Dear Crabby,

I’m at my wits end. I have a customer who has gone through good and bad times over the years (decades) and our president continues to do business with him no matter how bad the bad times get. My problem is that one of those bad times has produced one weird excuse after another. First the invoice was not received even though it goes out by email and regular mail. Then their computer system was on the blink and they could not issue checks until it was repaired, which was two months ago. Now the other day when I called, I was told the owner of the company is in the hospital

Sometimes the excuses just don’t add up and this last one makes me feel as though I really need to confirm whether the owner is indeed in the hospital. I’m considering calling our customer back and asking for the name of the hospital where the owner is so that I can send him a card and flowers. Is this too devious or would it at least help put things in perspective.

Signed: Signed: Need to know the truth!


Dear Need to know the truth,

Well, I think the key word in your question is “devious.” Since this customer has been with you for decades and in the end has always paid you, questioning the legitimacy of the hospital excuse is probably why you’re feeling a little guilty. At the same time, there is certainly nothing wrong with wanting to send a card and flowers. Assuming their cash flow is very poor, your gesture would certainly show a tremendous amount of consideration and may get you to the top of their payment list.

But more importantly, we have to ask the question: Even if the owner is indeed in the hospital, how are salaries, rent, utilities, and other important bills getting paid? In this case I think it’s a good idea to assume the owner is in the hospital but I would definitely try to get past that excuse with the second in command, especially since it appears you have been very patient and understanding with their other excuses.

Dear Crabby is a credit and collection advice column by Nancy Seiverd, President, CMI Credit Mediators Inc. Your thoughts ( on what to advise are most welcome, and with your permission, we’ll reprint your comments in the next issue of our newsletter.

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