The following appeared in Rabbi Ginsberg's chinuch column in this week's Yated, which focused this week on character development:
A teacher once shared with me a troubling incident he experienced. A student of his babysat for his children one evening and he promised to pay the student the following day. The teacher was troubled that the student requested payment the following morning and didn’t wait for him to make the payment. He thought that it was possible chutzpah.
I told the teacher that the child was not being disrespectful at all. At the most, the child may have been missing tact, as a student should not demand payment from a teacher, especially the morning after. However, I encouraged the teacher to view it from the eyes of the student, who is, after all, still a child. In the student’s eyes, payment was due and there was nothing wrong with asking for it.
Presuming a payment was requested politely, I certainly don't think it is chuptzah to request money due, nor do I think it lacks tact. Of course, the entire "troubling incident" would have been avoided completely if the pay was handed over by the parent upon returning from a night out. Personally, I wish I was more comfortable discussing pay (in advance). Like most females (I have to wonder if the student referred to was male or female and if the gender played into the accusation of "possible chupzpah" or "missing tact"), I get very uncomfortable discussing pay and/or pressing for payment. The female gender, in particular, has generally been conditioned to confuse work and chessed, oftentimes putting up with no payment, late payments, and/or undercutting business. Where does that get the self-employed/contractor? Unfortunately, not to the bank. Two years ago, I wrote a post offering some tips on discussing pay and ensuring timely payment. Two years later, I'm still working on taking my own advice.
A student who had the guts (or lack of tact, if you prefer) to ask for payment might just be cut out for working within the community and owning a business, perhaps a grocerybusiness. I have seen a handful of letters regarding non-payment and/or tardy payment of debtors and I have had readers write asking me to bring up the subject of just how difficult it is to collect payment when dealing with frum customers and how they are made to feel like beggers when they are rightfully owed money and have even paid expenses related to the job out of their own pocket (perhaps even pushing off their own creditors). So, I hope to continue the discussion on that from a variety of angles.
In the meantime, here is a letter regarding some kosher grocery stores that have banded together to plead with those they have extended credit to to pay up. The fact that business owners have to pay for another ad to ask for money they should have been paid already (or for which a payment plan should have been put into place) is the real chuptzpah.
WHAT A WORLD
I was appalled to see an ad in a local
circular from grocery stores asking customers to pay up their balances. Can you imagine? Stores have to band together to get people to pay money that they owe? Why haven’t these people paid up their bills until now? The stores are gracious enough to offer credit, but why do they have to beg people to pay up? Where is the yashrus?
I understand that many people literally don’t have money. Well, you know what? Neither do I. I live day-to-day and dollar-to-dollar. And I only buy the very basic necessities, because I can’t afford more. And yet, when I go into the supermarkets, I see people loading up their wagons until they are practically overflowing. These people then go to the check-out lines and tell the cashier to “put it on my bill.” The cashier then points out to them that they already have $800 on their bill and that all accounts were supposed to be paid up already. I have witnessed this many times. And these people’s children stand there and watch this exchange. What kind of chinuch is this? What kind of generation are we bringing up when storeowners have to plead and beg bechol lashon shel bakasha for people to pay their bills?
I'm afraid the type of chinuch that is being offered is one of cynicism because the kids witness a world that lacks in Yashrut and they see their parents might also be lacking. How different than the chinuch I got from my parents wherein every single bill (invoiced or uninvoiced) that was due was paid immediately and wherein my mother was usually the first to ask, what do I owe you?