Misplaced customer check

Discussion in 'Business Operations' started by procut, Aug 8, 2007.

  1. procut

    procut LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,853

    This is kind of a long story, so bear with me, and read through it, as it is kind of intersting.

    A mowing customer of mine, probably for the last 4 or 5 years mailed payment for her May invoice. Through some sort of mistake, this check got lost in the shuffle that is my recordkeeping, got stamped and deposited, but never recored as being recieved. The only thing I can think of is that it got mixed in with some other checks and basically was just over looked. The amazing thing is that I am the only one that handles my invoices / customer payments ect, and I honestly don't even remember ever seeing this check.

    So, when the June invoices went out, she had a past due amount. She calls and says she mailed check number whatever on such and such date. I polietly explained that I had not seen it, and that perhapps it got lost in the mail. She says she is going out of town, and that if the check still does not come when she returns, she will stop payment on that check and write a new one. I said that would be fine. Remeber that at this point, I really didn't think I had ever gotten payment. I was not worried, as she was a long time customer and had never had any problems payment wise.

    Well, when she went to the bank to stop payment of the check in question, it came up as being deposited, with my "for deposit only and my business name" stamp on the back. The teller gave her a print out of the check. The customer then showed me this print out copy of the check. My jaw nearly hit the ground. I apologized profussly and explined to her how it must of got mixed in with some other checks and got put into the pile to be deposited but never got recored. I also offerd to credit her one free mowing as a way to make up for the mix up. Now keep in mind that she is an older lady and to her, this looked as if I was trying to take advantage of her, and there wasn't much I could say to convice her otherwise.

    Well, this ordeal had her so upset, that she decided to not pay the June invoice. So, once again when the last set of bills went out she once again had a past due balance. She calls up, furrious, I polietly explain that the last payment recieved was the check in that had been misplaced (I did credit the account for that amount) and that the balance on the invocie was indeed correct. She then very angerly tells me that we were mowing way to often for the dry conditions (three times in July). In an effort to keep her happy I offer to deduct one of the mowings in July. She mumbles something about that sounding better and hangs up.

    She finally calls up and leaves a nasty message cancelling service saying how "she will no longer put up with this dishonesty, blah blah."

    Now the thing the bothers me is that she honestly thinks that I was trying to take advantage of her. Now I admit that I did make a mistake, but thats exactly what it was a mistake. Ever since, whenever customers' checks come in, I take extreme caution to make sure that they are recored.

    So, my questions, has anyone else eve had this happen, if so how did it work out? How did I handle this situation, should I have done some other type of "damage controll." And, as a customer if someone that you had done business with for 4 or 5 years misplaced your payment, how would you react?
  2. carcrz

    carcrz LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,085

    If you are using Quickbooks, print out a quick report that shows all of the invoices & her payments so she has a list of everything in front of her w/ an outstanding balance right there.

    Just so you know, you can also call your bank & get copies of the checks you deposited. I had to do this w/ two years of checks when my computer crashed last year. I now have a double-record system (computer & file). By calling your bank, she'll never have to know anything happened.

    At this point, all you can do is apologize. If she's already too mad & won't pay, it may be best to get out now before you get stuck w/ several months of free mowings.
  3. PaperCutter

    PaperCutter LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,944

    I photocopy every check that comes in. One copy goes in the customer folder, one copy goes in the "deposited checks" folder. It's a pain, but I know myself- if I don't, I'll do exactly what you did!

    MOW PRO LAWN SERVICE LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,566

    Me to, i make a copy for old school it goes in a filing cabinet and itz also back up on paper,you will run into this so for a copy of the check matched with the invoice you have it in your hand and itz on a computer also.
  5. carcrz

    carcrz LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,085

    I copy the check onto the invoice that it applies to & enter it into QB.
  6. procut

    procut LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,853

    I don't use quickbooks, but the program I have does let me print out reports like that. I printed one out that showed all her account activity this season - everything was right there in black and white.

    The problem was she thought for sure that I was trying to take advantage of her becasue I told her I had never recieved the check even though I did. The thing is, when she got the statement from her bank at the end of the month, it would have shown the in check question returned. So obviously this "scam" wouldn't have worked. But we all know how funny the elderly can be when it comes to money.

    I looked it up, this was the fifth season that she had been a customer. It just seems like after five years of doing business and never having any problems she would have been more understanding that this type of stuff happens.

    Oh well, as far as I am concerded there is nothing left to do but move on, and consider it a lesson learned.
  7. HBLandscaping

    HBLandscaping LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 268

    You have to remember, She may have been a client for 5 yrs without a problem but with they way older people are being taken advantage of these days and the way some older people are with there money ($ under their bed because they dont trust banks or anyone) all it takes is one mishap. You did all that you could do, which is apologized, then its up to her to take it. Sorry to hear about this, I too have come really close a time or two also. Somedays things just happen, Hopefully we all have a great relationship with our clients and they understand if or when this happends..If not its a shame but we have to move on.
  8. lawnMaster5000

    lawnMaster5000 LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 589

    Your mistake can be a lesson learned for everyone reading this.

    One thing I do to prevent mishaps like this is make sure everything gets recorded completely, twice. I have a paper filing system that records all work we did and CHECKS RECEIVED. Then I have a separate computer system. Both locations contain all the data for that week.

    I open all the checks then write them into my paper log for the week. Total the checks and calculate my deposit amount. Then I set that paper aside and take my stack of checks and enter them into QBs. The QB total has to equal my total on the sheet - otherwise I know there is a problem. Then to check myself again I use an adding machine to make sure my checks add up to the same thing as what the paper and QB tell me they should. By having multiple recording methods your mistakes will be minimized.

    This will also prevent disasters like when a computer quits.

    In business you need to find as many ways to double check yourself as possible to minimize potentially reputation ruining mistakes.

    I too have had clients call about this same thing. Most of the time it is their mistake, but I have made a few myself as well. More than once I have entered a check into QBs and applied it to the wrong clients account. This was easy to find b/c i searched the check number and the amount the client gave me, came up with one result. Same date as when I would have received the clients check. I then consulted my paper records and found my mistake. Corrected the mistake, called the client and everything was fine.
  9. lawnman_scott

    lawnman_scott LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 7,547

    How many times did you try to screw her in five years?None? People make mistakes, like you did. And nice or mean, she is a bitter old bag looking for a reason to complain. Your better off without her.

    And for those who disagree, then why is it suddenly to dry to mow, and why wont she pay the bill? Her next step will be selling the house and moving to a condo so she can sit and ***** about the world with a bunch of old bags like herself.
  10. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 21,653

    No bullcrap, either the check cleared the bank or it did not.

    I lose one or two here and there, it happens, but my customers trust me, that or take a hike, for real.
    If push comes to shove I'll re-audit the account for the entire year, but don't tell them that because some seem to enjoy this novel idea, there should be no need to do this other than if you're not sure. Now if you are not certain that you're missing the payment then there's not much can be done, either mark it as paid and smile, or audit the account.
    For a long-term customer of whom I am pretty sure always pays, more than once have I just marked it paid and tyvm.
    But there are exceptions, some will try and take advantage of this, others are ok, you have to know what to do here, your customer.

    There's no need for a stop payment, if the check DID clear the bank then mark it paid and be done with it, otherwise have them write you another and please you make sure if it ever turns up that you don't re-deposit it, and thank you, that's how I do things...

    I've lost 3-4, maybe 5-6 in the past 6 years or so, never have I had a customer stop payment, that's just $25 that does not need spending, but you need to make sure you will NOT re-deposit or try to cash an old check, that is all.

    Now if you can't control yourself or if your customers don't trust you for some good reason, then I might be out of line :laugh:
    Just messin' with ya man, but that's how I do it.

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