Friday, October 05, 2007

Can You Spare a Dime?

There are some moments in time when lots of annoying things seem to collide. I guess this week was one of those moments. And it's not even a full moon!

Now, for those of you who don't know, as part of my business I do piano key recovering for the trade. In other words, piano technicians from around the country ship damaged or worn piano keys to me. I make them like new. A bit over simplified as an explanation but it will do.

I guess I'll attack this chronologically.

Customer X...Last July I received a set of keys from a new technician/customer. As is customary, he enclosed prepayment for the job. Only problem was that his prepayment was $15.00 short. Not a problem, I thought. When I shipped the finished keys back to him I put a note with the receipt that "current due" was $15.00 and included a copy of the price list/ad that runs in the Piano Technician's Guild Journal.

Customer Y...This past August I received a set of keys from a longtime customer. They rarely prepay and I usually receive payment within a couple weeks. I did the work and shipped the keys back with a bill.

Just over two weeks ago, another set of keys arrive from customer Y. He requests a specialty keytop that is $125.00 more expensive than the "normal". He also had some questions, so I called. During the conversation he remarked that he was sending the payment for the previous job. Okay with me. I did the special job, still hadn't received the arrears payment, and wrote a bill and included it in the return shipment of the second job. The bill showed the amount due on the current job as well as the amount overdue on the previous, and the total.

No money.

Customer Z...needs a piano tuned at a certain location where I am normally the "contracted" tuner. I tell customer Z the price and we agree on the date that the piano will be tuned. I go and tune and mail the bill to customer Z. That was over a week ago.

No money.

I email customer Y asking that he check on the status of my payment. He owes $410.00. He replies that the check was issued on Sat. 22, that he'll put it in the mail on Fri. 28. Huh???

Well, at least it's progress of a sort. Maybe, just maybe?

Still no money and....

A box arrives. Customer X has sent another set of keys. Packed so poorly that there would be no way to return ship in the same undersized box without the new key coverings being damaged. And a prepayment check, $15.00 short. I emailed detailing the problem. Arrears $30. No problem, he says. He was looking at an older ad, he says. Sorry, he says. Whoever unpacked the previous keys must have thrown the bill away, he says. A $30.00 check will be in the mail. He says. The next day I was getting ready to head for the bank to deposit the check that he had enclosed, albeit for the shorted amount. And guess what I discovered?

He hadn't signed the check. (Have you heard my screaming around the world?)

So I emailed again with a copy of the unsigned check attached. I told him I would not be starting on his keys until I had received full payment. And I mentioned the packing problem, too. So sorry, he says. He take care of it.

Yesterday we were out for the day visiting friends in Plaistow, NH. When we got home I headed for the mailbox, truly expecting to be disappointed once again.

YAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAY! A check from customer Y. I finally got it on Oct 4 (it was postmarked on the 2nd). For $135.00 too much. Now I'm sending him an overpayment refund check. How long should I make him wait?

Which leads to the even bigger question.
Why, oh why, do I enjoy being self employed?

Do you think this guy had the same problems way back then? Found in an old upright piano. Check out the little phone number!

P.S. Still waiting on Customers X and Z.


Little Wing said...

I feel your pain!
I am self employed and I ONLY do pre-pay, no exceptions!
Have a great weekend!!!!

dickiebo said...

I reckon that u have the patience of a Saint, Deb.

Annette said...

oh deb,thanks for your omment on my blog.
God, I laughed.
Theres nothing like pre planning your funeral, is there!!

Thanks again.

deb said...

LW, thanks. Fortunately most of my customers either prepay or are very prompt with payment. The few, well...I'm starting a hit list.

For a polite lecture of course!

deb said...

dickiebo, one of these days I'm going to explode. Don't worry, you'll know when it happens. The internal pressure will have risen so high that parts of me will be seen flying above every continent!

deb said...

Annette, funny how when people think you're a bit nuts, they leave you alone. Caution must be used to avoid actually becoming what they think.

Claire said...

It sounds really stressful, being totally self-employed... presumably worth it though?

I like the old business card too - there's something really interesting about old ephemera that got accidentally left somewhere. Traces of other people's lives I suppose, if that doesn't sound too pretentious!

deb said...

The most stressful was actually deciding to do it. Other than that, long hours, no regular paycheck, customers that fail to understand that you, too, have bills to pay, added insurance coverage, etc. However, make your own hours (within reasonable parameters), the boss understands how you feel, love the work, can't be fired or laid off, can plan and take vacation days when it suits, and most of all the satisfaction of doing a job to the best of your ability and seeing the delight on the faces of your customers.

Who Me? said...

Yeah being self employed certainly has it's benefits, which hopefully outweigh the negatives. Have just taken the plunge myself and so far it's working great.

I love that old card.

I wonder did Amos ever get paid with a home baked apple pie, or a side of beef or some freshly grown produce??

deb said...

I must say, after 15 years of self employment, I would totally dread *having* to be on someone else's schedule!

Yeah, bet Amos had some fun times! I don't know about him and apple pie, but...two years ago November, I did a repair and tuning job. The customer offered a slice of homebaked pumpkin pie. The pumpkins were from her own garden. Usually I politely decline anything more than a glass of water but I love pumpkin pie so I agreed. Thank goodness she served it up and left the room. An extremely large serving I might add. And it was dreadful. Gag on. What to do! I emptied a plastic bag of small parts and screws and dumped the pie into the bag. Tied it up with a twist tie and zipped it up in the side pocket of my tool kit.

Back to water only! No matter what.