Win the battle, lose the war?

I was in court yesterday, suing a former client who refused to pay for work I’d done. After a year and a half of broken promises, I finally went to court over the issue. I won– by default– because the guy didn’t even bother to show up. Yippee, I should get my money now, right?

Of course not. Now begins the exciting process of “discovery” where I submit papers to the court (at cost to me, of course) to force him to reveal his debtors– clients or otherwise. I could also ask for bank account numbers, but I have those. The problem is, I called the bank to see if there’s enough money in the account to cover the court-ordered payment, and there isn’t. He could easily open a new account somewhere, use it instead of the old one, and I’d never know. More to the point, he could refuse to disclose his debtors and I wouldn’t have anywhere to turn to get the money.

So I’ve learned, through hard experience, that you can be a complete idiot and refuse to pay for things, and in the end you can get away with it. The only way I’ll ever see my money is if I persist– perhaps over the course of a year or more– and in the end it’s a question of whether it’s worth my time and headache to collect.