Wednesday, December 5, 2007

On Time (Justin)

Maybe the most difficult thing I've had to deal with here is the concept of doing things on time. You hear this complaint from Americans in just about any foreign country, but it seems a little more acute here.
I once joked with a British guy here, after he'd waited a long time for someone to pick him up "on time," that Moldovan time is GMT + 2 hours and at least fifteen minutes.

This morning I was told I'd be picked up at 8:30. Then, at 9:15 I received a call saying "we'll be there in 5 minutes!" The car finally arrived at 9:30. It was raining outside, so I ended up going in and out of it while waiting. Unfortunately, someone showing up an hour later than they stated is quite common here. It's hard to make dinner plans with someone.

Paying bills on time is a big one for me. In America, our credit scores are penalized if we make a late payment. Here, there is no credit score, so there's less incentive for people to pay on time.

Example: Our cellphones are on someone's "family plan," so we're reliant on them to pay the bill.
We get text messages from Orange saying "tomorrow is your due date!" However, after the due date there is a 2-week grace period for paying. You receive a few text messages saying "if you don't pay in 5 days your service will be disconnected!" Orange even makes it easy to pay, you can just buy cards at any kiosk on the street. The owner of the family plan never pays on the due date, but waits until the very end of that grace period. This makes me quite nervous. If we lose cell service, Joni can't call me if she needs something, I have to borrow other people's phones, etc.

Sure enough, last month our service was disconnected because the owner waited until the last possible day, then something came up and he couldn't make it to the store. When it approached time to pay the internet bill I started calling him every day to remind him. It made him angry, but it made me feel better.
(Yesterday he called and said he'd paid the bill early, ie: 2 days before our service was cut off again. I was very surprised and happy!)

I learned in my Corporate Finance class how to calculate the time-value of money, and that you should always wait as late as possible to pay your bills. "Wait until it costs you goodwill with the other party," or in other words until it is unethical.

Invest-Credit deals with late-payers all the time. These people are mostly Christians, but struggle with paying on time. I get to listen to Roman chide them out over the phone as any good bill collector should. I asked him this morning:
"Roman, do you think not paying on time a sin?"
He thought for a minute and replied:
"Yes. Because you're lying. You say you'll pay at a certain time and then you don't pay, so it's a lie."

As Christians, we should conduct business transactions "as for the Lord," (Col. 3:17). We should be examples of our ethics and good work that the World will look at and marvel at (Matt 5:16). Our reputations should be spotless (Eph. 5:3). We should be the best clients, the best customers.

It's important to instill in Christians the ethic to pay on time to ALL their creditors. This Saturday, Invest-Credit is holding one of its client trainings, where they teach things like ethical business practices. Maybe there will be a session about paying on time? That'd be nice to hear.

1 comment:

Keith Walters said...

We had a simmilar situation once in Asia. We were waiting on one of our friends to go to the night market and he said he would be there in 15 minutes. So 30+ minutes passed and no word I sent him an SMS and he said the same thing. Eventually I called and he was a two hour drive away at a school event and would not be home anytime soon, obviously. It was funny and we went without him and ate some awesome food!