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consultant discovered missed $800 charge from fall 2010 - How would you handle this?

TechND
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Well, I feel dumb. As an independent IT consultant I wear all of the hats in my business, including accounting. While doing an email server support upgrade for 2012 for a client yesterday, I discovered that I did not bill the K-12 school for $832 for a 2010 email server license upgrade and yearly support fee. It breaks out as the following:

Mail server support license renewal - $398, 25
Mail server 25 user upgrade license - $433.35.

It was a busy fall and the upgrades were performed in September and I just never billed them as it slipped through my accounting. So my question to you independent consultants out there is, How would you handle this at this late date?
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That depends of a few things

1) how do you get on with your contact in the school, you could just explain your error, after all it's not there money

2) do you have any proof of delivery or a signed service docket, if so then you can invoice, but I'd explain the situation in person before sending the invoice

3) If you think this may cause some friction, it might be an idea to explain the situation and ask them to split the cost with you as a gesture of good will

4) if you are no longer doing business with them, phone them, explain the situation and email in a copy of the POD and invoice, they have to pay it


I've been in business since 1998 and I've had to do all of these
If you're doing an upgrade to 2012 on the same server, then the previous licenses won't be used anymore. It may be hard to explain why they have to pay for something they're not using anymore. There's probably a statute of limitations where you live (where I live, it's 5 years), so you could still bill it and collect if you want. A year and a half later does seem excessive to bill someone and no one likes bad surprises.

Personally, if you haven't missed the money, I'd explain to them your error and graciously eat it or say nothing at all. If you explain it and eat it, you could be building good will and be more likely to keep them as a client. On the other hand, you could lose credibility by admitting the error of your ways. Depends on how you think they'll view the situation.

Author

Commented:
First of all thanks for your comments and opinions. The situation is a bit complex and there are some extenuating circumstances. I will explain a bit more.

HyperAdvisor - I get along very well with the contact at the school. He calls me weekly, sometimes daily for advice. After I posted this question here at EE, he happened to call me while on his way to work to see what the status of the overnight upgrade was, as I ran into a glitch at an hour last night when no support for the platform was available to me. It turned out that the company had mistakenly sent me a 50 user license update key when they should have sent me a 75 user license key renewal. This was causing the server to shut down after only 10 minutes as "license exceeded". So after a couple of hours of troubleshooting I discovered the error and was able to get things going again. It was during this troubleshooting period that I had discovered the email companies license key error this year, and discovered the mail server companies invoice for the upgrade from 50 to 75 users bill from 2010, along with platform support cost   - the one that I did not then bill the school for.  After telling him the technical aspects of last nights situation, I explained the missed invoice which I found during the troubleshooting phase last night to him. I left the ball in his court as to how to follow up, not demanding a thing. He said he would double check with the business office to see if an invoice for that amount had been paid.

AFA proof of delivery, I have email exchanges with the then 2010, interim tech coordinator (I had to work with 3 different ones over a 4 month period at that time which added a bit to the confusion) asking me for the license and maintenance support upgrade, along with cost quotes, and the ok from her to go ahead with the upgrade. While it would be a great idea to explain this in person, this client is 86 miles away, a 172 mile round trip, and my next scheduled onsite service is not until late June. That makes an in person visit tough to do. So that is where the situation sits at the moment. The Superintendent is out this week and he will have the final say. I suppose if they come back and say that they do not want to pay it, I will just drop the matter and eat the loss as a gesture of good will.

Notacomputergeek - As you guys know every mail server company has different polices regarding how they charge for their platforms. This email platform does not charge a yearly recurring fee for user licenses. You buy them once and that is it! So the upgrade for the school from 50 to 75 users was a one-time charge, and they are using some of the extra licenses, and have the capacity to add more users when needed. We did have to solve a nasty problem with the email server about 2 months after the maintenance was applied in 2010, and boy did we use the companies support to get it done. Ultimately we discovered that one user account had been hijacked by spammers from Nigeria and Austria who were sending volumes of spam through the server. The user had a very simple, easily crackable password, and while I preach the importance of good passwords I can't force people to do it. So that experience was very valuable to them since they learned the importance of requiring stronger passwords for their email accounts, a policy which they have now implemented.  

If it was up to the onsite tech I believe he would just pay me. Ultimately it will be the Supt's decision and he is a bit more of a stickler so, as I mentioned earlier, I will likely go with whatever his decision is.

Thanks again for the advice and feedback!
Good luck with it

It sounds like your contact is a decent enough guy, I would imagine he could do something for you.

It is important to remenber that you should not work for nothing

look at how much you have made on the contract in the past 3 years and how much you may earn on the contract in the next 3 years if it's a multiple of the $800 then keep them on your side

If your profit (including traveling time) is not enough, then go afher the $800, it's your money after all

Author

Commented:
I do need to remind my self not to work for nothing. I often do quite a bit of gratis work for my clients. I know there are companies that charge a minimum 1 hour fee for any phone consultation even if only 5 minutes.  I generally don't charge for anything under 1/4 hour if the client has purchased a pre-paid block of time from me.  Thanks again!

Author

Commented:
The onsite tech sent me a simple email this afternoon asking me to send him an invoice for the 2010 charges. All's well. Thanks to you guys for helping me steer through this situation!