I am forever preaching the importance of getting contracts in writing. How else can you prove what was agreed upon by the parties after the services have been provided? Sure, you can piece together email correspondence or try to think back to the conversation you had with your client but having your agreement in writing is the best way to protect both you and your client. I recently experienced the value of a written contract in my own life that emphasizes this point.
I recently spoke at a conference on (you guessed it!) legal contracts. As the conference was out of town, I stayed in a hotel near the conference centre. After booking the hotel, the hotel sent me the invoice for my stay and it was to be paid in full upon check out. Pretty standard stuff.
Fast forward to the conference – on the morning of checkout, the invoice for the room was slipped under my door. I took a quick glance at it and then was out the door on my way to the airport.
When I received my credit card bill a few weeks later, I noticed that I was charged hundreds of dollars more than I had anticipated. I looked back at the confirmation I received upon booking and I wasn’t going crazy – the hotel had charged me way too much money. When I called the hotel, they said it was a computer error and my original invoice was incorrect. In their opinion, I had to pay the higher amount.
This did not sit well with me. This was a massive hotel chain who needed to live up to their “customer is right” motto. In my opinion, the original invoice I received on booking served as the contract. We agreed that I would pay the price in the original invoice. The hotel cannot charge more money without, at the very least, providing me with notice and an opportunity to accept the changes. Although it took some time to convince the hotel of this, eventually this Goliath hotel chain apologized and honoured the initial price. For them, this was just good business. A business should honour the price agreed to with its customers…even if they got it wrong.
Now the lesson in this is that if I had not kept the original confirmation (the written contract, if you will) I would have had a hard time making my case. Having everything written down (and saved in an accessible location) was essential to proving my case. Remember to do this in your business – keep your invoices and receipts. You never know when you might meet up with Goliath and need some back up.