The Sheriffs Are Coming – But They Don’t Take Amex

Here is our procurement tip for today. When choosing which card provider to use for your procurement / purchasing card programme, do consider that bailiff firms don’t tend to accept Amex.

Yes, that could be a major factor when you consider your options. And how do we know this? Well, when I visit my mother I do tend to watch a bit of daytime TV, I’m afraid. And one of those strangely compelling programmes is the BBC’s The Sheriffs Are Coming, which basically follows a bunch of large but extremely polite men who are enforcement agents for the High Court. So if the court has agreed that you owe me money, and you’re not paying, the sheriffs try and recover the debt by visiting you and threatening (politely) to remove property to that value from your office, home or business premises.

Last week, one case featured Procter and Gamble – a bit of a change from the small-time beauty salon owners, dodgy builders and taxi firms we usually see in this show. Apparently, P&G owed someone £3000 from some legal settlement and hadn’t paid - probably a cock-up given P&G’s size and reputation rather than anything malicious, but the sheriffs went in anyway.

The address they had which they assumed was an office turned out to be a huge factory complex in Essex, probably making detergents we would guess by the chemical plant look of it. When they eventually found someone who knew about the issue, they offered payment – via an Amex card, which we assume was probably part of a P&G P-Card programme.

But whereas in the US almost every firm accepts Amex, that still isn’t true in the UK, and the debt collection agency providing the sheriffs, like many small firms, didn’t accept it. So there was a short delay until P&G found “someone in head office” to make the payment, which they duly did.  So do bear that in mind in your card selection decisions …

I remember similar issues back when I worked for Dun & Bradstreet – with our Amex cards, I mean, not with the sheriffs. Our card programme was put in place by our US parent company, but many merchants didn’t accept Amex here. It was OK for travel expenses generally but less good for those low value “tail spend” items.

Back to the TV show - in another case, the sheriffs and the cameraman were threatened with petrol bombing and had eggs thrown at them by thugs when they tried to get some money out of a second-hand car dealership. It is a strangely compulsive programme, but one that doesn’t exactly show British small businesses in the best possible light!  And it is followed by another show about insurance fraud, which is perhaps even more compulsive viewing. You see what you re missing if you do a nine-to-five job?

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