rules of thumb – institutionalization

I get hoist by my own petard every 10 years or so. I get so excited by a large institutional order that I forget basic common sense – taking the order over the phone, shipping the item out as soon as possible, typing up a nice little invoice and sending that in. THEN shit happens, kinda like a slow motion car accident.

CASE STUDY: Teacher A places a phone order for Item B. You send the item like always only this time with an invoice. A month later teacher A calls you to find out where the package is. The tracking tells you it was delivered 3 days after you sent it. But they are closed on the Saturday it was ‘delivered’ and you only had delivery confirmation on it, and the teacher doesn’t have it and the accounts payable department doesn’t know anything about anything. Now what do you do?


1. Get the Purchase Order in writing, either faxed or attached to an email.

2. Put the purchase order number on the invoice – if they don’t give you one, make up one using your initials and today’s date.

3. If it’s a big place, make sure the person signing the order is authorized to do it, if they are not accounts payable, then call their accounts payable and ask. (THIS seems rude, but I have been screwed this way 3 times)

4. Check if they have a preferred delivery service, UPS, FEDEX or USPO

5. Use tracking WITH a signature

6. Track the delivery YOURSELF – send the results to the customer, so they know when to look for the package.

7. Get prepaid if you can.

8. Send three invoices, one with the item like a packing slip, one via email of fax if the order came that way and one in the MAIL to the purchasing dept.

9. Unless you have an arrangement, put ‘upon receipt’ on the invoice – they may assume it means net 30 or it MAY move it to the top of the pile.

10. Don’t be afraid to check on payment. At 30 days out send them another copy of the invoice. They will NOT call you if there is a problem: if they never got the invoice, or lost it, or ate it. It is an institution, the accounts payable department has no vested interest in making sure you get paid. They go home at 5 o’clock.

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