New York Magazine

Skip to content, or skip to search.

Skip to content, or skip to search.

Getting Payback

A trainer wrecked your back. An ATM ate your twenty. A money-borrowing friend is avoiding you. Some phone time and a little paperwork can bring lost causes to sweet resolution.


Illustrations by Mark Nerys  

1. A Cabdriver Refuses to Take You to Brooklyn
Assuming you’re already in the car, refuse to get out. Then put the scare into him. Tell the driver, “You’re required by ordinance 2-50B of the Taxi and Limousine Commission Taxicab Drivers Rules to take me anywhere within the five boroughs.” Pull out your cell phone and start punching in his name and medallion number. If he still refuses, get out and call 311 to file a complaint with the TLC. Within ten business days you’ll receive a letter inviting you to testify in person or over the phone. Make sure you keep your appointment. If the cabbie is a no-show, he’ll most likely be found guilty in absentia and fined $200 to $350; if he’s on a third offense within three years, his license will be revoked.

Hassle Log
Stressful cabbie confrontation: 5 mins.
Call to 311: 5 mins.
Court testimony: 30 mins.
Total time: 40 mins.

Worth the effort?
Not really. Even if the ruling goes in your favor and the driver is hit with a fine, all you’ll get is a sense of righteousness.

2. Your Mugger is Arrested—and Now You Want Your Wallet and Money Back
Once the NYPD catches the goon, you’ll typically wait one day for an arraignment and then two or three days for the defense attorney to inspect your wallet as evidence. Then the police will mail you a property voucher, with instructions to go to the district attorney’s office and obtain a victim-property-release form. Your wallet could be in the arresting officer’s precinct, the precinct where you reported the crime, or one of the police storage facilities in the Bronx. Call around to find out. Rather than waiting months or years to see if the city prosecutor can prove in trial that the money’s yours and not the mugger’s, call the Crime Victims Board at 800-247-8035. There’s some arduous red tape involved to secure payment, but “if a physical injury is involved, we can reimburse cash up to $100, and property up to $500,” says John Watson, general counsel. The state-funded board also pays for counseling and lost work and has reimbursed in cases where the mugger was not arrested; it pays over $25 million a year.

Hassle Log
Calls to the police: 45 mins.
Trip to the D.A.’s office, mostly waiting in a stuffy lobby: 2 hrs.
Visit to the police storage facility: 2 hrs.
One call to the Crime Victims Board: 30 mins.
Total time: 5 hrs. 15 mins.

Worth the effort?
If you were carrying a wad of cash and can somehow prove it in court, then yes. Otherwise, just go directly to the Crime Victims Board and cut your losses.

3. You Get a Fungus From a Nail Salon
From the moment your nails start getting gnarly, leave a paper trail. Save the pedicure receipt, take dated photos of your nail, make doctor’s appointments, and keep receipts from those. Choose what form of payment you want from the salon (you probably don’t want a year’s worth of free pedicures), and write a letter to the owner, including your paper trail and a request for compensation. If two weeks go by without a response, fill out a state-licensing-board complaint form (print from, then return to the salon’s owner, saying you’ll file if you aren’t reimbursed. Businesses usually don’t want the hassle of getting reported.

Hassle Log
Creating paper trail: 1 hr.
Medical appointments: 2 hrs.
Letter to the salon: 30 mins.
Filling out state-licensing- board complaint: 30 mins.
Total: 4 hrs.

Worth the effort?
Yes. By the time your toe fungus subsides, you should have been reimbursed.

4. You Lent a Friend $1,000, and Now She Won’t Take Your Calls
Stop by the free Manhattan Mediation Center (346 Broadway, nr. Leonard St.; 212-577-1740). A mediator will call your so-called friend and either resolve the dispute via phone or schedule an in-person meeting. The mediator may suggest both cash and noncash options. “Bartering makes sense for small amounts,” says mediator and psychotherapist Carol A. Butler. Your friend might babysit free of charge for a dozen Friday nights, or help you paint your living room. Get a written copy of the agreement, so the other party can’t forget what she agreed to. Still no dough? Haul your soon-to-be ex-friend into small-claims court. Print out the forms at courts.state.ny .us, and drop them at your local court along with the $15 filing fee. Bring along a copy of the original check, any written agreements, and a list of your friend’s known assets, such as cars or apartments. The arbitrator will hear your case with or without the other person present and can eventually issue a city lien against her property for up to $5,000.

Hassle Log
Visit to the Manhattan Mediation Center: 2 hrs.
Filling out small- claims-court forms: 1 hr.
Court date: 30 mins.
Total time: 3 hrs. 30 mins.

Worth the effort? If you value the friendship, no. “My gut reaction is to forget about it,” says Butler. But if the money’s more important to you, go for it.

Current Issue
Subscribe to New York

Give a Gift