Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Leslie Lomax: Follow Up

So far I haven't heard from Leslie Lomax, my deadbeat former client. The preceding blog post does come up first in searches of her name and on the first page for searches of "Zelda's Antiques" on Google, which I suppose I should be happy about--but to be honest I'm really not a vindictive person and I'd rather just get the money owed and call it a day. Here are some unfortunate things I've learned in trying to collect what's owed.

PayPal is absolutely useless. At the beginning of this mess, I contacted PayPal and spoke to a man named Renato, who told me that I could file a dispute through PayPal for unpaid bills. He led me to understand that if I submitted the contract and all correspondence with the scammer, PayPal would help me collect if it decided I was actually entitled to the money. I sent a bill through PayPal to Leslie Lomax with a warning to pay in five days or I would pursue the dispute process. When I called PayPal back (because of course she didn't pay), I spoke to another agent who told me that in fact PayPal has no dispute system set up for screwed sellers--only buyers who don't get what they order can file disputes.

So much for PayPal. They offer no protection for writers whatsoever.

Writers' Weekly may or may not be of help. I also got in touch with Angela Hoy of Writers Weekly, who suggested I take a look at this article. This was helpful, but not the "send me all the correspondence and we'll kick ass and take names" response I was hoping for. To be honest, while all the advice on Writers' Weekly suggests contacting Angela and posting your complaint in their Whispers and Warnings forum, when I tried to do that I found out that this forum is in fact frozen. Score one for the scammers. Still, I did send Angela all correspondence and asked that a warning about Leslie Lomax be posted on the website so the message gets out to as many people as possible.

Update: I just heard from Angela, who told me I followed the advice in the article out of order--I thought getting in touch with Writers' Weekly was supposed to be one of my first steps, but it turns out I need to get back in touch with her after I've posted complaints in all the other forums and sites suggested. Some of it I can't do until I find out Leslie's location, but I'll do everything I can and then get back in touch.

Whois is of limited use. A big piece of advice I got early on was to look up the URL of scammers using Whois. While this is definitely helpful, it's only helpful if the client uses her real address and phone number. I couldn't do this with Leslie because I didn't have a website URL for her, but I do have a nonresponsive client I'm starting to fear will turn into another deadbeat--so I thought I'd look him up on WhoIs and give him a call. The number was there, all right--but it was out of service.

I've emailed Leslie with a link to the preceding blog post, as well as links to my blog in top search results for her name and her business name--just on the off chance she doesn't know it's up. I've informed her that I'm happy to take the post down when I'm paid. I still have a few more things to try, but they all involve finding her location and letting the BBB and Attorney General in her state know about her...which may or may not get my money back. Oh well--at least you know not to work with her, if she comes knocking on your door looking for someone to write her something.


John White, Localization Guy said...

Sorry to hear this is taking up so much of your bandwidth and good will these days. It's as bad a time-sink as Twitter. What will be next?

Jennifer Williamson said...

You're telling me--I've spent much more time trying to collect the money than I did on the actual project. Yet another reason to be ticked.

Susan Johnston Taylor said...

I got scammed on eBay once. The police got involved but she changed her mailing address, phone number, and email so there was little they could do (PayPal's dispute fee ate up most of my money). The unfortunate thing is that "Leslie" could probably choose a new name and persona to hire new unsuspecting writers. Sorry this had to happen you. :(

Kathy@TheFlawlessWord said...

The good news is, if Leslie Lomax is her real name, this bad press about her will stay ranked in the search engines for years to come. If I were you, I wouldn't remove it even if she does pay up. I would post a follow up blog entry clarifying the situation, but the fact remains that she still didn't pay your when she was supposed to, as agreed. Oh, and I hope you're adding interest to her invoice for each month she's been late.

Jennifer Williamson said...

@Susan: So true! My theory is that this isn't her real name; if it was, she'd be much more upset about having it up on the top rankings for her name in Google, right next to the word "scammer." I would have freaked out even before I had a web presence.

@Kathy: That's a really good point--I hadn't thought of that. You're right, people definitely ought to know about the situation even if she does pay up.