Here is a story for you. A tale of something unpleasant that happened to TTP a couple of years ago and could happen to you. We are constantly learning in business. Learning about people, process, procedure, legal requirements, etiquette, networking techniques but in this story we learnt about people. People, who generally most of us can get a feel for quite quickly, here is our story.
We’re all familiar with the phrase “Never judge a book by its cover” and I generally don’t, however when a new client visited us in our office a couple of years ago, I did, and what a huge and costly mistake that turned out to be!
For such an older, distinguished, well dressed and eloquently spoken businessman (who had eight audio hours of a three day court case that needed transcribing urgently), was an ex-Lawyer and banded together with other ex-Lawyers pro-bono to assist those that have been wrongly accused, how mistaken we were to judge. Talk is cheap right? Well in this case it was expensive!
I thought our client process was pretty tight. We ensure every client signs our Terms of Service Agreement before we have commenced transcription and although clients do not always adhere to our payment terms (although outlined in our ToSA) the rest of the contract covers us in the event of non-payment and other problems we may encounter. It’s been tried and tested as we had the unfortunate experience of taking a client to court over non-payment of a large job four years ago (who’s still paying off the debt)! So I never tend to get too nervous – particularly with the bigger transcription jobs – once a client has signed our ToSA.
So we went through our usual new client process, collated the ten CDs that had the audio on them and began to covert the audio. In the meantime, our new client, faxed through the signed ToSA and commenced transcription. The transcription requirement was to transcribe the eight hours of audio within four business days – massive task however the client was paying the highest rate and we assigned four TTP transcriptionists to assist. I would start proofreading and collating the transcriptions on Wednesday ready for return to the client on Thursday. Just to give you an idea, eight hours of audio is approximately 43 hours of transcription plus the proofreading time which can take up to at least half of that!
Things started to become a little suspect from the time our Accounts contacted the client to confirm the business address on Thursday morning. Although the client advised – due to goodwill – he would collect the “printed” transcription (all 216 pages of it) and make half payment on Friday morning. By COB Thursday when I sat down to proofread and review the document and collate the three days into the one transcription, my eye caught so many discrepancies and concerns … the transcription was indeed a court case, however it was about OUR client, who was on trial for fraud! Yes he was an affluent businessman, greatly successful, however made headlines in the early 2000’s for fraud and was convicted and gaoled. This time, he was part of an investigation into credit card fraud here on the Central Coast. His name was correct although he had three other aliases he went by also. Alarm bells were ringing out of control by this stage and my initial instinct was not to email him the completed transcription Thursday evening as agreed.
Friday morning saw our office go into damage control as we contacted the client by 10.30 am when it was evident he wasn’t turning up. My PA contacted to confirm his arrival and he quickly became agitated when we advised cheque payment was not accepted (yeah like that wouldn’t have bounced)! He was to call us back. In the interim, we contacted the Detective assigned to the current court case who advised us that although he wasn’t an aggressive man, not to hand anything over until we received payment and if it was by credit card, with a fake name, to call him and he’d come and arrest him! Who says transcription is boring?!
We started searching the Internet for his name(s) and saw article after article on this client regarding fraud and many other accusations; we searched the ATO for his business name that our ToSA was in – alas – that business didn’t exist. Any reference to any current business he has is in his wife and son’s name. We Google Mapped his house, quite a nice waterfront property up here on the Coast … at this point I was still in disbelief. I mean this guy was incredibly nice, like a grandfather figure. Initially when I met him, I wanted to hug him!
We attempted to contact the client after the Detective call and advised that obviously upon knowing the content that we had a business to protect, which the client agreed and had no intention of rorting us (again, talk is cheap), and that he would be there at 3 pm with half payment. Of course he never showed!
Half payment would have been fine, at least it would have covered the cost that we now had to pay our transcriptionists for completing the job!
So what have we learned? To impose an upfront payment for all transcription work within the first upload job; to research any new client business for an ABN and background; any new clients signing the ToSA in their own name also pay upfront … it’s all too easy for clients to simply not pay as there is no security or assistance for small to medium business when they don’t!
To our advantage, we have all of the IP in our possession … although payment would have been nicer!