Gahhhhhhh - Freaking Deadbeat Customers

So I’m a small businesman (kinda sorta). A couple months ago, a woman walks through my door who’s clearly having some financial problems. I balk at helping her, explaining I’m concerned she won’t pay me when the time comes. She totally assures me that won’t be a problem. “You WILL be paid.” I take pity on her and take her case. I help her win her case – about two months ago, and last week it’s time for me to be paid.

(Keep in mind this woman has collected nearly $6,000 in government benefits due to my help and continues to receive $350 per week. My fee is $450.00)

So I call her up last week - ok, it’s time to pay. She asks if she can come by yesterday with the money. I’m already getting kinda annoyed - she’s known for two months this day was coming, but I say OK. Well, yesterday I get a letter in the mail from her saying she’s had an “emergency” and sorry but she doesn’t have the money and she’ll pay in August.

Well fuck you lady. I helped you only because you looked me right in the eye and ASSURED me you’d pay. As far as your so-called “emergency” goes, what would you have done if you weren’t collecting benefits at all?

Now, I’m sure there are folks out there who will point out that maybe this woman truly can’t pay now, or that she may very well pay later. That may be so, but it’s interesting that I took a chance on 3 people and each of them is FUCKING me in basically the same way. In any event, you can bet that these folks won’t pay unless I spend more time reminding them.

And anyway, I don’t freaking care about their freaking sob stories because as of last week, I’m not helping anyone unless I’m satisfied that they’ll pay.

Fair enough, it sounds like you have been screwed and not for the first time. Time to stop being kind.

Does she have some kind of time machine to allow her to pay you yesterday?.. oh wait I see…

Start getting half up front.

In the meantime, I’m thinking a trip to small-claims court wouold be a slam dunk.

Unfortunately, for this type of work, I can’t charge money up front.

Also, my insurance carrier might charge me higher rates if I started suing customers.

Whatever. Just a couple days ago, I turned away a woman who I thought would be a collection risk. She begged and begged “of course I’ll pay you” blah blah blah. Sorry honey – from now on, anyone who strikes me as flakey gets no service.



What you need is a “Bullshit meter”.

When a person rumbles through the door and hauls out the classic “of course I’ll pay you!” line… Pull out this ‘Magic Wand’ with a hidden button. Make sure it is obviously named ‘The Bullshit Meter’.

Once the person says this, you wave it at them. This device should beep loudly, flash and exclaim, “You’re full of shit!”

Good for a laugh, at least.

I no longer believe people when it comes to money. In my job I judge people based on credit info for approval for cell phone service. In the last 4 times I took pity and activated accounts all of them didn’t pay. I even told them I would follow up and if I don’t see a payment, I will close the account immediately with no warning.

People really suck. When I train new people I always tell them don’t ever give an inch.

You probably don’t want advice, just a bunch of “That fucking sucks, dude!” comments and it does fucking suck, but I have a question.

Can you ask your clients to sign a contract up front?

It’s funny you should mention cell phones, because one of the people I trusted had had his cell phone service disconnected. Another one just had her car repossessed.

I suppose the moral of the story is that the kind of guy or girl who gets into that kind of trouble is a serious credit risk.

Is it possible to have Collections deal with this woman? My parents had a situation where a renter wasn’t paying rent, and they were able to get the renter’s paycheck garnished to pay back rent and late fees. I know this is an entirely different business that you work in, but surely there is some legal means of acquiring the money she owes you?

They do sign a contract up front. But I would need to go to court to enforce the contract.

I actually have a buddy in the same business who hardly ever gets stiffed because he’s (in his own words) “relentless.” But the reality is that I’m better off spending my time on other stuff than chasing these people.

I was just talking to my dad about the same kind of thing. He’s a small town lawyer, and while he doesn’t necessarily like to be Atticus-Finchy about things, he says it’s bad form for an attorney to sue for non-payment. When I was a kid we got free mulch, free clocks, a few services for free and other stuff like that from people who couldn’t pay him.

The other day a guy who owed him several hundred dollars (and promised to landscape my sister’s yard last time but only did a little weeding) got in some kind of trouble again (I don’t think it was too serious) and went to see my dad. He told the guy he couldn’t help him and the guy said he had to help him. Why? Because the judge had said the guy could not represent himself (apparently he’s that dumb) and so the guy said my dad was, in fact, his lawyer. The judge told him to come back with my dad or he would be sent immediately to jail.

Why my dad didn’t just let him go to jail is beyond me. But he’s got a soft spot for dumb petty criminals with families, I guess.

Also, people have a tendency to file frivolous counter-claims for malpractice.

Yep, I’ve pretty much had the pity beaten out of me by the deadbeats too. I work in collections for a local phone company. You don’t talk to me unless you’re scheduled to have your phone disconnected. I used to give exceptions and extensions and take partial payments and try to make deals, and 99 times out of 100 the person didn’t follow through on their end of the deal. And invariably they’d call back in and ask the inevitable question, “Why won’t you work with me?” Honey, let me list off all the ways we’ve tried to work with your worthless ass.

Now my company’s in a panic because we had one month where we disconnected more lines than we connected and so we have a “save every customer, save every line” policy where we’re required to make even more and larger exceptions. Fuck that. Some customers aren’t worth trying to save.

My personal favorites are the ones who call in and cry about how they have to have their phone because they’re disabled or they have a child with asthma. “You can’t cut my phone off, my baby has asthma!” Just once before I quit I want to say to one of these people, “Then I imagine you feel pretty bad about endangering your child’s life by not paying your bill, huh.”

There’s an answer with cleints of dubious financial means who still need your services – the client pays a minimal amount per week during the time that you’re working on their case. Even if it’s only $10 a week or so, you’ll get something for your troubles, and if they stop paying, you can stop working. At a low amount, it’s mainly about a show of good faith, but if someone is honest and truly needs help for which they will gladly pay, it’s better for them than being turned away because of a few cheats.

You know, I think it’s time for all the decent, semi-literate or better people of the world to start using the power of the internet to further the cause of human evolution. What we need to do is to create an environment where these people will be at a severe disadvantage for breeding, preferably for survival. What we need are retinal scanners and some sort of universal waste of oxygen list. Picture this:

A: Hi! I’d like to open a bank account.

B: Okay, just look here for me really quick.

A: Um, okay, here you go. <looks into scanner>

B: I’m sorry, you were caught trolling a discussion forum last month, cheated on your wife with your secretary, and stole ideas from your subordinates to get a promotion before downsizing them.

A: But, wait, how could you…

B: Internet. Now, please hold still.
<Hits A in the crotch with a bat>

I disagree. Depends on your clientele. Most lawyers who deal with a large cross section of economic strata have to do this all the time, especially in doing criminal work.

I don’t do criminal work, but it seems to me it would be a waste of time trying to sue a former client who’s now incarcerated.

For what it’s worth, the books I have read on the practical aspects of law practice say that in criminal matters, one should get basically all one’s money up front.

Well, I for one, would like to say God Bless all the people like you.

I have just moved in with my sweetie (Doper Upside_Down_Amber). Last year, she got entangled in a long-distance relationship with a girl who was pretty much just using her. She ran up a $1,500 phone bill because she was calling the USA on her cellphone, and the other girl refused to call her, ever, so if UDA wanted to talk to her, it had to be on UDA’s dime. My sweetie also lent money to some family friends who were in financial trouble. This put her in a BIG FINANCIAL HOLE.

Cut to a few months later, where UDA is going without food to pay her VISA bill, her phone bill (another long distance relationship, although I was calling her on my dime as well, but still), her internet bill, her student loan, pay off her computer, and buy trivial personal effects for herself such as shampoo, a Metro pass, and shoes without holes in them.

UDA had to start putting off some bills to pay others. She knew this was bad news, but she was doing the best she could with what she had. A further monkey wrench was thrown in when she had to fork over cash up front for the apartment we’d planned on moving into (there were problems with the previous tenant and the landlord needed proof that we weren’t deadbeats). I was on my way with the cash, but they needed it RIGHT NOW, so UDA found herself out of pocket until I stepped off the bus with my moneybags.
So last week, we got the call from our phone company (Bell). The message was: give us $600 by 5 PM tonight or you are cut off. I called UDA at work in a panic and she confessed that the money she’d set aside for a partial repayment of the bill had gone into the apartment.
I called the credit department and our convo went like this:

Credit Lady: You owe us $600. We need it by 5 PM tonight or your service will be cut off.
KFL: I don’t have that money. I can’t give you that much by 5 PM.
CL: So you’re saying you don’t want to pay your bill.
KFL: Oh, God no, I want to pay it, I just don’t have that kind of cash lying around. Couldn’t we make some kind of arrangement? Like I could give you $200 a week or something?
CL: Here is the deal: Give us half by 5 PM tomorrow, and the other half by 5 PM two weeks from today. And I’ll take you off the disconnect list right now.
KFL: OK, I can do that. I’ll pay it now. does the happy dance

I paid it before noon the next day. And the rest will be paid by the other deadline.
If that lady had been unkind with me, we wouldn’t have phone service, and Bell probably wouldn’t have collected half of what we owe them (we’d probably have resorted to just giving them $100 or $200 dollars ever two weeks, since we’d have no incentive to clear our debt so expediently).

So, sometimes negotiating with debtors works. And believe me, I appreciate it.

You’re the 100th, then, and I wish there were more like you. It’d make my job a little easier and me a little less cynical.

For the record, I would never say something like “So you’re saying you don’t want to pay your bill” to a customer.

I also always make exceptions for girlfriends united after trans-continental bus rides.