Big Fish Doesn't Pay - what to do?

Dear Orchidians, I have a question for you all.

Back in February 2003 a well known designer/jeweler from NY who I
think is a fairly big name asked to see some briolettes on memo from
me. Before sending the goods I asked around and received word from
business associates that she is well known and had good credit. I
sent her a $ 20,000.00 memo insured via FedEx as per her
instructions and told her she was liable for the shipping and
insurance. She agreed verbally on the telephone.

First problem occurred when she saw that the FedEx Insured Overnight
service was $57. She said she could have shipped the 20K memo for
$8.00 using FedEx and her insurance. After a lot of himming and
hawing she gave me written signed PO from her company for a pair of
briolettes and special orders on how to drill them. I did the
drilling, and was ready to send them when she then called and
canceled the order. I told her that I had a signed PO form her and
that I already drilled them as per her request and I considered the
sale final now. She denied ever sending me a signed PO. I faxed her
a copy to prove it. She then said OK send the stones. After about 3
weeks went by I called her and she said she never received the
stones. I called the Post Office and they told me they had attempted
to deliver them twice leaving pink slips since she was not in and
she had not come to pick them up. I notified her of this and finally
she went and picked them up. It was now the beginning of April. I
have since called her, billed her, called her re-billed her, and
still no payment. ( She owes me about $700 plus shipping and
insurance charges)

She will not respond to my telephone calls, and our relationship has
been and is totally sour at this point IMO.

I have read her name on the lecture circuits at big NY jewelry
shows. She sells at many fine department stores. She touts her
reputation and knowledge and integrity.

She has had my brio pair tied up since the beginning of March 2003,
she does not honor her word, her contracts, or money she owes me. She
has the goods and will not pay. (IMO this is theft.)

She said she is a JBT member, but is not listed in print due to
security reasons. I believed her when she first told me this, but
since then I am suspicious of this story.

What do you suggest? I would love to go public and tell all who she
is, but that is probably the wrong thing to do if I want to get my
money. Can I send info like this to Credit Rating Companies like
TransUnion, Experian, or similar?

Thank you,
Steve Green / Rough and Ready Gems

Dear Steve

I don’t know where to begin, and I have to calm down to be able to
write, you have had so many red flags (that I counted in your Email)
on this deal from the start that I would think if you were at all
paying attention(wishful thinking to the positive) you would have
stopped the deal the minute the lit match started getting close to
your finger,

the second part of it is WHY are you supporting and defending this
persons identity? WHY? The credit bureaus aren’t going to be good for
any of us,except for the financial institutions, maybe? you need to
let this community know of who and what she is. Too many incompetent
people in leadership(owners of buisness,high level designers…)
roles are just ruining all , and why wouldn’t you go public,so she
could turn around and do this to somebody else just like you?

you know deep down these types of persons live and interact in this
fashion their entire lives, I have and do work with people like
her,used to give the benefit of doubt,second chances, the human
kindness, until I just ran out of money and paitence,(10-12 years)

The way this type of person will learn (if any) is for her own
community to shun her down and out. No credit rating company will be
doing much until it gets real bad, and for $700.00 no one legally is
going to help you, their fees are going to be more than that, and
guess what SHE knows that.

But I do suggest that you do report her to the credit bureaus and
the JBT membership association,after all what good is this
association if the they are giving out about their
members is incorrect. if she is a member at all.

and in addition to that do post her name on Orchid this is the only
way we can take care of our own terms and deals. if all this is an
untruth that will also come out , I just have seen too many of these
similar cases get away with so much and there really isn’t ANYTHING
you can do legally; and they know this too well, they actually use it
to their advantage.

My opinion: deffinatly let the community know,we don’t need
incompetent Slime in high leadership roles. As far as the money she
owes you (or your agent) have to physically show up at her door and
collect it, or take the material back. there is no way you will be
able to get paid if you rely on telephone or such, since she has
already shown you how she deals with those terms.

I have had to do this a few times in my career, to actually very
well known and high level clients.AND guess what after those episodes
they aren’t high level in your head anymore they are just the run of
the mill THUGS. And I always made the mistake of not exposing them(OH
they were having a hard time ,there was no money, fill in the blanks
excuses) ,but now I do .and I let them know that I do. FEAR is the
only thing that works. Just get your materials back and walk away.

I hope I didn’t ramble too long ,and it will help you in some way

Hratch Babikian


I suspect she has money problems and a commission that went sour for
her as well. You could:

a) offer a payment plan in writing

b) pursue small claims court.

If (b) is your only option, then (a) will be good documentation,
Honestly though, this is what the Orchid community is all about. We
don’t have a problem complaning about big companies, why should
individuals be protected for poor business practices.

We all have run slow on payments from time to time, but
communicating is the way to go. It’s easy to do the wrong thing,
but doing the right thing is difficult and takes integrity.

My .02 -k

Steve, I too have been in similar situations many times. What I have
made up my mind to do is to not get involved in the lawyer mess. I
call or write the person personally and tell them that I will no
longer do business with them in any manner. I tell them exactly why
and I keep all documentation to prove my case. Whenever that persons
name comes up in a conversation with others I say simply that I will
never deal with that person again. If the person I am talking with
wants specifics I show them my documentation. I have documentation
going back 20 years. In business I never forget. Like yourself I am
at major trade shows where I meet thousands of others in the trade.
That $700 she stole from you will cost her many times more in word of
mouth. Remember, you can not slander or keep a blacklist, but you can
tell the truth and pass on the word.

Gerry Galarneau


This sounds fraudulent to me. If I were you, I would seek legal
advice. Do you have a lawyer? I have had several experiences in which
I didn’t know what to do and my lawyer came to the rescue (stuff like
house mortgage problems and a slanderous suit against my wife).


I doubt that Experian or the other credit reporting agencies would
take the info because it is a one-time payment, not a loan. In my
experience with them, they are only interested in loans (secured and
unsecured) that default.

However, you might want to call a reputable collections agency, and
also consider reporting her to the JBT. Since she has claimed
membership in JBT, they need to know about it for 2 reasons:

  1. If she’s telling people she’s a member and she’s not, then they
    should pursue it with her. Her behavior negatively impacts their
    brand and is fraudulent misrepresentation.

  2. If she IS a member and is defaulting on orders and refusing
    payment, then they need to know it in order to adjust her rating with
    them (the same as reporting late payments to a credit agency).

A collections agency can apply various more-aggressive tactics to
try and get your money or your briolettes. If they are unsuccessful,
they have more options for reporting it. Yes, you will be paying
them a portion of the debt to collect it for you, but retrieving some
of it is better than retrieving none of it, in my opinion.

Finally, find out if she’s a member of the Better Business Bureau.
That may be a third avenue to pursue, since that is part of their

If she’s THAT public a figure, she’s not going to want to negatively
impact her reputation, and will likely do the right thing at some
point and pay you.

Best of luck,
Karen Goeller


Handcrafted and Unique Artisan Jewelry

Hello Steve,

There is no such thing as a big fish. Deadbeats come in all sizes.
Many years ago I did a repair job for one of Canada’s biggest
jewellery chains, they were not happy with my C.O.D. invoice and
explained that they intended to pay in 30 days. I explained that
the price would be considerably more by that time but I would hold
their job that long if they insisted. I also told them a cheque
would not be acceptable in view of their attitude and hung up the
phone. I did get cash for the repair. I also got my added charges
to compensate for the extra time holding their job and having to
deal with such arrogance. The money however came from one of their
bench hands, I never got to deal with their accounting office again
but did quite a few jobs for them via their bench dude.

In Canada commercial debts are not subject to the same debt
collection restraints imposed on retail sales to consumers. It is
quite legal to hire a brass band to follow a dead beat around
proclaiming to the world that this is a person of questionable
business repute. A company in Montreal is happily making a bundle
hiring out their costumed debt collectors.

Embarrass this person as much as you are able. Nobody sympathises
with deadbeats.


Steve~ Wow, a difficult situation!

I have no answer about what to do, but my feeling is that when you
sent the goods by overnight service without her expressed desire for
it, she probably had no obligation to pay for that additional cost.

When you pressed for payment of the shipping charges, she probably
set her jaw, and decided to make it difficult for you. I understand
her upset at your presumption that she desired that service. but both
parties appear to have failed to be specific in that detail, in that
you didn’t mention it. Sometimes we need to just bite it and accept
that we made a mistake, and should apologize and pay for it.

It costs so much more to not have had clear, written agreements in
this business spelling out ALL the details in advance.

That being said, I think her actions are indeed dishonest and lack
personal and professional ethics. The industry would collapse if
everyone who had a misunder- standing or disagreement just refused to
pay and jerked people around as she has.

My hunch is that if you write a letter of apolgy for the shipping
misunderstanding and bill just for the stones, you may find
solution to this problem, Good luck.


I must agree with Gerry on his method.

The Jewish diamond traders just say “mazzel” and then the deal is
sealed. Anyone who ever breaks that will be out of business soon.

Keeping files for life is a good idea anyhow.

Lawyers are just too expensive.


Hey Steve, I’m with Hratch Babikian. Don’t protect slime! And don’t
let others become her next victim. As long as you can document her
way of dealing over this issue, she can’t touch you. She may threaten
action,thats this type of person’s style, but she knows what cards
are in the deck, and she knows when to fold and pay up. Its up to you
to call the bet. It’s perfectly legal to say that someone owes you,
without being slanderous towards them. Ed

Dear Steve Green; Seems we all have to learn these lessons about
other peoples lack of ethics. First! A reluctant buyer should
always be considered as potential trouble: weigh the value of the
sale against the attitude and resistance of the buyer…if it
doesn’t feel good to you, follow your instincts! Many times
hindsight shows us that we “knew” this was going to be trouble, but
we blinded ourselves to it in the interest of making money. In that
regards, we are a little complicit in creating the problem, yes? For
commission work; require a good faith deposit or payment in full
upfront if you’re nervous.

What to do? You could: go to the JBT and report it. Write to her
(keep a copy) with copies of the documented transaction and tell her
that non-payment will result in sending the info to various credit
bureaus. Put it in for collection. Take her to small claims court.
Because the fraud was initiated where you are, you can subpeona her
to appear in a court in your jurisdiction. This might be a major
inconvenince and/or expense for her which may help her to decide
it’s not worth the $700 and just pay up. If her bookkeeper , order
desk or any other employee of hers might be a witness to the
transaction, you can subpeona them, too. This worked very well for
me with a dispute with UPS many years ago.

If you non of this works, or if you’re not willing to do any of them
then this is my advice; get over it. You were burned by someone
who can take advantage of you and sleep with it. If you do not or
can not remedy the situation at LEAST don’t let it ruin another
minute of your life. Very hard to do, but worth the effort. Every
time you think of the situation, tell yourself that you made a
mistake, but you’ve learned from it. Choose to believe that her
"punishment" will catch up to her eventually. Let it underscore the
importance of integrity in all of your dealings with other people.
Now this thief has , in Buddha’s way, made you wiser and more
honorable. (Hard to get your head, let alone your heart, around
that one!! I’m still working on it!)

You should get your money. It’s the right thing and the legal
thing. Just remember that sometimes it’s more advantageoud to you to
stop ripping yourself up and wasting valuable time on a fight you can
choose to let go. In that way also you can regain your peace of mind
and get back to creative efforts. Marianne Hunter

Wow, Steve. I think you need to do whatever it takes to get the
money and property that is owed to you! If someone takes something
and doesn’t pay for it, IMO, it doesn’t matter what her job is (“well
known designer/jeweler”), s/he’s still a thief. Also, consider never
offering terms again except pay before you take it and a 50% (or
more) non refundable deposit on special orders (applied to the final
price but not refundable should they change their mind). I’m just
starting out and am VERY low volume and low dollar compared to many
of you and I’ve already been burned three times on special orders
from the same person. So, I’m a little slow (!!) but now when she
asked me about another special order today, I said we’d get together
and go over what she wanted specifically and I can write up the
estimate and let her know what the deposit would be. You have to take
care of business. Good luck! I also agree that you should let the
Orchid community know who this person is.

-Dee Dee

I’m on the bandwagon for blowing that gal’s boat out of the water.
What are the sayings, Knowledge is Power, and Strength in Numbers,
etc. If we all don’t stick together here, what’s the point ? Let’s
show just where the strength and power live. I got burned like that
once - but never again.


I can’t remember if the person not paying is near where you live or
not, but I can say that a personal visit, in which you quietly refuse
to leave the premises until payment is received, is often very

Daniel R. Spirer, GG Spirer Somes Jewelers 1794 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge, MA 02140 617-491-6000 @spirersomes

Steve, I say stick to your guns and insist that the Big Fish pays the
interest on her purchase. If she’d contacted you and said she needed
time to pay or asked to make payments, it would be reasonable to
consider waiving the interest. Since she’s offered no explanation,
she doesn’t deserve a break from the contract she has with you.

Your briolettes are amazingly beautiful and there’s a good market
for them. There’s no excuse for this woman to have tied up stones
that could have been sold to a paying customer by now. I also think
you should reveal her name to the list. There are several gem
cutters/dealers on Orchid, and it would be a shame if any of them
had a similar experience with this woman.

Karen Hemmerle
Boulder, CO

I find this discussion really inrerestong-- each of us has been or
could be in this situation. I’d like to think that the threat of
being “outed” on Orchid would be a pretty powerful influence on this
woman and others.

Coincidentally, I now find myself in a dilemma as a result of a
relatively small fish who didn’t pay years ago, and I’d be
interested in opinions.

I am the new editor of my local metals guild newsletter. I’m putting
together only my second issue, and the board has informed me of an
article in the works, apparently about a gallery show put on by a
member. Now, 7 or 8 years ago, this member had a gallery, and I gave
her some work on consignment. She was very slow to pay, and things
went from bad to worse. Ultimately, she closed her gallery, screwing
me out of money I could not afford to loose. Unfortunately, my
bookkeeping then was even worse then than it is now, and I was never
sure exactly what was missing, so there really was nothing to be

Now, to the present. I haven’t seen the article yet, but I am very
unhappy at the idea of promoting this woman to my fellow guild
members. I cannot, in good conscience, publish anything that might
lead my fellow-artists to trust her. I also don’t want to get into a
battle of unprovable accusations. So, What do you think?


All, It does no good to anyone to blow the gals boat out of the
water. You may feel immediate satisfaction, but you will get no long
term gain. This one incident for me has been repeated many times and
others that are even worse. That is why we now have a policy of “You
pay, We ship”. Only the best and most reliable of my customers get
memos. We have relationships going back 10-20 years. We have an
open dialog that is based on truths. There is nothing wrong with a
customer running into hard times and cannot make a payment. There is
everything wrong for that same customer to not pay an account and go
on a luxury vacation, buy a new car, or show up at a gemshow buying
more goods and paying cash to foreign vendors. Open dialog based on
truth is the only way I do memos. Otherwise cash in hand is king.

You walk a very thin line when you post on an open forum information
that can harm an individuals business or reputation. You also bring
disgrace to the whole business community by public posting. It
would be different if this were a closed community of just business
people. It is not and individual business disagreements should be
handled in private.

Gerry Galarneau

Given that nothing is proveable, perhaps you just need to hush up.
Learn from your mistakes, both in trusting someone and in
bookkeeping. A bitter pill, perhaps, but when you can’t prove
anything, you will be setting yourself up for BIG problems if you run
your mouth too much. They could sue for defamation and cost you a
ton of money. At the very least, you will be setting yourself up to
be seen as a ‘sour grapes’ person by the rest of the guild. Don’t
miss opportunities to correct public opinion of this dealer, but be
aware of how YOU sound as well.

Dear Noel, Coincidentally, I also produce and edit “The Touchplate” -
the journal of the Gold and Silversmiths Guild of Australia. Such a
journal has to reflect the professionalism of its members.

About your quandary to promote or not to promote: You may have seen
Gerry Galarneau’s post on this topic. Gerry really sums this up and I
think his advice is spot on. What happened to you was unfortunate and
many of us have been there too and sympathise. It’s best to be
professional in public and by restraining the immediate impulse to
make the obvious point, you implicitly demonstrate that you are
bigger and better than the person who dudded you. That counts and
that’s what people will remember about you. Kind regards, Rex

Seven years is a long time. Did this person deliberately rip off the
contributing artists, or did her gallery close due to ineptitude at
business? Do people doing business with her still have problems? Is
her gallery now better run? People do have the capacity to change
and grow. Perhaps she learned from her experience?

Whether it is right to promote this woman to your fellow guild
members has more to do with what she is doing now than what she did
seven years ago. If you publicly air a seven-year-old grudge against
this person, it may damage your reputation more than hers. Unless
you have factual basis for believing that she is still taking
advantage of people, I would let it go.

Lee Einer
Dos Manos Jewelry