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Monday, February 13, 2006

Loser Inc.

I feel terrible about something that just happened at work. I’ve been blindsided by news from a client that totally left me feeling drained and upset. I’m not sure quite yet how to process this information and thought that by writing this post I could clear my head. I can’t quite digest the fact that a company (a reputable one – or so I thought) had put one over my company -- or me for that matter! Of all the immoral, indecent and unfair things to do!

Here’s the background that led to this incident:
I think I’ve mentioned that one of my company’s services is conducting on-site compliance training programs for other organizations. Last year, I was inundated with workshops towards the end of the year since many companies wanted to get their compliance programs done before year-end. I was dealing with several new companies in and around Los Angeles. Since these were companies we previously had not done business with, I would charge them 50% of our workshop fee a week before the workshop and 50% of the fee on the day of the workshop. This seemed fair and most of the clients agreed.

Then came this new company (which I will now refer to as Loser Inc. – since this is what they are and since the word “loser” is actually quite close to their real name!). Loser Inc.’s HR Director (initials M.R.) calls me on Dec. 29th and asks for a workshop for the 30th. Since I was down with a cold then and did not really want to facilitate a 4-hour workshop on the last working day of the year, I suggested having the workshop the first week of the year instead. M.R. said they needed it done on the 30th (to comply with the 2005 training requirements) and said it would be a workshop for two very small groups and could be done in less than 4 hours and that she would help me throughout the workshop.

So … big mistake # 1 … I AGREED.

Big mistake # 2 … I agreed to not getting 50% down payment prior to the workshop (since there was no time) and not getting 50% on the day of the workshop (since their Accounting Manager was already on vacation). We had agreed that the payment would be sent out the first week of January. Can you see where this is leading to?

Well, long story short, I do the workshops (and no it was NOT easy training) and I go home thinking that was it. Well, big mistake # 3 was “thinking that was it!”.

The first week of January came and went – no check in the mail. I call M.R. and do not get a call back. By mid-January I call M.R. every other day and leave her voice messages, sent her several emails, and re-sent the invoice – no response. The last week of January I actually go to their office and M.R. meets with me (after making me wait 20 minutes). She said she has now transferred our invoice to the Accounting Manager (initials E.R.) and I should follow up with E.R., who, of course, was not in that day.

So for the next 2 weeks, I call E.R. – almost daily now. Got a hold of E.R. the week before last and she said the check was in the mail. So, we wait. After a week, still no check. Tried getting in touch with her all of last week and kept getting her voice mail.

At this point, I am thinking something is wrong – maybe E.R. was on vacation or maybe the check was lost in the mail or maybe there was some mix-up with their Accounting system. I was willing to give them the benefit of the doubt even if I was getting really frustrated.

Well, today, after 45 days of calling, following up and site visits, I finally hear the truth. I get E.R. on the phone and am told the company has filed CHAPTER 11!!! They are bankrupt and as a result (among other things) all their debts are cancelled. Am still having trouble getting around the concept that a company can totally mismanage its finances and resources and then one day just file chapter 11 and all their outstanding debt is wiped off and they get to start anew. How does that promote responsible business practices? How does that create accountability in the workplace? How is that morally correct and fair? Unbelievable!

I feel terrible to have trusted this company to honor its word. I feel deceived that these two people (M.R. and E.R.), who both probably knew what was going on, let all of this happen and refused to be upfront before and after the fact. I feel quite stupid for following up over 6 weeks and actually expected to still receive a check for full payment. I feel awful for letting my boss down (he’s taking it quite well though, but still …). I feel horrible knowing our company has to chalk this one up as a loss. But most of all, I feel bad knowing this company put one over me. I guess that’s the worst feeling of all.

M.B., one of my co-workers (and a good friend too) was trying to cheer me up earlier saying I should not feel that all this is my fault (actually, I don’t think ALL of it is my fault – but I can’t help feeling at least a little bit responsible for this!). He added that I should not blame myself (easier said than done) and that I should learn from this experience (boy am I ever going to!). His last piece of advice was (in his exact words) “Joanne, you should move on and forget this chapter”. Haha - literally, “this chapter”, that would be chapter 11!


jencc said...

one thing i learned recently is that there is still so much more out there! in fact, i felt that i "grew up" (i've so far been stuck at 28 *ack*) the past few days...and am on track with me *ulp* "real" age...hahahaha! but people like these make us more cynical, don't they? i'd rather not let them do that to us, because it's like they "win". just take it as a part of life...there are losers (them) and winners (you, for learning of this experience). take care!

jol said...

It is quite unfortunate that you were a victim of this scheme. Rather than cry over spilled milk, you can learn from this mistake. Be careful in your business dealings but try not to mistrust everyone. In this world, trust is still a virtue.

Joanne said...

True,true! I don't think this experience will make me mistrust everybody. I still believe there is more good (than bad) in the world! But it certainly will make me more careful.