CLASSIFIED according to their manner of treatment, collection accounts fall pretty strictly into two divisions: ordinary commercial accounts and installment accounts; and they should be considered separately.
Getting the right tone into commercial collection letters is largely a matter of getting the right viewpoint and the right perspective on what your customer’s relation and his obligation to you really is.
It is a mistake, in the first place, to look upon a just debt as anything but the strictest business obligation or to intimate in the slightest degree that you do not expect the debtor to pay it promptly. The merest suggestion that you consider it as any other than a straightforward business proposition will be eagerly grasped by the debtor with intent to evade. Furthermore, it is a mistake to ask payment on any other ground than that it is justly due you in exchange for value received. Many correspondents make use of the argument that the firm is hard up.
“We are going to be frank in telling you,” wrote one wholesale house, “that we need the money. You are only one of a large number of our customers who are back on their accounts and unless you remit at least a part of what you owe us, we may find ourselves in embarrassing circumstances.”
The moment you write a man like that you let him know that you are in the same class that he is and you put a new excuse in his mouth that he may not have used on you before. If you think it advisable to talk at all along this line, do it without losing your dignity.
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