10 most common excuses for late payments

Blog | May 25, 2023

Reading time: 10 min
Customers pay late for a variety of reasons, but your company can get paid on time if you use the right accounts receivable tools.
Late payment mobile phone notification with credit card, payment, money, and calendar icon

We've all been there. You're days away from the due date for your client's invoice, and you still haven't received payment. The excuses start rolling in: "I'm sorry, I forgot." "My dog ate my checkbook." "The bank was closed."

Sound familiar?

Below, we'll go over the ten most common excuses for late payments—and how to fix them. By knowing what to expect as the AR head, you can arm yourself with the right tools to get paid on time, every time. So read on, and put those late payments in your past.

1. "We didn't receive the invoice. Can you send it again?"

It’s all too common. A client says they didn't receive the invoice, and you're stuck trying to figure out what to do next. If you're like most people, you probably start by wondering where the invoice went wrong.

Did you forget to attach it? Did you send it to the wrong email address?

But before you start second-guessing yourself, take a deep breath and remember that this is a common issue - one that can usually be resolved with a simple follow-up.

Tips for following up on lost invoices chart

Here are a few tips for dealing with this type of situation:

  • Use an online invoicing system. With an online invoicing system, you can track when your invoices are opened and whether or not they've been paid. This way, you can be sure that your clients have received the invoice, and you can follow up accordingly if they haven't paid.
  • Send a reminder email. A polite reminder email a few days before the invoice is due can help prompt your client to take action. You can even include a link to the online invoicing system so they can pay immediately.
  • When you resend the invoice, be sure to include a note explaining that you're doing so at the client's request. This will help avoid any confusion or misunderstandings down the road.
  • Give them a call. If you still haven't heard from your client, a phone call may be necessary. This is a good opportunity to find out if there was any confusion about the invoice and to remind them of the payment terms.
  • Finally, keep a record of all communication regarding the invoice - including when it was originally sent and any follow-up correspondence. This will come in handy if there are any further questions or issues down the road.

While dealing with missing invoices can be frustrating, remember that it's often just a simple mix-up. By following these tips, you can help resolve the issue quickly and efficiently - without losing your cool in the process.

2. "I am not satisfied with the product or service delivered"

If you find yourself in the frustrating position of being owed money by a customer who is using "I'm not satisfied with the product or service delivered" as an excuse for late payment, here are a few tips to help you get your hard-earned cash.

  • First, be prepared to negotiate. It may be that the customer is truly unhappy with what they received and is willing to compromise on a partial payment.
  • Second, try offering a discount for prompt payment - sometimes, the incentive of saving a few dollars is all it takes to get people to take action.
  • Finally, if all else fails, you can always threaten legal action - sometimes, a strongly worded letter from a lawyer is all it takes to get people to see the error of their ways!

Whatever route you choose, remember that you are entitled to be paid for the work you've done, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

When a customer is not satisfied with the product or service illustrated chart with tips

3. "The person who is responsible is absent"

As any seasoned billpayer knows, the age-old excuse of "the person responsible is absent" is one of the most commonly used tricks in the book. However, there are a few simple steps you can take to address this excuse and ensure that your bill is paid promptly.

  1. First, try contacting the person responsible at different times of the day to see if you can reach them.
  2. If that doesn't work, ask if a colleague can authorize the payment.
  3. Finally, find out what procedure they have for other payments, such as salaries or other emergencies.

By taking these simple steps, you can ensure your bill is paid even when the person responsible is "absent."

4. "I thought we still had time to pay"

The late payment excuse of "I thought we still had time to pay" is a classic example of procrastination. The client may have meant to pay the bill for weeks but kept putting it off until it was too late. While it may be tempting to give the client a lecture on the importance of timely payments, there are more effective ways to address the issue.

  1. One approach is to offer a discount for early payment. This incentive can encourage the client to pay sooner, and it also shows that you value their business.
  2. Another option is to work out a payment plan that fits their budget. This can help the client to stay current on their payments, and it shows that you are willing to be flexible to accommodate their needs.

By taking these approaches, you can effectively address the "I thought we still had time to pay" excuse without lecturing or alienating your client.

Payment in Progress illustration with chat screen

5. "We just paid. Payment is in progress."

As any business owner knows, chasing down payments can be a full-time job. So what can you do when a client tries to avoid paying by claiming their payment is "in progress"?

Here are a few tips:

  • First, don't take no for an answer. If a client insists their payment is in progress, ask for a specific timeline. When will they process payments? If they can't give you a straight answer, chances are they're stalling.
  • Second, follow up with a phone call or email. A personal touch can often be enough to prompt a late-paying client to finally make good on their debt.
  • Finally, don't be afraid to get tough. If all else fails, send a polite but firm email demanding payment within a specific timeframe. If they still don't respond, you may need to hire a collections agency or take them to court.

6. "There is an error in the invoice"

If you're like most businesses, you've probably had a client or two who've used the "there's an error in the invoice" excuse for late payment. While it's frustrating, there are a few ways you can address this issue:

  1. First, make sure that your invoices are clear and accurate. This may seem like common sense, but double-checking your numbers can go a long way in preventing errors.
  2. Second, if a client does claim that there's an error in their invoice, try to resolve the issue as quickly as possible. The sooner you can identify and fix the problem, the less likely it is that the client will use it as an excuse for delayed payment.

While dealing with late payments is never fun, following these tips can help you resolve the issue quickly and efficiently.

7. "I myself have not yet been paid by my clients"

As any business owner knows, client excuses for not paying can be creative and colorful, such as "I'm waiting on my own payment from my client.” However, while it can be tempting to give in to the laughter that these excuses inspire, it's important to remember that at the end of the day, you are owed money.
Tips for handling client excuses illustrated chart

With that in mind, here are a few tips for handling client excuses for not paying:

  1. Be firm but understanding. It's important to maintain a solid customer experience by remaining calm and professional when communicating with clients about payment.
  2. Get specific about payment dates. Vague terms like "soon" or "in a few days" are unlikely to prompt payment. Instead, ask your clients for specific dates when they can make a payment.
  3. Offer alternative methods of payment. If your clients have difficulty making a bank transfer, offer to accept payment by PayPal or another payment method. This shows that you're flexible and willing to work with your clients to find a solution that works for everyone.
  4. Don't hesitate to take legal action. If all else fails, remember that you have the right to take legal action to recover the money you are owed. This should always be seen as a last resort, but it's important to know that you have this option if necessary.

8. "Our systems don't work"

We've all heard the excuses: "Our systems don't work," "We're experiencing technical difficulties." Whatever the excuse, it can be frustrating when clients don't pay on time - or worse, don't pay at all. But there are some simple steps you can take to manage late-paying clients and get paid what you're owed.

  1. First, immediately ask your customer about the seriousness of the situation. Is it a very temporary outage, or should you assume a longer period?
  2. If the latter is the case, ask the customer to proceed with the payment manually. Make sure that your customer receives all the necessary information, so that the payment is then successful.

Above all, remember that you are entitled to be paid for your work. With a little effort, you can ensure that late-paying or delinquent clients don't take advantage of you - and that you get the money you've earned.

9. "I have a cash flow problem"

If you're selling goods or services, chances are you've had a client or two try to get out of paying by coming up with a sympathetic story about their finances. "I'm going through a tough time right now," they might say, or "I've been hit with some unexpected expenses." While it's always important to be empathetic, it's also important to remember that businesses have to run on cash, and excuses like these won't pay the bills.

Here are a few tips for handling clients who try to use cash flow problems as an excuse for not paying:

  1. First, don't be afraid to ask questions. For example, if a client says they're having cash flow problems, find out more about why that is. What sort of expenses are they dealing with? Have they been late on payments in the past? Run a credit check and, if possible, get the company’s financials. The more you know about their financial situation, the better equipped you'll be to decide whether or not to give them a break on their bill.
  2. Second, don't be afraid to stand your ground. If you've given the client ample opportunity to pay their bill and they continue to make excuses, it might be time to cut ties. But, of course, you have every right to pursue collection action if necessary, and sometimes it's best for both parties to part ways.

These tips should help you handle clients who try to use cash flow problems as an excuse for not paying. Always stay professional and be willing to take a firm stance when necessary.

10. "We are not going to pay the bill"

Clients who don't pay their bills are always coming up with excuses. "We're not going to pay the bill," they say. "It's not our fault," they claim. "We didn't do anything wrong," they insist. But as any good businessperson knows, these excuses are nothing more than attempts to avoid responsibility.

So what can you do when a client tries to weasel out of paying?

  1. First, stay calm and don't get defensive. This is just a tactic to throw you off balance and make you more likely to give in.
  2. Second, prepare a solid argument for why they should pay the bill. Third, be willing to negotiate – but don't give in too easily.
  3. Finally, if all else fails, be prepared to take legal action.

Remember, handling excuses is all part of doing business. By following these tips, you can make sure you get paid – even if it means standing up to a few tricky clients along the way.

Get paid on time with automated accounts receivable illustration

What’s stopping you from using automated accounts receivable solutions?

As a business, you are aware of the crucial role that accounts receivable plays in your operations, but at the same time, you also recognize the challenges and difficulties that come with managing it effectively.

Billtrust automates accounts receivable so you can get paid on time, every time - without all the headaches. With Billtrust, there's no more chasing down payments or waiting on hold with the bank. Instead, just sit back and relax while our automated system takes care of everything.

So why wait? Contact us today to discover how we take the hassle out of accounts receivable!