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Final Payment Conflict/Thoughts

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

Hi All,

 

Brand new to this forum.  I sought it out because this issue has been bothering me since it occurred this June.

 

We are upscale on-site pit BBQ caterers located in the NY area.  We were catering an event where the couple was coming in from far out of state.  They were paying the substantial final balance at the event.  Because of this, in our Catering Agreement, under payment terms, we specifically excluded payment by personal check.  I pointed this out to the bride months before.  A week before the event, I reminded her of this issue, and she told me she would have a certified check for us.  Terms also clearly state final payment is due upon our arrival.

 

She had a planner.  Upon arrival, I went to the planner for the check.  She said the groom had it.  They were not on-site yet.

 

Halfway thru cocktail hour, I spoke to the planner again.  She said "Oh, I spoke to X (the groom), and he said he had to go get his checkbook".  I told the planner that I hoped he was not intending to pay by personal check, because there would be a problem if that was his intention.  She disappeared.

 

Before dinner service started, I spoke to the planner again.  She was clearly ducking me.  I told her that we needed to settle up.  She promised me the bride and groom would settle up immediately after dinner was served.  We served dinner.

 

As food service was winding down, the planner approached me and said the bride and groom were ready to settle up.  We met in private.  With a sheepish look, she took out her checkbook and attempted to pay by personal check.  She said she just plain forgot to get a certified check.

 

I am very interested to know if you think there is any graceful way of handling this situation.  I know now that the key mistake was letting this issue go unresolved so far into the event.  

 

I refused to accept the personal check.  They got angry.  The groom became abusive, he had no part in the planning of the event and was uninformed.  I had to pull out the contract and explain that this issue was covered in detail.   The Planner stepped in and asserted that I should accept the personal check.  I got angry and told her to mind her own business and step away.  Because of the circumstances, they had to pay via Paypal, there was a snafu, and the process took about 15-20 minutes. Guests became aware there was an issue because they were missing.

 

I received post-event email from the bride and groom, separately.  Both stated that the food was great, the staff and service were excellent, but, in short, I am a jerk and I ruined their day.  It is still bothering me 4 months later.  We cater weddings frequently, and in almost 10 years of service, we have never had anything like this happen.

 

I am looking for your advice/input.  Were you in my shoes, was there something else I could have done, short of accepting the personal check, to resolve this?  I genuinely don't think the check would have bounced.  They seemed like decent people.  But I did not want to put myself in the position of having them fly cross-country home, and then having to try to collect if the check did bounce.

 

Thoughts?

post #2 of 7

Are you set up to accept credit card payments with an iphone reader? If not I would have just sucked it up and accepted the check as one of the risks of doing business.

 

Word of mouth can be your best friend or biggest foe. Granted the people were from out of state so they wouldn't affect your business much in the future, but the planner and some of the guests, I assume were local.

 

FWIW, I owned a restaurant for 12 years and I accepted checks. In state, out of state, didn't matter. I also never asked for identification which always blew people away. My reasoning on that was if the check was going to bounce, then identification wasn't going to change that fact much. Never had one bounce.

 

When dealing with customers, being right isn't always the best option.

Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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post #3 of 7

For first time customers, I require them to be paid 100% 48 hrs prior to start of the service, so that on the day of the event, only thing on my mind is doing a good job.... not collecting money.

post #4 of 7
Thread Starter 

Ironically, I had applied for a credit card swiper for the iPhone a week earlier.  It arrived 2 days after this occurred.  She used her iphone to send us a payment, but she originally sent it to the wrong email, and it took extra time to correct.

 

I think this circumstance is a little different than someone paying the tab for a few plates in a restaurant.  We are talking thousands, not hundreds of dollars, and I am not in the position to write that off as the cost of doing business----wish I were.

post #5 of 7

Quote:

Originally Posted by sjsbbq View Post
 

I think this circumstance is a little different than someone paying the tab for a few plates in a restaurant.  We are talking thousands, not hundreds of dollars, and I am not in the position to write that off as the cost of doing business----wish I were.

 

Accepting a check doesn't necessarily translate to having to write it off.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by sjsbbq View Post
 I genuinely don't think the check would have bounced.  They seemed like decent people.

 

 Accepting a check just means that the person accepting it is willing to acknowledge a risk in doing so. Different people have different levels of acceptable risks and different philosophies, that is just human nature. You got yours and I got mine and so it goes. My resolutions work for me, but they don't work for everyone.

 

Hopefully with the card reader, you will not be faced with this situation again.

Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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post #6 of 7
Quote:
Originally Posted by sjsbbq View Post
They were paying the substantial final balance at the event. 

Thoughts?

Of course, that's where you made your initial and major mistake. Spoofed certified and cashier's checks are a major nemesis and no assurance that when presented immediately prior, during, or after a catered event are worth more than the paper on which they are written. You must get full payment for any catering event in advance with enough time to be certain that the check, whether it's personal, certified, or cashier's is legitimate and a negotiable instrument.

 

post #7 of 7

I see this as a case where the groom was left out of the loop and his embarrassment left him pissed off. Not

about to take his anger out on his new bride, he turned it toward you.

And as a case where the bride shirked her contractual responsibility to pay you when, and as, outlined  in the

contract. All that said, I believe, and am not surprised, that she genuinely forgot. Weddings tend to send the

logical part of the brain out on sabbatical, while the emotional part assumes command. This applies to the bride

AND the groom.

I understand your reasoning and worry about them being from so far away. However I agree with RSteve

that insisting on a cert check is trying to cure the wrong animal-- if they're crooked, they'll screw you with

whatever payment you ask for, including counterfeit cash. If they're honest, then they are ....except....in this case

the bride was unprepared to meet her obligations as contracted, so pulled out the checkbook when cornered.

Which got you worried and I don't blame you. At that point , being thousands of dollars of unplanned withdrawal

from her checking, I'd call it a 50-50 chance--very POOR odds for risk of doing business I'd say. The long delay in

getting you paid was their fault for not doing it right, and IMO it was very childish and unfair to call you a jerk for

refusing payment on their improv-terms instead of the contract they signed. You delivered, they did NOT.

So your actions were understandable, but it shouldn't have gotten to that point in the first place.

First off,  I personally think you should've called the planner's bluff a little more strongly, and said "Okay, you're

the planner here, so I'll consider this a breach of contract, authorized by you, and we will not be serving any

guests tonight." Which would be your right, and would no doubt have motivated the planner to stop stalling and

get you paid. I've personally seen the white face of the client who gets told this. lol

Secondly , the correct cure, and the lesson here is to get the balance cleared before the event as stated above,

whether they're local or not.

But I also get it--you did a hell of a lot of work and in the end they were unhappy, and it bothers you. You just

need to move on, and take precautions to safeguard against the temporary insanity of your clients. :)

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