… So one of my web-hosting clients, down in Louisiana, hasn’t paid their bill in almost nine months. I’ve called them every few weeks all year long, trying to get the invoices paid. I’ve talked with four different people, including (1) the technical guy, (2) the receptionist, (3) the accountant, and (4) one of the managers. Nothing has ever come of it, except repeated promises of “I’ll get right on it” and even “I’m sending the check in today’s mail.”

Finally, my cup of frustration runneth over. This afternoon I put up a lovely web page in place of their site that said “Sorry, this site is temporarily shut down for lack of payment.” It even had a wonderful “talk to the hand” graphic on it. I wondered how long it would take to get their attention, because I know they use the site every day (it’s a password-protected database application).

Sure enough, about five minutes later the phone rang and I saw it was a 360 area code. That was quick. Of course, as anyone knows, 360 is Olympia WA. It was Chancellor calling about some other stuff. We talked for a while, and after I hung up I got another call– this time from a 337 area code. Ahh, Lafayette LA.

It was some government employee from the city, evidently a client of my client. In other words, he was one of the people paying the bills to use my system. And he was panicked because he needed access to the information in the database. Not only was it his job, but there were legal ramifications… if he was unable to get the data, I guess it had repercussions far beyond inconvenience. I explained the situation and told him how my client hadn’t paid the bill for nine months. He understood, and said he would call them immediately and explain things to them.

About five minutes later I got another call from some guy at my client’s company. He was very apologetic and rambled on about how his company was managing the finances of the other company, and the other company was in deep financial doo-doo, and on and on. I didn’t follow the whole situation, but suffice to say he was desperate to get things back online. He said he’d fax a copy of the check to me immediately, and overnight the money.

I told him to calm down; I had already re-enabled the web site. I was just looking for some action, and my persistent but polite phone calls had resulted in zero response. This was definitely an attention-getter, and he was falling all over himself to make sure I understood things were going to happen.

Sure enough, a few minutes later the fax came through– there’s the check, all prim and proper. And the real check, he assured me, was on its way. Finally.

Funny stuff. I almost felt like a cyber-extortionist. “Cough it up, or the web site stays down…”