Richard Maun – Invisible Theft

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Invisible Theft

16 July 2017

Here’s a dilemma…

A hungry looking man walks into your bakers shop and takes a bread roll. He puts it in his pocket without paying and slips out of the shop. As you saw what happened do you…

A. Leave the counter and pursue him, to ask for the money?

B. Take pity on him and just think of it as a good deed you have done?

Maybe a smart lady walks into your restaurant, orders and eats a three course meal and then leaves without paying. Do you…

A. Run after her and demand payment, or you will call the police?

B. Assume she has no money and feel glad you fed her for free?

Whatever you chose to answer, the point of both stories is that they are both about theft.

Taking goods without paying is theft. 

How about you provide someone with life coaching and they promise to send you a cheque, but never do?

Would you pursue the debt and write to them until they paid up? Or do you assume your work was at fault, or just write it off to experience?

Not paying for a service is theft and even though we can’t see the product that doesn’t mean the law doesn’t apply.

I was chatting to a colleague last week who had provided three weeks of home care to a couple. They knew her costs and terms of business and when the time came …they refused to pay and said they couldn’t afford it.

My colleague was surprised when I told her this was a case of theft and she is currently writing to them to recover the money. Before our conversation she had thought it was ‘bad luck’ on her part and was going to let it go, even though she needed the money herself.

I have had three bad debts in 14 years of business. The first was chased every week until they paid. For the second I hired a debt collector, who recovered some cash and the balance is still owing. The third involved an Australian business who mis-managed their cash flow.

When they wrote and said they couldn’t pay I replied politely that I would sue them personally for the debt. They paid 80% and then (a year later) went bankrupt. The balance is in the hands of the receiver and I may see some of it in due course.

All businesses incur a bad debt at some point. Often from a friend …according to my debt collecting agency their experience is that 9 out 10 bad debts are owed by a friend to a friend. A sobering thought perhaps.

If we are confident enough to sell our services on the open market, we need to be confident enough to chase up all the money people owe us.

Non-payment is theft. It’s not ‘hard times’ or ‘character building’. It’s theft and we owe it to the next person they are going to default on to chase the debt and make them think twice in the future.

As for the first example, I would have paid for the bread roll myself and let the hungry man go free. If I met him in the street I might even have offered him some lunch. We can all be charitable when the need arises …and we can be tough minded when we need to chase up a debt. Even if it is invisible, due to the nature of service work, it’s still theft.

Next week: Turning £1 Into £100


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© Richard Maun 2015 / Click here to contact