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Is payment by cheque necessarily a bad thing?
Thread poster: Ana Rosa

Ana Rosa
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:42
French to English
+ ...
Oct 15, 2008

Yesterday I was approached by an agency that I had sent my CV to a while back to ask if I could take on a small job. Having discussed rates (and, incidentally, agreed to accept a slightly lower rate than normal as a one-off goodwill gesture to a new client) I thought to check their Blue Board rating again. When I had sent my CV it had an average score of about 4, but I noticed that it has now gone down to 3.5, and average of 2.8 for the last 12 months. I found this a little worrying, so I sent another message saying "by the way my payment terms are strictly 30 days – do you agree to that?", and their reply was that their payment terms were 11 weeks and by cheque.

At this point I thought "this is not an agency I want to be working for", so replied to say, sorry, no can do, please find someone else. Well, I guess they couldn’t find anyone else, because a couple of hours later they came back to say "okay we’ll pay in 30 days, but still has to be by cheque". Finally, I still declined, and asked them to take my name off their database.

However, I must admit I feel a little bad about doing this. From my own point of view, I can hardly afford to turn down offers of work. Also, I wonder if, after the agency had offered to meet me more than half way, I should have been a little more flexible myself. Apart from the low BB score, my main concern was their insistence on paying by cheque. I find this quite odd - but perhaps there is really nothing sinister in it…

Anyway, I was just wondering what other people’s reactions might have been.


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Karen Stokes  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:42
Member (2003)
French to English
Not necessarily sinister Oct 15, 2008

I have one or two clients who still pay by cheque - I don't see it as a problem in itself given that there are other positives about those particular clients. You don't say whether the agency concerned is based in the UK or abroad, but if it's based abroad then you do need to check what your bank charges for handling foreign cheques as it can be quite a lot. That said, if there were other factors making you wary then you've probably done the right thing!

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Héloïse King  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:42
French to English
+ ...
No - not necessarily, but Oct 15, 2008

I have never been paid it this way and I would have some worries, bearing in mind the other things!

[Edited at 2008-10-15 11:36]


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Sonia Hill
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:42
Italian to English
Not necessarily Oct 15, 2008

I have a couple of foreign clients who insist on paying by cheque. As long as the job is reasonably big, it is much better to be paid by cheque than by Paypal, for example, as the fees for cashing a foreign cheque are lower than the percentage charged by Paypal. Obviously, a bank transfer is the ideal method of payment, but I don't mind receiving a cheque if a big job is involved. For small jobs it is definitely not worthwhile and I always tell the clients this.
If the company is in the UK and will be sending you a sterling cheque, there should be no problem at all.

Sonia


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Paul Dixon  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 05:42
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Never accept cheque payments Oct 15, 2008

Of course this depends on the country and on how well you know the client, but in Brazil at least the best policy is NO, never accept payments by cheque. This is because the country has one of the highest rates of theft and falsification of cheques in the world, not to mention the possibility of the cheque bouncing. (I am not saying that everyone in Brazil is a cheque falsifier, but the risk is very high). In the case of foreign cheques, here in Brazil only Citibank take them, but only for account holders and with a hefty fee.
The best bet is definitely Western Union (for foreign clients) or cash or bank transfer (for domestic clients).


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Ana Rosa
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:42
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
The agency is in the UK Oct 15, 2008

My concern derived mainly from the fact that I couldn’t see a good reason for preferring to pay by cheque (rather than by back transfer), so I assumed there must be a bad one! I don't know - perhaps I just have an overly suspicious mind...

I do sometimes find it difficult to know where to draw the line between taking a possibly small risk in order to build up business and taking a stupid risk that will only lose me time and money.


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Angela Dickson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:42
French to English
+ ...
sterling cheque Oct 15, 2008

I wouldn't mind accepting a cheque from a UK agency (my last two remaining agencies that used to pay by cheque have now switched to BACS, which I do prefer), but I'd watch like a hawk to make sure they paid at 30 days as promised. If they didn't, I wouldn't work for them again.

I was once stupid enough to accept a minimum-rate job for an agency in the US, and four weeks later received a $60 cheque in the post, and after charges I think I got to keep about £17 worth of that. I used at least £17 worth of time just running round to see if there was a cheaper way to cash it than paying it into my bank (there wasn't). Still, at least the cheque didn't bounce.

I think some agencies do have reasonably good reasons for not paying by bank transfer - some banks don't make it easy to arrange, as far as I know.

[Edited at 2008-10-15 12:55]


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 08:42
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
But what about their payments in the future? Oct 15, 2008

Whether or not you were right to refuse to do a small job for this agency on improved terms is of course a personal decision, but from a purely financial standpoint it was borderline. But, had all gone well with this small job, what about the next, and the next?

There's a lot of difference between your requirement of 30 days and their normal practice of 11 weeks. Personally, I can imagine having to chase and chase for every payment in the future. Flexibility for this one small job wouldn't have been unreasonable, but how flexible do you want to be long-term?

Is their "cheque only" policy simply a way of buying a few more free-credit days? Here in France, accepting a cheque sent by a company is not really dangerous (it's not likely to have been stolen and bounced cheques cause big problems for the issuer) but here and in England, inter-bank transfers are done all the time, everywhere and for free, so I can't see why it wouldn't be possible.


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KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 08:42
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
If it smells like fish.... Oct 15, 2008

Ana Rosa wrote:
My concern derived mainly from the fact that I couldn’t see a good reason for preferring to pay by cheque (rather than by back transfer), so I assumed there must be a bad one! I don't know - perhaps I just have an overly suspicious mind...


The agency probably wants to benefit from the "float" until the check clears. We deal with checks so seldom that they often sit on the desk for weeks uncashed.

Eleven weeks payment terms are usual for this bunch? Utterly ridiculous. EU payments are to be made within 30 days unless otherwise agreed. You aren't a bank, so I would tell them to go to Hell with the extra 7 weeks. And I won't be betting heavily that they actually do issue the check within 30 days. You've probably heard the old excuse that "the check is in the mail".

There are plenty of reputable agencies with good business practices out there. Deal with them instead.


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Jana Teteris  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:42
Latvian to English
+ ...
Nothing sinister Oct 15, 2008

Funnily enough, I know which agency Ana ir referring to, as the "11 weeks" has now become more than 12 weeks in my case. But today I've been promised that the cheque is in the post.

I agree with both Kevin and Sheila that the reason they probably use cheques is to leave the funds in their account for as long as possible. I don't think there's anything sinister in this, but it does seem a rather outmoded way of operating.

Oh and by the way - I won't be working for them in future


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Ana Rosa
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:42
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Interesting to know! Oct 15, 2008

Jana Teteris wrote:

Funnily enough, I know which agency Ana ir referring to, as the "11 weeks" has now become more than 12 weeks in my case. But today I've been promised that the cheque is in the post.

I agree with both Kevin and Sheila that the reason they probably use cheques is to leave the funds in their account for as long as possible. I don't think there's anything sinister in this, but it does seem a rather outmoded way of operating.

Oh and by the way - I won't be working for them in future


Perhaps I did the right thing after all then.

Thanks for the various comments. Always useful to have a second opinion when one is working very much on one's own!


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Oleg Osipov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 10:42
English to Russian
+ ...
S... Oct 15, 2008

See no harm at all in accepting checks from the clients in the US.
Works perfectly well.
Better than Paypal or Moneybookers in my case.


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:42
English to German
+ ...
I prefer checks when being paid by US clients Oct 15, 2008

In fact, when given a choice in terms of domestic payments I refuse payments via Paypal and I insist on checks.

Why? It's the most popular way of payment in this country. No fees on either side.

When I filed my taxes this year I was about to scream about the accumulated Paypal fees, and I realized that I just bought one of the Paypal owners a new Armani suit. Hey, such things might even look better on my husband.

I want to be paid by check.


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Johanna Timm, PhD  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 00:42
Member (2002)
English to German
+ ...
my preferred payment method Oct 15, 2008

90% of my clients pay me by check.
In 15 years, ONE check got lost in the mail (but was replaced) and ONE check was returned NSF (remedied within a week).
It’s the accepted practice in Canada and it has worked well enough for me.

johanna


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Laura Gentili  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 09:42
Member (2003)
English to Italian
+ ...
My experience Oct 15, 2008

I have a customer in the UK (agency) who wants to pay by check. I also have a customer in the US who wants to pay by check.
My bank charges me 13 euros for depositing such checks, so it's not so bad (of course not for small amounts). I really dislike PayPal and I think they are too greedy.

Laura


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