When the Check Gets "Lost in the Mail"

Last Updated Sep 28, 2009 5:09 PM EDT

Monday often brings the biggest mail haul. You pluck through the stack and sure enough, despite previous assurances from clients that their outstanding invoices were processed, you still don't see a bunch of checks you were expecting.

Years back, at a start-up I worked at, one of my main responsibilities was to make Accounts Receivables calls. I used to gripe about the task because of the pressure (cash flow is king and we aren't a bank!) and the mind-numbing administrative aspect of it. I found it a little degrading, too, once I learned that some AP departments, even at respectable companies, were straight-up lying to me.

But when I look back, I appreciate that I had the experience because the fact is, no matter what stage of your career you're at, no one is above making that call to a delinquent client. So now, when I hear that the "check is in the mail" or that the "check must have gotten lost in the mail," I conclude this client must think I'm a sucker.

We all know that checks simply don't take months to get from point A to point B. It wouldn't take a horse and buggy that long to deliver your money across state lines. As much as we all like to take shots at the US Postal Service, you have to admit that they can reliably deliver mail from anywhere in the United States to your office within a week or so.

Of course, the tact you take on the follow-up call depends on a ton of factors, primarily their payment history and whether you expect to continue doing business with the account.

So BNET commenters, I'd like to hear the most outrageous explanations you've ever heard from clients that don't pay their bills on time. And most importantly, how do you respond to the "check must have gotten lost in the mail" excuse?

  • Stefan Deeran

    Stefan Deeran helps environmental nonprofits and green businesses develop and execute their new media campaigns. He also publishes The Exception magazine, a nonpartisan news platform serving his home state of Maine. You can follow him on Twitter @RStefanDeeran or via Facebook.