I’ve still got a score to settle
Used by permission from weinstock via Pixabay
That Magical Place of No Return
A long time ago, there existed a video production client. His name, for the purposes of this story, was VideoProductionClientRalph. Ralph (for short) owed a certain voiceover artist money. And her name, was VoiceoverArtistYolanda. Ralph owed Yolanda a shapely share of shekels for voiceover services rendered. But oh no! Ralph didn’t pay Yolanda! She desperately needed a new fence to pen her sheep, and she was tired of living on cold haggis and pond water. So Yolanda thought of a great system she could invent whereby she could finally collect the shekels she was owed by Ralph. And she called it…Collections.
Oh, it’s actually a place. The zip code is 666, and it is the final destination of all debtors who never pay their bills, burning forever in a lake of fiery sulfur as they watch giant FICO number meters descend slowly from the mid 800’s into the low 300’s, never to restore their precious credit again. Also it’s scalding hot. It’s not a place you want to go, because there is no WIFI.
I can relate to Yolanda, because I too am a Voiceover Artist, and on the weekends, when I’m feeling particularly saucy, I like to dress up, paint the town and ask people to call me Yolanda. But as far as voiceovers, I don’t do them for a hobby. I’m actually intent on – and I know I’m a fool for thinking this way – paying my bills, and foolishly squandering the money I make on food and heat so that my children don't need to sew hats for billionaires.
I personally hate being sent to collections. Every time I was ever sent there, I came back with a bad tan and lower credit, and my pride took a beating. I’ll wager it was the same for Ralph. I’ll wager it is the same for anyone sent there. It’s not a nice place to be sent, and so I’ve cancelled all return trips. Instead, I now dodge, I weave, my bills are all paid, and I provide Handicorns free of charge for my neighbors. Never again shall I be collected from by The Collector.
But if someone else owes me??? God help the unsavory chump who tries to stiff me…
Beware the Dreaded Suckfest
As voice talent, we’re frequently casting our voice to the wind on the wings of a hope-filled audition. God forbid clients take those and use them free of charge without telling us. Most times though, we’ll be fortunate to connect with a legitimate client intent on paying. And still other times we may find ourselves having provided the final files, only to be stiffed in the end by a non-paying client.
There’s nothing suckier than that. Well...except of course to be walking along the road and be the only one struck by that giant meteor and then you’re whisked to the hospital on a stretcher that some doofus left fifty thumbtacks on and while entering the hospital your head gets trapped in the auto-closing lobby doors and they have to bring in the Jaws of Life to pry you out and all the while your phone is ringing in your pocket by that disc jockey with the radio prize of $50,000 tax-free cash and a week in the Bahamas but you can’t answer it because while they were peeling you off of the meteor your arms snapped off and they’re still stuck back there to it and you’re perplexed that your phone still even works. Oy vei.
Collecting sucks. It really sucks. Sending threatening emails sucks. Planning the cost for airfare and a rental car to their place of employment just to sit cross-legged in front of their desk and sing the first six words of the chorus of “It’s a Small World After All” until they pay you…sucks.
The whole darn affair is wretched. So how do we avoid it? What can we do to stave off the inevitable? Because if you haven’t been stiffed on a payment yet, fear not: thy time cometh. Ralph is out there, and he’s just waiting to sucker you in. As my illustrious colleague Lisa Cassels shares, “Today feels like a good day to wander into a forest for 30 years only to come back with antlers, a thousand-yard stare and the ability to speak to the earth.” Every time I’m asked, I always prefer antlers to collections. But I’m sure you feel the same.
In the meanwhile, allow me to share a bit of wisdom from what I’ve learned about collecting from clients, so that you too can avoid meteors, antlers, and Ralph, oh my…meteors, antlers, and Ralph, oh my…meteors, antlers, and Ralph, oh my…
A Certain Amount of Decorum
You can send threatening emails. You can beg. You can whimper and plead. But my personal favorite is praying down fire, brimstone and curses upon them and all their descendants, which allows me to save money on Ambien.
Or you can be patient. And, once they’re 26,847 days behind, you can utterly annihilate them with nuclear weapons you purchased from Cuba with the sale of your remaining stock of Handicorns. But hey! You gave them a good stretch of grace, good on ya!
It takes a certain amount of decorum to restrain yourself when you’re owed money, especially in this economy. For me, whenever the threat of being stiffed rears its ugly head, I simply prepare a can of kerosene, and have forty-seven spiders at the ready. The kerosene is to light them on fire of course. Was that not clear? The forty-seven spiders are for stamping out the flames once they’ve paid, because it’s guaranteed to take a while with just eight tiny legs apiece. My wife once stole money from the center console of my car and, eight years later, she still hasn’t paid me back. Her spiders are just about ready. I am not an expert in the art of forgiveness, but I promise to keep you posted.
But let’s face it: kerosene and spiders are not really viable solutions, and I’m not going to prison for petrol-arachnid assault. Not again. A more preferable method is to negotiate my way into my clients’ good graces. Here’s what I usually try with my non-paying clients:
- Complement them on their studio. Admire the size of their big monitors. When asked for my phone number, I say, “I’ll gladly give it to you in exchange for (insert owed payment amount here.)” This approach assumes that I am attractive.
- Come up with the best pity-inducing sob-story ever, such as “Well, you see, in light of the current pandemic, I’ve had to sell off all my children! One of them is constantly jumping on things so he didn’t fetch much. The other is an infant and constantly drools on things, so I actually had to pay them to take him and now I’m out all my discretionary income.” A few credible well-placed whimpers work wonders here. This approach assumes that they won’t report me to Child Protective Services for selling my children.
- Give them kudos for their perfected ability to make me feel like an Unadulterated Beggarly Rapscallion for trying to collect. This assumes that my clients know big words.
- Set them up to be in a “Call Off’ against other Video Producers. The one who comes to me with their payment wins a free voiceover. “Here Ralphie Ralphie! Here Ralphie Ralphie!” I’ll say, all the while VideoProductionClientJack is getting closer to the bone. This approach assumes that my clients are canines.
Sadly, none of those really ever work. So I have come up with an alternative. There’s nothing as loathsome as having to chase down vendors for payment and feel like the bad guy for doing so. I’d truthfully rather have a thousand live worms glued to my skin and be pecked by ravens. Since a non-paying debtor might ghost me once the bill is on the table, it’s time for me to take matters into my own hands and employ a time-honored technique.
Rather than fashioning a thermal suit to protect me from the elements, and smelting my own shield to deflect the burning sulfur whilst I plunge into the dark nether regions of Collections, I have decided to employ a well-known tactic called Niceness. I am not joking. I’ve heard this may actually work. Here’s how I'll use it:
“Dear Ralph, it has come to my attention that your balance of $350 has been due ever since Grover Cleveland was president. If it pleases Your Lordship, I would be most satisfied if Your Lordship should decide to remit payment at Your Lordship’s earliest convenience so that I might provide for my emaciated children who have now begun to talk to their hands. Your Lordship smells terrific today, by the way. Please can I please have my money please, Your Lordship?”
Meh. Scratch that. Spiders and kerosene are more fun.
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