Office Politics...
March 13, 2011 12:12 PM   Subscribe

What would you do if your landlord was also your friend and client, and had violated all three relationships, all at one time?

My workplace is a small cooperative spa in Northwest Portland. When I moved in, my massage studio was the only business in the place. I have brought in two other women, both estheticians, and our space has gone from a grey, dark hole into a warm, beautiful and welcoming sanctuary.
The people I pay my (office space) rent to started off as my clients, became my friends and are now, as mentioned, my landlords. They work in the same building as me but they are often in meetings, or in their sound studio recording their radio shows, so I rarely enter their office area when I need to speak with them.
She in particular has become a close friend of mine. She still sees me weekly for massage. It's been kept very neat, I pay her the rent and she pays me for massage, no crossover or gray area financially.
So. Two weeks back she (let's call her L) gave me a check, which bounced. I didn't realize what had happened until I saw that my business account had overdrawn, which NEVER has happened before. I contacted her, of course, explaining that the check had bounced and asking for cash instead. It took two attempts at contact before she responded, and her response was something to the effect of, I don't know why that happened, and by the way I'm leaving town this week, so I'll just have my husband (let's call him T) pay you at the office this week."
That was Monday.
Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday I made attempts (text and phone call) to contact T while I was at the office or on my way there, every time with no response. Thursday night I also messaged L, letting her know that T was not responding to my queries... which, surprise, she did not reply to either.
By Friday, I was feeling more than a little put out.
Friday, again at the office, I messaged T and asked if he was present, adding "please respond" so that, you know, maybe he would get back with me.
He did respond, saying he was NOT in the office, would not be all weekend, and sorry he couldn't help me.
This particular day I was seeing a very important, NEW client who had prepaid a month's worth of weekly massages. Naturally I'd like everything to be as peaceful as can be for her. However, about thirty minutes into a ninety minute massage, I start hearing noise - voices, mostly children, talking, laughing, screaming and horseplaying in the adjacent theater space (which, according to my lease agreement is not to be used unless I am informed first, due to the way the noise carries to the spa). It became so loud that my client actually commented on it. While she said it didn't bother her, it DID bother me and eventually I had to stop the massage and excuse myself to go have a word with someone.
I'm sure you can guess whose children were in the theater.
At this point, I marched into T's office, said something like, Hi! It's pretty loud in there, don't you think? And marched back out.
I was completely furious! Not only did he lie to me, but he potentially ruined a very important appointment!
After the massage, I was too angry to speak with T in person (and, I think he was ashamed and had fled the premises). I did reply to his text, noting that I'd seen him at the office, and had a little exchange with L later in the evening in which all I said was that I was too angry and wouldn't talk that day lest I say something I'd regret.
The problem, as I see it, is actually three separate issues. These people are being bad clients, bad friends and bad landlords, in that consecutive order. In my mind, although he was the one who was a jerk (and a liar), it is her that owes me money and had the responsibility to get it to me in a timely manner, and therefore this is her fault.
Lines have been crossed, and my ethics tell me I should not see either of them again for massage. I don't want to leave the space, since I've been there for a year and a half, put time and energy and sweat and money and love into it, and grown a highly successful business there. It would be bad for everyone if I did that.
What would you do?
The noise issue, by the way, has been ongoing (although it's rarely at the level reached Friday night), and there have been numerous meetings between Us, who run the spa, and Them, who rent to us and run the rest of the office building, to sort it all out. Promises are made and broken by Them regularly. I see us all leaving eventually, moving into our own location, but we're too young for that yet.
In the meantime... What would you do?
posted by She Talks To Angels to Human Relations (31 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I think you are wildly overreacting to all of this, and the lines that have been crossed are mostly ones you have drawn in your mind.

From your friends actions it seems clear they are undergoing some financial problems right now and are embarrassed and perhaps surprised. If they indeed are you friends, you should be willing to cut them some slack and make allowances, rather than turning into the bill collector from hell over the bill for a single massage. As for the kids--you let the landlord know they were loud and he dealt with the situation.

You should apologize to both of them, explain that you were stressed and that you value their friendship and professionalism, and hope they forgive you.
posted by LarryC at 12:24 PM on March 13, 2011 [13 favorites]

Best answer: Well. You asked what I'd do in that situation. I'd try to find a new location as soon as possible.

Barring that, I might try to be more direct (or maybe you have been?).

"It's a tad loud in there" isn't as effective as "I have a client right now and the noise is coming right through the wall. Can you please fix the situation?"

Also, I can understand why someone might bounce a check and then not deal with it right away--she probably thinks you know she's good for the money and perhaps they are more financially comfortable and forget that this amount of money can be of more meaning to people who don't have as much money. Could you offer to take the cost of the massage out of the next rent check?

You said these folks are friends, but do you see them socially, outside of this space? Or are they more very friendly colleagues/coworkers? Because I would back off socially and try to keep things very professional--friendly, but work-related.

Given that the noise issue is on-going and it sounds like you've attempted to resolve this unsuccessfully in the past, I think finding a new space is the only real, long-term solution. I can't imagine your anger at noise is helping you focus on your clients.

Good luck. Sounds very frustrating.
posted by bluedaisy at 12:24 PM on March 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I should add here that the check that bounced was for three massages, which makes that amount (before bank fees) in excess of $100, and means that I've been unpaid for a month now.
posted by She Talks To Angels at 12:25 PM on March 13, 2011

I think I would ask to meet with L & T together next week after you've cooled off a bit. Come to the meeting prepared to discuss the following two or three issues:

1. Resolving the issue of you getting L's payment according to whatever your policy is for all your clients for bounced checks. The only way to resolve this obviously is for you to get paid immediately.

2. Discuss the violation of the terms of your lease (noise in the space adjacent to your spa).

Those two are definites, of course. You haven't said much above about your personal relationship with L & T other than that they are friends, so I'm not sure whether your situation warrants this, but you can ponder whether you'd like to add:

3. Talk out your hurt feelings on a personal level about what happened and how it was handled.

It's up to you how to approach all of the above points, but keeping in mind that you wish to stay in that space for now, I would talk about it with them in person and in the spirit of working out a mutually agreeable solution.

All that said, you also mentioned:
Promises are made and broken by Them regularly.
Can you elaborate? If these two incidents are part of a pattern of problematic behavior, maybe you need to rethink whether you wish to stay in the space, remain friends with them, etc.

A final note: I'm not sure why one bounced check and one slip-up in noise control warrants you dropping them as clients (assuming the $ gets resolved). From what you've said here, the situation just doesn't seem to warrant that.
posted by hansbrough at 12:27 PM on March 13, 2011

It's not unreasonable of you to politely say that you won't massage them until they have paid for their previous massages.

Apart from that, I would leave it.
posted by teraspawn at 12:29 PM on March 13, 2011

Wait, you're seriously considering ending a friendship over $100? And moreover, your business account goes in the red when you're $100 short? What I would do is calm down, stop overreacting, and let this one go. Let them know that you'll need payment in cash for any future massages if you need to do that to make yourself feel better, but do not let this ruin your working relationship with people you otherwise like. Also, keep more money in your checking account. When you're running a business, you need to expect delays and errors, and you need to have enough money to cover your expenses.

Finally, is the noise provision in your written lease? If it is, I think you need to sit down with your co-tenants and landlord when you're nice and calm and talk about how to make the space work for all of you. Advance notice when someone's kids are coming to the office is probably not a reasonable thing to demand, but asking that they play quietly when you have appointments may be. Also, look into soundproofing your own studio or creating better white noise, so that you can mitigate from your end. But mostly, chill out. Your clients won't be able to be relaxed if you get this stressed out over things. Can you get someone to give you a massage to help you calm down?
posted by decathecting at 12:36 PM on March 13, 2011 [14 favorites]

On preview, what decathecting said. I say this as someone learning this suggestion the hard way: think about what financial safety buffer you and your company need. You might want to plan to always have enough extra to cover that month's equivalent of a bounced check of $100.
posted by slidell at 12:43 PM on March 13, 2011

Response by poster: Promises made and broken include mostly issues of communication about use of the theater, but there have been problems with people walking through the spa and talking on their cell phones, as well as taking groups of people on tours of the spa during business hours. We have clients who come for more than one service, and will be sitting in the open sanctuary area in a bathrobe. A spa needs to be a safe place, and encountering a group of looky-loo strangers while you're relaxing in a bathrobe is not a safe feeling. I've even been in session and more than once had my office door opened on me for one of these tour groups.
I kept this as brief as possible so as not to flood the question with extra examples of drama, but as to the issue of dropping them as clients (which I don't really want to do, but I find I would advise someone else to, so.), she is almost without fail more than 15 minutes late to every appointment. Usually this means that her appointment is cut short, since I have others starting afterward, and usually that's okay. It's just a small part of a larger pattern.
And no, I'm not considering ending my friendship over this. Hence the mention of it being three separate issues.
Also, this is a VERY small business, and when things like taxes come due, in conjunction with other bills and slow seasons in the massage biz, yes, I occasionally cut it close to the wire. I also have a house and family that my income partly supports, and sometimes I do need to pay myself. As I said, I've kept it very tidy and have never been overdrawn before.
posted by She Talks To Angels at 12:44 PM on March 13, 2011

Best answer: Okay, in that case, I renew my recommendation that you meet with them to discuss the ongoing problem of noise and disruption due to the adjacency of the theater space. If you're not already, you should begin documenting each time there is a noise disruption or a disruption from a tour group (?!). (Which is ridic. Why do they need to be in your space? How is this addressed in your lease? If it's not addressed, get it addressed immediately.)

Another suggestion I have while you are figuring all this out is to get a very large, very readable sign for the door to your massage room that says DO NOT ENTER, MASSAGE IN PROGRESS or the like.
posted by hansbrough at 12:50 PM on March 13, 2011 [4 favorites]

I sounds to me like you need a massage and a place to relax. You are wound too tight about this. First, reduce your next month's rent by the $100 and no more massages unless cash. Problem solved. Ask them to not bring clients through your space and remind them of the noise provision. Ask them if they want to keep you as a tenant. When they say yes, tell them you are so glad as they are your friends, you like it there, but it has not been working so well lately. After you all work this out by direct communication, go out together and have a glass of wine.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 12:50 PM on March 13, 2011 [14 favorites]

Best answer: A bit of general advice, less texting and more direct voice assertive language. I have found texting to be overly used when people are scared of talking to one another, it makes things worse not better. especially in professional settings.

Set and enforce boundaries. No cell phone use means if someone does, they get politely but firmly confronted about it. Unscheduled tours are rebuffed and told to return later when you'll be happy to show them around. Do it firmly, do it politely, do it consistently.

You have to be professional. you have to be direct. You have to be calm. The next meeting about the noise you ask specifically what happens when there is too much noise, demand some form of agreed upon specific accountability in writing.

And yeah, as you say, in the long run move out, find a quieter place.
posted by edgeways at 12:55 PM on March 13, 2011 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Similar to what decathecting is suggesting, I finally made sure that I had several months worth of payroll expenses (for me) in my business account plus several months of emergency savings for me on the side. That took a large part of the $ panic out of my system. I honestly made it my top priority out of everything else for a while.

In addition, I put up an unemotional system in place to deal with late payers. Let’s just say the first few times I saw late bills I would send rude emails, etc. I step back a bit now and realize that the problem was somewhere else (accounts), they are just busy, etc.I now have a system set up in place, and I can take a lot of the emotion out of it -- because I know taht I can get a may be paid a few months later, but I can get the $ I still see red, by the way, but only when it is >10 K, not $500 or a few K. Everyone has paid me up until now.

So for you, implement a policy and put it on your website/notify people in person, whatever. Cash only. Or, if you are ever late paying, must pay in advance (in fact, that may work better for you….if someone pays in advance for 5 massages, they get 10% off or whatever you want. It is all about cash flow. Sit down and think of ways to get money coming in the door before they even come in/or pay on site right then. For parts of the business that give you ulcers (for a while, chasing down the occasional late payer was for me) a favor with a friend, outsource it to a virtual friendly assistant, anything, but you don't have to do all of it. I do understand this difficulty, but don't make this part of your business emotional or it will consume you, trust me.

Hire someone else or refer your “friend” to someone else for massages, it has gotten to that point (I am speaking as someone who has fired clients, even clients who were friends and who I respect). Maybe it would be helpful to talk to other massage/spa business owners to find out suggestions “how to deal with late payers”, plus if you can’t take someone, you will give them a referral and vice versa. Refer your friend on as a start, but be honest as to why you are doing so.

You absolutely do need to have a business type meeting about the conditions under which you are renting and add a sub clause. No tours. No cell phones. Two different business places. If you are going to have this discussion with your friend, maybe calm down a bit first, take them out to lunch, apologize, and give them your perspective. All these things (late paying, noise, etc.) can affect your business.
posted by Wolfster at 1:04 PM on March 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Lots of good advice here, but I wanted to echo what LarryC said about your friends sounding embarrassed -- it doesn't excuse their behaviour, but it does provide context for why they might be avoiding you. Could be there is real financial difficulties right now (and likely there is if a cheque for $100 bounced). That might even explain the kids running around in the theatre -- if things are really tight, they might not be able to afford their regular childcare. A little perspective on what your landlord/friend/client's situation might be will help you approach the problems you are having with them in a calm, respectful, and professional manner.
posted by Felicity Rilke at 1:44 PM on March 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Also, this is a VERY small business, and when things like taxes come due, in conjunction with other bills and slow seasons in the massage biz, yes, I occasionally cut it close to the wire. I also have a house and family that my income partly supports, and sometimes I do need to pay myself. As I said, I've kept it very tidy and have never been overdrawn before.

As a business owner, you cannot make your poor financial management skills your client's problems. I get that all the time from vendors- we need our check RIGHT NOW!!! because we're completely out of money. But it's not my problem that they manage their money paycheck to paycheck. You have to build up some reserves for yourself to ensure this doesn't happen again.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 2:51 PM on March 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for all the solid business advice, everyone. My plans on how to proceed include pieces of many of your answers.
I think, perhaps, that in the telling I over-emphasized the money portion of the issue. Yes, my bank account overdrew, but the main issues for me were the way L and T handled my requests. She promised to have the money to me last week and did not follow through. He avoided me, lied to me, and disrespected my work environment (and in so doing, forced me to catch him in his lie... wtf?).
I agree that not seeing them for massage until I'm paid in full, and then asking for cash always thereafter is the right way to go. That is my plan for the client issue.
My friendship with her will be strained until we talk about this, and afterwards I'm sure we will be fine. With her, it's only some owed money. With him, though, things are different. Avoiding, lying and showing complete disrespect are things that my friends just don't do. Pair that with no apology whatsoever, and it looks to me as if our relationship has been downgraded to one that's strictly business. That's my plan for the friendship issue.
For the landlord issue.... All of those things mentioned, the obvious signage, the ongoing meetings, those are all in place. Bringing their kids to the office is completely fine, I even love it that they do, but there is a built-in play area inside their office, with toys and books and beanbags and room to run around. Being in the theater is not only unnecessary, it's against the lease agreement. Spa hours are posted clearly by the door, and it's not difficult to poke one's head into the spa and check to see if anyone is working (there are signs that say In Session as well as the lights being on, candles lit, music playing, etc.). Proceeding from here will be a little touchy, but I agree that the lease agreement may need some upgrading at this point.
Did I miss anything? Thanks again.
posted by She Talks To Angels at 3:07 PM on March 13, 2011

I think you're overreacting. This has been going on for two weeks, right? And before that you had a great (albeit somewhat complicated relationship) with people who are at once friends, clients, and landlords.

If you want to stay in this space: Calm down. Give it a few days. Walk over, in person, to their office on Monday and talk to them in person. You might even say something as simple as suggesting that you take the $100+ out of next month's rent and that you're going to cash-only for a few months as you are strapped financially as well, you're happy to see her in the future with that policy in mind.

That's only if you care about retaining the space. Because they've been inconsiderate, but you're also flying off the handle a little bit with loads of phone calls/texts. If your landlords were posting in the green, they would get told to pay their bill, but also to reconsider having a friend/service provider as a tenant, particularly someone who appeared to be so close to the edge financially and emotionally.

Other unsolicited advice: if an unexpected ~$100 loss in your bank account means you are overdrawn, your business needs to be keeping more of a cash reserve in case of the unexpected or emergencies. Maybe part of why you're so upset about this is that you're having financial trouble entirely unrelated to your clients/friends/landlords?
posted by arnicae at 3:33 PM on March 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I work at a job where personal/money lines get very blurred (as a nanny) and I have to be "on" and in complete control of my emotions when I'm working. When I'm giving people my absolute best, providing them with a very personal, intimate, and yes, loving service, and they treat me with a lack of consideration in return, it feels like a huge betrayal. Especially when it has a huge financial impact--it speaks to a lack of concern about my well-being and that is very hurtful. It's not their responsibility to make sure that I have a financial cushion, but screwing me out of money is still wrong.

So, suffice to say I'm surprised by the people who say you're overreacting. $100 PLUS overdraft fees PLUS the constant stress of never knowing when you'll get it because they lied to you PLUS feeling trapped in the location (and therefore feeling unable to disengage or "let it go") would just piss me off immeasurably. I'd also feel very invaded and taken advantage of by the repeated lack of consideration for your space (both aural and physical).

I completely would not be able to give them a relaxing massage and I wouldn't blame you for firing them as clients if you feel like you can't give your best.

If possible, I'd try to get email confirmation of the amount of money owed (including overdraft fees) and then look into small claims options. I don't know that I'd go there, but I'd want to be informed about statute of limitations, the cost of filing, etc.

I would also do a lot more intensive research into alternate locations, as a long-term plan, and possibly map out some objective criteria for considering a move in terms of cash on hand, regular clientele, or even days ruined by dealing with your landlords. That way you don't feel so helpless and stuck.

Good luck, this sounds rough.
posted by the young rope-rider at 4:14 PM on March 13, 2011 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: I love validation! Thank you.
posted by She Talks To Angels at 4:17 PM on March 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

First, reduce your next month's rent by the $100 and no more massages unless cash. Problem solved.

Withholding rent is almost always a terrible idea unless you want to be evicted and lose your deposit. Even if your landlord owes you money for some other reason.

I love validation! Thank you.

Also, what the f? Validation is not what AskMe is for, and it's increasingly obvious that this is the only thing you're looking for in this thread. I don't deny that this is difficult for you, but the passive-aggressivism and victim complex needs to stop if you want to resolve this problem and maintain this friendship. As many others have already said, I think you're overreacting given the circumstances, especially if you haven't addressed any of these things directly with the landlords. It sounds like the informal nature of your lease is turning out to be more of a liability than an asset (informal business arrangements with friends/family are almost never a good idea).

posted by schmod at 4:28 PM on March 13, 2011 [13 favorites]

Response by poster: I agree, withholding rent is not a good idea. The nature of our lease itself is not informal whatsoever, but the handling of it has been, and doing that would make it more so.
I asked this question to see whether anyone had fresh ideas that I hadn't come up with already, and thankfully a few did.
This is my first AskMe post, and it seems to me that I stayed within the nature of the forum. After being told repeatedly that I'm overreacting (that wasn't really the question, but it's okay), it's a relief to hear that somebody can see my point of view. *shrug*
posted by She Talks To Angels at 4:40 PM on March 13, 2011

I think you should stop accepting checks and also stop freaking out over one $100 bill that is slightly late. You are overreacting because of your poor business skills. If you can't deal with things like this professionally then you shouldn't be a business owner.
posted by bradbane at 4:50 PM on March 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

He did respond, saying he was NOT in the office, would not be all weekend, and sorry he couldn't help me.

This particular day I was seeing a very important, NEW client who had prepaid a month's worth of weekly massages. Naturally I'd like everything to be as peaceful as can be for her. However, about thirty minutes into a ninety minute massage, I start hearing noise - voices, mostly children, talking, laughing, screaming and horseplaying in the adjacent theater space.

Not to excuse T or anything, but it is just possible that he *wasn't* at the office and wasn't planning to come in, but something came up and he had to stop by unexpectedly with the kids.

That would explain both his answer and the fact that the kids were suddenly there making noise in the middle of your appointment. I would expect that if he/kids were there earlier, they likely would have been making noise earlier.

It's also quite possible that they are in some kind of financial difficulty and thus embarrassed/avoiding.
posted by flug at 4:50 PM on March 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! I'm calling it. :)
posted by She Talks To Angels at 4:51 PM on March 13, 2011

Best answer: It's not that people can't see your point of view. I understand why you're upset. But generally AskMe is better at "what should I do?" than it is at "how do I feel better?"

The basic issue is that you are hurt because these people are your friends. Except it has become obvious they are not your friends, or if they think they are, they are not very good at it. I don't know what to tell you about that; people who disappoint you can leave a lot of hurt in their wake, but the truth is that as an adult, you need to build some resiliance.

In terms of what I would do, I think it is very important that separate these issues out and deal with them in turn, in order of priority. First of all, send your client a firm but friendly email reminding her that she owes $100 for services rendered on X, Y and Z date and that you need payment in full in cash within five days.

After that, send an email to both of them stating that you need to review the parameters of your lease. Go in with a list of specific issues, reach agreement (again), and follow it up with an email recapping that agreement afterwards. When they breech the agreement, immediately send an email stating that X incident happened on Y date, and that in respect of your signed lease and the agreement of Z date, you would appreciate clarification on what actions they will be taking to make sure this doesn't happen again.

And as to the lying guy, frankly I'd ignore it. You have valuable data you didn't have before - you know that he's dishonest and unreliable. If you want him to apologise for being that way, you can probably extract such and apology but given that he's a proven liar, it will likely have no value.

So instead of just being upset, decide what tangible outcomes you want, and work towards that. It's really all you can do.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:54 PM on March 13, 2011 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: And as to the lying guy, frankly I'd ignore it. You have valuable data you didn't have before - you know that he's dishonest and unreliable. If you want him to apologise for being that way, you can probably extract such and apology but given that he's a proven liar, it will likely have no value.
That was the perfectly fresh perspective I needed there, thanks.
posted by She Talks To Angels at 4:59 PM on March 13, 2011

Best answer: It doesn't matter if they have a financial problem. OP provides a service for a fee. If the landlord can't afford the service at that time, she could have canceled until she could afford to pay. It's not the OP's responsibility to float the client's bill, especially when the business model is to pay upon rendering of services.

OP - I kept my mouth shut about something similar last year and it's turned into 8 months of aggravation for me. People who take advantage know they are doing so. I have no advice, but I do recommend finding a new facility asap. Deciding to speak up or not might depend on how fast I could organize a new spa setting.

I missed my opportunity 8 months ago to be straightforward with my friend/client and I'm praying weekly now for her to drop off the edge of the earth. Don't be me!
posted by jbenben at 5:26 PM on March 13, 2011

Best answer: One perspective I haven't seen here is that you are treating this couple as though they are one person. But actually, the woman bounced a cheque, and the man caused the noise problem. (I agree with the commenter who said that he may well not have lied to you about coming in but rather had to come in unexpectedly and that this explains the kids.) Does un-associating these two rudenesses help you not be so angry? Because if one person had done both those things to me in a short space of time, yes, I would be livid, but in this case it's actually two different people each pissing you off half as much!
posted by lollusc at 5:38 PM on March 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Does un-associating these two rudenesses help you not be so angry?
That's a good question. And, I'm sure when I talk to her about it, she'll be just as angry with him as I've been. Really, the two things are separate, linked only by his lie, which is its own thing. Even if she hadn't owed money (and then there would have been no need for his mistruth) he still would have made noise. I would not have been so angry about the noise if not for the lie, but I still would have been angry and the lease agreement still violated.
Hmm. Good stuff, thanks for the brain food.
posted by She Talks To Angels at 5:49 PM on March 13, 2011

I agree, withholding rent is not a good idea. The nature of our lease itself is not informal whatsoever, but the handling of it has been

That's a much more reasonable way to put it, and definitely a valid cause for concern! If you tell your landlady "I'm your friend, and very glad of that. However, our lease is a business arrangement, and my livelihood depends on you treating it as such," I think she'll have a very tough time "firing back" at you, as that's a totally reasonable complaint to make.

After all, if you didn't pay your rent for a month, would she nonchalantly shrug off that fact like her husband seems to have done with his financial obligations?

And, sorry for lashing out like that! With the proper framing, this is a perfectly good question. DarlingBri hits the nail on the head -- we're much better at telling people what to do, rather than how to feel. The Internet isn't a particularly great medium for conveying emotional support. Welcome to MetaFilter!
posted by schmod at 6:25 PM on March 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Nice! Thanks!
Actually, I very much expected people to tell me to put my Big Girl pants on and stop whining, and I was good with that. I knew I'd get some excellent ideas from posting anyway, so I went ahead and braved it.
And guess what? I was right! Yay! For slaps and for pats. :)
posted by She Talks To Angels at 6:40 PM on March 13, 2011

Best answer: I think you don’t get why people are telling you you’re overreacting. You need to understand that contacting your client daily over a bounced check for $100 is unprofessional on your part.

A quick web search yields some good guidelines on how to treat bounced checks; I think it’s worth pasting them here:

What do you do when a client's check bounces?

1. Run the check again.
Run the check through the bank a second time. It is ok to double check to make sure that the transaction was done properly. Some call the bank first before making the second deposit attempt. If the check bounces again, it's time for step 2.

2. Contact the client.
Place a courtesy call to your client or the person that wrote the check. Leave one polite message asking that they take care of the bounced check as soon as possible. They can either pay it with cash or a cashier's check. Give them a week to reply and then leave a message that lets them know that you are calling about the check they wrote you that was returned. Let them know that you have left a message already and you are following up on it.

3. Write a letter.
If the person that wrote the check is non-responsive, send a certified letter stating the check was returned and for what reason and that the party has 10 days to provide a cashier's check or money order for the appropriate amount. Act as fast as possible because the longer you wait, the tougher it is to collect.

4. Contact the bank.
If the bank is convenient, you can go to the bank daily and see if there are funds available in the customer's account to cover the check. Unfortunately, if you have incurred any bounced check fees, you won't get a refund for those, however, at least you will get the cost of the product covered.

5. Take them to court.
Another option is to pursue client in small-claims court. You can do this without a lawyer if the amount owed is within the court's jurisdictional limits, which is $4,500. Make sure first if it is going to be worth your time. Even if the ruling is in your favor, the ultimate recovery still may take a long time. Small claims courts can be very time consuming and not worth the headache.

Some good tips to keep in mind:
Before doing business, don't be afraid to let customers know that you have a bounced check fee. All businesses do and you need to make sure you cover your costs. A good guideline is to charge what your bank charges plus $5.00 for the hassle involved. Make sure to have credit policies that are clearly stated and explained to your clients. Interest on penalties, bad check fees and personal guaranty requirements are critical.

Make sure to always send invoices the same day that the products are shipped and checks are deposited the same day that they are received. This will ensure that you stay on top of your finances. Make sure to be educated on the process the bank clears checks so that any un-cleared checks from the same client do not continue to accumulate.
posted by Dragonness at 8:16 AM on March 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

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