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I have done some work for a company. They agreed to pay me a certain amount of money for the week of work I was doing. After I finished my job, I asked for my payment, but the person in charge of the project told me that I had to wait for approval from the company. So I did that.

I have been waiting for my payment for the last two months and, yesterday, I got an e-mail from the person in charge of the project- Said person told me that the company had an internal change of regulations and they were still trying to unlock the funds to pay me. However, they offered to acquire whatever items I wanted as payment.

Should I take their offer or should I wait for them to sort the situation out?

closed as off-topic by gnat, scaaahu, Masked Man, Jim G., IDrinkandIKnowThings Sep 4 '15 at 19:04

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion, nor for additional information that should be edited into the question. This conversation has been moved to chat. – Monica Cellio Sep 4 '15 at 15:36
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    Where in the world are you? In the UK, you have the right to be paid with money, though of course, your question is about what would be best for you, not what you have the right to insist on. – David Richerby Sep 4 '15 at 16:13
  • "They agreed to pay me a certain amount of money for the week of work I was doing" - is this agreement in writing somewhere? – Brandin Sep 5 '15 at 10:51
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    "However, they offered to acquire whatever items I wanted as payment." - That's hilarious! Did you specify 1 month's mortgage payment, an electricity bill payment, 200L of petrol, 1 month's of groceries, a list of school books for your kids, several pints of lager from your local pub, a birthday present for your niece, etc.? – colmde Apr 19 '16 at 8:41
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Just to put everything from the comments into an answer. Some key points:

I have been waiting for my payment for the last two months

This is far too long. However, as you state in the comments, you haven't actually given them an invoice yet. No invoice, no compulsion to pay.

I need some info to fill the invoice, but the person I asked it to refused to give me that info until they got the funds unlocked.

This is not an acceptable excuse from your contact person. Your invoice should state the work you performed, the amount you are owed and the terms of payment. The fact that they are witholding information is downright unethical given the timeframe.

I would suggest at this point sending your invoice immediately to their finance department, without the lacking information (I can't see what information is required for it, you did work for an agreed sum, nothing more to it). If the finance department queries you about the missing information, direct them to the person witholding the information.

Someone is playing games. I would not be accepting the purchases as remuneration. Invoice, get paid monetarily, and don't deal with this person again.

  • "what information is required for it" -- probably their reference number. They'll claim that their accounts department will reject the invoice without one (and this might be true, at least on the first attempt of submitting it). And if "changed internal regulations" means that they never had the authority to hire the questioner in the first place, then they might actually not have a reference. – Steve Jessop Sep 4 '15 at 3:10
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    @SteveJessop But then that becomes the problem for the hiring manager who refuses to provide the information and who acquired the services of the OP without authority. The OP has documentary evidence (via email, I'm assuming from the manager's business email address) of the agreement with the company so they are obliged to pay. If it went to court, the company would almost certainly lose the case as the OP negotiated in good faith with the understanding that the job was authorised before an agreement was made. – Jane S Sep 4 '15 at 3:13
  • The OP could provide transcripts of the email agreement as documentary evidencewhen submitting the invoice to their finance department. – Jane S Sep 4 '15 at 3:15
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    Oh sure, I agree that the questioner should submit the invoice immediately (in fact, should have submitted it immediately at the end of the work). I just mean that I think with high confidence that this is what the information is that's required by their accounts system. Not required by law in order to enforce the invoice. Most likely they'll have to honour the agreement even if the manager did go rogue. Hypothetically if the amount was astronomical or if the questioner had a personal connection with the rogue then it might not go that way, but for a week's work they should pay. – Steve Jessop Sep 4 '15 at 3:16
  • @SteveJessop Yes, I think you are correct :) – Jane S Sep 4 '15 at 3:18
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Tell the company the items you want them to acquire is a stack of dollar bills in the amount you are owed.

I would no longer deal with the person you are dealing with. It's time to go over that person's head to someone else with more authority. Two months is too long to wait to get paid. Figure out who runs the accounting department and contact them directly. Contact the corporate counsel. Contact the CEO if necessary. You've waited patiently for too long. It's time to bring some heat.

If you don't have a contract, I hope you have emails or some other kind of documentation specifying the terms of the deal. If you don't, then you are most likely at their mercy unless you want to get a lawyer.

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    One additional point. If the person you've been working with cannot give you money, who's to say they're authorized to give you "items"? If they gave you "items", what's to stop this person's boss from accusing you of theft later on? Insist that the company pay you on the up-and-up. – djohnson10 Sep 3 '15 at 21:45
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    @djohnson10 - although a valid concern, it may be that the person in question doesn't have authority to pay an invoice or has run out of salary/consultancy budget for the year, but does have the equivalent of a company credit card with a set budget for technology purposes or similar (to which end, they're likely assuming you're going to ask for a few high-value items such an iPad rather than new tyres, a vacuum cleaner, tennis racquet, a blender, and a Walmart gift card) – Jon Story Sep 4 '15 at 10:50
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    @djohnson10: Companies have budgets, and budgets can be weird. A company employee can be in a position where he or she doesn't have the power to pay you one penny, but can easily hand over a brand new $2,000 computer to you. Or two, or three. Because the budget to pay contractors is empty, but the budget to buy office equipment has tons of money. – gnasher729 Sep 4 '15 at 12:26
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    @djohnson10, The solution to not being accused on theft is simply to amend the contract so that instead of being paid in currency, you agree to be paid in computers, or whatever else you agree on, and get the new terms in writing. – Karen Sep 4 '15 at 13:14
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    Gold is good too. – Bill Leeper Sep 4 '15 at 17:21
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Said person told me that the company had an internal change of regulations and they were still trying to unlock the funds to pay me. However, they offered to acquire whatever items I wanted as payment.

I think this is a clear sign that there's more to this story, and assuming the deal is that there's something they're not telling you (as opposed to something you're not telling us), I wonder if this is a sign that the company does not have the money to pay you with money in the form of a check, but may be willing to pay you in some debt-related fashion (i.e., maybe the items they'll buy for you will be put on a credit card).

If the issue is that they want to pay you with a credit card and not with an actual check, maybe invoice them with PayPal or something? I've done this where the client is clearly paying me with a credit card via PayPal and there's a slight hit involved with PayPal fees (maybe adjust your invoice to account for it) but overall everyone's happy.

I think it goes without saying that this company is not one you want to work for again.

  • Or there is no money but they have credit cards they can max out before the company goes under... – IDrinkandIKnowThings Sep 4 '15 at 20:06
  • If it's a small company. If it's a bigger company it's likely a case of the contracting budget being empty. – Loren Pechtel Sep 5 '15 at 3:12
  • @Chad yeah that's what I meant. – Tom Kidd Sep 6 '15 at 19:31
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Whilst this is clearly a shady practice, you should just invoice with a 7 day payment term and let the chips fall where they may.

There is another option which might not burn bridges: Tell them you will accept payment in Bitcoins and set a mark up on them for transfer fees.

You cannot accept payment in goods because technically the tax office would want their share and items depreciate as soon as you buy them.

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    Good points but I'm not sure why you felt the need to bring up Bitcoin. It's just another form of currency so not likely to solve the company's inability to pay. – Lilienthal Sep 4 '15 at 10:11
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    Apart from the fact that Bitcoins are not a true currency and are essentially bought and sold. You're right that the distinction is blurry, but it might pass the "Can be bought with a company credit card, rather than transferred via the salary/accounting system" test, which is perhaps more to the point. – Jon Story Sep 4 '15 at 10:52
  • Note, however, that putting a 7 day payment term on an invoice is legally meaningless unless a 7 day payment term was part of the contract. If there's no explicit payment deadline in the contract, the deadline is determined by reasonableness. – Pete Becker Sep 4 '15 at 13:10
  • @PeteBecker The payment is already two months late. A 7 day payment term could just mean "If I'm not paid by next week, you will be hearing from my lawyer." – David K Sep 4 '15 at 15:19
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    @PeteBecker: It may have some legal meaning. In some jurisdictions, a formal notice "your payment is late, pay now" may be required to for a court to later accept a suit (used to be like this in Germany). At any rate, it tells the debtor that you will take further measures after the term, which is important to communicate. – sleske Sep 7 '15 at 8:21
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The provided answers do have good advice, but I think there is one more possibility worth considering.

If a company can't pay the people who do work for it, that can be a sign the company is going to collapse. If that happens, they'll file bankruptcy and you'll never see a cent for the work you've done.

This happened to me. I started at a web site design + hosting company. They told me my first paycheck might be a bit late, but they would be catching up soon. I was new to the work world and didn't recognize that red flag, nor any of the other red flags. Three weeks in, more than half my co-workers had disappeared (quit, got jobs elsewhere). Those of us left got called to an impromptu meeting where they told us all that "it's over, we're closing".

I filed the appropriate papers to try to get paid for my three weeks of unpaid work. After a year and a half in court, I got a final notice that the owners had filed bankruptcy and their debt to me was wiped away. I never saw a penny. Even if they had paid me, it would have taken a year or more to get anything.

So, IF you think this is the case that the company might be going under, you might actually be better off accepting some items of value as payment as per their offer as a means to cut your losses. But if you think they'll eventually be able to pay you or are trying to cheat or play games with you, take the other answers' advice.

  • Also note that if the company is going under, even if they pay you, you might be required to give it back later - at least in Germany, it's part of the bankruptcy process to figure out if anyone weaseled a last-minute payment out of the debtor, because such payments can be considered invalid. So beware... – sleske Sep 7 '15 at 8:18
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Should I take their offer or should I wait for them to sort the situation out?

First, part of me is tempted to know what types of objects they would offer you. I mean if there is resale value in them, maybe taking them and selling them is not a bad idea.

But that is only my curiosity. I would not accept any objects as payment for work done for any reason.

Why? Easy. The second you accept those objects, regardless of value, they will consider the contract finalized and executed. Yes, you say you need to provide a document confirming payment was received but that sounds quite bass ackwards if you ask me.

In the great scheme of things I believe you need to invoice them for money owed and do so with a clear legal threat. Depending on the amount and where you are located you can probably take them to small claims court on your own without having to hire a lawyer.

And depending on where you are located, payment not received within 30 days might be implied by contract law. Meaning even without a contract you have a legal claim for payment for work done if you can prove work was completed and delivered by a certain date.

That said this whole scenario is a perfect example of why you need a contract upfront before any work is done and why you should do a 50/50 split on the contract.

A 50/50 split is exactly what it sounds like: 50% of the agreed fee upfront before work is done and 50% on delivery of the final product. That way if somehow you run into nonsense in the process of getting the second 50% remitted you have the option to walk away from the client.

  • Believe it or not, the 50/50 split is not lawful in California. There's a maximum prepayment amount somewhere around $1000. – Joshua Apr 19 '16 at 18:09

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