Living with a SpaceX employee
In September of 2016, I became roommate with a resident in Downtown Los Angeles. I had moved from Stockholm to for work at a startup in Culver City.
Six months later my then current roommate needed to depart, and set out to find a replacement roommate. We found Michael Eric Miller. He worked for SpaceX, seemed to communicate well, and have things in order. We offered him the apartment.
When communicating the deal, Michael Eric responded with “That all looks good to me.” There was no unclear details.
However, things went awry.
In February I was back in Sweden and Michael Eric Miller was due to move in while I was away. Shortly thereafter a friend came to visit me from Sweden. Me and my friend started to pick up on small incidents. My friend lost his iPhone charger and when inquiring Michael Eric about it, he produced an iPhone charger from his room; identical to the one my friend had lost. He then said, “You can keep it, I don’t need it.”.
Shortly after move in I decided our common space needed a couch. Michael Eric Miller seemed to agree and I set out to find one for us. Michael Eric Miller works inconvenient hours for SpaceX so seemed to have little time for this activity. I found a couch, took pictures of it, and proposed to buy it together with Michael. Before I committed to the purchase I shared all the details with Michael Eric; pictures, price, and expectation to split 50/50. Michael accepted.
Once I ordered and paid for the couch, I sent a request for Michael’s share via Venmo. This was in late February. The payment was honored on March 24th.
On the morning of April 14th I realized that our unit was late with rent. I went down to the leasing office; they told me we needed to pay with a check. I got the sum we owed from them and immediately walked over to my bank, got the check, and delivered it to the leasing office.
Later that day I did all the math to figure out what we each owed. I noticed that Michael had incurred a late fee of $75 by being 10 days late and had not paid in full - there was about $127 missing. This was the first rent Michael would have needed to pay. It was also the last he ever paid.
I put together a spreadsheet detailing the shared debt Michael had incurred and extras covering late fees and banking fees that he now owed me. I sent a request on Venmo for $1,868.12.
At this time I didn’t worry too much about it.
In late April, around the 30th, I texted Michael to remind him he needed to pay rent by May 1st. I never got a reply and on May 3rd I paid his part of the rent and sent a Venmo request for another $1,700.62.
I started feeling uneasy about this. Either Eric didn’t have any money or he did not want to pay rent or pay me. What made me most concerned was the lack of communication. He simply did not pay.
The following weeks I was nudging Michael Eric Miller about paying back. At least three attempts were made, reminding him or asking what the status was. In mid May I offered him via text message to make payments in installments. He agreed this would be a good idea and I expected money to start coming in. Again nothing happened.
On May 19th I got a text message from Michael where he let me know he could not afford to stay in the apartment and would vacate by the end of the month. I was going to Sweden on June 18th and was required to give a months notice to vacate. I had no chance to find a new roommate in time and did not want to pay any more rent on my own, so I was forced to give up the contract.
On May 22nd I sent an email where I sternly requested that he started to pay me back. I also shared a link to a spreadsheet so that there would be no question about for what I was requesting money.
A week later I get a reply where Michael Eric Miller promises to put together a plan of action in the form of a payment schedule. At this point in time I considered his words vacuous.
On June 2nd Michael Eric Miller left the apartment without notifying me other than the text message earlier. I felt like it was obvious he was not trying to pay me back, and was actively avoiding that part of the deal.
My first plan was to contact his parents. If I was lucky they would be decent people and take responsibility for the debt. I tried to get a hold of his parents by sending a message via Facebook to some of his friends, hoping they would forward it. I had no real hope of getting thru by this strategy, but I concluded it was worth a shot.
All this got me was that Michael blocked his Facebook profile and blocked me on Instagram too. Not exactly the behavior of an honest man that intends to tie up loose ends.
During the following days I started to learn how to find people in the US and after a few hours I had a list of telephone numbers where I might be able to reach Michael Eric Millers parents.
One morning I set out to call the numbers one by one to see what I gave me. I put on a comfortable headset and sat down in the couch with the laptop on my belly and the numbers in a text editor so that I could take notes and de-duplicate.
The first call went to a realtor’s answering machine from Palmdale. It could be Michael’s father, but I put this on the back burner. Call number two and three went to numbers that had been taken out of service. The fourth call reached someone that had no clue what I was talking about. Fifth; disconnected, sixth; clueless person.
I had hoped to get lucky here, but it looked bleak. All my top candidate numbers had turned out to be dead ends.
A few numbers later I reached the City of Palmdale Neighborhood Services.
- ”Hello, my name is Pontus. I’m looking for [Michael Eric Miller’s mom].”
- “Who are you looking for?”
- “I’m looking for Michael Eric Miller, or the guardians of Michael Eric Miller. Where have I called?”
- “This is Neighborhood Services of Palmdale city… … Please hold…”
- “Hello, my name is Pontus. Is this [Michael Eric Miller’s dad], father of Michael Eric Miller?”
- “Michael Eric Miller that works for SpaceX?”
- “Yeah, why are you calling??”
- “I was roommate with Michael since February and he has not paid rent and now he has made himself difficult to contact.”
- “Okay, I will call Michael and have him call you, okay? I will call him right away.”
- “Thank you.”
Okay, not exactly the response I hoped.
20 minutes later I get an email from Michael Eric Miller where he tells me it would be wise to stop harassing his friends and family. He also tranfers $100 via Venmo as proof of intent to pay.
I find this email so interesting. After asking for the money for several months, he pays me for the first time after I call his father in the same breath that he lets me know actions like that will be unfruitful. Mathematically I would have my money back if I called his father 48 times.
There is also some other things I consider nonsense. It will be worse if I call his family? How can it be worse when there has been no effort to pay me back. It is as worse as it can get from the economical standpoint. Is this a threat?
He also claims to have explained to me in detail that he needed to move out in order to pay me back. This would only make sense if he paid rent at all. But he has not paid rent and not paid me back, which means his salary has not been used to fix this.
I have been talking to this person as an adult for months without getting anything except unfulfilled promises. What makes him think I want to go back to this strategy?
I wait until “next Friday”, but no money comes in, and on Saturday morning after “next Friday” I send him an email that it is obvious that he has no intention of paying me back. Later that day, another $100 and another angry email is sent.
On the 18th of June I sent the last correspondence to Micheal where I tell him I need him to produce the payment schedule promised on May 29th, and that he needs to commit to his promises in order to be trustworthy.
It is now July 14th and I’ve been enjoying some vacation in Portugal and Spain, but have not seen any more money. I will report back with updates when I continue to pursue this fiesta of unreliability.