January 1, 2004

What if?

by Chris Feeney

What if when a person or business came to you and negotiated to purchase an item, they actually paid for it like they had agreed? Iím still relatively new to this whole owning-your-own-business game, but one of the most discouraging pieces of the puzzle is when a buyer does not fulfill the agreement to pay for an item purchased.

Now I realize this is the Christmas season and as my four-year old daughter reminds me, itís about giving not getting. Still it sure would be nice if people would pay their bills. I realize there are instances of financial hardship or unexpected emergencies that sometimes can stall an individualís financial situation. I also would attest to the fact that folks like this generally make every effort to pay their bill as soon as possible and at least have the decency to inform you that they can not currently pay. Iím frustrated because itís the end of the year and I have to right off a bunch of money that I earned simply because of bums that will not pay. It is not that they can not pay, they simply choose not to.

I guess before I go much further into this little tirade I should admit that 99-percent of my bills are paid in full in a timely manner. I donít go hungry because of the few deadbeats that donít pay. In talking with other business owners in the community, the newspaper seems to actually fair better than most in this problem area. Maybe itís because these debtors are worried that I might print my bad checklist in the newspaper for everyone to read? Now thatís not a bad idea.

Okay, so enough with the usual disclaimer, if this article offends you, then you should probably pay your debts, set up a payment plan or at least acknowledge to your creditor that you are aware that you owe them money for their products or services that you have purchased. Iím not talking about being late, missing a month or the check getting lost in the mail. These folks simply do not pay, ever. For everyone who does pay his or her bill, thank you, we appreciate your business.

With the newspaper, our biggest problem area occurs with ads that are set up to run on a weekly basis. We bill once a month, and itís not uncommon for a person to miss a bill one month. So we usually let things slide for a while. The fact that this is Memphis, and we trust folks to pay their bills compounds the problem. So we let things run another month or two. All of this time, the debtor is receiving at least one statement a month telling them they owe this money. This is what infuriates me and drove me into this little editorial outburst. If you have received a bill for two or three months and you know youíre not going to pay, then why not have the courtesy to at least tell us to stop your ad so that the bill does not continue to grow? Use whatever excuse you want, but at least stop the further abuse. If you donít want the ad anymore, tell us to stop running it, otherwise itís the same as stealing Ė you are knowingly accepting a service with no intention of paying for it. Then again if the old man on the street accidentally dropped his wallet in front of you, maybe you would look at it as a gift and take the money, instead of returning his hard-earned paycheck.

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