Purple Bricks, save yourself from 'commisery' by paying my sodding invoice.

I’m pleased to say that I rarely have payment problems with clients for several reasons. Firstly, I don’t ask for any payments up front, so if an invoice has landed then it’ll be for goods as delivered and/or services already rendered. Secondly, larger jobs are costed and a scope of works produced listing what my client will be getting for their money, what assumptions have been made and the terms and conditions the work is subject to. Thirdly, I like to think that I provide pretty good value for money; there are others cheaper, others pricier, but my reviews are good, my timekeeping is accurate, I’m honest about what’s needed and I aim for a high standard of work which is backed up by warranty, insurance, accrediting bodies and a third party alternative dispute resolution service.

In short, I’m a safe bet.

All the above trumpet-blowing generally means I have happy customers and that generally means they have no problem paying my bills, especially as they might want to rely on my services again in the future. We all know how troublesome it can be to find a reliable tradesperson, so when you do have one it pays to keep ‘em sweet.

That’s not to say none of my own invoices have ever been disputed before. Some disputes are understandable and are down to a misunderstanding of what was included. That happens rarely as I’m quite careful to avoid it, but if it happens then I’ll work with my client to make it right and keep them happy. Some disputes are unreasonable such as when someone decides they just don’t want to pay the full invoice amount despite the costs being accurate or as-planned. Fortunately, this kind of thing is extremely rare, but again, I’ll try to reason with the client to come to a satisfactory arrangement, although under such circumstances I reserve the right to refuse to supply my warranty support or to ever undertake any further work on their behalf. As far as I’m concerned, if a client hasn’t thrown straight dice, then the next time they need electrical work the cowboys can have 'em…., and you know there is always a next time; the handful of bad payers I have experienced over the years have never failed to come back later asking for more work which I decline to provide while wearing a massive 'fuck-you' grin.

When Purple Bricks contacted me for some minor electrical remedial work on a property at the start of the year, I expected a certain level of professionalism as you would from such a large business. They asked me in writing to look at a job, which I did, and I then produced a written estimate. They gave me the go-ahead in writing, and the work was performed, certified and invoiced accordingly.

Annoying then that they didn’t pay my bloody invoice. At a paltry £105 ex-VAT, it was hardly worth their bother, and perhaps they thought I’d consider it not worth mine, but with a trail of written emails and a pre-work estimate I knew they’d have little chance against a small claims action, and today they’ve had to cough up the invoice amount plus interest and my costs rather than face a potential County Court Judgement.

Not that I’m accusing Purple Pricks of deliberately avoiding settling this invoice just to try and save themselves a few bob, but over the weeks I had dealt with numerous staff on the phone and in writing, I’ve been redirected to different offices and email addresses and the small claims paperwork posted to their Solihull office failed to elicit a response in the deadline set. I couldn’t get them to either tell me when the payment would be made or to give a reason why the itemised invoice was disputed, if indeed there was something they didn’t like that was holding it up. If it wasn’t deliberate avoidance, that only really leaves ignorance or ineptitude as lip-service had been a consistent "this will be paid quickly" throughout, although they failed time and again to put their money where their mouths were.

Needless to say, I won’t be doing any further work for Purple Bricks who I now leave in the potentially incapable hands of the aforementioned cowboys.

In my case, I was protected by a written estimate, an email trail authorising the work in writing, numerous and patient attempts to get the debt settled, robust terms and conditions and the willingness to risk the expense of court action for the sheer bloody principle regardless of the size of the outstanding amount. I wonder how many other trades who aren’t so careful with the paperwork find themselves out of pocket with faceless borgs like this simply because they didn’t have a paper trail to back themselves up?

Fellow trades, take care if Purple Bricks come knocking, especially if they’re from the Solihull office.