Feeling like the bad guy

A few missives ago – here to be precise – I said I was taking a client to court for non-payment and would report on it regardless of the outcome.
I won. …

6th February 2008 at 8:32 pm

A few missives ago – here to be precise – I said I was taking a client to court for non-payment and would report on it regardless of the outcome.

I won. Cheque in the bank today. It looks as though they screwed up the court paperwork but I won nonetheless, whatever the reason.

I won’t bore you with the details but the interesting thing, to me, is how simple the process has been made in a practical sense. If you’re owed less than £5000 you go to the Moneyclaim site and fill in your details and the information about your claim. You enter your credit card details and pay £40 in costs upfront, and this is added to your claim.

In my case it went a little further because the defendant put up what looked like a spirited defence, denying that my claim had any merit. So there was a second round of paperwork, this time sent to me by Croydon County Court. I filled in my part and it’s here that the defendant failed to fill in their form, which effectively lost them the case. I formally wrote to the court asking for judgment in my favour, got it in writing and ten days later the former client was on the phone – not the individual with whom I’d been dealing before – promising immediate payment which was indeed with me in less than 24 hours.

What’s really interesting is the psychological impact this had on me. Yes, I was owed the money (the client denied it but the result speaks for itself). Yes, I was convinced of my case. But immediately I’d issued that first form I felt like the aggressor. It was now I who was taking action, which made me in my own eyes the ‘bad guy’. Had they not paid I would have had the option to send bailiffs in, try to freeze their account, all those things. Even had I not bothered, they would have ended up with a CCJ against them which could have hampered growth in the future.

Logically, none of this should have mattered and yet I found myself shuddering at the thought. I didn’t want to be the person who inflicted damage on someone’s potential, regardless of what they’d done to my cash flow (and four figures short of where you thought you were going to be both in the run-up to Christmas and in the run-up to 31 January wasn’t fun, I can confirm).

I was relieved and somehow grateful when they settled in full, including costs, with the cheque that arrived this morning. I can now – no, I must now – tell the court it’s paid so they can lift the CCJ and no record is kept, so the company isn’t harmed at all. Why I feel they’ve done me some sort of favour I don’t know – any amateur psychologists with any thoughts are welcome to comment!

Guy Clapperton

Guy Clapperton is a freelance journalist who specialises in small business issues and has written for the likes of The Guardian, the FT and the Daily Mirror. Guy has written about finance and franchising for SmallBizPod. http://www.guyclapperton.co.uk

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  1. john says:

    Good post!
    I similar thing happened to me a few years back, only it was for over 5000 so had to involve solicitors and court. They admitted all along that they owed the money. But like you said as soon as I started proceedings I went on a guilt trip. Cant explain it!
    Anyway glad you got what was owed and keep up the good work.

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