the Citizens Advice Bureau (google your nearest one) or, Money Claim Online to open up a claim in the county court using the small claims procedure (when anyone says “Small claims court” it is clear they have no idea what it is). A small claim will cost you a small amount to register but it is easy and generally very effective. Be prepared to go to court, it is a genuinely easy process and the court will be a small side room where you can state your claim.
9. Keep the hell off facebook - again! Let us assume you have a strong case, possibly even won in court. Until you get the money, in your bank, don't even THINK of bragging about it. Why? Two reasons. 1 - You tell the world “I got £1000 out of xxxxx” and anyone else that thinks they have a claim, makes it. To protect the owners, the business can file for bankruptcy and then no-one gets paid. 2 - They may still counter claim for damages for defamation, or for the unpaid balance of any contract and until you get the cash, keep it to yourself.
10 - Gather more victims. It seems odd that when a firm has taken your money and cannot pay you back the answer may be to form a group of similar victims to chase the debts collectively. Sometimes called a group litigation, together you can appoint a solicitor, take the issue away from the Small claims system and press for a conviction. You may not get your money back, but you will hopefully get some satisfaction.
NOW hit Facebook. Once you have won the case, keep it honest, keep it factual but please, tell everyone. The few scammers out there are addicted to it, they get shut down this week and next week are using a different name to trap more people. Join the scammers groups and spread the word.