Wayne State University

Now, in most cases, I am hiding the names of the "guilty" parties as, while they may be silly or annoying, they usually aren't trying to be that way. In this case, however, I make an exception. Wayne State University has done so much to irritate me over so many years, they deserve to be called out by name.

Again, I used to work for Heathkit, a wholly owned subsidiary of Zenith Data Systems. As Zenith was a major provider of computers to educational institutions at the time I worked for them, it isn't too surprising our store ended up interacting with Wayne State.

Wayne State is a well regareded academic institution, but it is also well known as a very slow paying customer. This became very obvious to me on several occasions.

One day, I was talking to a person who walked in the front door of our store. We were having a good discussion about the needs they had and how our store could help them out. Finally, he says to me,
   "Before we go any further, I should ask you a question: do you accept Wayne State Purchase Orders?"
   "No. Not worth the paper they are written on," was my response.
   "I get that response a lot. My job is getting more interesting, as I have to keep driving further and further out of town to find companies that will accept them."

At one point, we sold WSU a large quantity of computers, close to $100,000 in hardware on Net30 terms (i.e., payment is expected within 30 days). Somewhere around 100 days after payment was expected, a professor brought in a PC for repair, and gave the writeup person hell.
   "This machine has great quantities of very important research on it! It must be repaired immediately!"
Our store manager heard this and came out, took one look at the writeup, saw "Wayne State University", and said
   "Of course! We should have it done for you tomorrow".
At this point, the manager handed me the paperwork and the computer, told me to make it my top priority, above anything else. He also told me NOT to call the customer, instead, I should bring the paperwork to him when it was done. I don't recall what the problem turned out to be, but it was simple, and the repair was completed without problem that afternoon. In return for fast work, I got to listen in on the phone converstation, which went something like this:
   "Your computer is done, that will be $93,000"
   "WHAT DO YOU MEAN! It is still under warranty!"
(I wish to point out just how out of touch some professors can be. Didn't even realize that $93,000 was a lot of money for a PC repair)
   "Yes, the machine is under warranty, but it isn't paid for. It won't be returned until it and the other computers that were purchased at that time are paid for. Further, if it is not paid for within thirty days, we will format the hard drive and sell it as used equipment."

We got our money. Quickly.

Now, the store has been closed now for almost ten years as I write this. I'd like to say this was the way things were long ago, but unfortunately, I have evidence that things haven't changed one bit.

Wayne State ran a program for local secondary schools, the name of which I will not mention, as I have NO interest in discrediting a good program. One of my clients was a small school which participates in this program, and I got contacted by WSU to add some network wiring to this school to facilitate this program. Against my better judgement, I agreed to do the work for considerably less than it would normally take (they really didn't understand the work involved in running a wire neatly). I told them point blank I had zero faith in getting paid in a timely basis, but I took the job because it would benefit a good client.

That invoice was sent out October 3, 2001. I write this on December 30, 2001. I haven't been paid yet.

Post script: I finally got paid, at the end of January, 2002. Four months.

Copyright 2001-2002, Nick Holland
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