Going over some old records

… and I ran across a situation where we helped out a customer, and we were screwed over after they decided not to pay a part of their bill. They don’t deny they owed it. They just didn’t want to pay it. And the hard part, being that they were out of country, in a different jurisdiction, there is little we could do.

This is part of bleeding when you build a business. You learn from errors, as people will do their best to take advantage of you. This is why payment terms and conditions have evolved as they have.

I hear, every now and then, that we have more complex terms than people/groups like. Actually, they are very simple … they just deny any known mechanism for weaseling out of obligations. As we discover new and exciting mechanisms tried upon us, and yes, this happens very regularly, we distill this down to additional entries in the payment terms and conditions.

I had called it a Cri de Couer about bad behavior. And it is. There are many institutions that are used to dictating everything, and sales people hungry for commissions are willing to accept anything. That’s wrong. Crappy, one sided, and onerous payment terms and conditions put you at greater risk than not getting the business in the first place. Unfortunately, the larger the organization the greater the likelihood of this.

But we do have a few simple mechanisms we can use, and now do use to make sure that this isn’t an issue. Most understand and try to work with us. A few protest, swear up and down that they won’t pay late, lower amounts than they should, yadda yadda yadda. And, in every, and I mean every case, when I’ve excepted our rules to give them a “break” using it as a show of good faith, we’ve been screwed.

Every. Single. Time.

So looking over the old records provides some nostalgia, as well as the occasional pang of sadness. Why did they try to do this? The phrase penny-wise/pound foolish comes to mind. So does the prisoners dilemma game. Which this is.

If we cooperate and work together, agree, exchange value for value, we win. Or, if we fight, then you hit me and I hit you back. No one wins.

When people failed to pay in the past, we simply suspended all support, including warranty support. It amazed me how quickly someone with an issue would fix their payment status once they needed help. Things they told me could take months took hours and minutes.

Its sad. We aren’t a big company. There are no nameless/faceless share holders. That stealing going on is stealing from me.

But this is in the past. As with other work, we’ve changed how we do some things, so I don’t expect this to be a problem going forward. But I’ve got to keep an eye out for it. Ever vigilant or something like that.

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