As a business owner, one of the oddest issues I’ve had to deal with of late is tracking down people I’m trying to pay. Who would have thought getting people to take money from me would be such an arduous task? Not I, and it’s utterly baffling.
Since March, I’ve been working through winding down my company, Samhain Publishing. The many tasks involved have fallen to me as there are no longer any employees. The simplest of these tasks is to keep the bank accounts reconciled; simple due to so few items coming in and going out these days. However, there are a large number of unreconciled, outstanding items in the main bank account, which is creating pages and pages of reports.
As I began to investigate these items, I discovered a small number of them weren’t actually outstanding. Rather, they are mistakes in the bookkeeping, either human errors made by former employees or database errors (ghosts in the machine). For instance, say we’re talking about an ACH payment to a staff member. Since ACH payments are direct deposit, it should never show as outstanding. As an employee myself, I would have been very vocal if my payroll deposit didn’t land in my account. So, either the item wasn’t cleared during reconciliation, or it was duplicated through human or software error. Figuring out which occurred has led to more than one headache over the months.
But the majority of the problems have come from the numerous uncashed checks. This has had me scratching my head because if someone sends me money, I’m going to grab it and run to the nearest bookstore! But that could just be me. I come from the super frugal East Tennessee Scots, who are so tight they squeak when they walk. Except when it comes to book shopping.
Now, I can see the occasional issue in the mail system. A check could go missing, every once in awhile. But based on the shear volume, that isn’t the case. There are so many outstanding checks and given the reputation Samhain has for paying on time every time, I would think at some point all those who didn’t get paid would speak up about income that didn’t come.
Of course, there are the international people who incur such high fees from banks for simply cashing a U.S. check that they just don’t want to. I get that paying twenty-five pounds to cash a five dollar check is absolutely not worth it. Some of them made other arrangements. Others didn’t and would seem to sit on the checks. I have offered many times through the company newsletter to help find another solution and I’m amenable to working something out that benefits us both. They just need to reach out to me.
There are the people who move and don’t tell me, so the checks come back (or not) because the forward/return expired. I do my best to track them down as the checks are returned, but not all of those efforts end in resolution. Either the email address I have has been abandoned and I have no way of reaching them, or they have ghosted. And think about it, not only are they not collecting monies due them, but I also have no way of formally returning the rights to their work; which is a monetized asset they own.
In a strange way, I have kind of become used to this.
But I believe I’ve found a solution to this part of the bookkeeping headache. I will be sending the funds owed to each unresponsive person to the State of Ohio’s Unclaimed Funds division in that person’s name and they can collect it from Ohio at their leisure. I’ll have this done by the end of the year.
However, that solution only works for the uncashed royalties. I can’t use it for the new problem that has occurred in the saga of forcing money on people.
This latest development is about getting some of Samhain’s former staff to collect their retirement and/or 401(k) funds, and getting them to move the money to programs of their choosing and under their control. I’ve had to resort to harassing texts/IMs. What’s my next option? Social media shaming? Which is kind of what this blog is, maybe. Or maybe it’s just a plea on my part.
I’m quite literally begging people to take money from me! I may have to resort to making daily phone calls, hounding my beloved friends into taking money that belongs to them.
I’ll probably get blocked.