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How far would you go to get paid?


With late payment continuing to plague business across the country, many companies have resorted to some inventive (and often borderline illegal) ways to encourage their customers to pay. It’s little wonder, given the impact a single late payment can have on cash flow.

Back in 2015 we listened to an interesting segment on BBC Radio 2’s Jeremy Vine Show where frustrated callers spoke about the extreme lengths they’ve gone to in order to collect payment from customers.

Here a just a few examples:

Wheel-y mad

One caller explained how he handled a customer who owed him £2,000 after finding out the debtor was about to go bankrupt and liquidate the company.

He said: “I took a mechanic friend with me and we went to his office and he had a lovely Aston Martin DB8. So we put it on bricks, took the wheels off, put a chain through the wheels and padlocked it on to the lamp post.

“Then I went into his office and told him to look out the window and he was obviously quite shocked. And I put a key on the desk and said that key will cost you £2,000, but it does open that padlock to your wheels.”

While this is definitely not a tactic we would recommend, it certainly reflects just how far some businesses will go to get paid.

Smelly sanctions

The BBC’s business expert Nick Brown also shared a story. He said: “Just before I came on air one of my friends sent me an email and said: ‘Oh, actually I had a really good idea. You could send in someone dressed as a smelly tramp.’

“Apparently he used to do this to get payment, into a large PLC reception area and say I’m not leaving until you’ve paid the bill, and he apparently used to leave with the bill paid.”

This is one way to stand out from the crowd and encourage your customers to settle an outstanding invoice. But there are easier ways to get noticed!

The best tactic in most cases is mediation. Adopt a polite but insistent approach that demonstrates how you value them as a customer, but also your intolerance for late payment. This can create a persona of professionalism and power and avoid the need for costumes!


Another caller spoke about suspending services when a customer fails to make a payment on time. This may seem like an extreme step to take, but it can prove extremely effective, which is why so many businesses are beginning to use this method.

By refusing to trade with a particular customer – usually one which has a track record of paying you late – you’re forcing their hand to either clean up their act or go elsewhere.

Though the latter option seems counter-productive, you have to ask yourself how valuable a customer they are if they don’t pay on time.

Has the landscape changed?

Fast forward three years and it’s upsetting to see that many businesses are still having to go to extreme lengths in order to get what they’re owed.

We speak to companies who are owed money daily and often hear about some rather controversial techniques that businesses have used to tackle late payment.  

With cash flow key to a business’s success we’re not surprised to see companies taking drastic measures to protect it.

We’re interested to know how far you would go to get paid. Have you ever gone to extreme lengths to collect payment? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Can we help?

Whilst we can understand why businesses go to such extreme lengths to collect what they’re owed there are more risk-free and productive ways of getting paid.

Using a commercial debt collection agency adds a certain weight to negotiations, which is often enough to encourage a customer to pay. This has been the case on numerous instances where we’ve been instructed by businesses.

And when it isn’t, our extensive experience in dealing with difficult customers means we can use the right blend of understanding and authority to bring a successful conclusion, removing the burden from your shoulders altogether.

To find out more about how we can help, please call our award-winning team on 0800 9774848 or get an instant debt collection quote to find out how much we would charge to successfully recover your unpaid invoices.

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