Company that creates websites claims it hasn't been paid $18K

WAKE FOREST, North Carolina (WTVD) -- Wake Forest business owner Bill Cokas said his patience wore out after waiting months to get paid for a job he said was completed.

Cokas owns Strategic Insights, a marketing company that also makes and develops websites for businesses. In October of 2015, Rhea Hospitality signed a proposal with Strategic Insights for more than $18,000. Rhea Hospitality gave Cokas a $2,500 deposit for the job. The proposal was to build four websites for Rhea Hospitality, along with menu templates.

Cokas said his company got right to work on the job.

"We built this out page by page for every site and wrote every word on here on every site so it's many, many, many hours involved," Cokas explained. "It's time, creativity and energy."

Cokas said all four sites were live and in use by January 2016. He explained that some of the sites were not fully complete as he was waiting on photography and information from Rhea Hospitality to go with some of the websites. He said he did meet with representatives of Rhea Hospitality and tried to work out any issues.

In March of 2016, Cokas said he met with a representative with Rhea Hospitality and was told, "Sites are good to go. We'll take over from here."

Cokas says he invoiced Rhea Hospitality for the work, but the payment didn't come.

"It's not pro bono. We signed a contract for services rendered, and we rendered them quite professionally I believed so I don't know what the problem is."

Cokas said he tried to get answers via email and phone from several people at Rhea Hospitality.

"If there is anything we still need to do, let us know and we will do it." Cokas told them.

He explained that there was back and forth between the two parties working out any concerns, but then communication stopped. Cokas says this pattern continued and he just wanted to be paid for the work his company did.

"It looked like it was going to be a long road to recovery anything from them."

Cokas contacted me and I got in touch with one of the owners of Rhea Hospitality, Deanna Crossman. In an email, Crossman claims in part Strategic Insights "...did not create any products as agreed and I have lost a lot of time and business due to his poor work product."

However, she added, "...the end conclusion is correct - I believe and agree I owe Strategic Insights some amount of money. The exact amount to be negotiated."

She claims each website was delivered 1-2 months behind schedule. She says during negotiations with Strategic Insights their main goal for the websites was that they needed each to be easy to update, change, and modify. She claims the websites were locked down in a way that Rhea Hospitality could not edit the sites in a meaningful way. She agrees they did meet with Strategic Insights to go over their frustrations and claims she was told the sites were locked down, "to protect us from ourselves" and "would be happy to make any edits we needed over time. Incurring additional costs, of course."

Despite meeting several times with Strategic Insights, Crossman claims the visions just didn't match up. She adds that Rhea Hospitality stopped using one of the websites Strategic Insights made for the company altogether and started from scratch. She claims the second website will also have to be completely redone.

Crossman said the third and fourth websites are usable but have issues. Of the $18,250 owed according to the proposal, Crossman wanted to pay Strategic Insights $7,250 for their work. As part of the proposal, she did not want to pay for two of the four websites.

Cokas said he does not agree with Crossman's assessment at all. He said the two websites she claims are "unusable" were used for nearly a year by Rhea Hospitality. In the interest of moving forward, Cokas says he agreed to Crossman's proposal of $7,250. He says he stands behind the work Strategic Insights did for Rhea Hospitality and the entire ordeal has been very frustrating.

"We were told our work was unusable and costing them business," Costas shared. "Yet they are using three of the sites we did for them."

Eventually, Rhea Hospitality did send Strategic Insights a check for $7,250, and Cokas is moving on.

"I was relieved to put all of this behind us," Cokas said.

The best advice to protect both parties is to get everything in writing and spell out the exact expectations and a timeline of when payment will happen. In this case, Cokas says he has been in business for 20 years, and it's the first time they've had a problem like this.

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