Is There a Company You Can Report to About a Bad Paying Customer?
You can leave comments on websites regarding whether you enjoyed the last book you read, the hotel you stayed in, the service or food at the restaurant you just frequented and any number of other experiences you had. Customers can complain about businesses to the Better Business Bureau. It seems as if there should be places online that small businesses can go to rate their customers. There are, but it's debatable whether you should use them.
Business Beware claims to provide a "voice for all small business owners." If you use the site, Business Beware sends a letter to your deadbeat customer stating if he doesn't pay, you will place that customer's name as a non-paying customer on the Business Beware site. Simply threatening to post names on its site might be enough to get non-paying customers to pay.
NastyClient.com describes itself as a "nationwide screening service." It allows you to file a report about a bad paying customer anonymously. The site recommends you then show the report to your customer and explain that people nationwide can see it, which could lead to other businesses refusing to work with him. You would then explain that if the customer pays, you will mark "paid" on the report.
It might sound tempting to report a bad paying customer for the online world to see. You might feel as if you are doing your part to warn fellow small business owners, and it's nice to have a place you can go to check out customers before doing business with them. But if you complain online about a bad customer, you might be doing yourself a disservice. Potential customers might not want to do business with a firm that talks about them, even if what the business owner said were true. Katherine Hutt of the Better Business Bureau said in "Bloomberg Businessweek" that this business model is a bad idea and amounts to "a public shaming device."
You can report bad paying customers to credit bureaus. Experian, for example, lets small businesses apply to get reporting capabilities. Fees are involved, but you might benefit from such reporting. If your customers know you report payment history to the credit bureaus, they might be more inclined to make sure they maintain a good record with you. You can contact each of the three credit bureaus -- Experian, TransUnion and Equifax -- to find out about reporting requirements.