Perhaps you’ve heard this chestnut already:
“The race isn’t always to the swift nor the battle to the strong – but that’s the way to bet.”
I agree, and I hate losing a wager. So, let me add to it. If a client is merely blowing smoke, even if it’s only smoke-in-error, then winning the commercial argument is always a better bet when there’s a contractual papertrail to wave around. That’s the moral and legal highground. If you’ve got it, you use it.
It’s a commercial paradigm. Sometimes you have to have a documentary narrative to get paid. What does that narrative do? Well, it “narrates” the commercial tale. The papertrail supporting a product sale or service order is a way of recounting the history of that transaction, delivery included. It’s factual, coherent, tactile and incontrovertible. Ka-ching! I’ll say it again: paper wraps rock.
Suppose you own a newspaper. You make money by selling ad space. Assume you’ve run a pricey series of ads on the basis of a verbal agreement with Advertiser X. But now Advertiser X doesn’t want to pay. Or just can’t. Maybe Ms. X claims that no agreement was ever reached. Perhaps she says she phoned back and cancelled the order. Well, who knows for sure?
What’s the problem here? It’s all talk-talk — unless you’ve got all your calls taped! The litmus test of any dispute between supplier and client is what’s in the papertrail and what a supplier can prove — in court, if necessary. If that supplier has a bulletproof case backed by authoritative documentation (eg. a contract or deal memo; fax/email confirmations; shipping, delivery and service sign-offs; invoicing, etc.), then he can go the distance in trying to get paid. But alas, the opposite is also true. If the supplier has done a deal on a verbal basis only and has no paper with which to wrap the rock, he cannot prove to the customer or to a court that the debtor received proper supply/service and now owes precisely what the supplier business says it’s owed. The end comes pretty quickly, and it’s not a happy one. The debtor shuts the money-door, and the creditor is left with no tangible way to open it. The vendor wins the rock – but that’s about all. No cash changes hands.