Sunday, April 04, 2010

He's polite, he doesn't make excuses, and he doesn't lie.

While discussing overdue accounts at a recent meeting, my boss made the comment he liked working with a particular customer even recommending the company extend his payment terms, “He’s polite, he doesn’t make excuses, and he doesn’t lie.” Unfortunately, honest non-abusive behavior such as this is rarely observed in our slow-paying customers.

This scenario reminded me of a chapter I had read in Stacy Horn’s book, Waiting for My Cats to Die: A Memoir. Stacy had received a hostile note from a customer who had become unhinged over an unpaid bill for services from her company Echo. In response she wrote:

It’s the rare person who says, “Oh God, I’m sorry, I wasn’t really using my account, I meant to close it.” No. Not only do they owe you money they have to be abusive about it on top of it. Then they have to come up with something to justify their hostility, like “Echo was so slow this month, and the phone lines keep disconnecting me.” Anything to prove that you’re the asshole, not them. But I’ve finally accepted that this is the defense that people adopt when they are in owing-money mode. This is how they cope.
I’ve been known to become unhinged a time or two myself especially when sneaky fees* appear on my cable or cell phone bill (not to mention the customer service rep who refused to accept my credit card payment until I located my password), but not every company is playing gotcha with sneaky fees. The majority of business owners are trying to sell you their product or idea at a fair price, so they can pay their own bills. If you can’t pay your bill on time or are no longer interested in receiving a service you legitimately signed up for why be abusive about it?  Be polite, don’t make excuses and don’t lie. You might receive better service in the long run.

*To learn more about sneaky fees and what to do about them I suggest reading Bob Sullivan's Gotcha Capitalism: How Hidden Fees Rip You Off Every Day-and What You Can Do About It.


  1. Are these the same people who "don't have the money" (or human decency) to tip 15% when they go out to eat, even though they have money to go out to eat?

    Don't you just love "Waiting for My Cats to Die"? I love Stacy Horn and hope you are liking the book.

  2. CR,
    Yes and the people that always find something wrong with their meal, so they can get a free dessert.

    I did love “Waiting for My Cats to Die” which I read last fall. It is sheer bliss to be sitting in a boring meeting and have a passage from a favorite book like Stacy Horn’s pop into my head. I do love her writing. I feel like she gets it and I can connect with her. I wish there were more non-fiction authors like her.

    I have also read and recommend “The Restless Sleep” Inside New York City’s Cold Case Squad.

    For readers who would like to learn a little more about Stacy Horn check out Sarah Statz Cords interview with her on the Reader’s Advisory Blog here: