Saturday, July 07, 2007

Sending the Boys Round

Well, I'm back from the Lake District - and very lovely it is too. More of that later. But now - one of the subjects dear to my heart - - it is Getting People to Pay Up. I'm sure I've written about it before but a friend of mine's currently owed loadsamoney by some people who seem set to stall payment until the next millennium using a variety of shallow pretexts and it's stirred me up again.

In the actors' agency I work for, we send out lots of invoices. Some people pay straight away, and Hurrah for them. Since actors usually have no regular source of income, if they do some work in January, it's really useful if they get the money in January too.

And, of course, some smaller companies don't pay us until they get the money from the client, and in general we are very understanding when this happens. Interestingly, when the client is some massive multinational, payment is invariably slower than when it's a tiddly company who understands that people need to be, and indeed deserve to be, paid.

But then you get the "we pay on the statement" merchants. You send them an invoice. Nothing happens. After a while - thirty days, say - you ring them up.
"Hello, I'm ringing to enquire about our invoice, which is now overdue - - "
"Have you sent us a statement?"
"A STATEMENT. Have you sent us one?"
"No. I sent you an invoice. You haven't paid it."
"Ah well, you see, we pay on the statement."
"What does that mean?"
"Well, at the end of the month you need to send us a statement of all your outstanding invoices. Then, when you've told us what they are, we pay them."
"But you know what they are. You've got the invoices."
"Ah yes, but we need you to tell us again."

There is no point in arguing. It just makes me crosser and it doesn't get the money. You just have to send the flaming statement.

Then there are the Purchase Order Bastards. You send them an invoice. Nothing happens. After a while, you ring them up.
"Hello, I'm ringing to enquire about our invoice, which is now overdue."
You can hear the sound of nails being filed in the background.
"Caugimme - - "
The filing stops briefly.
"Purchase Order Number. Can. You. Give. It. To. Me?"
"We never had a purchase order."
"Oh well, they shouldn't have asked you to do any work without one. We can't pay you without a purchase order."
"But we asked at the time and were told we didn't need one."
"Oh well, they shouldn't have asked you to do any work without one. We can't pay you without a purchase order."
"Yes, yes, I heard. - - So what should I do about it?"
"You'll need to ring Michelle in the department that booked you. She's in on Thursdays. Mind, you, she's on holiday this week. You'll have to get her to generate a purchase order. Then you can send another invoice."
"And when is this invoice likely to be paid?"
"Our payment terms are the end of the following month after the month when we receive the invoice. So it should be paid at the end of August."
"But our actor did the work in April."
The nail file recommences.
"Yes, but they shouldn't have asked you to do any - - "

Sometimes at this point I go into a whole new area, enquiring whether she, Madam Nailfile, has had her pay for April yet, and whether she would feel a teensy bit pissed off if she hadn't. It does no good at all but I quite enjoy it.

I find that incompetence, rather than downright evil, is the general reason that people are slow to pay. But just occasionally, there are people who book actors - or plumbers, or builders, or any small business - to do some work and just stall, and stall, and stall, and intend never to pay if they can possibly help it. And they are bastards and I hate them and I want to send the boys with baseball bats round.

Just once, I managed to say the best, most satisfying retort to one of these people. I had threatened to contact the actors' union, Equity, over an invoice which was six months overdue.

"Oh well," he said, "if you're going to be like that, we won't want to work with you again."

"Right," I said, "and now could you please explain how that will be any loss at all to us?"

He did pay up. He didn't send a compliments slip with the cheque. We've never worked with them again. Fuck them.


Blogger Silverback said...

Glad to have you back, Daphne. But sounds like you need another break already !!

How's The Communist ?


1:44 am  

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