My sister and I were out on her back patio a couple of nights ago, observing the ducks and wildlife playing in the little lake behind her house, eating cheese and crackers, and enjoying a glass of wine. It was a beautiful night and we were lucky to have her daughter join us. Our conversation turned to a situation probably most all of us have dealt with at some point or another, getting burned by someone you trusted. Usually this involves money. Maybe we perform a service that needs to be paid for, purchase something for another person with the expectation that person will pay you back, accept a reservation for an event without prior payment, or perhaps loan something out thinking the person who borrowed it will not only return it, but return it in the same condition as they received it.
All of these are common scenarios with normal expectations, but often we get burned when the person fails to perform as we would normally expect. When this happens, we might proclaim, and I’ve said it myself, “I needed to learn that lesson, or that’s going to be bad karma for the person that did us wrong,” and eventually move on, losing faith in humanity a little bit each time it happens.
The question is, “How do we protect ourselves and how do we learn so that we don’t fall victim again and again?” I wish I had a clear cut answer to this, but unfortunately I don’t. However, there are safeguards you can put in place that help to make people do the right thing, so you don’t have to become the bill collector or victim.
Many restaurants insist you use a credit card to hold your reservation. Businesses may require you to put down a deposit, or pay in full prior to your service. Bartenders won’t start a tab unless you give them a credit card to hold. The best way you can protect yourself is be clear about refunds, always get paid up front, never perform work past what you have been paid, don’t loan out or front money you cat afford to lose, use contracts with enforceable language, and don’t apologize for being business minded and protecting yourself when it comes to money. Most people are honest and have integrity, but the smart business person can protect themselves without having to be a raging bull. Just use some smart business practices and you will find your friends and customers respect you, and you will have peace of mind knowing you don’t have to follow-up or be wary of anyone taking advantage.