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Late Payment

How late is too late?

     
7:54 pm on Jun 8, 2003 (gmt 0)

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First invoice was paid promptly. Second invoice to client for SEO changes and he is over 30 days late on a Net 30 day invoice. In other words I did the work for him 60+ days ago. Repeated phone calls to A/P do not get returned. One email correspondance with site contact (owner) stated that business is real tight right now and he pays employees first, banks second, vendors third, and himself last. Obvious delay tactic - that I refuse to deal with, but he also did not deny he owed me.

What I thought was going to be a good long term relationship has since gone south fast. He is also just getting into past due on a second invoice. Obviously I am not doing any other work for him until these are paid, and then I will be asking for CIA which he will probably not do. I took over management of this site. Do I have the legal right to remove his site for "maintenance" until he pays? Then what's to stop him from not stopping payment, should I ask for cashier's check? I know this will pretty much kiss any future work goodbye, but at this point I don't really care to deal with him anyways.

Am I letting emotions get in the way, or is 32 days late just too late? I'd rather be on top of this instead of waiting until 90 days late and trying to do something. I have called A/P three times and the contact/owner twice in the last week alone. They will get even more calls this week. Including their site down until I get an answer.

Since I did not do this website initially, do I have the legal right to take this site down until I receive payment? I know this is not the best place to get legal advice, but I'd accept opinions too :-)

And another question...I also manage his Google PPC campaign. Should I turn this off at the same time?

8:08 pm on June 8, 2003 (gmt 0)

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geez, HayMeadows this is such a common circumstance.

you are libel to get so much variance in how to address this topic from people. and ulitimately you have to do what is right for you.

for what it is worth i would 1- write the money off and make sure you are going to be okay regardless of whether the customer pays 2- never stop putting pressure on him and yes push all buttons (you never want to do business with him again anyways)

12:57 pm on June 9, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Not an easy situation. It seems that his advertising money should be going toward paying YOU instead. Maybe you could suggest that?

Otherwise, I'd seek an attorney to see what you can legally do.

9:11 pm on June 9, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Update: Owner actually took my call, and promised to mail a check tomorrow - before I had to threaten to take the site down. Hopefully he follows through.
12:03 am on June 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Maybe he is a member here!?
12:31 am on June 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

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"for what it is worth i would 1- write the money off and make sure you are going to be okay regardless of whether the customer pays 2- never stop putting pressure on him and yes push all buttons (you never want to do business with him again anyways)"

As Chicago said - Probably the best way to deal with it... accept your losses, improve your contracts and be prepared for someone else to do the same - my suggestion as always... require half up-front, the second half once the job is completed. If they don't pay, you've only taken a 50% loss versus 100%.

I'd also hire an attorney and have a 'real' blanket-contract done so that you have some legal-leg to stand on the next time it happens. At worst, you'd at least be able to report them to the credit bureau for being late in payment.

Simply my own humble suggestion.

12:40 am on June 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

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We always take down sites which are 20 days overdue (50 days after invoice was issued).

If they pay in the next 10 days, the site is activated again. If not, their files are removed/deleted of the server it's on.

In cases were we remove the account, they get sent to a collection agency. Even if we don't recover loses, they get reported to the 3 major (US) credit reporting agencies. If they ever need credit, they'll have to pay up first.

We tried the 'wait and be nice' approach too often to play around with this type of thing anymore. This approach also pays for itself (collection fees vs collected funds) and is profitable.

1:18 am on June 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

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I'm partially with marcs on this one, but pulling the site may be dodgy if you didn't build the whole thing yourself.

you didn't say what the work actually was, except that you didn't build the original

you need legal advice, this is not legal advice, but I've always been very clear that only my work belongs to me, and full rights of ownership to my original work made for hire transfer to client upon my receipt of full payment.

So, what belonged already to client does not become your property (not legal advice), it seems to me, and I would not have thought you could tamper with it specifically. You may have some kind of mechanic's lien on it. The point is, withdraw everything that's yours, code whatever, restore the site to the original condition (hopefully that trashes it, some would say) - and send the debt to collection.

I don't mean restore the site to the old one either, I mean remove your new work, and if part of the old was removed in order to take your new work, well too bad for him.

Don't write the client off either - everything is redeemable *potentially* - if when the debt is settled you want to provide him with whatever his initial goal was, he pays all over again, maybe double up front whatever, but now client is tamed. It's just business.

1:41 am on June 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

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rossH:
"you need legal advice, this is not legal advice, but I've always been very clear that only my work belongs to me, and full rights of ownership to my original work made for hire transfer to client upon my receipt of full payment."

I would personally not suggest this unless you have a contract... you'd be amazed at what the courts can determine as 'intellectual property'.

Seek some legal advice... it won't/shouldn't cost much and you'll be a lot safer.

I was in the Internet consulting business for almost 10 years, got burned many times... legal counsel can be your friend - trust me. ;)

1:50 am on June 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

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bobothecat

I agree with you above all else about the legal advice - just to be clear, what is it you wouldn't recommend, the withdrawing your work part of it?

Come to think of it now, I guess I wouldn't think of taking back my work and at the same time asking for complete payment - I would do one or the other, not both.

But a better contract stipulating payment schedules, and deliverables tied to payments is key. I agree it doesn't have to cost that much.

ross

2:05 am on June 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

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rossH:

"what is it you wouldn't recommend, the withdrawing your work part of it?"

I'm not agreeing or disagreeing with you... but...

You must be very careful about this... without a contract it's your word against them... irregardless of who did the work, or why. You want to be real careful about 'taking' anything from someone ( even if it isn't really there's )... if it's on 'their' Website, you're the one that's going to have to prove that it's your property. Ala... the convenience of a contract.

Legal stuff can get real 'nasty' and most larger Corporations know that - hence to their advantage.

[disclaimer - I'm not an Attorney - nor do I play one on TV] I'm begining to feel as if I'm being as 'cryptic' as GoogleGuy... :)

9:37 pm on June 30, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Update:

As we ended up exchanging a couple emails stating that he was late on payment because of the time of year it is for his business etc., I figured I would be able to get by any "his word versus my word", at least for the invoice being due and payable (aka we did our part work was done). And after hearing once that the check would go out the following week, and also was told, "I signed the check you should see it any day", we decided to take the website down and ended up doing so on Monday afternoon June 16th.

We finally received payment on Thursday, June 26th. Check just cleared, website is back up, and I seriously doubt he will be interested in any pre-payment work, but at least I won't have the stress of collecting from them anymore. Ugh, I hate that.

But will I be in this position again, undoubtedly. I feel as a business I must accept terms. If I have any doubts about a client paying (i.e. bad experience with previous design company), I ask for 1/2 up front for the first invoice. But, I was losing too many potential sales asking for all the money up front. Most business will not work this way.

10:06 pm on June 30, 2003 (gmt 0)

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A method that has been successful for me is 1/2 up front, balance when the work is done, site gets uploaded when balance is paid. I agree that getting the whole thing up front is not reasonable - after all, they don't know you any more than you know them.
6:01 am on July 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Still awaiting a final payment from Feb 2002! Client has and is continuing/promised to pay but "things have just not worked out".

Well so they say, we'll wait.

HTH

Rich

3:39 pm on July 29, 2003 (gmt 0)

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I've been burned to many times over the past 7-8 years, so therefore I now operate on a 100% pre-paid agreement!

I have had several clients question this prtactice, and mt response is to have them contact my numerous other clients if they feel the slightest bit uncomfortable about doing business with me... On rare occassion, I have had a few say no way, and show me the door, only to come back at a later date and literally beg me to take them on, when they have finished comparring the quality of my work to that of others.

As it currently stands, I'll only take on 2 or 3 clients a year, as programming/designing is now just a sidline business to support my numerous hobbies. I have also chosen to do a lot of barter work lately, within the industries where I would be spending all of my "play money" anyway, so it seems to work out a lot better for both parties.

3:43 pm on July 29, 2003 (gmt 0)

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In real world business, 60 days (from the date of the invoice) is not uncommon, anything over 90 should be considered pretty shaky.
6:51 pm on Aug 4, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Recent article in UK broadsheets says that 38 days is average to payment.

But consider yourself lucky you don't supply to some major hospitals and educational institutions here. Many consider that six months is fine. One major London hospital rarely pays within the first twelve months (and that's on a 30 days net)!

If your business revolves around one major customer (as in a car manufacturer, or a major supermarket chain) they will squeeze you till the pips squeak. Their stats and management accounts come first and you'll be forced to fit in with that - even to the point of under-invoicing one month and over-invoicing the next ... and waiting months for payment.

As a businessman supplying goods I've come across this problem often. After many years of putting up with excuses, apologies and blind indifference I had enough. Now, if you want to buy me goods, you pays me money. And you pays it now. I do lose some custom (strangely businesses tend to get annoyed when you don't give them credit - but hey, that's how I run this show). Now my life's a lot easier, I don't have stress with customers giving me BS, I've closed my accounts receiveable department and spend less on staff hired purely to collect money and I don't pay any finance charges/factoring commissions. With all those savings I happily reduced prices, so volume of sales/net profits are unaffected... AND I get a much better category of customer who has cash in his account and can sign a current dated cheque!

I suppose the world of business won't change and businesses will keep wanting credit. And if you give them credit you've gotta make maximum use of credit from your suppliers. I'm outta that circle. Try moving your business to 0 day terms. It's difficult initially but you'll be surprised, for most businesses it CAN work.

3:46 pm on Aug 9, 2003 (gmt 0)

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What works quite well for me is offering both incentives and penalties for the timing of payments.

In general words my contracts state that payment is required within 30 days of completion of the work. From there, payments received within the first 10 days receive a 2% discount on the final price. Payments received from 11-30 days go at the agreed upon contract rate. After that, there is 2% interest charge for late payments that continues to build. My bookkeeper will calculate and issue a new invoice as the payment periods pass date. This is actually a standard business practice.

Admittedly sometimes I don't pay my own invoices on time, preferring to hold off till the next month & pay the company their interest charge. A lot of other companies will make the same type of decisions and often even expect to be allowed something like this. From legitimate companies, receiving late payments is actually a blessing (:

Sometimes you'll receive a late payment @ the price of the original contract amount, at which time it's up to you what to do. If you're going to work with the company again in the future then a polite thank you letter confirming receipt of payment, yada yada happy to be working with them, & reiteration of your policy on late payments for future contracts.

Of course if you're not dealing with a customer/company you can trust or an individual. Maybe it's a better idea to go with the 50% upfront rule.

 

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