Wednesday, March 7, 2007

The Wacky Caterer

This is a true story, only the client names are changed....

The angriest person I ever encountered was in Bronx Small Claims Court. Luz Calderon had made the unfortunate decision to do one stop wedding shopping with my client, Banderas Wedding Center (Juan Banderas, President). Juan's business model was to take his modest catering operation, and expand it into a Walmart of wedding services. At Banderas Wedding Center, you could get your invitations, wedding gown, bridesmaid dresses, tuxedos, photos, videos, limos, honeymoon, band, rings, and anything else needed for that special day......on a tight budget. He was a general contractor for nuptuals, using a hapless collection of cretinous subcontractors.
I don't know how the food was at Luz' wedding, all I knew was she had not received her wedding pictures and she was not happy. When Juan first came to my office he told me he had some "small problems". He showed me six different small claims cases, three Civil Court cases, one Supreme Court case, and a friendly letter from the New York Attorney General. Luz Calderon's case was the fourth time I had gone to court for Juan. Before I went to the Bronx on Calderon v Banderas, I asked him what happened to Luz' wedding pictures. He said "The photographer has them.", prompting me to ask "Why doesn't Luz have them?"
"Well, the photographer wants to be paid.", prompting me to ask "Why don't you pay him?"
"Well, he wants to be paid on this job, AND all the other jobs."
After a lot more prompting, I learned that Banderas owed ALL his subcontractors, and they were all taking the same position.....no piecemeal payments, pay in full or we hold hostages.
Wedding photos were powerful hostages, since the customers desperately wanted them, but this was not prompting Banderas to pay for their release. He had the trump card, one which many a client has played over the years........"I don't have the money."
He had small amounts of money, enough to pay me to go to court and defend him "as best as you can". Sometimes he didn't even come with me. It was me against the embittered brides. Sometimes I got to joust with the grooms too, though they always sensed my empathy, not so much for their ruined wedding day, but for their ruined lives.

Luz told the Judge her story. I told the Judge my clients story, such as it was. The Judge wanted to talk to my client, but I had to tell the Judge he "couldn't make it" that night. The Judge told Luz she would win her case, such as it was, meaning she would get a judgment which might not be so easy to collect. The Judge wanted to talk to me privately, off the record. When I approached he whispered, "What kind of piece of shit, moron, asshole of a client do you have here?" I wanted to say "All of the above", but instead I said "I'm just trying to represent my client the best I can, and I realize he is going to lose this case, he surely realizes it too, but there is a problem in the business".
The Judge asked me what I thought the problem was, and it boiled down to this......The business had all kinds of claims against it, no money to pay, and the second any money came in, various creditors were grabbing it. The Judge then gave me some advice, "You can't keep representing him in these individual cases, you'll end up on one of those consumer fraud TV news shows. This client should file for bankruptcy".

Tomorrow....The Wacky Caterer files for bankruptcy....

1 comment:

bernadette dono said...

HI Barry!!!
This is a great idea. I actually remember most of these stories. Hope you are doing well.
Best Regards from Sunny Switzerland,
Bernadette