This story is a long one, so buckle in. I will try to make it as straightforward a read as possible.
For the most part, I do not do business inside the city of Tullahoma for several reasons. One of the reasons is that I do not want people using my business to try to own a piece of me politically. Another reason is I want to avoid the appearance of me doing favors for my customers versus those who are non-customers. A final reason is because of the story I am about to tell you.
Before I tell you the story, I want to let you know why I am telling the story. It is not to call anyone out. Ron and Lena Bryan have slandered and libeled me for two years. It has cost me business, damaged my reputation, and they have terrorized my life. They have harassed my friends and associates at their places of work while getting their hair cut, at City Hall, and while they are out in town. They have left my family out of it until recently, but that changed on Sunday. We will talk about that incident a little later in the story. I am now getting phone calls from people I know who randomly showed a video he took of him standing outside his house saying that I stole from him. It has gotten to the point that I am uncertain of their stability; it has cost me some of my living, and I no longer feel safe in my own home and neighborhood. I have kept quiet because I am just that way, but my side cannot continue to be untold.
I am a software engineer by trade, and I am pretty good at it. I work on projects ranging from website development at the lower end of the scale, to mobile app development, to enterprise-grade software. If you can think of it, I can build it. Even if you only have an idea, I’ll help you fill your thoughts out, and we’ll get it done. I am a one-person shop, so I can only take on a few projects at a time. In general, that means two projects. Because I can only take on a limited number of projects, I am generally pretty picky about who I will work with and the type of project I will do. My ability to pay my bills depends on the completion timelines for these projects.
The first thing I tell a potential new customer is that I know you are busy, but so am I. If we work together, I expect the same timeliness and attention from you that you expect from me. I am not a babysitter. When working on your project, when I need something from you, I will reach out once, then reach out in a week, then reach out a week after that. After two weeks, I’ll give it a month, and eventually, I will stop. If it is not important to you, it is not important enough for me to continue taking my time to reach out. My time and experience are literally how I make an income. I will put the project on the shelf and wait for you to return to me, whether in six months, a year, or never. The ball is now in your court to get back to me. This time is the reason I charge a retainer fee upfront. That retainer pays for part of my time on the front end if you get fickle or lose interest on your side of things. This rarely happens, but it does happen. Some people say the customer is always right. I’m afraid I have to disagree. You hire me because I am a professional with decades of experience. You are not a customer; you are a partner. In this case, it was not a lack of interest. Instead, it was personal feelings and a lack of enough non-business-related individual attention.
My initial draft of this story was only about halfway done and over 2,000 words long. So I have decided that I will give a shorter version here.February of 2020, I did a website, TullahomaGuide.com, for Ron and Lena Bryan. Ron, who owns Tullahoma Handyman, had been a customer for other things before this. The site went up on time. They used it, sold ad spaces on it, and loved it. They loved it so much that they asked me to do a mobile app version of the site. I agreed and said it would take 120 days, leaving exceptions for additional time for delays caused by the customer or changes to the requirements. During the project, there were customer-approved delays, which put our deadline into November of 2020.
During this time, we developed a friendship. As time went on, that friendship became strained. Things got pretty weird at times. I was getting personal non-business-related calls all day and night. Ron would make comments like, “has she shown you her ti** yet,” and conversations were starting to get too personal with topics dealing with their personal life. That is not my cup of tea, and it made things awkward for me. So I backed off the friendship train.
Backing off that train brought a whole new set of issues. She became upset over the lack of attention. She asked that we sit down after I sent an email about this needing to stick to being a business-only relationship. We talked, I listened, heard her out, decided to stick to business, and set up weekly update calls. This process lasted a week.
On October 15th, the couple entered the front office yelling about how I destroyed their site TullahomaGuide.com, saying to take it down out of anger. I knew this was not true. I got them into the conference room to talk, pulled the site up, and saw the WordPress theme error. I asked what she did last, and she told me that she deleted my admin account on her attorney’s advice. I said I have backups but do not have time to fix the site now. You broke it, and you’ll wait until I care for my customers waiting in the lobby. I was also taken aback by them getting an attorney. The new, separate app came up. My contract says that if you decide to drop the agreement other than me not delivering, you pay for the services, and I give you the work done to that point. But, because I wanted it to be over, I said I would give you the $3,000 retainer back, but I am keeping my work product. They did not like that and wanted the retainer and the work product back. They also wanted me to sign a document saying I was liable for the damages caused by their site going down. I had a problem with that, ended the conversation, and contacted my attorney.
Later that night, even though I did not have to, I decided I would use one of the daily backups I do to restore their site for them. I keep an audit log on every website of every action someone takes. The audit log showed that Lena deleted my site. She still, at this point, blamed me. Finally, in an email that included both attorneys, she admitted to deleting the files and breaking the site. I restored her site in good faith. Well good faith and I told her I was billing her for my time, which she agreed to but never paid for.
Threats about taking it public on Facebook and to the news if I did not meet their demands were made, saying that I would not want that because of my role as Alderman. Their attorney even jumped on that bandwagon by saying that it was in my best interest to settle because of the public nature of this. At that point, I had my attorney stop offering any deals and decided I would let them sue me. Even with the admission of her deleting the files, they still made the claims that I did it.
Fast-forward, they sue me. They make good on their threats to go on Facebook, even screenshotting my alderman page. They said I stole their money, which is definitely not the case. They even called each of the Alderman and went to the mayor. At this point, it was all getting a little crazy. His attorney, at this point, is no longer working the case for them. We go to court, and there are two continuances. After the second continuance, the courts set a specific court date and time. My attorney and I show up, we sit there, and no one shows up. The judge dismisses the case. At that point, they had, I believe, twenty business days to refile. They never did.
For two years, they have been saying I stole their money. This is not true. For two years, they have harassed me at every chance they had. This week things escalated. My mother and I do a Sunday walk around my neighborhood. We got about two houses down and noticed a vehicle approaching. My mother looks at the dog, ensuring she isn’t in the roadway. The truck slows, jerks toward us (not in our lane), and yells “Fu** you” to my mother and me. This obviously shook us both up a bit. It happened relatively quickly, and he was on us before I realized who it was. We finish the walk and get back to the house. He is there waiting in the roadway in the middle of the street, yelling about me stealing from him. My mother is worried and upset because she does not know what will happen. I am thinking I wish he was in my yard and not the public roadway. It is probably for the best he was not. I called the police, filed a report, and am now working on a restraining order.
Even though I did not have to, I tried to settle this several times. But they just kept on with the crazy. I will not work over 100 hours, not accept other projects, just give you all of your money back and give you my work product. I especially will not sign a liability form for a site you took down yourself. The day court was set, I brought with me all work products for both sites, and put together instructions for them to restore and proceed on their own. They did not show up.
I will not give them anything after the constant harassment, the time their project cost me, the business they have cost me by spreading their lies, and their damage to my reputation. I will also not be intimidated physically and will defend myself.
So that was the story about the time I was sued by Ron and Lena Bryan. If you have a funny feeling about someone, get as far away as you can.
Until next time, RYFL (remember your first love).