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Debt-hole Surfers. Let’s rat ’em out!


It has come to my attention, via my hip pocket, that there is a certain breed of people out there who are just pricks.

They’ll take your goods or use your services without ever having the intention of paying you.

They surf the cusp of legality and debt recovery. They know that what they do is illegal but they are happy in the knowledge that the cost versus benefit of chasing them is too high. They know too that these same things will keep them off debt registers.

I call these people ‘debt-hole surfers’

For a small business eager to make new clients happy this sucks particularly hard. For a business where service and time is pretty much all you have to offer, this sucks pretty bad. Heck, for any honest person doing their best for other people on the assumption that most people are good, this sucks pretty bad. It just sucks!

To me, this type of behaviour is worse than anonymous theft. These people flaunt their behaviour and still get away with it.

It is only when you talk to other businesses who’ve done business with these jokers that you discover you aren’t alone.

WTF? Why wasn’t I warned?

The good people like you and me are left feeling like we can’t do anything about it because either it costs too much to chase them or we break complex privacy and slander laws. We are living in fear while these jokers just help themselves to our stuff.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been investigating this phenomenon. There do seem to be ways to find out if your next new customer is going to pay you or not.

Sure, I’ve been told “always get paid first”, “check with a credit agency”, “talk to consumer affairs”, etc. All good ideas but all come after the horse has bolted. For some of us, particularly in the service industry and other intangible sales, getting paid up front for an invisible and as yet undelivered product is tantamount to impossible.

But I do have a cunning plan!

So, excuses aside, let’s assume that prevention is better than cure. Let’s assume that there will always be some mix of “do now, get paid later” in our world. What can we do about it?

Well, I am working on that. I can’t say much right now. I am working on something that will help us all. Sadly, at this stage I don’t think it is as simple as implementing an Australian version of Debtor Checker from the UK. It is a beautiful idea though.

My solution will have to be smarter, as it is tricky to navigate Australia’s laws so that the victim doesn’t become the offender.

My solution won’t focus on the idiots. I don’t want to do that and presume most other people wouldn’t either. My solution is about positivity and operating with our eyes open in a practical sense. Wouldn’t it be nice to choose to work with nice honest people from the outset and never have to deal with the trash?

Like many new ideas, it’s not ready for discussion yet.

However, if you’ve come up with a clever way to sort the chaff from the wheat, I’d love to hear about it as a comment below. (And if any of the wealthy among you out there remembers the feeling and impact these people have on us little guys, I’d love to talk to you about being part of my project.)

To get the ball rolling, here’s the best tip I’ve been given so far: “Google all prospective clients before you do business with them”. It is not always easy to do but it is better than Googling them after they’ve ripped you off.

What do you do to rat out the rats?

David Moore has 25 years experience in the computer industry and is now Principal PC Hater at ihatemypc.com.au. Image by thetimchannel (Tim Fuller)