Playing the system

18 01 2007

I have a customer who owes me quite a lot of money (by Zimbabwe standards). He came and bought two batches of seedlings some 8 weeks ago and neglected to pay for them. Could he bring the cheques tomorrow? Yes, of course he could. I had no reason to believe that he would not do so and besides, business is bad so it helps to humour customers. The cheques eventually arrived some 2 weeks later after much badgering. They both promptly bounced. That should not have happened he said, there should have been money in the account. By now I’d made a few enquiries around town and it had been revealed that he’d done the same with other nurseries, so when he promised to bring cash around the next day I was more than a little skeptical. It has yet to arrive.

The customer probably never had the money (in that bank account) in the first place. But he knows that if he can keep me and the debt collectors at bay long enough he can get the cash from selling the crop for which has not paid and pay off his debts. With inflation running at around 2000% he will pay a fraction (in real terms) of what he would have paid had he done so on time (It would take at least 2 months to get the debt collectors into action). He then might have enough money next time around to pay cash up front for the crop (no-one will touch him unless he does) and he will have established himself. Maybe.  Yes, I will deal with him again if he brings cash up front. He knows that we are pragmatic and will not turn definite (this time) business away. He is not the first to do this and I’m sure he will not be the last to at least try it.



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