How do I pay this person?
January 5, 2017 7:09 AM   Subscribe

How do I pay someone who won't give me their name or contact info?

I hired someone to do a couple of hours of work at my home. They had come twice before. For complicated reasons, they had to leave early and without warning and ran off without requesting payment. (Long story - they actually ran out when I called 911 for family member, which was a shock to me.)

They want me to pay them. I want to pay them. But I am in a very complicated medical situation for my family member and cannot wait here to pay them and they didn't show up on time when I did try to arrange it.

This person refuses to take a cheque, traveller's cheque, bank draft, email money transfer, PayPal or any other means of payment. They won't give me even the name of a friend to whom I can send it. They won't tell me their full name and they won't give me an address. They are only willing to come here.

At this point, I can kind of guess that this is a sketchy situation. I had been introduced by someone online, with whom I have ceased contact because they became abusive and harassing to me in between the first time this person came to help and the last time.

I paid cash, but we hadn't agreed that was the only way of payment. My parent and I used to do this same work and I've hired people in the past for this, sometimes paying cash and sometimes not -- my parent and I always declared our cash income from our small business, so this didn't set off any alarm bells for me. I've never had anyone refuse to take a cheque if I've been stuck for cash.

This person has put an awful lot of limits around me paying them. And they keep insisting they "want to see you again". It's creeping me out and I feel like it's some sort of shady thing. I don't want to see them again and my friends feel like this is kind of creepy, so they don't want to hang around for it either. I live in a complex, so I can't just leave the money on the porch or under a mat.

How on earth do I get this person paid and out of my life? I'm spending tons of time waiting around for ambulances, hospital appointments, time with medical team and things keep changing so fast that I can't even plan on where I am -- and this contractor doesn't have a car. My family member is seriously medically fragile and I don't see this resolving any time soon and this thing about wanting to see me is honestly very creepy. This payment situation is super stressful and it feels very unfair to me that the person is insisting only on seeing me in person. I feel like I've been pulled into some sort of sketchy thing.

Please don't pile on and tell me I am stupid and naive. I just never had my radar up for this, probably because this acquaintance introduced us and the family medical crisis had me just so grateful for the couple of hours of help with the household project.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (22 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
How much money are we talking about? Can you leave an envelope of cash with a local business for the person to pick up? I've done this before with keys.
posted by valeries at 7:17 AM on January 5, 2017 [5 favorites]

How are you communicating with this person currently? I know it's been a rough time for you but it's worth remembering that you're the one who holds the cards since presumably they want t get paid.

"As you know, I have a family medical situation. Meeting at my house will not be possible. I can meet you at $NEARBY_LOCATION (library, coffee shop, gas station) at $ONE_OF_THREE TIMES or you will need to accept a cheque for the work you have done. Those are my available options at this time. If other arrangements are possible please let me know."

And yes, maybe a good friend could offer to make the handoff for you? Or you could leave something general delivery at the Post Office (if such a thing is possible where you are)?
posted by jessamyn at 7:18 AM on January 5, 2017 [23 favorites]

If you have a way of contacting this person, tell them "I will meet you at time T at place P with your money" and that's the end of it. Doesn't need to be your place.
posted by adamrice at 7:19 AM on January 5, 2017 [11 favorites]

Do you have a local store or business near your house, or does your apt complex have an office where you can leave the payment in an envelope for him? Then you can tell them, the payment is at X location, you can pick it up. If he refuses, tell him that it's either that or you mail it to the address of his choice. Anything else, the answer is, "I'm sorry, that won't be possible."
posted by Mchelly at 7:20 AM on January 5, 2017 [11 favorites]

Can you leave the cash with a mutual acquaintance? "I'm sorry, my family's medical situation is such that my schedule is totally unpredictable for the next [several months, maybe]. I can leave the cash with [mutual acquaintance] and you can pick it up from them."

This puts some burden on a mutual acquaintance and it's definitely a big favor, but I bet that once it's clear that you personally will not be giving them the cash under any circumstances, this person will discover that their schedule/payability/etc is a little more flexible.

I know people who do household stuff for cash. My feeling is always that their tax burden is their business and I pay cash when they ask for it. I know a variety of people whose life situations are unusual. This could easily have happened to me; I don't think you were especially naive.
posted by Frowner at 7:21 AM on January 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

I can understand wanting to pay them if they did a job for you, but their insisting on seeing you in person just isn't reasonable. It wouldn't be reasonable under ANY circumstances, and in fact I would not tell them any further information that you've mentioned here about your family medical problems, because the less they know the better at this stage.

Options I would be offering to them:

- stick cash or a money order in envelope and leave it for them somewhere.
- or mail to an agreed on post office, general delivery

You are NOT obligated to meet them or discuss the payment with them. And I wouldn't give them any more work or any more money beyond what you owe them.
posted by randomkeystrike at 7:22 AM on January 5, 2017 [7 favorites]

It's really bizarre they ran out of the house right in the middle of a medical emergency. Are you sure they didn't steal anything? I don't think you should meet up with this person without a friend or family member, and you should do it in public.
posted by blackzinfandel at 7:29 AM on January 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

Please talk to the police about this. I don't know your jurisdiction, but here in Britain I think the police would like to hear about a situation like this and could advise you. This sounds extremely suspicious.
posted by matthew.alexander at 7:29 AM on January 5, 2017 [6 favorites]

You're not naïve. Both parties want to complete a transaction, so both parties have to agree upon the terms. This is true for any other everyday transaction. Seems the contractor has to give a little more on his part. I would add having another person or family member present during the transaction.
posted by mountainblue at 7:32 AM on January 5, 2017

Bitcoin? It's not too much hassle if there is a Bitcoin ATM nearby and it isn't more then a couple hundred bucks. Just have them agree that the exchange rate you get from the ATM is the exchange rate that will be used for the transaction. I say this because ATMs typically give an exchange rate 10-15% off the real rate.

If they already have a Bitcoin wallet you can send the coin directly to an address they provide and it will be super easy for you. Otherwise you'll have to download Electrum or whatever other wallet software on your phone to receive coin from the ATM and send them the money after getting it from the ATM, so the hassle factor is higher.

They may have a warrant for their arrest or a drug problem or just have mental issues leading to paranoia to explain the weirdness, but assuming the work was done to a satisfactory standard and nothing was stolen you should pay them if at all possible. I agree that their unwillingness to do anything other than meeting in person at your house is a bit off, though.
posted by wierdo at 7:33 AM on January 5, 2017

I'm betting they ran out when you called 911 because there is a warrant for their arrest. They are off the grid for the same reason. Just meet at a McDonald's or something else public at a specific time (with a friend present if possible), give them the envelope of cash, and tell them goodbye.
posted by clone boulevard at 7:39 AM on January 5, 2017 [58 favorites]

When I had a similar situation with a shitty and dangerous former roommate, after a ton of nonproductive back and forth, I sent her a text that said, "I will mail you a check. If you MUST get paid in cash, we can meet at the police station at [travel midpoint between us] at [convenient specific date and time] and I will give you cash. If neither of those solutions work for you, then you can piss off and take me to small claims court where they will tell you you're being an idiot and charge you more in court fees than I owe you to begin with."

Wow you wouldn't believe how fast she texted back, "a check is fine, here's my new address."
posted by phunniemee at 8:06 AM on January 5, 2017 [39 favorites]

It is possible that they left something at your house, and don't really want to tell you what it is, which is why they want to see YOU at YOUR PLACE. Otherwise, if you are friendly with your neighbors, I would say to this guy he could go back to Apartment 4A (instead of your place, 3A), and pick up an envelope with your money in it. Envelope has his first name and a general description of him.

I agree he probably has a warrant or some previous bad experience with the police, but now that the fuzz has cleared off, I can't see why he won't meet you at some third location unless there is something he needs from your place (and is embarrassed or nervous about mentioning it on a phone).
posted by China Grover at 8:57 AM on January 5, 2017 [3 favorites]

My first thought is that the person is not in the country legally and for that reason is afraid of the police. In the case I would see them as more vulnerable than dangerous. That may not be the case, just a thought.
posted by bunderful at 9:03 AM on January 5, 2017 [12 favorites]

Don't leave cash somewhere, as they can claim it wasn't there and you will have to pay twice.

Since you are at the hospital a lot, can you have him come there and text you so you can meet him at the front door? That way you won't waste too much of your time.
posted by Vaike at 9:13 AM on January 5, 2017 [6 favorites]

I would say, "The (public place) for (one hour), show up or don't get paid. This is your last chance." Let them negotiate another mutually acceptable time or public place, but once an acceptable time and place is set and you show up, you did your duty. Then consider it done. You did your best; you offered multiple payment methods and more than one chance to collect.

What are they going to do? Sue you in small claims court for nonpayment? That would require providing their name and address and showing up in court.

Show up at your house and harass you? Great! Now you can call the police. This is probably not what they want.

Your job as the payer is to be flexible and to pay on time and in full. You are literally trying to give someone some money and they can't show up? That's on them.
posted by blnkfrnk at 9:20 AM on January 5, 2017 [3 favorites]

You say you were introduced by a third party with whom you've since cut ties due to abuse and harassment. How close is the contractor to this third party? Could this be a ruse on the part of the third party to get to you through the contractor?

I don't like this one bit and I would follow phunniemee's script. One shot to meet at a public place and that's it. Meeting at your home is no longer an option. You can tell this person that if they do show up there you will call the police for trespassing. You have been more than reasonable to this point, something else is going on.
posted by mama casserole at 10:32 AM on January 5, 2017 [3 favorites]

You're stressing out about this too much for the person who is doing the paying. As others have said, make the one-time offer and then be done with it.
posted by craven_morhead at 11:29 AM on January 5, 2017

Echoing the police station comment, a lot of police stations have offered to be safe exchange points for online sales. See if your local one does.
posted by WCityMike at 12:07 PM on January 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

You have the money, you hold the cards. Tell them you'll meet them at X place with the money one time and one time only and if they can't be bothered to turn up, consider their money gone, or you know, they can feel free to call the police, ha! If they can't be bothered making an effort to get their own money back, why should you. If they don't turn up after that, just block them so you don't get hassled anymore.
posted by Jubey at 2:40 PM on January 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

Sex workers deal with this sort of thing all the time. There are anon e transfer services like venmo that could work.
posted by Mistress at 7:05 AM on January 6, 2017

My first thought was also that they are on the wrong side of the law for some reason -- bench warrant, person of interest, immigration status, etc. That would explain the panic-flee from the 911 call to your house, because there are accounts of police profiling and running names of witnesses to medical emergencies (the veracity or not of such accounts has unreliable narrators on all sides and I don't want to derail on that, but my point is that it's a thing that's out there as a commonly perceived risk). Other possibilities: maybe they want to warn you about your abusive mutual acquaintance. Maybe they want to throw themselves on your mercy and ask for help escaping an abusive situation of their own. Maybe they've got a dodgy sob story and want to shake you down for more money. Maybe, as suggested above, this is a set-up for the abusive acquaintance to get a message to you. Who knows.

But whatever their reasons -- rational or not -- this person is clearly afraid of SOMETHING, and apparently are past the point of recognizing that the precautions they're taking have crossed a line into creating completely unreasonable risks for you.

I don't like the suggestion to insist that they take a check or nothing because they you have to wait for that check to clear. I don't like the idea of you leaving cash with a third party because it has such a high potential of dragging this situation out even more (getting a third party to do it, contractor doesn't make the pickup, contractor claims the third party didn't give them the cash, third party actually does run off with your cash, etc.) So, if you're going to get this person paid, I would suggest:

1) Go with their givens -- this must be in person and in cash, fine. It's almost certainly a waste of your limited time and energy to to convince them to feel differently about this point.
2) Ask again if they can meet you at a public place or whether it must be your house. Don't bother arguing, just let them decide. Telling a paranoid person to be less paranoid is like getting someone to stop crying by telling them to stop crying, it just never works, why would it? (Ordinarily I'd say to insist on public, except that it sounds like you are obligated to be at home to deal with this family medical situation, and so maybe home is actually easier for you?)
3) Give them two options, they must meet you at time and date X or Y, or you will consider them to have abandoned getting paid, period.
4) You absolutely need to convince a friend to be there with you. Do whatever you need to do to talk someone into doing you this favor. You need someone to be eyes/ears backup during -- sure, to call the cops if things get alarming, but more likely to just sanity-check afterward, like "was it just me, or did they smell like maple syrup, did you believe the thing they said about their dog, whew I'm sure glad that's done, etc."
posted by desuetude at 9:05 AM on January 6, 2017

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