February 15, 2017

All Modifications to Original Contract Terms MUST be in Writing

By: Tom Oliveri

I have talked about documenting verbal agreements in past blogs, but I have recently had three different disputed situations arise that could have easily been averted if the shippers had confirmed with their buyers by email their conversations about how the distressed loads of produce were being resolved. Although the shippers in each case did in fact verbally settle each of these three shipments of produce with their respective customers, unfortunately they failed to confirm their verbal agreement by an email. In each of these cases the buyer somehow did not “recall” the verbal agreement and therefore without written proof (something in writing), those verbal agreements never existed.

Admittedly, I personally am one of those people who tend to pick up the phone and call someone rather than send an email, but if I want to memorialize a particular event I always will send an email so I have proof or a record on what I said. Believe me when I tell you that by taking a few moments to prepare and send a confirming email you can prevent a dispute from occurring over what was actually said, which means you are saving time and money for you and your grower! I always tell shippers whenever I am giving advice “if it’s not in writing, it never happened”

If the shippers in the aforementioned example had confirmed their agreements in writing, all three of their contracts would not have resulted in a dispute, but would have been paid as negotiated. Being transparent and documenting in writing will most likely assure that you will not be filing complaints against your customers. 

This documentation should be seen as a best practice in finalizing any agreement or modification to an existing agreement. This simple task, that takes virtually very little effort on your part, will help eliminate any confusion to the finalization and settlement of your shipments.

I realize that sometimes there is no pathway to an agreement between the seller and buyer, but when a settlement or modification to the original contract can be reached, it must be documented in writing not just verbalized between the parties.   

I encourage you to please contact me with any questions you might have concerning this issue. If you have any other issue regarding sales terms, please contact me directly at 949-885-2269 or TommyO@wga.com