I was getting my car serviced this morning and had an unexpected contact with a client. I run into clients all the time at the grocery store, filling the tank, or social events. So chance meetings are nothing unexpected. The unexpected aspect was more on their part since they have been ignoring my attempts to contact them. They owe me for preparing their return.
I don't e-file too many returns without the payment. It is only good business sense since once the return is gone, I have no leverage to get paid. But occasionally, I file the return on a promise of payment when the refund arrives. And I have been lucky. Most clients don't need a reminder to stop by and pay me. If I do have to send a reminder, it usually only takes one. If there is a problem, all they have to do is call and work with me. I've had clients lose a job and were only able to pay me $5-10 out of their unemployment check. Show me some respect and I'll work with you. Ignore me and you become a dead beat.
I have had a my share of dead beats. Most are clients who tried to do a bank product which allows my fees to come out of the refund. Then their tax refund is taken by the IRS and I am stuck. I can't think of any of these clients who have made it good. They just slink off to another preparer. Which is their only option since I usually fire them when they don't work with me on payment. It's hard not to get paid for your work. In the final letter I send, I ask the client how they would feel if their boss wouldn't pay them for work they had done. I's not a fun feeling.
Today's client was someone I trusted enough to file their return and let them send me a check. Which they didn't. That was in April. In May, I e-mailed. In July, a letter and bill. August was a phone call where I left a message. Three weeks ago, another letter and that was followed by a call/message a week ago. Through all this, I was ignored. Losing the money won't kill me. I don't spend until the check clears. The big issue with dead beats like, especially the ones you trusted, is the implied lack of respect for you and the service you provided. Today's client acknowledged receipt of the last bill/letter when I coldly answered their questions. (No matter how much a client may owe me it doesn't get aired out of the office unless they bring it up first but I won't pretend all is well.) And they proceeded to BS me about not knowing there was a problem and they would get back with me to work something out. But, I am not holding my breath. And I won't go to their Facebook page and write Dead Beat--Thief on their wall. (As tempting as that sounds!)
The real problem with dead beats is they mess it up for others. One of the nice things about owning a business is that sometimes you can really help someone. Someone who is having a bad time and appreciates that you doing a little extra for them. Like filing before they can pay. They become part of your core supporters and recommenders . But after dealing with a dead beat, it's harder to trust and take a risk on someone.