I always regret when I do not insist on a “retainer fee”. Isn’t it always the client that doesn’t want to pay a retainer the same client that calls numerous times a day and costs 5 times what they paid for?
That pesky child porn case is rearing its ugly head again for Southland native R. Kelly.
Kelly is being sued by a private investigator who claims the singer stiffed him on a $300,000 bill. According to a lawsuit filed in Missouri federal court, Charles Freeman claims he was hired during Kelly’s trial to “obtain and/or recover certain tapes that were said to incriminate” R. Kelly.
Freeman said he did the job but never got paid. He’s suing for damages plus interests and costs.
Kelly was found not guilty on all counts in his trial.
It appears what happened here is a retainer was not asked for, and thus work was done on credit and the bill never paid.
This happens far too many times in a variety of businesses. It is not exclusive to private investigators, but in this field and the field of law is where retainers are most generally recognized as a way of doing business.
The reason investigators and attorneys rely so much on retainers and do not work on credit is for the most part outcome-based.
Let’s say, for example, you hire an investigator to do some surveillance for you. The investigator does not ask for a retainer and begins doing the surveillance work.
During the course of the surveillance, the investigator loses the subject in traffic or is found out. This is good for no one, however, the investigator still needs to be paid for his or her time.
Without a retainer, an angry or bitter client might not want to pay.
The same applies in the field of law. You get into some legal trouble and hire an attorney. You don’t pay a retainer and you go to court and are find guilty. How motivated will you be to pay the attorney if you lose?
The retainer is also used to protect against scheduling conflict, and for the most part is nonrefundable.
Let’s say you schedule an investigator to do surveillance for a certain amount of hours on a certain date. Then you call on that date and cancel the surveillance. You will be billed from the retainer for these hours because the investigator set aside that time for you when he or she could have been working on something else.
The first rule of investigation is “get a retainer.” It also should be a rule for painters, handymen, builders etc. Get an appropriate amount of money upfront to cover your costs materials and some of the labor.
In these economic times, you can reduce your rates if you want, but do not start a project without securing yourself first or you will be like the investigator chasing R. Kelly for $300,000.
Keith McRae is a licensed private investigator and president of KAM Data Services, 35 E. Wacker Drive, No. 1545 Chicago 60601. Contact McRae at (312) 422-1500 Ext. 1 or firstname.lastname@example.org.