Posts Tagged "contracts"


I just had something so uncool happen, and I hope you will learn from my mistake.

I had items in a storage room in a suburb of Boston. I needed my things removed from the room, temporarily stored, and then moved to my new place outside of San Francisco, CA. I got many quotes from moving companies, but I chose Excellent Moving and Storage, also just outside of Boston, MA.

The people on the phone seemed nice. I explained what I had (a lot of boxes and a few pieces of my grandmother’s dining room set). Grandma’s old furniture basically can’t be replaced. We think it’s from the 1930s, maybe 1940s. And Grandma is gone.

The woman on the phone explained that there are two insurance options. By law, they have to give me 60 cents per pound for free. OR I can upgrade to $12,600 of coverage… and wouldn’t I want that for Grandma’s furniture. Yes yes, of course I would. Sign me up for it!

I was later dealing with the man I think is the owner. I sent him a photo of the things in my storage room. A bunch of things in boxes, and Grandma’s furniture, some of which already had furniture pads around it (the moving company that put it in the room wrapped it up). He assured me that the extra insurance would cover me, so I did something unlike me.

I signed their contract without having completely read it. Bad move. I admit I did it.

This was a really emotional thing, finally getting Grandma’s furniture out of storage and across the country, back into my home. I believed what they told me on the phone.

The contract showed I was paying an extra $630 for $12,600 of coverage. It also showed that Excellent Moving and Storage wasn’t packing any of my items since they were already packed. So there was a line on the contract that said what packing they were doing: NONE. What packing I was doing: ALL. I was happy to see that since I didn’t want to pay for packing.

They sent me a credit card authorisation form as a Word document. Normally, those say that I authorise a charge to my card, the card details, and my signature. What was really interesting was that it actually said that I agree that I will NOT dispute or cancel this charge.

What kind of company has to trick people into signing something that says they won’t dispute the charge? A company that knows it’s going to pull shit on its customers… who are going to want to dispute the charge… and will find out they can’t

Since it was a Word document, I took out the word dispute. I let it say I won’t cancel it. I won’t! They will have my things and I need to get my things. But I might dispute it if they suck, and wanting me to sign something waiving my right to dispute BEFORE we’ve done business is a BAD sign.

Learn from that. That’s a bad sign. Find another company who doesn’t need to sneak that into a contract or credit card authorisation form.

The day they took everything out of the storage room, a friend of mine went to oversee it. She said they seemed very nice and very careful. That was good to hear. I had more boxes than they thought, so my moving price would go up. OK that’s my fault for not remembering how many boxes I had. I later got a fax with an inventory of what they moved out of the storage room.

It was then that I noticed something written by hand that said they ONLY insure what they pack. And with a room full of already-packed things, they had packed nearly nothing. So I paid $630 for extra insurance that I can’t use.

That means they wrote me a contract that says they only insure what they pack, that they were packing nothing, and that I was paying an extra $630 for upgraded insurance.

Just sit with that a moment and let that sink in.

I sent them an angry email saying that I didn’t realise they only insure what they pack, and if they KNEW they were packing nothing, why did they sell me on insurance I can’t use? The whole TRUCK could explode and go up in flames, and even my upgraded insurance wouldn’t cover anything because they didn’t pack it. I asked for a $630 credit. I said I would gladly pay for the rest of the move, but I NEVER should have been sold that insurance.

The owner replied that I was wrong and of course his wonderful phone girls explained this to me on the phone. REALLY? You think that I wanted to donate $630 to your company for insurance I couldn’t have used? If the insurance doesn’t cover me, why not just use the “free” insurance I would have received by law?

And how are you or your wonderful phone girls capable of writing up a contract that says we only insure what we pack, we’re packing nothing, and the client is paying for upgraded insurance (that won’t cover her at all)? How does nobody there stop and say HEY WAIT. We shouldn’t sell this woman something she can’t use. That would be unethical and possibly illegal. Nope, not at Excellent Moving and Storage! Sell sell sell.

I got no reply to that reply. So I just waited for my things to come. Two weeks later than the original delivery date, they did. Do I get a discount for them coming late? No. I paid the rest in cash, locked the door, and called my bank to try to dispute the $630.

Long story short, I can’t dispute it. I signed a contract agreeing to this ridiculousness. Even though my bank phone rep agreed that this was “unscrupulous,” as she put it, I agreed to it because I believed what they told me on the phone. I’m usually reading every word of every contract, and I messed this up. I would blame myself except some unethical movers did this for their own profit. They relied on my emotions about Grandma’s furniture, and they got me. They really did. I’m rarely gotten, and they got me.

I will always know that I should not have been sold the extra insurance. I know it’s unethical and possibly illegal. Certainly unscrupuluous. And I’m sure Excellent Moving and Storage aren’t the only moving company pulling shit like this. So please learn from my mistakes and look for sneaky things like this. Double check what the insurance covers and what it doesn’t. Check what will be insured and what won’t. And don’t buy extra insurance unless it really covers your items the way you expect it to.

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I’ve Started a Mini Adventure!


Posted By on Feb 5, 2013

As of today, I have a one-month gig at a SF agency doing my usual Axure ninja-ing. I’m very excited!

It came about because I actually got a really AWESOME job offer from a Fortune 100 company I won’t name. Onboarding was taking a while, and looked like it was going to take a while longer. So I took a short contract to keep my world moving while the “big job” sorts out the details. Special thanks to the “big job” for being cool with my detour. Special thanks to the SF agency for understanding that I have something coming next.

Hopefully, I’ll have a cool announcement in March that I’m starting at that job!

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Contractual Matters: Confidentiality


Posted By on Nov 5, 2010

I was recently shown THE most bizarre contract I’ve ever seen. I wanted to share some odd bits from it so that other designers and UI pros can look out for these things when reading a client’s contract. For more posts on contracts, check our blog tag for “contracts.”

The Problem: The contract I was shown had a confidentiality section, but it was one-way. It only protected the client from anything I might know about him. There was nothing in there about him keep confidential anything he learns about me or my business.

The Solution: I told him to make it mutual.

The Discussion: He told me to just never tell him anything confidential about me or my business.

I didn’t sign the contract. We won’t be doing business. Read contracts carefully! Sometimes, it’s better to walk away from the work than to sign something you’ll be sorry about later.

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I was recently shown THE most bizarre contract I’ve ever seen. I wanted to share some odd bits from it so that other designers and UI pros can look out for these things when reading a client’s contract. For more posts on contracts, check our blog tag for “contracts.”

The Problem: The contract I was shown would have me assuring that anything I deliver to this client has never been copyrighted or trademarked, in whole or in part, by anybody else.

The Solution: I told him that if he would like to budget for an intellectual property attorney to review every idea, then we need to get that into the budget. We can’t throw that in for free. We always do custom and unique work from scratch, and we don’t copy anybody. We are reasonably sure that our work is unique. But without having a qualified lawyer check into things, I can’t be sure that someone else didn’t have the same idea at some point, and would claim to own that idea.

The Discussion: He told me his clause stays.

I didn’t sign the contract. We won’t be doing business. Read contracts carefully! Sometimes, it’s better to walk away from the work than to sign something you’ll be sorry about later.

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Contractual Matters: Idea Disclosure


Posted By on Oct 29, 2010

I was recently shown THE most bizarre contract I’ve ever seen. I wanted to share some odd bits from it so that other designers and UI pros can look out for these things when reading a client’s contract. For more posts on contracts, check our blog tag for “contracts.”

The Problem: The contract I was shown had language that basically said that in the process of working for this client, if I had any ideas that could possibly benefit his company in any way, I had to immediately disclose them. These ideas were then his property 100%.

The Solution: I told him that as a consultant, and especially a marketing consultant, I have ideas all the time… but they are for sale. I normally don’t just report every idea I have to a client without being paid for that type of consulting work. I suggested that if he wanted piles of ideas for me to put me on retainer. If I’m being paid, I’d be happy to be in constant-brainstorm mode, and hand him lots of ideas.

The Discussion: He told me he would not pay any extra for my ideas, and I would be obligated to give them all to him at no extra charge.

I didn’t sign the contract. We won’t be doing business. Read contracts carefully! Sometimes, it’s better to walk away from the work than to sign something you’ll be sorry about later.

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Contractual Matters: Rejected Ideas


Posted By on Oct 28, 2010

(Back to our series on contracts…) I was recently shown THE most bizarre contract I’ve ever seen. I wanted to share some odd bits from it so that other designers and UI pros can look out for these things when reading a client’s contract. For more posts on contracts, check our blog tag for “contracts.”

The Problem: The contract I showed this potential client had a section that said that we will show him a number of design ideas. We are ultimately selling him one idea, revised and tweaked until he’s thrilled and approves it. He is buying this one idea off of us, and we give him all the rights he could possibly ever want to that one idea. Any ideas that he rejects or does not specifically approve stay as our property. They would be ours, and we can sell them to somebody else, do nothing with them, etc… Anything he doesn’t want is ours.

The Solution: He told me he wants to own every idea we show him. I told him that would be fine. We’ll come up with a price for ideas he sees that he wants to own, but are never revised, tweaked, or carried to completion.

The Discussion: He told me that he will not pay for additional ideas. Every design idea we show him should automatically be his exclusive property, and we would have no rights to it.

I didn’t sign the contract. We won’t be doing business. Read contracts carefully! Sometimes, it’s better to walk away from the work than to sign something you’ll be sorry about later.

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(Back to our series on contracts…) I was recently shown THE most bizarre contract I’ve ever seen. I wanted to share some odd bits from it so that other designers and UI pros can look out for these things when reading a client’s contract. For more posts on contracts, check our blog tag for “contracts.”

The Problem: The contract I was shown was for this client to hire outside software developers. There was an area of the contract that defined software development. He just added, “User interface,” to the definition of software development. The rest of the contract continued referring to my work as software development when we were being hired for UI, web design, copy writing, and possibly some future marketing work.

This reminded me of when Schering-Plough gave me a contract in the 1990s for a website project. They had taken a standard vendor contract, and done a find and replace to get the word “website” in there, since that’s what we were doing. The contract ended up saying brilliant things like we needed to have a million-dollar insurance policy in case someone trips and falls on the website.

The Solution: I told him that the definition of work was way off. It should exclude references to software development since I shouldn’t be signing a contract that states that I’m providing software development services (when I’m not). I said that the contract needed to clearly define what Brass Flowers is doing for his company.

The Discussion: He told me that what he did was fine, and refused to change it.

I didn’t sign the contract. We won’t be doing business. Read contracts carefully! Sometimes, it’s better to walk away from the work than to sign something you’ll be sorry about later.

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I was recently shown THE most bizarre contract I’ve ever seen. I wanted to share some odd bits from it so that other designers and UI pros can look out for these things when reading a client’s contract. For more posts on contracts, check our blog tag for “contracts.”

The Problem: The contract I was shown had language that basically said that if my client ever needed me to sign any legal document relating to the rights of the work I’d create, I am giving him Power Of Attorney over me. That means he can legally sign my name to any hopefully-relevant document, even if I’ve seen the document and refuse to sign it, and even if I’ve never seen the document.

The Solution: I told him to rewrite my rights section so that it gave him all the rights he could possibly ever need to my work, worldwide and forever, so that there is never any future document that might require my signature. I asked him to have his lawyer write something that was air tight and not vague so that he would be satisfied with his rights ownership.

The Discussion: He told me there is no language that can really give him all the rights, and he had to have that power. I told him I could not sign something that said that I agree that in the future, he can sign my name to documents I’ve never seen and might refuse to sign. I told him if that clause is so great, make it mutual. Give me the power to sign his names to documents I might need signed pertaining to the rights to our work. He didn’t go for that.

I didn’t sign the contract. We won’t be doing business. Read contracts carefully! Sometimes, it’s better to walk away from the work than to sign something you’ll be sorry about later.

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