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Show me the money?

Several years ago, I worked in the credit department of an outdoor power equipment manufacturer. Our customer base ranged from mom-and-pop fix-it shops to international distributors. There was one particular distributor I will never forget.

The gentleman, who we will call Rafael, was having difficulty paying his bills on time. It didn't take long before his credit limit was removed and prepayment was required for all orders. To receive his first prepaid order, Rafael would need to bring his account current. It was obvious that the distributorship was struggling when he had to give me two different credit cards (his and his brothers) to cover the low four-figure balance, but payment was received, so the parts shipped as promised.

Business proceeded as usual until one day I received an email from Rafael stating that he would be in town to pick up his parts order in person. He wanted to make sure I would be there to take his prepayment. Did I mention that Rafael was the owner of an outdoor power equipment distributorship in Brazil? I emailed him back to verify that I would be in the office. In my email, I questioned whether he was really coming to pick up the parts himself since the order consisted of several thousand dollars worth of parts and accessories. In his reply, he explained that it was less expensive for him to fly to the United States and coordinate purchases from several suppliers into one container load for shipping purposes than it was to order from each individual supplier and have the orders shipped separately. He also admitted that it was like a vacation for him.

So, the day arrived that I would meet my Brazilian friend. Rafael was tall and thin with an olive complexion and dark wavy hair. Sorry ladies, Rafael is married. We proceeded to the vice president of international sales' office, and that is when I learned my first lesson about taking prepayment in person.

Rafael had a schedule to keep, so it wasn't long before the conversation turned to the amount due for the parts and accessories order. When I showed him the total, he politely asked where the men's room was. It seemed strange to me that he needed to use the men's room so urgently that he interrupted our conversation about the order, but I quickly showed him where it was and returned to the office.

When I returned, the vice president was laughing and asked if I wanted to know why. I was afraid to ask, but did. He explained that in Brazil, many people keep their money on their bodies rather than using a wallet. That way, the money is safer from pickpockets. Rafael promptly returned from the men's room with a fist full of cash.

Has your mother ever told you not to put money in your mouth because you never know where it has been? Well, believe her.

Jill Westrich is a credit and cash application manager.

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Title Annotation:Accounts of Customer Relationships
Author:Westrich, Jill
Publication:Business Credit
Article Type:Column
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2013
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