The (Foreign) Cheque Is In The Post

The (Foreign) Cheque Is In The Post

I’ve just received a payment that I’ve been chasing since June 2017 (for a piece originally written in 2016). What made this slightly more challenging was that the publication was based overseas.

Here in the UK we have the Late Payments Act that allows us to charge interest on overdue payments. And if the worst comes to the worst we always have the small claims court to fall back on. But when it comes to foreign customers, things are a little more challenging.

My only real method of contact was email. Occasionally, I received a response advising me that the payment would be forthcoming, but then I’d go a couple more weeks without receiving anything, and so I’d start chasing by email again, but these would then seem to be ignored.

In my frustration I sent a letter (and another duplicate invoice) by registered post to the registered address in the magazine, only to have it returned by the foreign mail service as ‘Customer Gone Away’. Now that worried me!

A bit more research soon identified a new address and so I issued another invoice by email, and got a response this time, saying that it would be dealt with promptly.

And then the weeks passed by again. So I continued sending chasing emails, every month.

Until today.

Plop.

On the doormat.

A physical cheque. Drawn in a foreign currency.

Obviously, I have everything crossed that the payment will be honoured. But I have learned a few things from the experience:

  • Always be polite with your communication. I sent a lot of emails. But I was always polite and professional. At no time did I lose my rag, or throw a wobbly.
  • Stick to the facts. In all of my correspondence I repeated what I was invoicing for, when it had been published, how much had been agreed and when payment had been due.
  • Demonstrate you have a system. I chased this payment every month. EVERY month. Usually by email, but as you read earlier I also tried snail mail (and learned something from it – that the offices had moved – although that shouldn’t have caused a problem with my email messages).
  • Confirm payment has been received. After all that chasing, it’s only polite to acknowledge that payment has been received. (If nothing else, it’ll let them know you won’t be bombarding them with any more emails.)
  • Ask how payment will be made. This was a mistake I’d made. I’d assumed that as the publisher and publication were based overseas that payment would be made electronically – either directly into my bank account, or by Paypal. (All that information, including that required by banks in order to make international payments, is included on my invoices.) The cheque that arrived today was dated 1st May 2018 and had been posted a couple of days later. It’s taken a month to get here.

Persistence and having a clear debt-chasing policy paid off in the end.

Good luck.

What are your thoughts?

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