Judging by the email responses we received, Neil Tietz’s story, “Bilked Hay Grower Turns To Credit Cards,” in last week’s edition of eHay Weekly struck a chord with many readers.
Representative of the comments were those from Oklahoma reader Thomas Peeper, who relayed a story about a brother who got “ripped off” by an out-of-state hay buyer several years ago. “The crook”, according to Peepers, started out by buying a couple of semi loads of hay and paying for it all. Later, the same buyer bought another load of small squares. “After it was loaded, he pulled out his wallet and suddenly exclaimed that he brought the wrong check with him. The check he brought was one made out to another grower he was buying from and he left the right check on his desk at home.”
The buyer promised to send a check as soon as he got home. “At that point, my brother had a choice – either unload the hay back into the barn on a hot day or trust the guy.”
After several failed attempts to collect from the buyer, the matter was turned over to the local district attorney. “My brother didn’t have a hot check to take to the DA’s office. The DA said he had nothing to show the guy owed him any money.”
Peepers says the lesson to be learned is to get cash in hand before any hay is loaded. “A check can be as worthless as the paper it is written on. Most DAs will not even attempt to collect for you on a hot check unless the check has the driver’s license number of the writer on it, and does not have anything changed on the check – no marked-out dates, numbers, names, etc.”
Even if you accept cash, Peepers advises having a detector pen on hand so you can test to see if the money is counterfeit. The pens are cheap and sold at discount stores nationwide.
His bottom line: “Hay sellers should not be hesitant in making sure buyers understand hay must be paid for before it is loaded. And they should not be hesitant to explain that requirement to potential buyers, just like any other businessman would. If they lose a sale because they require good payment up front, then that is a sale that they should be glad they lost.”
In another response, retired Penn State University extension agent William Gallagher also encourages hay sellers to take more of a businesslike approach when establishing payment terms. He likes the idea of requiring one-half the value of a load before loading with payment for the other half coming before the load is received. He suggests certified check or bank draft as the method of payment.
“Once your policy is established, everyone will understand,” Gallagher writes. “Your hay will always sell as your product is of quality.”
Don Allan, a hay dealer from Alberta, writes that his company has had a good track record collecting accounts for the past few years. “We have had a policy of not allowing any customer owing us for more than one load at a time. This has enabled us to keep short accounts with everyone. For new accounts, we have requested that they put a deposit of at least half of the total cost of the first load in our bank account at their local branch prior to the hay leaving our farm.
“Most people understand the rationale of us requesting this. The balance is collected on delivery. Occasionally we have had a check bounce. When that happens, close follow-up is critical.”
Allan will extend the courtesy of allowing long-time customers to make post-dated payment under unusual circumstances. He has also considered going to credit card service. “It is something that we are looking at more seriously now as the cash crunch is hitting the cattle feeders in the drought-stricken areas of Saskatchewan and Alberta,” he writes.