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Thread: Abandoned instruments???

  1. #1

    Default Abandoned instruments???

    How do you folks handle abandoned instruments? I'm trying to clean up the shop and there are two large old items where the customer has stopped all communication or made up excuses for multiple years after repeated attempts. The street value of the two is about three times what my car is worth, but so far I have not received a penny for either one and cannot get them to pick it up or pay. I've lost any confidence in the "customer" and am frustrated. Is it even a business transaction if no $$$ has been exchanged?

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Abandoned instruments???

    It seems straightforward to me. If they won't actually buy them, then they're yours to sell.
    David A. Gordon

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    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: Abandoned instruments???

    "If you don't pick this up in 30 days I'm gonna sell it" might get someone's attention.
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    Default Re: Abandoned instruments???

    I wouldn't go off half-cocked on this one.
    Consult somebody who knows the law in your state.
    Asking musicians for legal advice does not seem wise to me.

    I know this-- a piece of paper with a signature is a legal contract. Without a contract, you might be in murky water.

    It may be that a 90 day collection notice by certified mail might be sufficient, but check to make sure. And check on what terms would be legal. You may not be able to sell without the consent of the legal owner. If it is legal for you to sell, you may only be entitled to the portion of the sale that covers the cost of your labor and materials. The rest of the amount realized might very well be due to the owner.

    You don't want to go in front of a judge as a defendant.
    Last edited by rcc56; Mar-07-2019 at 1:22am.

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    Default Re: Abandoned instruments???

    Quote Originally Posted by grandcanyonminstrel View Post
    where the customer has stopped all communication or made up excuses for multiple years after repeated attempts.
    "multiple years". If that is literally what you mean, then it sounds like they have abandoned it.
    David A. Gordon

  7. #6

    Default Re: Abandoned instruments???

    There is most probably a law in your state spelling this out. Find out what. If dropped off for repair and repaired but not paid for, you must have recourse. Find out your legal rights and obligations. Follow the letter of the law.
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    Default Re: Abandoned instruments???

    Just to clarify:

    Have you actually made these instruments yourself but your prospective customers have not picked them up or paid for them,
    or have you done repair work on instruments that belong to other people?

    If it's the former, it looks to me that if they won't pay for them then you could find other buyers (assuming they haven't paid a deposit, which might change things).

    If they are the property of other people, then you might need to be more careful.
    David A. Gordon

  9. #8
    Registered User grassrootphilosopher's Avatar
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    Default Re: Abandoned instruments???

    For a builder such a situation is extremely frustrating.

    Moraly the instruments are yours to handle as you see fit.

    Legally this is a different kettle of fish.

    If a person has commissioned an instrument and you have agreed to build it then there is no doubt that you have a contract that obliges you to build the instrument and that obliges the buyer to pay for the instrument and take the instrument of your hand. So far so good.

    Obviously you have upheld your side of the bargain. What´s with the other side? They have neither payed for the instrument nor have they claimed the instrument. Have you informed them about the completion, requested payment and offered to deliver the instrument? I would guess so. To make sure that everything is in order I would write the customer requesting payment at a certain calendary date upon which you agree to deliver the instrument. Warn the customer that if he is in default after the passing of the date, that you will withdraw from the contract. After that date will have passed you´re free to sell the instrument.

    This would be my way of handling the situation. Of course there may be other factors in play. If you have information about the customer (monetary history etc.), you know that he is just abrasive but able to pay for the instrument, the commissioned instrument is so much individualized that it may be difficult to sell etc. You might want to sue the buyer to pay and take the instrument off you hand...

    All of this is very much a question of how you feel. The "strictly legal way" may be overkill but you asked.

    As a side note:
    If the "abandoned instruments" are belongings of the customer (thinking of a bull fiddle/upright bass) that you have in your shop to be repaired I´d proceed with utmost care. In this case you simply cannot "unload" the instrument as it´s not yours. Here I would write to the owner and request to pick up the instrument the latest at a given calendary date. Warn the owner that you will not be held responsible for theft or loss after that date and that you will hand over the instrument to the proper authorities. There must be something like a lost and found or state controller´s office that handle unclaimed property. After the passing of that date I would indeed proceed in said fashion.

    As it is with all things legal, a proper advice from someone that knows the law where you live makes sense.

    Good luck whith your quest/task. And I´d be interested in how you deal with the issue.
    Olaf

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    Registered User grassrootphilosopher's Avatar
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    Default Re: Abandoned instruments???

    Then again...

    If the items are indeed abandoned by the owners then they might be yours now...

    In this case though there really need to be indicators that the previous owners actually have abandoned their property. In this case, you might write to them requesting if they want their property back. If the answer is no, you can claim them as yours. (At least that´s the law where I live; it shouldn´t be different where you live).
    Olaf

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    Default Re: Abandoned instruments???

    Asking musicians for legal advice does not seem wise to me.
    Ditto. Seems like a real legal consultation is in order.
    Mitch Russell

  12. #11

    Default Re: Abandoned instruments???

    Start sending invoices for the storage and security services?

  13. #12
    Registered User grassrootphilosopher's Avatar
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    Default Re: Abandoned instruments???

    concerning posts # 4 and # 10

    Being a musician and a legal practitioner is not mutually exclusive. I know for a fact that there are some lawyers on board.

    But have you considered the fact that when you ask 3 lawyers you´ll get four opinions?

    Also, sometimes you´ll want some comon sense (that some lawyers´ opinions lack). Therefore you ask on a well qualified comon sense forum like this one (or friends and family, or your local parson or a shrink or...).

    Apart from that I´m sure that only a fool would follow an online opinion about important matters without giving it a thorough checkup.
    Olaf

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    Default Re: Abandoned instruments???

    Every state has the equivalent of a "Garage man's Lien" that allows gas stations and repair shops to sell vehicles that have not been picked up by a customer. Those same laws will apply to you. There is a notification process that precedes your ability to sell. You don't have to sell for what it's worth, you have to cover your costs. Once the process is completed and you sell it the person that failed to pick it up and pay for it has no recourse. It would behoove you to at least speak to a lawyer. This is not an uncommon situation in business.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
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    Default Re: Abandoned instruments???

    Quote Originally Posted by mrmando View Post
    "If you don't pick this up in 30 days I'm gonna sell it" might get someone's attention.
    Folk law and consumer law are two different things. In my province of Ontario, many cash register slips and store signs say that, for a refund, items must be returned within a particular length of time, a week -- 30 days, six months, or whatever. Phil Edmunston, a consumer expert, said these statements have nothing to do with law. Ontario law has it that you can get a refund for a reasonable length of time, considering the price. So, essentially, small claims court will not give you a refund on a $5 flashlight that doesn't work after six months, but likely will order a refund on a $100 flashlight after a year. Business people can't make up laws, so get a legal opinion. The information might be available online from a legal rights or business association. Still, a sign saying "instruments not claimed after ... days will be sold" will have some effect, as most of us don't know our legal rights.
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    Default Re: Abandoned instruments???

    In Montana, if you catch a trespassing cow, you can corral it, and charge rent by the day. When the rent equals the value of the cow, it's your cow. There are specific requirements for that cow to be trespassing, not just any stray. Additionally, unpaid storage unit fees results in the unit owner getting the contents as payment.
    Check your local laws, they might be in your favor.
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  19. #16

    Default Re: Abandoned instruments???

    I'm a CPA and took several law classes in college. You do NOT have a contract. A contract requires consideration (cash or equivalent) on each side. If he paid you a dollar he would have paid for the right to buy the finished instrument. Even then there are practical limitations which, even without a written agreement, have been exceeded.

    To repeat, if he put no money down there is NO contract. Sell the instruments.

    If he paid money down advise him that he will forfeit his down payment in 30 days (or 60 or 90). When the time expires sell the instruments.

    edit - It just occurred to me that most people don't know that to become a CPA you must pass four examinations; one is business law. Aside from that, in my twenty years as a CFO for a regional company I had to read and approve all legal documents and occasionally corrected $300 per hour attorneys. Contract law is very simple. You can have confidence that I'm giving you correct advice.

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    Default Re: Abandoned instruments???

    Talk to a lawyer, this is a very touchy situation.
    In the jewelry business you need to send certified letters at least twice over a period of 90 days (if my memory is still active) before you can take possession or sell the item. The mail is cheap enough but, it does require some time to keep track of the paperwork, for the peace of mind, I’d send the letters advising the items will be offered for sale. You’re entitled to recover your costs at least, the “storage fees” can add up.
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  21. #18

    Default Re: Abandoned instruments???

    I was assuming that you made the instruments. If you repaired the instruments then give notice that you will sell them to recover your fees. After sales take fees plus interest plus your hours trying to collect. The rest of the money must be sent to the instrument owner.

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    Default Re: Abandoned instruments???

    I'd contact Glenn Bradford at https://www.bfstrings.com/
    He's a lawyer and instrument seller, shop owner. They also build instruments for customers.
    I'm sure he would know what you need to do.

  23. #20

    Default Re: Abandoned instruments???

    Legal advice might be worth getting. But if it has truly been years I would send a letter wit return receipt. Let them know what the bill is (I would think you could charge a reasonable storage fee) and give them a reasonable time to pay like 30 to 60 days and let them know that you will be selling the instruments at that time if they have not made arrangements to or paid the balance. If you sell them I would keep a bill of sale to document what you received for the instrument. If you are able to sell if for more than the balance due by a large amount then I would keep the money aside (incase the finally approached you) or send the owner a check for the difference. I would think if the instrument had any real value (sentimental or otherwise) they would at least be in contact to let you know they still wanted it and try to work something out. They might actually be relieved to have the issue resolved.

  24. #21

    Default Re: Abandoned instruments???

    Invite them to a classic Condino barbeque, double-feature style.

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  26. #22

    Default Re: Abandoned instruments???

    It is unclear to me if the OP is talking about repairs that were not picked up or commissioned builds.

    In the case of repairs, it might be nice to have something signed from the customer at the time the instrument was dropped off, stating completed repairs not picked up after 30 days will be sold.

    With all due respect to members in Germany and Canada, I would check the law in North Carolina, where the OP lives.

    On a related note, I have two repairs in my shop that have not been picked up, one has been five years at this point, the other is going on nine years. Since they are only worth $200-300 each, I just leave them hanging on the wall for decoration. If the owners show up, great, if not, no biggee.........

  27. #23
    Registered User grassrootphilosopher's Avatar
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    Default Re: Abandoned instruments???

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Mando View Post

    With all due respect to members in Germany and Canada, I would check the law in North Carolina, where the OP lives.
    +1
    Olaf

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    Default Re: Abandoned instruments???

    State law issue. Well developed in NC. Read and consider: https://www.nctreasurer.com/Claim-Yo...nd-Guides.aspx
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  29. #25

    Default Re: Abandoned instruments???

    Bingo on state law. I was answering based on the Uniform Commercial Code.

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