Dear Crabby,

I’m the credit and collection manager at a small scrap and metals processing company. We basically buy old industrial electric motors and disassemble them for the copper, silver, titanium, and other precious metals. 

We’ve had a long-term client, who like many other clients, has experienced some hard times due to the recent economic uncertainties in our industry. We have always had a good relationship but naturally, as the receivable balance continued to grow and become more and more delinquent, we finally had to put the brakes on, letting him know that all credit is on hold. He was understanding and has taken his business elsewhere. As we are in a very tight nit industry, we know where he’s been buying from and have heard that he’s leaving one supplier after another when they basically cut him off for not paying. 

Surprisingly, since November of last year, he has continued to pay us every month on time according to an 18-month payment schedule that we negotiated at the time we stopped selling to him. 

Then, out of the blue, I received a little package from him with a small souvenir he bought for me while on his recent vacation to Hawaii. Nothing expensive but it was a thank you for letting him pay off the debt on an extended basis. 

To tell you the truth, this souvenir really blindsided me and that’s because instead of using precious funds for a vacation, he should have paid down more towards the remaining balance. Even though there are only about ten months to go, I feel it was wrong for him to go on a trip in which our company (and other companies) basically financed for him. Honestly, it’s a lot of nerve.

So, here’s my dilemma. Should I call him and try to renegotiate our payment schedule or with only ten months left, should I let it go and be done with him? 

Signed: He Can Keep His Souvenir 

Dear Souvenir,

Wow. Some people just have no shame and no sense. I totally agree with you that a debtor going on vacation when they owe money to others is real nerve. A normal and respectably thinking person not only does not go on vacation when they are in financial default, they certainly don’t advertise it by sending their creditor a souvenir. What was he thinking?

Here’s my thought on this. As much as it hurts, don’t acknowledge the souvenir, don’t say anything, and just let him keep paying for the next ten months. If you bring it up now and try to renegotiate the payment for more, it might back-fire and you could end up with nothing. He might be thinking that by giving you a souvenir from his vacation, he’s paving the way for a future business relationship after he settles the account in full. 

Hopefully once he’s paid the account, any future business must be solely cash in advance. If he complains, you’ll have to let him know your company policy — accounts that previously went into a non-payment status for an extended period of time can no longer be granted credit. 

Dear Crabby is a credit and collection advice column by Nancy Seiverd President CMI Credit Mediators Inc. Your thoughts and comments (nseiverd@cmiweb.com) are most welcome!

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