Monday, May 24, 2010
I’m wondering if business schools have recently added a class called “How to Rake Your Customer?” It seems nearly imposible to find a completely honest and upfront entity to do business with. As with my previous post “Desperate Measures Online" (scroll down 3), this one addresses a similar situation I recently had with my C.P.A. We’ve been using his services for tax preparation for many years now. I drive 1 ½ hour to get my taxes done because I thought he was a pretty good tax man—expensive, but good and he had been recommended by an associate of his (soon realizing that was his buddy, but nonetheless, he was a good C.P.A.).
So here’s the rest of the story. We were buying a home last fall and the bank (very picky nowadays) wanted a note from our C.P.A. saying my pension (I’m retired) would continue until 2016—as it will. I called my tax guy and asked if he could write a letter stating that based on previous returns, it may do so. He said no, he couldn’t do that—I understood why, he does not know—no problem. He did ask which bank and who was doing the loan. A few days later, my lender got a form letter from the C.P.A. stating he was not allowed to release information regarding his clients. Didn’t matter, we got the loan and love the house.
So as scheduled this March, I go see the tax man to get the taxes done for 2009. Upon entering the office, his receptionist hands me a "contract" saying their new policy allows for billing for phone or other consultations—sign here. I read the paper and signed (laughing inside of course). When I went into his personal office, before he even greeted me, he asked if I had signed the “contract.” Now I do understand this new policy. After all, I only pay him to prepare my tax return. But I immediately questioned (in my mind of course) his tactics and lack of explaining this new policy to me.
So a month later, in the mail, I get my return to sign and mail to the I.R.S. and others. With that, was the bill for services rendered including a $50 consultation fee for 6 months earlier as well as a $50 consultation fee for the date of my tax appointment. Mind you, the real part of the bill was $525.00 for tax preparation (about $100 higher than last year). I couldn’t believe my eyes—what nerve! So I did what any frustrated, over-taxed and under patient person would do, I wrote him a letter.
“I’m a bit surprised, or maybe not, at your bold attempts at “sucking” money from your clients. Who by the way, have paid their bills, showed up to appointments on time, and faithfully recommended you to friends and family for services—not any longer.
I’m especially surprised at the tactics you used to try and get additional fees from your clients. Do you think we are all stupid? When your secretary (poor gal) hands me a “contract” to sign (right now of course, before the appointment), I’m not dumb enough that I don’t know what that’s all about. But, because the “contract” is dated with my signature, and I know you can’t legally bill me for past uninformed and useless consultation, I’ll sign, but at the point when I wrote my name on that paper, it was in question in my mind, “Do I really want to continue doing business with this guy?”
Your illegal attempts to collect “consultation” fees have failed. Not only am I not obligated to pay your fees as listed on your invoice dated 05/07/2010 (and will not), I will now take my business elsewhere; to somebody a tad more honest. Personally, I hope all your clients drop you like a hot potato; you don’t deserve their business.
Remember my first book about running a business, you should read it. It discusses the importance of honesty in business.Get some character, decency, honesty, and common sense and good luck with your future business, you’ll need it.”
Now maybe that’s a little harsh, but I am getting tired of “round-a-bout” business tactics used in our society. Are there any straight-forward, honest, or service oriented businesses around any longer? I ran a business for 15 years and I NEVER would have tried to pull this on my clients. Had he said, “I’m going to have to charge you a fee if you call me for information in the future” I probably would have kept him as my C.P.A.
Could this be one of the reasons for business failure?