A local family business, (“Alice Farms”) runs a farm just outside of Gotham that grows all sorts of flowers and shrubs, and sells them to local landscapers. Alice Farms would “set up an account” (I use that term loosely) by having customers sign a single page document, which essentially was a contact information page. No credit application, no payment terms. (I can hear all the creditors’ rights attorneys cringing right now!) Despite my encouragement to the contrary, Alice Farms does business almost exclusively through telephonic, or even text message. To their credit, in the thirty-plus years they have been in business, the number of cases where their customer failed to pay can be counted on one hand, provided you are not Count Rogan from “The Princess Bride”. (Sorry, mixing references…)
For over a decade, the March Hare would place an order by phone or text, and it would go something like this:
“Alice, need 12 tiger lily, 48 rose. 36 daisies, how much for those?”
Alice Farms would respond with pricing, and the March Hare would reply:
“Great. Ship to Caterpillar at 123 Mushroom Way. When you get there, you’ll get the pay.”
Alice would deliver the flowers, and would receive a check or cash, upon delivery.
Of course, if there was no problem, there would be no Tale. So, on one fateful day. Alice received a text from the March Hare.
“Mad Hatter will order, and will text you in a bit. Need tiger lilies and some other stuff.”
Alice then received a text an hour later.
“March Hare said that I could text you. Need 4 dozen tiger lilies, and 50 daisies too.”
Alice responded with pricing, and received a response.
“Perfect! Please send to 257 Croquet Trail. Thank you for helping me with this sale.”
Alice had her delivery man, the White Rabbit, deliver the flowers to 257 Croquet Trail, and was met by the Queen of Hearts:
“I am not to pay this fee, go after the Mad Hatter instead. Leave the flowers, or off with your head!”
The White Rabbit left the flowers, and returned to Alice empty handed.
Alice then sent a text to the March Hare to request payment.
“I didn’t order those. They weren’t for me. The Mad Hatter is the one who requested delivery.”
So, Alice texted the Mad Hatter, who didn’t respond. Alice then sent multiple texts, and three phone calls to the Mad Hatter, who finally texted back.
“I don’t have an account with you. It’s the Queen’s debt. Stop texting me. I don’t like your threat!”
Befuddled, Alice came to my office. After hearing the entire tale, we opted to file suit against the March Hare, Mad Hatter, and Queen of Hearts. I figured, we’d just file suit, and go after them all. I hoped they would settle, since the debt was relatively small.
The Court set the matter down for an immediate settlement conference. Thirteen months later, we all met in Court, and the March Hare, Mad Hatter, and Queen of Hearts all denied liability, and pointed a finger at the others. (Mixing references again, all I can think of is that social media Spider-Man meme.)
The Judge asked permission to speak to each party individually in his chambers, and we all consented. So, we waited patiently in the hallway, while the Judge spoke to each of the Defendants in turn. In went the March Hare, who came out scowling. In went the Mad Hatter, who exited distressed. In went the Queen, who left all flustered. And then the March Hare left the Court, like a rabbit possessed.
The Mad Hatter went back in, and the March Hare returned. The Queen said, “I need to get going.” I thought “This case is getting adjourned.”
A total of four hours passed, and we still hadn’t gone in yet. The Judge emerged from his chambers, and said, “We’ve settled the debt.”
The Mad Hatter opened his wallet, and handed me some green. Apparently, the March Hare had gone out to hit an ATM machine.
Adding the Mad Hatter’s plus the March Hare’s cash, paid the entire debt in full.
Timothy Wan is the Senior Partner of the firm Smith Carroad Wan & Parikh, in Smithtown, New York, can be reached at email@example.com. “Need tiger lilies and some other stuff” may not have been the rhyme you were expecting. Well, Wonderland is rated G.