Monday, August 14, 2006

Speak softly but...

My nephew Jessiah Pedde won a gold medal in archery at the Ontario Summer Games in Ottawa last week. We're all very proud of him. He is a fine young man.

I'm fascinated by the mechanics and the appearance of the bows used in modern archery. Had our forebears had tools like these, bringing down a woolly mammoth or a mastodon would have been much easier. Today's archery hardware manifests power and sleek efficiency, the sorts of things that make a man sit up and notice.

I have a bow. I even have some arrows to shoot with it. I got these things many years ago. A sporting goods store owed my company several hundred dollars, and I thought that they might be going bankrupt. My brother (he was my partner at the time) and I went to the store, picked out items totalling approximately what was owed to us, then took them to a clerk to be rung in. When presented with the total, we told the clerk to apply the amount against what was owed to us. A heated verbal exchange ensued. We won. We left with the merchandise and then had archery equipment, ice skates, track suits, and a bunch of other stuff that we didn't really need. Still, it was better than not getting anything at all. Not long afterwards, the store went bankrupt.

Around the same time, we outfitted our office with desks, chairs and filing cabinets the same way. We backed a truck up to the loading dock of an office outfitter that owed us money, loaded up all the stuff we wanted, then told the guy who had helped us to contra the goods against their outstanding debt to us. We used that word 'contra' often in those days. Having something, anything at all, in hand is better than having a company go bankrupt owing you money and having absolutely nothing to show for the experience.

The meek shall inherit the earth, right? Not in cases like this. A lot of business people are not aggressive enough in protecting their interests. If someone owes you money, there is nothing wrong with trying to get paid, even if it is with a bunch of stuff you can't really use or would never buy otherwise. You can always sell the stuff, or give it away to friends or family.

We don't have to do this sort of thing very often anymore. Thank goodness. It's not that companies don't go bankrupt anymore, it is just that we are more conscious of our accounts receivable and insist on being paid in a reasonable period of time.

I wonder if this all has something to do with the picture that used to adorn our accounts receivable collection notices back in the 1970's. Probably not. It was fun, though. People used to have a sense of humour about these things back then.

How things have changed.

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