The quandry

1 03 2011

Mr M has been a good customer over the years – not a very big one but reliable on ordering, payment and collection. This year he has stumbled badly though and we eventually had to throw away his order of 12,000 cabbage seedlings. They had been in the nursery more than 2 months after the due collection and I’d lost any profit on them and they were hopelessly over-mature. True to form he said he was always coming “this week” to collect but he never came.

Yesterday he arrived to see if he could get us to sow another order. He told me that the rains had been so heavy that he could not get into his lands to plant. I told him that when he paid for the non-collected order I’d sow his next one. He asked me if I could not halve the charge to him! I commented that I was not responsible for the rains and we’d upheld our side of the contract. Perhaps he was thinking that I would be happier to get something for my loss rather than nothing and I would be very unlikely to call in the debt collectors. He was right on the latter – I have way to many bad debtors on my books! I should explain that we do tend to try and keep our customers as we are in a competitive market and there is certainly no queue of prospective clients at the gate! He certainly piled on the pressure about how hard things were but I reminded him that when things were good no farmer ever offered to share his good fortune with me – farming is a high risk business with proportional rewards and potential loss. I am in a more low risk business – we don’t charge according to the market forces but I don’t make or hopefully lose as much as he could either.

He went away disappointed that I would not budge. I did tell the senior foreman later that if he phoned to ask if we’d sowed his next order to say that when he gave us a deposit we’d do so but nothing would leave the nursery until his account was up to date. He was right up to a point, I did want to get SOMETHING for the lost seedlings!



2 responses

7 03 2011
Big Blister

Perhaps all your customers should pay a non-refundable deposit on placing an order? That way you’d get “something” for everything you plant.

10 03 2011

That is usually the case but as he is a long standing customer the foreman gave him a bit of slack. It would be nice though if customers in this sort of situation would just tell us they had a problem and they we could try selling them off while they were still usable.

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