Q.In November 2012 I signed a contract and paid a deposit of $1,569.73 to Wildflour Catering for my daughter's wedding, which was going to be held in October 2013. In February 2013 my daughter fell seriously ill and I wrote to Wildflour to request a refund. My request was denied. I filed a consumer complaint and was told to go to Small Claims Court, which decided in my favor. Before serving her to collect on the judgment, I asked the owner again to refund the deposit. She says she would, but it is now eight months later. Is there anything that you can do to help?
Kathy Simolaris, Kingston
A. Booking weddings is a tricky business on the best day. But dealing with a vendor that isn't on the best financial footing reduces the possibility of goodwill. Even in vendor contracts that have a clause that would cause you to forfeit a deposit for a cancellation (it's important to read contracts), under those circumstances many businesses would have issued a refund.
Wildflour owner Deana Martin said the company takes a risk when booking a event. "When we book a wedding and take a deposit, we effectively remove that date from circulation so no other events can be booked on that date. When an event like a wedding is cancelled, given that they book months in advance, we are unlikely to be able to rebook that date. This means that we are unable to make up the lost income."
She also blamed a winter break-in to the company's catering kitchen for shutting down its wholesale bread operation, the company's main source of revenue. While Martin said she believed the deposit was non-refundable, she acknowledged that by failing to defend herself in court she lost and owes the money. "I have to reimburse her. I planned to do this, but paying out roughly $2,000 is hard for a small business when we lost a prime booking date."
Even taking all the right steps comes with no guarantees. Winning in Small Claims Court and recovering money are two different things, as is obvious in this case. While the business acknowledges you are owed the money, whether it can come up with it is not clear. Now it's a question of how aggressive you want to get, including placing a lien on their property.