Collections; These Are The Times That Try Mens Souls

So there I am, standing at the door dreading what I have to go through next. Actually, I’ve done this a hundred times before and only a relative few have turned out to be the nightmarish encounter I’d never want to repeat. Most of these “heart to hearts” end up with a positive resolve, all parties back to square one and I walk away feeling better than before and sometimes even with a check. A few however, turn ugly at the speed of light where defensive postures are struck up immediately and tones and volumes escalate to a point that even when you try to come back to something rational, it is too late, the heated exchange is on. Those are the encounters that although few, are the ones I dread most and the reason I put off any involvement of this side of my business. That is, until everything else has been done and now it is up to me, the last line of hope to be recompensed for services rendered; time for collections.

Collections is a harsh reality of any business and a necessity for survival for the single operator. Without money flowing in, bills go unpaid, plans get put on hold and an over all strangle hold can ensue which can be very tough to get out of. Here are just a couple of my view points on getting paid for your hard work. I’d love to hear some of yours.

Have A Policy

I’m a big believer in policies for pest control companies big or small. Shoot, for the big company it’s just par for the course and it seems the peon client bends and bows to the pressure this behemoth uses to have their way. For the small guy however- “He aint got no policy in place and he if does, I could care less, it’s just him, he don’t have no lawyers backing him up!” Ok, I’m stereotyping a bit here but if I had a nickel for every time I saw this attitude first hand……

Payment Due At Time Of Service

It is my companies policy to be paid at the time of service and that is what we tell each new customer as they come on board. That said, I’d estimate 1/2 of all our accounts do not do this. I truly don’t know how this morphed into such a high percentage but there it is. It usually starts as a “my husband has the checkbook” or something similar and before you know it, the policy the client now enjoys is- “I’ll pay you later.” (ps. I’d love to strangle the guy who invented the 30 day payment rule- but I digress)

Getting Paid Ahead Of Time

Great if you can get it and I know some who have a real knack for what my computer program calls “advanced pays.” Unfortunately, this section of my pc system has tons of memory left in it due to little use- how bout yours? We offer a discount for advanced pays and are extremely accurate on the balance, ie: make a mistake or two and it’s unlikely you’ll get a big check next year. Would love to hear some success tips on this!

Credit Card Or Online Payments

For the mega company guy who WAS reading this post, this section is a joke. They have taken credit cards for years and have sophisticated systems in place that squeeze every last excuse and dime out of a customer. For those of you not in the top 100 list yet however, consider getting a merchants account where you can process credit card payments. You can have a machine that sits in the office, online accounts the customer logs into (your web site) or even have an app on your phone where you can receive payments right there at your clients home. I’ve only been ‘right’ 3 or 4 times in my 27 years of marriage, taking credit card payments was one of those times. 😉 It works!

Collection Agencies

Oh PLEASE! I have used several and I must say I have been sorely disappointed with each one. Even when they got ‘one’, I had to cough up 40%. Mind you it may not be entirely their faults but the success rates of a collection agency for a small company like mine who has mostly $40 dollars or $100 dollar claims is dismal. Most take my accounts but I can tell that they really do not try very hard because of the small return. (I can’t say I blame them) I find the biggest reason for failure however, is that the “alleged bad debtor” has more rights than even I do & I’m the one who’s out the $$$. There are so many rules against the process of collecting and if the person just claims harassment once or says “you’ve got the wrong #” they are forced to quit and that’s about all that can feasibly be done.

The School Of Hard Knuckles

So here I am back to where I started. It’s a cold morning and my knuckles sting from the rapping on the door. I’m nervous because my gals have clued me into the whole sorted story of how the non payment of the bill has come to this point. Very quickly once the door opens, I’m gonna become the sympathetic owner whose just trying to pay his bills or the rich bastard whose company never solved a problem or the staff was rude or- egad, who knows? Fortunately, I only end up doing this 3 or 4 times a year and out of that I turn out to be the good guy most of the time. And I must say- most of the time my customers turn out to be just fine as well once we all talk it over and they see I want what’s best for them as well. Nobody wins when harsh stances lead to hard feelings on either side and this includes even the times when you don’t get paid. At those times I find it’s best to just consider my bruised knuckles a light life’s lesson and just walk away.

What say you?

About The Bug Doctor

Jerry Schappert is a certified pest control operator and Associate Certified Entomologist with over two and a half decades of experience from birds to termites and everything in between. He started as a route technician and worked his way up to commercial/national accounts representative. Always learning in his craft he is familiar with rural pest services and big city control techniques. Jerry has owned and operated a successful pest control company since 1993 in Ocala,Florida. While his knowledge and practical application has benefitted his community Jerry wanted to impart his wisdom on a broader scale to help many more. Pestcemetery.com was born from that idea in 2007 and has been well received. It is the goal of this site to inform you with his keen insights and safely guide you through your pest control treatment needs.
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  • Right now I do not take credit cards but I’m looking for a solution to that.  A few customers pay me on-line through their bank and I wonder if others are aware that they can do the same thing.

    When I worked at my last job we had a contest to see who could collect the most payments. One guy went around saying that if they paid him the day of service he would enter them in a contest for a free turkey. I seemed to work.  Maybe the best thing is to sign them up the first time on a revolving bank debt if possible.

  • My biggest issue are termite inspections, most want it to go to escrow and then if something falls through – they figure they don’t owe it. We started giving  a cash price and then a escrow price. I hate collections, period. I think I would rather crawl under a crawlspace, which I don’t like either. The key with my employees is collect, collect and collect – its easier when you are there and face to face. 

  • You might put a note in with their receipt about that option for on line pay. For the cc, do due diligence. There are so many offers out there and they DON”T have you’re best interest in mind. I’d send along my contact since we’re so close but our guy went out of biz. We basically got the machine for free and only pay per transaction–(my wife found that deal)

    Love the turkey idea–I’m not sure I could sell it but I love the thought   lol

  • So true on the techs collecting and even more true on the WDO’s. We really have put our foot down on that end of things and don’t let it go to escrow anymore. If we don’t get a check–the letter never makes it to closing.  It’s sad that it got that far but even though we had heart to hearts with realtors etc…. that attitude of “the deal went south” or “the deals done what’d I need you for?”  I’m not gonna pay cuz I don’t feel I owe was just too prevalent and every year we chalked up tons of bad NEVER gonna collect debt. Now I think we’ve made some people mad- but at least I don’t work for free in the inspection business anymore.

  • Anonymous

    stuto, check out squareup. Its real easy and everything is free as far as equipment (just need a smart phone with android or Iphone). It only charges per swipe @ 2.75% with no monthly fees.

  • Awesome information Dylan- Thanks

  • I saw it and I’m going to get it right after I can pick up a discounted Iphone in april! Thats when my contracts up and I can get a deal!