Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Cough Up

Every week, with a heavy heart, I look in the folder of unpaid invoices in our office. Usually, lurking at the back, is one that’s several months old.

Somebody rings up wanting an actor for something – usually a video or a corporate event. I write a letter suggesting a choice of suitable actors and send their cvs and photos by post or, more usually these days, by email.

They audition some actors and choose an actor for the job. We ask them how they will pay us. “Oh, send us an invoice,” they say.

Because I have been caught that way before I ask the person I’m talking to – let us call her Michelle - to whom the invoice should be sent and for whose attention it should be marked and I ask them if they need to send us a purchase order any further paperwork.

“Oh, no,” says Michelle, “just send it to me.”

The actor does the job. We send the invoice to Michelle. The sun rises and sets lots of times and after six weeks or so we ring Michelle to ask her what’s happening, but Michelle’s away on holiday in Turkey with her boyfriend Mike and we’re now speaking to Lisa who doesn’t know anything about it but says we need to speak to Julie in Accounts.

Julie’s gone home with a headache but we ring the next day and leave several messages before finally catching her unawares in a rare telephone-answering moment. “What’s your purchase order number?” she says.

“Michelle told us we didn’t need a purchase order,” I say, sweetly.

“Oh no, you shouldn’t agree to do any job for us without a purchase order. Our payment terms are forty days from receipt of the invoice which must quote the purchase order number. I’ll have to send you a purchase order.”

Can she not just write the purchase order number on the invoice she’s already got from us? - - No, no she can’t. Not possibly.

So a week later, after several phone calls, she emails us the purchase order and Jane our trusty finance person sends Julie the invoice again with the purchase order on it.

The sun rises and sets many more times and we ring Julie again and she says she hasn’t managed to get it in this month’s pay run but it should definitely be paid at the end of next month.

“So would you think it was fair if you didn’t get your June salary until October?” I ask politely.

Julie clearly doesn’t realise that actors actually work for money and is very confused by this idea.

Some more weeks pass and finally I ask to speak to the managing director of the company and by a miracle I get through to him.

“Ah, well, you should have said you needed the money - - “ he says, as if speaking to someone with severe learning difficulties.

It’s so easy to take advantage of actors or of anyone running a small business. People who get people to work for them, and then don’t pay them, infuriate me. .

The people who make me the angriest are the ones who don’t pay for six months and then, when you threaten them with Equity or the small claims court or similar, get very uppity and start saying things like “Ah well, if you’re going to be like that about it - - “

When someone burgles your house it’s actually a much more honest transaction – you’ve got something they want, they’re taking it from you and both parties know where they stand. For some reason some people seem to think this kind of not-paying theft is acceptable. They are definitely going to pay at some point, they say. They just haven’t done it yet. Bastards.


Post a Comment

<< Home