I was pleased to get a request from a British film company, asking me to let them use one of my short videos in a TV show they produce. The fee was modest, but why not? Free mailbox money for me, and they get a non-exclusive license to use the video, which doesn't limit my own use of it at all. And, the money was to be paid in English pounds, which seemed terribly exotic.
The problem was, I didn't get paid. Of course, once they've used the video, it's easy enough for a big company in London to forget about a small operator like me; the money I was owed wasn't enough to warrant my bothering with legal proceedings, so there wasn't really anything I could do but write it off. With, of course, a few I-told-you-so's from my friends.
Even so, I would periodically email my contact person a polite reminder that they still hadn't paid me, and I would always get back a graciously-worded apology, with assurances that it was an unintentional oversight, and that the matter would be speedily resolved. I would usually wait for a month to go by, and then I would send them the next polite reminder. Then I would get another gracious apology, accompanied by a brief explanation of what had gone awry in the accounting department, which had now been resolved, and I would be hearing back from them shortly.
After many months of this, I waited a little longer than usual to send my polite reminder, and to my dismay, the email got bounced back: addressee unknown. Such a shame to lose my contact, after the lovely correspondence we had been having. Well, it was time to move on, I had to admit. But as a last-ditch attempt, I found an address for general inquiries, on the company's website. I wrote To Whom it May Concern, and I briefly explained the problem, and outlined the general details. Against all expectations, I actually got a reply from a staff person: the usual graciously-worded apology, with explanations and assurances. So we were back in business. I was content.
I waited another month, and by now I was persuaded that they had never intended to pay me in the first place, so I thought I would at least have a little fun with it. Writing to my new contact, I fired my best shot:
Re: Payment for my video -
The Mill of Destiny grinds slowly, but exceedingly fine. Your account team has done a great job so far, unraveling the labyrinthine coils of our stalled business arrangement, concerning the use of my video Hungarian Dance #5 which aired on your TV show [blank blank] in November 2014.
But in fact, I still have not received as much as a ha'penny, nor a copper farthing nor even a clipped brass groat, of the payment specified in our contract. Please inform the powers that be, that I am confidently expecting a satisfactory conclusion to our contractual agreement of ₤200 for their use of said video. The principle of the matter would suggest that this obligation should be honored without further delay.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.
I didn't hear anything back from them for many days, so I figured that my sarcasm had made them mad. No more polite apologies would be forthcoming. But then, to my astonishment, I received this:
I do apologize again that this still has not been paid out to you. We are currently checking with accounts as to if a cheque was sent out but it did not reach you. Can you just confirm your correct address, and also give me the following account information and we can get the payment to you the quickest way:
Bank Account Number
Sort Code (if applicable)
Iban number/Routing Number (if applicable)
Now, for the first time, I was angry. This is the exact sort of thing that the Nigerian Prince always asks you for, when he wants to give you 7.5 million dollars because you are the only one he can trust out of all the others. I was honestly puzzled. The film production company had seemed like a real company. And why had they waited all this time to try to spring a scam on me? I wanted to just stop wasting time trying to figure it out, but I couldn't stop thinking about it. Several angry responses occurred to me, then some humorous ones; finally I just decided to give them the benefit of the doubt one more time. Figuring that even if I was being made a fool of, one can never go wrong being a gentleman. So once again, I thanked them kindly for pursuing this matter, told them they had my address correct, but I regretted that I could not provide them with the additional information they requested; a cheque in the mail would be perfectly acceptable.
Wonder of wonders, 2 weeks later I received a check in the mail! Mailbox money! I treasure it, as if it were a fortune presented to me by the Royal Exchequer of the Crown.