Sunday, June 05, 2005

On second thought - maybe we'll elope

I was all fired up to write about the Rabbanut during this post, but a newer, more imminent post has taken its place.

Until about a week ago, whenever people would ask me how the wedding plans were going, I would tell them how smooth and easy everything was. How I didn't understand why people said engagement is such a stressful time. How perfect everything was turning out.

I take that all back.

It seems that several things which were done deals became undone, all on the same night, and lord help the people who had to bear my wrath.

I present the following situation which occurred last week for your judgment and comments, as I am still feeling guilty and unsure.

I booked a certain band, which for the purposes of this blog we will call The Holy Rollers, back in February for my wedding in 6 weeks' time. When I booked the band I spoke to the band's manager Nimrod, who told me the price, and what was included in the price. I asked him to fax me a contract or meet with me, but he told me it wasn't important. I offered to pay a deposit, but he told me that The Holy Rollers don't accept deposits. I repeatedly asked for a written contract, but never got one. However, whenever I ran into the leader of The Holy Rollers, let's call him Simcha, he would mention my wedding and I figured all was fine.

About 2 weeks ago I called Simcha and Nimrod (not on the same day). I wanted to schedule the meeting one normally has with the band to discuss musical preferences. Plus, I figured they should know which musicians I wanted and what time everything was starting. I left each of them messages, and after 4 days of hearing back from neither, left each of them messages again. Now I was annoyed.

Then, last Tuesday, 1.5 weeks after leaving the messages, I got a phone call from someone name Adam who said he was the new manager for The Holy Rollers and that the old manager had been fired for being a flake (no kidding!). He then informed me of the new price list. The new price list for what I was supposed to get was almost $500 more than what I had agreed on with Nimrod. I told Adam that I didn't think that was fair or legal as I had a verbal contract with Nimrod. He told me that the best he could do for me was meet me halfway - charging me $250 more than I had agreed on with Nimrod.

I called Bryan to discuss who said, "No way - either the original price or we find another band". And I fully agreed with him. So I called back Adam and told him that Bryan and I both thought it was wrong, not to mention breaking a verbal contract, to charge us a penny more than what we had agreed on with the previous manager. We made a decision about music with a certain price in mind, and to change the price 6 weeks before our wedding was really unfair.

Adam said he was sorry, but $250 above our contracted price was the lowest he could go. He said that if I wanted to receive the original price I would have to call Simcha, the leader of The Holy Rollers, myself in order to get permission. As soon as I put down the phone I called Simcha and left a message saying I was very upset by this treatment and that he should call me back ASAP, that night because we were furious.

By 10 am the next morning I still had not heard back from Simcha (which was not unusual - since he almost never calls back, certainly not in a timely fashion), and I was getting angrier. There was no way I was paying a penny over the agreed price and at this point I didn't even want the band playing at my wedding, particularly if I had to pay more for them. I started calling other bands, all of whom were busy, which is not surprising since we're getting married during peak wedding season and even charedim plan a wedding more then 6 weeks beforehand. Suddenly, I hit jackpot. One of the best wedding bands in the area had an opening for our wedding day, but we had to sign the contract immediately, as there was another couple interested. I placed one more call to Simcha, who didn't answer his phone. So I signed the contract with the other band.

A few hours later, Simcha called to say that of course he would honor my verbal contract with Nimrod and would play at the old price. He was apologetic and all, but the fact was it was too late. I talked it over with Bryan, and we agreed to stick with the second band, who we had signed a contract with, and given a deposit to, and who hadn't screwed us around.

Then I called the new manager, Adam, to tell him what had transpired. He was understanably furious, as he had lost a gig, and tried to tell me that I had a contract with them and couldn't sign a contract with another band! Now, all of a sudden, I had a contract! When it came to price, I didn't ahve one, but when it came to booking the band, apparently I was bound by the verbal contract.

Fortunately, contracts law is about the only class I did well in, in law school. After arguing some points of law with him, I think he conceded that I was right, legally, if not ethically. I think I was right both legally and ethically, though I feel bad for Simcha and The Holy Rollers who lost a gig that they apparently re-arranged their schedule for. Simcha's only mistake was having incompetent managers.

Adam tried to argue that he didn't refuse to give me my original price (he flat-out did, by telling me that $250 more was the lowest he could go), he simply told me to seek approval from the bandleader (which I believe is his job). He then tried to tell me he was new at his job, and was worried he would get fired if he gave me the old price. I feel bad for him, but in that event he should have called Simcha himself and spoken to him, instead of leaving me hanging, overnight, and with enough time to find a new band. He maintained I should have waited to get a refusal from the bandleader as well before seeking a new band.

I'm interested in hearing people's opinions on this one, particularly MOChassid and Treppenwitz, since they are both involved in the Jewish music scene. I really didn't want to treat anyone badly during my wedding plans, but what would you do if it was 6 weeks before your wedding, you're being screwed over by one band, and another great band has an opening if you sign immediately?


Blogger Gilly said...

You go girl!

Definitely the right thing to do.


12:58 PM  
Blogger treppenwitz said...

First a side issue:

"Simcha's only mistake was having incompetent managers."

Nooo, actually he made a whole series of unforgivable mistakes:

1. He was unresponsive to you from day one.
2. He allowed a situation to exist for an extended period of time where a client's wishes were not taken seriously (your request for a contract, your increasingly frantic attempts to get basic information/confirmation, etc.).
3. Hiring a flake for a business manager.
4. Hiring another flake to replace business manager # 1.

Now as to the norms of the industry.

Bands, like any other professional service providers, must be contracted for their services. This protects both the band and the client from any misunderstandings (or intentional attempts to alter the agreement), and sets everyone's expectations out where they can be examined in the light of day. You should have bolted at the first sign that they were unwilling to provide a contract.

As you already know from your stint in Law school... not only was it unethical to try to renegotiate the price with you well after a price had been finalized... but to try to do so because of internal chaos in their business is the height of chutzpah!

You were only required to honor the oral agreement as long as they were. The moment their official business representative told you he was not prepared to honor the original terms of the agreement, he freed you from your obligations to the band. It sounds like he now owns up to this.

Lastly, don't give a second's thought to whether or not they rearranged their schedule to play your affair. Just as it is none of your business that they had an internal shuffle of personnel... a client should never be made to feel obligation to a service provider because of internal scheduling issues. Either they were available to do your affair or they were not. Full Stop. When a business tries to make a customer feel beholden to it for providing the service that they are supposed to be providing under any circumstances... that is a sign that something is very wrong.

If it turns out you know any of the people involved with this band personally, you should make it clear to them that this isn't personal... it is business. The Band business is built upon the personal relationships that the musicians and agents have with the brides and grooms. For this reason it is extremely important that communication flow smoothly and that everyone be on exactly the same page at all times. If they acted in bad faith and then expected their personal connection to their friend/client(you) to keep you obligated to them, then they are expecting you to be a sucker... and as far as I can tell, your mom didn't raise any of those!

3:12 PM  
Blogger Avi said...

You are 100% in the right! It's just a sign of how nice you really are that you're even concerned about the rightness of your actions, when really they seem spotless to me.

I really want to see that post on the Rabbanut!


7:02 PM  
Blogger tafka PP said...

Hear Hear everyone above. Honey, should you still want to elope, I'll be happy to drive you.

10:26 AM  
Blogger Mr. Hawaiian Shirt said...

I think that the parrot has got the right idea! Just let us know when and where to show up.

8:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are 100% in the right. As soon as they stopped returning your repeated calls, that was it for me. I never do business with people who won't return my calls. It shows an utter lack of caring for their clients. I would have left a final message at that point: "We've found a band who returns our calls. Consider our contract null and void."

They have no points on their side- you were absolutely in the right. Maybe they'll learn a lesson from all this (though I doubt it).

5:30 PM  
Blogger Fun Joel said...

Not that I have anything new to add, but you are totally right for doing what you did. Sure it's a tough break for the Holy Rollers, but you tried,a nd they didn't. Hell, at least this will be another difference between your weddign and that of the Wedding Thief, no? ;-)

And Mr. Hawaiian Shirt -- How are you bro? Laura is on her way from me to you right now, via a bunch of other countries. ;-)

1:21 AM  
Anonymous Philip said...

What is shocking is that the guy tried to raise the price and somehow assumed you would have no choice but to go along with the price increase, otherwise he would never have gotten upset when you cancelled.

I wouldn't let the band's clear internal chaos effect you - they should have given you a contract, they should have gotten back to you, and they should have figured out a pricing policy on existing customers when they switched managers (which should have clearly been to keep it the same).

I think this should be more of a lesson learned for them than for you...

6:37 PM  
Blogger andy said...

Sorry about the hassles ... you definitely did the right thing.

As a broader point; this all sounds very stressful. The mantra that got me through our nuptials was: "I'm getting tired of the wedding, but I'm looking forward to the marriage."

Our wedding? One day, thankfully very nice. Our marriage? Fourteen years and counting, and much more fun than the wedding.

3:54 PM  
Anonymous She said...

Planning a wedding is a big enough hassle when everything goes according to plan (and it never does). The last thing you need is for something like this to happen, and Adam was probably assuming that you'd accept the new offer in order to avoid the headache. Simcha's inability to respond to your calls promptly should tell you that he doesn't care enough about your needs to try to make things work, so you shouldn't care about their problems. Frankly, I'd probably have gleefully told them exactly what they could do with their "contract", and then warned all of my friends to avoid them like the plague. Congrats on your impending nuptials!

11:34 AM  
Anonymous moC said...


Treppenwitz said it all. As soon as they tried to increase the price they breached the oral contract. You are entitled to mitigate your damages by hiring another band.

I also agre regarding Treps other points. Finally, as you now realize, it is a very bad idea not to sign a written contract with a wedding band.

3:34 PM  

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