Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Un-Pro Pro-Brook

Pro-Brook are a publishing company who were working out of serviced offices in Borough High Street but have now moved to a small room in Woodbridge having trimmed down the work force to one person working from home. They publish a few magazines, twice a year-published annually (??) and I worked for them for a couple of years at their London Bridge office. They class themselves as a next generation publisher. Their website is under construction....

But now, here's an interesting story...

A company gives you a contract, you read it, you sign it. Nowhere in that contract does it say that if your client decides not to pay, we will clawback your commission.
OK? Well, hang on, because you are in for a bumpy ride.
You are a salesperson selling advertising space over the telephone. Your job is to convince your prospect that advertising in one of the magazines and journals your company produces is a great idea and you use your skills to liaise with all of the relevant people to ensure that you get a faxed booking form back with a signature on it. That is success. That is your job, end of story. You have made an agreed percentage of the total amount of the deal as commission and that is paid to you at the end of the sales month which is the month you sold it in. In other words: sell in June, up to the 25th and the money is in the bank at the end of June.
What you do not do is worry about anything else, like chasing copy, chasing payment or even the printing process. Or so you would think...
You sell a half page advertisement to a company in Barbados and the deal is that they get a free half page. The deal is £2,950 for one half page. When the copy arrives for the two half pages there is so much information on the two half pages that someone, other than you, decides to give your customer a FULL page in the magazine. Not only that, they give them an additional full page free of charge. The cost of the two full pages is actually £9,900. Your customer has only paid £2,950. Someone other than you, the Directors themselves, made that decision.
You go to print and the customer is very, very happy. A couple of months later, in October 2006, you contact the customer and say that you want to secure the space again in the next issue. You explain that you know, and they know, they got a fantastic deal last time. The rate card for a full page is no longer £4,950 but now £5,450. Last time they only paid 29% of the value of what they got. To sweeten the pill you allow them to not only have a free full page but you will only charge them the old rate card of £4,950. They are happy, and they fax back a booking form for the amount, SIGNED! Your job is over. Two weeks later you are paid on that deal (along with some others).
The company have fixed terms of: "payment is due within 14 days of invoice".
2006 rolls into 2007 and you, and the rest of the sales team, continue to sell. As the time of publication approaches you hear that "a couple of the advertisers have still not paid". You pay no attention because you believe, like everyone else would, that there is an accountant/ legal team dealing with this.
Then the accountant disappears off the face of the earth (on holiday) and one of the Directors starts to call lots of people asking for money. To all of you it sounds like he is calling everyone that has advertised. That can't be true?
It transpires that, rather than only a couple of people not paying, only a couple of people have paid and the Director is chasing them for payment. He even states that the accountant 'wasn't doing his job properly'.
You, and the others, carry on selling.
We are told that the Bank Manager is making a visit to the company. Can we all look busy and dress in a businesslike fashion? A massive clean up takes place. he arrives, they take him to lunch.
Quote: "Have you got half a sec?"
That is the Directors way of telling you that he wants an important word with you, and he only has 'half a sec' as he is running out the door at 3:30pm to have an acupuncture session. Instead of telling you during the day when he had more than adequate time to sit down and discuss the matter in a professional way he opts for the cowards way of, "look, I am very busy and I am off to have some acupuncture, but..."
"Patterson haven't paid and we will have to take your commission back."
Let's look at the comments made and then the facts.
"They are not returning our calls and we cannot get them to pay" True, but then they have signed a contract and that is binding.
"We cannot sue them, it's too costly." No it isn't. What's more, they have signed a contract and you have them over a barrel. Furthermore, they are members of the tax organisation which you are publishing the book for so they will not want to jeopardise that, especially as the President of the organisation, who you publish the magazine they were advertising in, is the person paying you to publish it.
"They work in a far flung island offshore and they are financial experts." So what pal, that's your problem. It was ok to call them and sell them. If they are financial experts then they shouldn't have signed the fucking contract in the first place if they didn't want to go ahead.
"They won't tell each other that we don't pursue. They don't talk to each other." The organisation is a membership which holds three meetings a year for networking purposes. The directory we publish gives names and contact details of the members so they can call each other up. The organisation actively promote networking!
"You'll find that we can clawback the commission because it is in your contract." No it isn't. Nowhere in the contract of employment does it state that commission can or will be clawedback.
The killer points are these:
The deal was done at the beginning of October 2006. They want to clawback the commission almost 9 months later!
It's a legal/ credit control issue: nothing to do with the salesperson.
This 'Director' has given the salesperson no warning as he told him at the time his salary was due to be paid. In fact, he said he 'may have to clawback the commission' a day after he already had decided to claw it back. The salary was worked out and sent to the system on Tuesday to hit the bank account on the friday. In other words: Gutless!!
It contravenes the contract of employment as this issue is not covered in the terms.
If you do not pursue them you will send out a message that clearly states: Sign the contracts, you don't have to pay, don't worry about it. They are too scared to sue you.
In the end, it's a joke. A financial joke that will have massive and painful repercussions. If you think I am making all of this up, I am not. This is really happening. In the 21st century!
Who lives in a publishing house like this?



Oh, by the way. These are the two owners of the company mentioned above.

Tim Probart (Lifesize)



Trevor Brooker (Getting pissed on a salesmans clawedback commission)










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