How-to: Call a debtor's bluff

Written by Deena Waisberg

Cash is king — but collecting it from customers can be a blood-boiling chore when you have got a staller on your hands.

“They don’t return phone calls, they don’t respond to requests and they hide behind voicemail,” says John Canal, president of Action Collections & Receivables Management in Toronto. And difficult debtors have a litany of tricks and excuses for delaying payment even further. Here are their classic bluffs and how to call them on each:

  • “The cheque is in the mail” — Ask for the cheque number. If they can’t provide it, they haven’t issued the cheque.
  • “I never received the product” — Prove otherwise by faxing them the shipping receipt with their signature on it.
  • “We got a short shipment” — Again, you should have shipping advice (make sure your shipper counts the goods). Besides, if the customer didn’t receive the whole order, why did they wait till now to let you know?
  • “The signing officer is away” — Call back in two weeks, the equivalent of a normal pay period. If they use the same excuse again, ask who is signing the employee cheques.
  • The cheque contains errors, or it tears when removed from the envelope — often thanks to careful gluing on the part of the debtor. Call the customer, explain the problem and tell him a courier will pick up a new cheque today.

Additional source: Maggie Heaton, Vanguard Collection Agencies, Edmonton

© 2003 Deena Waisberg

Originally appeared on PROFITguide.com