Fantastic excuses and where to find them

It always amazes me how outlandish people can be when they are trying to put off paying an outstanding bill.

From promising to pay tomorrow – tomorrow never comes – to relatives’ repeated funerals to the adult equivalent of the dog ate my homework (as in ‘I saw the letter but the dog chewed them; all seven of them’), there is a surprising consistency to the range of excuses some businesses think will satisfy the companies to whom they owe money.

They also seem to think I was born yesterday – definitely not the case.

We once had a case where the director of a company denied all knowledge of his co-director, even though, as it turned out, they were living together. Both had signed a personal guarantee for the goods they had taken – meaning both were personally liable for the outstanding payments – but she was oblivious to the debt, which he’d managed to keep hidden from her. When we finally managed to make contact, she was surprised to hear there was a County Court Judgement against her but said that it did explain why she couldn’t get a credit card!

Other delaying tactics we’ve ‘enjoyed’ include the continuous offers of payment which never materialise and the email suggesting remittance advice is attached when it’s not (yes, that old one).

Then there was the man who was prevented from paying immediately because his mum died, twice, and the chap who claimed a broken toe, of all things, though it wasn’t entirely clear why the fractured digit would prevent him from meeting his financial responsibilities.

The danger in all of these is that costs can quickly mount up, through court and other fees, making the situation worse. In one case recently, our client was owed £6,500 but the debtor eventually had to pay around £10,000, once costs and interest had been added. And they are likely to be stuck with a poorer credit rating for a while.

Delaying tactics don’t look quite so clever then. More like tactical blunders.