General Question

choreplay's avatar

Was this form of protest uncouth?

Asked by choreplay (6290 points ) December 14th, 2011

I got hit with an extra $100 charge on a $350 subscription I have to have for my business, so total due ended up being $450. I was a couple days past a deadline, as one of my clients paid me very late on a large fee.
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I sent in the $450 but wrote the following, in red ink on the copy of the invoice I sent back with the payment:
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“Math $### – kids gifts for Christmas
.Less.$100 – late fee for subscription
........$### – left for kids gift for Christmas
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Do you really have to charge a $100 late fee?
Think about it!”
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I’m not providing all the numbers but it cut in deep, very deep. I’m three years into a startup company where I provide six jobs to other people. My employees get paid first, company bills next and then me. I have no guilt that finances have been tight, but when hit with excessive late fees I get pissed off.

Was my form of protest uncouth? I understand responsibility about getting things paid, but too many people are getting kicked when their down. Late fees are more often a penalty on those that are struggling than penalty on the irresponsible.

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21 Answers

SmashTheState's avatar

Capitalists don’t give a fuck about you, your kids, and whether you live or die of starvation. In fact, the more successful capitalists will get a boner from the schadenfreude of knowing they made your children unhappy. They’re sociopaths. The only “protest” which is going to have any effect on them is one which hurts them financially or physically.

laureth's avatar

Was the late fee your fault? That is, did you really pay late, was the fee a known fee and not a surprise? Then yes, it seems uncouth.

Let me put it another way. When your client paid you late, did they complain at you for taking money out of their kids’ stockings?

Bellatrix's avatar

I don’t find it uncouth of you to make the point but I doubt they will listen. Also, playing devil’s advocate, I imagine they have to deal with companies that are not so prompt as you (you were a day or so late) and have to employ people to chase debts when people do not pay up on time ever. I imagine the fee is a deterrent to some and they too have bills to pay on time.

We got a bill from a car hire company for a toll fee after our electronic thing didn’t go off. $38.00 for sending us a letter. The fee for the toll (about $4) will actually be written off because we have the funds direct debited and if their equipment didn’t go off, that’s not our fault. Some companies just take it to the limit.

choreplay's avatar

@laureth, I didn’t hit my client with a late fee. Especially not a fee that was 28.5% of the total bill.

laureth's avatar

@choreplay – Perhaps, next time, you could. It would save Christmas for your kids, at least. ;)

janbb's avatar

I don’t think it will make a difference either way; if it made you feel better to say, then you said it.

choreplay's avatar

I’m not taking issue so much with late fees as much as excessive late fees and as I said in the question, late fees tend to be more often a penalty on those that are struggling than penalty on the irresponsible. Some research I did suggested the late fee should be proportional to cost incurred by them to chase and collect the fee.

@laureth, as explained in the question, I didn’t have it. So it wasn’t a capricious decision on my part.

laureth's avatar

I always thought of late fees as being a disincentive to lateness. It has less to do with the cost incurred to the company that had to chase you around to get you to pay up, and more to incentivize you to manage your affairs in such a way as to be able to pay on time, or perhaps drop the subscription if that’s something you cannot guarantee you’ll pay on time. (People often tell me that “it’s all about choices.”)

That said, I remember reading about a daycare business that had a few parents always running late (shame didn’t work on all of them, apparently) so the daycare started charging a late fee when parents arrived after a certain window of time to pick up their kids. What happened was, instead, more parents left their kids late because they felt like since it became a choice, they could choose to arrive a little late and simply pay a fee without feeling any lateness-induced guilt. I suspect that outsized late fees are penalties designed to avert this manoeuvre,

lillycoyote's avatar

The only problem I can see, and I don’t know if it is “uncouth” or not, and I’m not making a judgement as to whether or not charging the late fee was fair, but it was a business expense, a business issue, and I’m not sure if it was appropriate to bring your family Christmas expenses into the equation. It might have been a more appropriate form of protest, when it came to a business expense or bill, to explain what actually happened, at that was that clients paid you late. If you are under a contractual agreement to pay the late fee, sometimes companies will work with you, but there really may be nothing you can do about it. There might have been a better way to go about this one.

choreplay's avatar

I really hear what you all are saying and many times I take the pill and smile and thank them for the opportunity for doing business, even when I’m the patron. @lillycoyote, I hear you on that and will likely use that as the measure to keep quite, but individuals are behind businesses and I did want them to connect the dots across the ripples the size of their fee, but your correct, what I said doesn’t really fit a business situation.

bkcunningham's avatar

I am notorious for writing things in the memo line of a check. I would have paid the bill without the late fee added in and called them about the late fee and tried to negotiate. I don’t think it was uncouth. Without knowing how big a company your check and invoice went to, it would be hard to say if anyone will even notice the notation on the invoice.

CWOTUS's avatar

Companies have late payment fees and policies to attempt to prevent the type of cash flow problems that led to your late payment in the first place. It’s too bad that you were strapped for cash and couldn’t pay on time, but that’s not the fault of your supplier. They have bills to pay of their own. Should they forgo their own spending plans because you (and upstream from you, your late-paying customer) make plans that don’t include paying on time?

As a subscription company, they also run a risk that late payers may simply be freeloading extended service for as long as they can before they are simply cut off – which could cost the supplier a lot more, if they have to pay for service themselves.

This is just business.

I think if you give it a bit more thought – and put yourself in their shoes – then you might recant your protest (maybe even apologize for an unwarranted complaint), and perhaps modify your own payment polices to prevent the same thing from happening again.

I won’t say whether your protest was uncouth or not, but it was not businesslike.

john65pennington's avatar

Late fees, co-payments, service charges are all designed to be used for office parties or to pad some executives pocket, so his kids can have a Merry Christmas.

Its just another tactic for powers that be, to make sure you have less and they have more.

It’s a sound business practice on their behalf, not yours.

choreplay's avatar

@bkcunningham small enough and local enough that they need to consider the effect of a fee that large.

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bkcunningham's avatar

My avatar looks like @Andrews. I thought I had said that for a second.

If I had been a prior customer, @choreplay, I’d still call them and try to politely negotiate the late fee. You never know unless you try. Businesses are people. Maybe you can strike a cord in someone and make them see how excessive the fee was and let them see your position as a startup business owner. I’d call and talk to someone in charge.

choreplay's avatar

Good points all, Thanks everyone.

@bkcunningham I agree, problem is they have no competition and are the only source of what they provide. My client that paid late has many choices.

lillycoyote's avatar

@choreplay I know for individuals running small businesses it can very much be a matter of balancing business expenses with personal and family expenses. You can get nickeled and dimed to death, and hundred dollars isn’t exactly a nickel or a dime. It just depends on the company you’re dealing with, on the late fees. They are running a business too. If they are of a certain size or have a certain approach, they simply may not really care about whether or not the late fee cuts into your ability to provide a good Christmas for your family. Though I certainly, absolutely understand you wanting them to get that. Maybe your protest did do some good. I really don’t know.

augustlan's avatar

I don’t have an issue with the fact that they charge a late fee, but a hundred bucks does seem rather extreme. I would have called them to try to negotiate the fee (or even get it removed altogether… some businesses will do that for good customers who hit a one-time rough spot). I don’t think what you did was uncouth, but I doubt it will be effective.

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