If you are a Fitness SF patron, hopefully you've memorized the group exercise schedule, because you won't be able to find it on the gym's website today.
Instead, you will find a message:
"Dear Fitness SF customer," it begins, white font on a plain, blog-like template. "Fitness SF preferred to ignore our invoices instead of paying them. As a result this website is no longer operational."
What follows is a 450-word (or so) screed asserting that Fitness SF stiffed its web developer, Frank Jonen, who signed his name at the bottom of the letter.
The gym, though, sees it differently: "On Wednesday evening, our domain name Fitness SF was hacked and stolen by an individual named Frank Jonen," reads a post on the Facebook page for each of the gym's four branches.
Jonen accuses Fitness SF of using his work, such as the base design of the site, without paying for all of it.
"We regret any inconvenience this may cause for you as a customer of Fitness SF, however it is a necessary measure in getting what is rightfully ours," he writes. "We're a small company in the heart of Europe, which is probably why Fitness SF believes they can sit this out till we perish."
He goes on:
I am also writing this on the behalf of the tens of thousands of freelancers and small businesses out there facing larger corporations who can afford to starve them out.
What Fitness SF is trying here is exactly the same ploy. Give a barren advance, rake up a huge bill and ignore every invoice. Rush fees, heavy overtime and weekend work are expected to be free.
You don't get to sleep for days on end, but you do get to wait on your money forever.
Fitness SF counters that Jonen didn't finish the job, and was sufficiently paid for what he did do:
Frank was hired on May 16th, 2012 to develop a functional website for our brand. A $5,000 payment was made to him on the same date. In his proposal, he stated that the website would take 10 weeks to complete. He missed numerous deadlines including our brand launch in September. In December, he voluntarily passed the incomplete and non functioning website to our new design firm. Now, Frank is attempting to portray himself as the victim when truly the victim is Fitness SF as he attempts to get paid for work he did not complete and has decided that blackmail is the way to accomplish that.
In a city filled with techies, anti-corporate folks, and starving artist freelancers of all sorts, the message has appeared to fall on deaf ears. A barrage of Facebook comments hit each of the gym's four pages today. Right or wrong, almost all took the developer's side:
"Nobody is buying this. Here comes the internet."
"How do you guys feel when a customer doesn't pay you?"
"It's simple - no freelancer is going to do this kind of negative publicity exposing their client if they haven't really deserved it, because it is hurting their own imagine as well."
"pay your bills jerks"
"haha! pay up suckas!"
"Be fair and pay your goddamn developers! You're screwing with people handling your marketing for godsake."
"Why the European design firm in the first place? Couldn't find one in the U.S. ? Regardless of who's right or wrong as a small business in America you should've supported another American small business."
"disgusting. absolutely disgusting."
"That feeling you guys get when you hardball someone from leaving your gym, like all gyms do? This is called payback. Pay your bill. And respect your designer."
"No one should feel bad for your company. Calling it hacked and stolen is just a joke. You are doing bad business and trying to cover it up. So you may never pay him, but at least your true business model is being exposed"
"If you'll rip off your contractors, will you rip off your customers?"
"You should have contracted locally."
"you guys are pigs. i hope you go out of business."
"I was interested in a membership at your new Marin location, but decided against it after reading this. Your message is amateur, unprofessional, and inappropriate."
"It didn't occur to anyone to change the admin password?"
Looks like round one goes to Jonen.