I have an (in) voice – Part 3

by Edo van Belkom


Mark is in a coffee shop outside Calgary where a trucker is on the phone with a company that’s late in paying. The man makes a spectacle of himself and Mark offers to give him a few pointers on how to collect money owed.

Mark gives the man a few pointers and encourages him to call the company back. He calls again and manages to get them to agree to send him a check later in the week…

Mark shook hands and waved goodbye to the driver who he’d helped with the collection of an overdue invoice and walked back to Mother Load with a spring in his step. Usually, whenever Mark helped out another driver there was some sort of risk involved, something a bit dangerous. But this encounter had been easy and pleasant and the result – now there was at least a chance the man might get paid – made it all the more satisfying.

But as Mark climbed up into the cab of Mother Load and started up her engine, he wondered if he, himself, had any invoices that were currently overdue. It was possible since Mark was sending out invoices daily and it seemed he received payment electronically, or confirmation of payment made, on almost a daily basis and if one or two payments were late, he might not realize it unless he specifically checked.

Which got him thinking. Do I have any overdue accounts?

He’d just picked up his mail the day before but hadn’t yet gotten around to looking through it. He also hadn’t checked his accounts in a few days so it was entirely possible that he had payments overdue.

It wasn’t until he hit the sixth month in his history that he realized that there were two companies he drove for on a semi-regular basis that hadn’t paid him on time.

His first instinct was, of course, to be angry. He had provided a service in good faith, used his own money to provide fuel and a vehicle to move someone else’s freight. He had delivered that freight on time and the customer was reaping the benefits of that delivery – especially since they hadn’t paid for any of it.

Mark took out his phone – took a deep breath to calm himself – and made a call. Luckily, this was a company he’d dealt with before and he knew the woman in payables by her first name. Her name was Amanda and Mark realized that knowing the payables person by their first name was probably a good indication that he shouldn’t be working for that company in future. Every time he had to track down a payment, it was costing him money and the easiest way to avoid that was to do work for someone who paid on time.

“Hello, this is Mark Dalton calling,” he began. “I transported a load for your company last month and submitted an invoice – I have the number handy if that’s a help.”

Throughout the conversation he remained polite and professional, asking if a payment plan would help and then offering to swing by to pick up the check. Amanda said there was no reason for that since his invoice had somehow fallen through the cracks. She would be authorizing payment and if all went well he would have his check within two weeks.

Mark thanked her and said he would let her know when the check arrived. With the first call out of the way, Mark moved on to the second overdue account. This was a different situation where he had delivered just one load for this company (on Bud’s recommendation) but hadn’t done another job for them in months.

“Hi, this is Mark Dalton calling. I carried a load for you late last year and sent an invoice but haven’t heard anything back from you…”

“Your name again?” It was a man’s voice and just from those three words, Mark detected a condescending tone.

“Mark Dalton,” he said, already feeling like this was a lost cause. He went on to explain the date, load, pick-up location and drop-off destination, and gave the invoice number and day it was submitted, but the person on the other end had no information about any of it.

“We’ve switched over to a new accounting system and a lot of things have gone missing.”

Mark’s heart sank. “Is that right?”

“Yeah, you’re not the first person that’s called today about their invoices.”

“You don’t say.”

“I can put your name and invoice at the top of our payment schedule, but I really think it might make things go quicker if you resend the invoice along with any other information you have on the load. When our system gets back up to speed at least we’ll have all the information we need to facilitate payment.”

“Oh, I’ll send the invoice again,” Mark said, his voice even and steely. “And I’ll send a copy to the collection agency I use.”

There was a moment of silence on the line. “Oh, you don’t have to do that. I’m sure we’ll get to the bottom of this in short order.”

Mark could only shake his head. “When you say WE, you really mean just YOU.”

“No, there is more than one person in my department. I have a supervisor…”

“Can I speak to him or her right now.”

“Unfortunately, they’re off until next week.”

“I’m sure they are.”

“I have an idea,” the man said. “We have a load going out tomorrow on a super tight deadline. If you’d like to take that – it pays top dollar – you can piggyback your other invoice onto this load and get paid even quicker.”

Mark was stunned. The payables person was asking him if he wanted another load when they were already three months overdue on their payment for the last job he’d done for them. It was at that moment that Mark realized he would never be seeing a dime from this company without the aid of a collection agency.

“It’s a rush job. Has to be in Chicago by the end of tomorrow.”

“Sounds good,” Mark said. “I’ll be there in the morning, bright and early.”

“Terrific, and don’t worry this time – we’ll make sure we pay on time.”

“Sure, sure,” Mark said.

Mark hung up and put Mother Load in gear. He had a load due in Vancouver by Wednesday and was a thousand miles from Toronto at the moment and would be hundreds of miles further away by tomorrow morning. His only regret was not being able to see the shipper’s face when he realized Mark wasn’t showing up for his rush load in the morning. Or ever. If they wouldn’t pay, Mark, and hopefully every other trucker out there, wouldn’t work for them. In the trucking business, just like in life, what goes around comes around.”

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