I follow my subject as far as they want to go but…
You need to be thinking about these five things:
1. Is it a trap?
It’s unlikely, but is your subject luring you out to the middle of nowhere so their buddy’s can block you in and try to hurt you? If you hunt humans, you gotta’ be real careful that they don’t turn and hunt you.
2. Do you have enough gas?
You better! Having a full tank of gas is mandatory before beginning any surveillance – even when it’s “just” a stake-out where you don’t plan on driving at all.
3. What do I charge the client for the “extra” hours and miles?
Most of the time you can contact the client and get authorization to extend the surveillance. If you can’t, then use your judgment.
For regular clients like a workers’ compensation company or attorneys, they may pay your unexpectedly large invoice. If not, take it on the chin. Next time you’ll know. However… they will see that you’re the Private Detective who gives them service and goes the extra mile – literally! And that’s worth something in my book.
Plus, your regular surveillance clients probably already have a policy in place for these circumstances. Find out what it is.
For other clients, maybe you want it in the contract that you can charge them up to 10% more if your professional experience deems that the surveillance should continue. I never did that, but it’s a thought.
Bottom line for me… I’ll do a lot of extra for a client, but I only do extra if I’m completely prepared to “eat it” if they don’t pay the extra on the bill.
4. What if you haven’t gotten the evidence yet?
Sometimes the subject going off into left-field IS the evidence!
I worked a case once where the man was supposed to go to work. He picked up a blond woman and headed to his lake house. I didn’t have to follow him all 200 miles to the lake. His merely NOT going to work was proof of the lie. Plus, (happily for me) video of him picking up the “other woman” was the icing on the cake my client (his wife) wanted!
5. What if you have another surveillance scheduled for later that day?
In my experience, it rarely happens that I have a second surveillance later in the day. But I am prepared. I do have some back-up plans such as…
I might call an Investigator I have working for me and see if he or she is available.
Or (and this is kinda’ my ace-in-the-hole), I’ll call another Detective Agency that I know and TRUST and farm it out to them. I might keep a percent of what I’m charging the client and “sub-contract” the surveillance to the other Private Investigator or I might pay them all the money. I lose the profit from the case, but I keep the client happy!
Larry Kaye, P.I.
P.S. – BONUS TP for people who read my blog…
What if you can’t contact the client?
I don’t mind offering service above and beyond. So if they agreed to 4 hours of pay, I would go the extra hour and maybe two to seal the case. Maybe more if they seem like they’ll pay.
The client who is clearly cheap and won’t take my advise on other elements of the case, then nope. I’ll probably turn around because I know they won’t pay anyways. (Although really, I still might follow the subject another 30 minutes or so just to see if I can really wrap up the case with a nice, neat bow on top.)
This will help, too… set the client’s expectations before you take the case. Let the client know if you’re going to stop at what they agreed to pay unless you can contact them (or whatever it is you have as your policy).
P.P.S. – For COMPLETE Private Investigator training, get The Investigator’s Ultimate Guide to Surveillance by yours truly! I promise if you don’t love it I’ll refund every penny you paid!