Radio stations, especially those in small markets and owned by smaller companies or “mom & pop” operations, have long been prone to deadbeat advertisers, i.e. businesses who don’t pay for their ad packages. The stations’ credit policies and others may be rather lax, to avoid scaring off potential clients, but when you get more than one advertiser taking advantage of you via your easy-going policies, you can’t avoid it much longer – time to tighten your rules.
Within our first 12 months on the air in Renfrew, our first major deadbeat was a failed flea market on the Quebec side, near Bryson – I hosted (or attempted to host) a live-on-location broadcast at this « marché aux puces ». The place (a former motel) was a squalid dump, we almost couldn’t reach the studios through the flea market’s flaky-at-best Télébec phone line, and worst of all, the proprietor didn’t pay for any of his commercials OR the live broadcast, and reportedly went into hiding – his account went to collections, and my employer soon after enacted stricter measures to reduce the risk of future deadbeats, particularly first-time clients who tried to get free “remotes” from us.
A few years later, a new restaurant opened in Renfrew, and yep, they had us broadcast live from the place for its grand opening. I hear the food was good, and everything seemed to be all fine and dandy, until I got an email from their account manager – the restaurant owner (we’ll call him Richard) wanted the exact dates and times, to the second, that all of his commercials and on-location “cut-ins” aired. I immediately hopped into the automation computer’s airplay records (“logs”), located each instance of his commercials and cut-ins airing, copied them into a new text file, and sent it to the account manager, who forwarded it to Richard. About 20 minutes later, the account manager replied to me – Richard wasn’t satisfied with what I provided as proof, and even a proper affidavit from the traffic manager (commercial scheduling manager) wouldn’t satisfy Richard. He was starting to accuse us of not airing what he had purchased, even when we had provided him plenty of written proof. The account manager offered to send Richard a series of date/time-stamped MP3 files containing, in context, his commercials and cut-ins. I grabbed those clips from the station’s OTA logger (a PC that continuously records everything we broadcast and keeps a 60-day record), compressed them enough to be emailable and still intelligible, and sent them to the account manager, who then forwarded them to Richard. Not long after, yet another reply from the account manager – Richard still insisted we were ripping him off. He said the MP3s we sent him were “doctored”, just like the text files/airplay logs were “doctored” according to him.
In retrospect, it was a lot like that former American politician who, to this day, insists the election he lost was “rigged” and/or “stolen”. Richard, if he’s still around today, likely hasn’t fully let go of his belief that we ripped him off and were lying to him. Or maybe he let it go after a while. After that, I’m not sure if my colleagues continued any dialogue with him or if he actually did pay for his ad package, but needless to say, Richard’s restaurant went kaput not even 90 days after. Ten bucks says the way he treated us was the same way he treated his customers – he probably, on more than one occasion, accused his customers of not paying for their food, even when they had a receipt from his payment terminal and proof on their debit/credit card statements.