As I prepared to dial, I took a deep breath. This was going to be a new experience.
“Hi, this is Sam,” said the voice on the other end.
“Hi Sam. This is Anthony Guerra with healthsystemCIO,” I said, which was followed by silence.
“Do you know who I am?” I asked.
“Um,” was the response.
“Let me refresh your memory. We distributed a white paper for you about five months ago. You worked with Nancy Wilcox, does that ring a bell? You haven’t been responding to any of the invoices or her emails.”
“Um, I’m having a little trouble hearing you,” Sam said.
“That’s strange. I’ve never had any trouble with this phone before,” I said.
“Can you call me right back?” he asked.
“Sure,” I said.
Considering it’s been a decade and the amount was relatively small, I’m thinking my track record is pretty good. Ninety-nine percent of the time we deal with reputable companies that live and breathe the healthcare IT space; they are part of the community and they know better than to stiff a fellow member, but Sam (not his real name) was different. He was with a company outside our ecosystem and apparently felt he had little to lose by not paying his bill.
So online I went, doing some research about the different avenues for inducing payment when the other party had decided living up to their obligations is no longer convenient. The options range from emails, to calls, to lawyers, to collection agencies. All of which have their cost/benefit and pro/con equation. Of course, all those options must be weighed against the debt in question and the entity you are trying to collect from. Though it’s very hard on a personal level to just accept you’ve been fleeced, it often doesn’t make business sense to spend time and money chasing cash you are unlikely to see no matter how hard you pursue it.
And it is this type of cost/benefit thinking that we should all be using in more cases than just debt collection. When does it make sense to “write off” the resources you’ve put into something, and walk away? When is it time to swallow your pride and stop throwing good money after bad? I am sure most of the time we all err in pursuing things too far to our detriment rather than just saying “you got me, but you won’t get me again.”
It was just this thinking that was illustrated in “A Bronx Tale” during a scene with Sonny LoSpecchio (played by Chazz Palminteri) and “C” (played by Lillo Brancato, Jr.) Sonny, an underworld father figure to C, sees him chasing down neighborhood kid “Louie Dumps” and calls him over to find out what’s going on.
“What’s the matter?”
“This Louie Dumps owes me $20. It’s been two weeks, and whenever he sees me he keeps dodging me. He’s becoming a pain in the ass. Should I crack him one?”
“What’s the matter? What have I been telling you? Sometimes hurting somebody ain’t the answer. Is he a good friend of yours?”
“No, I don’t even like him.”
“There’s your answer right there. It costs you $20 to get rid of him. He’s never gonna bother you again. He’s never gonna ask you for money again. He’s out of your life for $20 dollars. You got off cheap.”
“You’re always right.”
So the next time you head off to chase down $20, consider instead using those energies to make $40 — just don’t loan money to Louie Dumps (or Sam) again.