The invoice from hell

October 7th, 2004 § 2 comments

Almost a year ago, an employee of a university contacted me with a proposal. He had found me by way of a discussion group I had created on Yahoo! Groups about SCORM, and wanted me to help them to sort some problems in a SCORM-compliant course they were developing for a client of theirs.

At first, I was not willing to do the job. I was quite busy at the time, and I didn’t like the way I had been approached about the project. After long discussions via instant messaging (the university was located in another state, Rio), I accepted the job. The person contacting me had offered better conditions to convince me, but I was still unsure. But, against my best judgment, I did indeed accept the job.

After two months of sporadic work (communication problems on their part) the job was done. I delivered the code, as we had agreed, and they tested it. We solved a few issues that arose from incorrect specifications, despite the continuing communication problems, and they finally accepted the job as done too.

That’s when my troubles began. A couple weeks passed, and I couldn’t get any information about payment. After some prodding on my part, they said they would only pay if I sent them an invoice from an established company, something I had no access to at the time.

After attempting to convince them to accept any other legal form of invoice, without success, I capitulated and started to look at the task of finding what they wanted. I spent one month consulting my friends, until one them offered to send the invoice to me as he had his own company. I went to Rio in the following week, for another project, and left the invoice with a friend of mine, who went to university and delivered it into competent hands. Two additional months had gone by.

I waited a couple days after I returned from Rio and called the university. They didn’t acknowledge its receipt — even though my friend had delivered it directly to the guy I was talking to. To make things worse, the person who had contacted my with the proposal in first place had left the university, and I had no one else who could say I had delivered the code.

After another month-long wait, calling them on the cell phone almost every day — and spending 5% of the invoice value in the calls — they finally said they had the invoice, and that it was on its way to the accounting department, where I thought it already was. Hearing those news, I though I would finally see the money. I was badly mistaken.

Another month passed and nothing else happened. I tried to call them again, but the person I was supposed to talk too was never available, and none of the other persons I managed to talk to seemed to know what I was talking about. It was as if the invoice had disappeared again.

I was almost giving up when my friend, who had sent the invoice in first place, offered to help me. I accepted his offer, and he started to call them. At first, he was no more successful than I was. They kept avoiding him, and a couple weeks more went by. When my friend realized they were avoiding him, he started to pressure them. It took him a couple more calls, but they finally decided to pay the bill. But they would wire the money. Instead they would send a cheque, payable only to my friend’s company. The new problem: my friend’s company had no checking account.

I was beginning to believe I had built something upon an Indian cemetery, and had been cursed as a result. But my friend said he would solve the problem. The cheque was sent from Rio, and arrived a couple days later. My friend managed to convince the bank manager to cash the cheque upon its endorsement by him. My friend proceeded to print a common template he used for endorsement on the back of the cheque. When he was doing it, the printer jammed and ripped the cheque in two.

The invoice really didn’t want itself paid. But my friend talked again to the bank manager, and the manager said he would try to cash the cheque anyway. The cheque was sent to the bank, and the cashiers went on a strike that day. That, ironically, was the very thing that enabled the cheque to be cashed, since they didn’t verify the cheque condition as thoroughly as they would have done otherwise.

A week ago, almost a year after I was first contacted, the money appeared on my account. Since then, I’m convinced that invoice was surely from hell. It’s the only explanation for so much trouble.

§ 2 Responses to The invoice from hell"

  • Chn says:

    Oh I can understand what you have gone through. I had similar experience with a well-known company.
    I am glad that you at least received your money after an year.
    I have lost hope on mine…(already 1.5 years)

  • Ronaldo says:

    Sorry to hear about that. Unfortunately, we need to be very careful when dealing with such kind of work. After my experience, I’m being really careful with my contracts.

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