Posted - 30/03/11 | 0 Comments

Bill of the week: It’s the iApology. Sorry dad!

MPs in the UK get a rough ride over expenses, ever since the ‘duck island’ fiasco. But there’s little mercy shown Down Under either.

Spare a thought for Aussie member-of-parliament Russell Wortley. His mobile phone bill topped 10,000 dollars in one month. Apparently, his 2-year-old son was the culprit, downloading iPhone applications and sports games – some costing $4000 each!

But the poor lad could be forgiven. The downloads were flagged as ‘free’ it’s just that the phone didn’t have the right data allowance within its package! Whether dad’s in a forgiving mood remains to be seen. The mobile provider hasn’t yet announced if the bill will be waived or reduced.

One way to pay for a giant phone bill would be to win a big prize in a quiz. But then again, quiz lines sometimes charge premium prices. According to the BBC, the big plan backfired on 20-something Brett Rees when he notched up nearly £9,000 after repeatedly calling quiz shows!

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Posted - 17/03/11 | 1 Comment

Bill of the week: Oh to be a bar fly on the wall

It’s traditional to put a few quid behind the bar when there’s a wedding reception, company bash or family party. But you’d need a mortgage to fund the monster session enjoyed recently by 15 members of one successful company.

Apparently, tequila and cocktails flowed aplenty at this memorable gathering in Mayfair. But the group also downed some 13 magnums and jeroboams of champagne, with help from guests at other tables.

Whether the party coincided with bumper bonuses or a juicy new contract, it’s not clear. But the final bill made sobering reading … at over £50,000!

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Posted - 10/03/11 | 0 Comments

Bill of the week: Oops. Game over.

There’s something wonderfully simple about online purchasing. But sometimes can it be too easy to keep on spending … especially if you’re a big fan of video games.

According to Kent Online, one 11-year-old lad gave his mum a horrible shock when her own card payments started to be declined.

She then discovered a whopping bill had been amassed by her son, who was able to purchase games, weapons, costumes and other bonus items using his Xbox Live account. The total topped £1,000. A phenomenally high score.

Now it’s been paid. But the 37-year-old media exec is planning to contact a solicitor about the issue. And she’s keen to warn other families the dangers of adding credit/debit cards to their children’s tech toys.

It’s game-over for the poor lad, apparently. His Xbox Live account has been closed.

Do you have a funny or frustrating bill or invoicing story to share? If so please tell us about it by emailing: billoftheweek@clearinvoices.com. We’ll give you a £50 Amazon voucher if we publish your story.

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Posted - 08/03/11 | 1 Comment

It’s the Mario Kart Grand Prix!

We work pretty hard at Clear HQ but we also find time to let off steam together too. Never more so than during the Mario Kart Grand Prix series which has just started.

The rules are pretty simple. Once a month on a Monday lunchtime we take over the large meeting room where the Wii lives. We put normally rational hardworking people behind the wheel of a Mario Kart in a race against three others, stand back and watch the fireworks. We run three or four races in each grand prix. We carry our points forward each month in a league table and the winner at the end of the season gets all the entry money. But it’s not about the money – it’s about bragging rights.

To add a little more fun to the occasion each grand prix is given a country theme and before we race we have an office lunch with food from the country of that month. The first race of season was the Italian Grand Prix and guess what…..we all had pizza together in the office! It’s only a few weeks to the next instalment – The Chinese Grand Prix.

The early leaders are Peter (our FD), Minal (our sales assistant) and Justin (our technical director). Don’t say it too loud but Peter (our CEO) is somewhere near the bottom of the league!!

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Posted - 03/03/11 | 0 Comments

Toning up your processes – Part 3: Chase up overdue invoices without offending your customer

So we have exclusively revealed to gasps of surprise that the big boys don’t always pay on time. In the second of this series of posts we looked at how you could structure your invoices to make them “process friendly” so that they get approved and paid faster. But what happens when you do everything right and your invoice is still not being paid? In the final blog in this series I look at a series of tips and tricks to navigate the tricky route of getting overdue invoices paid without offending your customer:

1. You will be helped immeasurably at this stage by things you have done earlier in the process. The first of these is to ensure your customer has at least seen and preferably signed a set of your terms and conditions. This should state clearly what you are going to do for them, what you are going to charge them and it should also be clear about when your invoice should be paid. Also reserve the right to charge interest on overdue invoices (see more on this below).

2. In your terms and conditions, retain title in your goods and services until you are paid. This means that you continue to own whatever it is you have sold your customer until they pay for it. If it is a physical product you are giving yourself the fall back that you can always go and ask for it back. If it is a service such as design or development work, title is less simple but you can ensure that the customer can’t use whatever it is you have created without your permission until it is paid for. I heard a story about an architect who designed an office block and the plans went to the local authority as part of a planning application. The client was very slow paying. Eventually the architect wrote and said that the plans were still his and unless payment was forthcoming he would withdraw them from the planning application ensuring certain failure. He received payment within 24 hours.

3. Be clear on your invoice about your terms. Don’t use old fashioned terms like “30 days nett”. An unambiguous statement like “Please pay within 30 days from receipt of invoice” is all that is needed.

4. Don’t be too generous. Why do we all give companies 30 days to pay? Most companies have the ability to turn payment round in 7 or 14 days.

5. If payment becomes overdue, chase the customer straight away – the day it becomes overdue. A polite letter or email stating that the invoice is past due and you would appreciate payment by return. No need to be threatening at this stage.

6. Give it until the invoice is 14 days overdue and then you should change tone. Write to your customers and label the letter “Final Reminder”. State politely that despite a previous reminder you have still not received payment. Be clear what course of action you will take if you do not receive payment within 7 days. Here are some options:

a. You could charge interest from the due date until you are paid. You have a statutory right to do this and your customer cannot do anything to contract out of this obligation. Under this legislation you are legally entitled to charge interest on overdue invoices at 8% over the Bank of England Base Rate on the previous 31 December of 30 June whichever is the most recent.

b. You could request that the customer stops using whatever it is you have created for them.

c. If you offer a service you could warn that you will discontinue it.

d. You could warn that you will escalate the problem within the customer organisation.

e. You could warn that you will pass the invoiced to a third party for collection.

Which of these you choose will be a matter for your judgement and based on your relationship with the customer.

7. It is rare that after all this your customer will withhold payment unless there is a real problem.  If they do you should seek help. You could either pass this to a third party to chase for you. This does seem to be a very effective route. In the customer’s mind there is a step change in seriousness when they realise that you have engaged a professional to help.

In extremis you could take your claim to the small claims court. However think carefully before doing this because you will certainly incur fees that might end up being larger than the invoice amount you are trying to collect. It is only in exceptional circumstances that things get this serious – especially if you have followed all of the steps above.

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Posted - 01/03/11 | 1 Comment

Bill of the week: Use your loaf to earn a crust

Imagine if you could invoice for all the wasted time you endure? Paul McCrudden put the idea into practice…sending bills to sandwich shops and other places where he had to queue.

Over a six-week period, the digital strategist logged the seconds and minutes. Invoices followed.

On his web site, Paul explained his aim at the time: “Having invoiced the companies that claim my attention, I’ll soon find out how much they respect the time I spend with their brand.”

Transport for London were billed the most at £531. But they didn’t pay up. However, according to Paul, five companies including Pizza Express and Little Chef provided a mixture of payments and vouchers.

The best letter came from Pret A Manger with a tasty filling … a cheque for £62!

This included a refund for the £22 spent on food plus interest and, amusingly, £1 for time they suggested that Paul would spend walking to the post box! Cheap at the price for some top-notch PR, once the news wires feasted on the story!

If you want to log your wasted seconds and minutes, then one of Clear’s upcoming features will be perfect. It works like a stopwatch. Click to start. Click to stop. Click to create an invoice. Click to send. Of course, we can’t promise that anyone will pay up for time billed for queuing.

But there’s plenty of scope for potential bill recipients. How about the time spent waiting at home for the gasman or phone engineer?

And what about those energy-sapping call centre phone queues. When the automated system insists that: “Your call is important to us.”

Maybe it’s time to ask how important? And “are you prepared to put a price on that?”

Do you have a funny or frustrating bill or invoicing story to share? If so please tell us about it by emailing: billoftheweek@clearinvoices.com. We’ll give you a £50 Amazon voucher if we publish your story.

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