I have to vent and this is my place to do it.
Every year we cut/rake and bale our hay. We like to think of it as very high quality hay and those who have purchased from us in the past have raved over how their animals (especially horses) love it and how the animals will clean it up to the point they can’t even see any speck of it on the ground or in the feeding bin. This is saying a bunch about the quality. Sure, it isn’t weed free certified, but it’s pretty dang close to it.
So, here we go, year after year, taking care of things down on the farm, fixing fences and watering the hay fields. It takes a lot of time and very hard work to get it done. And then around the first of July we have a custom hay person come in and cut it for us. We do the raking and making sure it is dried properly before baling. Then the baler guy comes in and bales it up for us.
Before the date for the cutting comes around we all try to sell the hay in the field. A bale sold in the field means we only have to pick it up once (we load for the customers usually) and is sold at a pretty good discount to the buyer. We watch the market and we know we are selling our quality hay product for a really good price and if we wanted, we could double our money by taking it out of state…but we don’t. We like to think we are helping out the locals, who are finding it harder and harder to get good grass hay. And to hear their feedback, we are doing just that. Providing them with a top quality product, locally for a very reasonable price.
We work harder than most and want the most we can get from our fields. We spray for noxious weeds. We cut the ditch banks and hard to reach places that the custom guy can’t get to with his big equipment. We work with antiquated equipment and are proud to say, “We did it”! And when the hay is all in the barn, we hold a party for everyone involved! Beer and sodas, a home cooked meal of roast beef and roast pork, drippins gravy and mashed potatoes! Does it get any better than that? It can’t and it don’t.
Our customers are happy when they receive the call to come and get their hay and we are tired and sweaty, but happy at the same time to proudly place our hard earned bales of hay on their wagon or in their truck. It’s a proud family tradition and I hope it continues for many, many more years. It keeps us together as a family, always has, always will.
And then along comes a year like this one, 2014…my calls went out to those who desired to be called about the hay and all of them who still had animals needing the feed, responded with very positive orders. We lined them all up to come on certain days and the crew loaded them as cheerfully as guys in 100 degree heat can do, even better! But there was this ONE buyer!
When you have been dealing with hay like ours for as many years as we have, you get to know your fields pretty well. You also get a good feeling about the stand of hay before it’s cut and a feeling as to the quantity and quality of the hay that will eventually get put into bales. We had a very good stand of hay this year and even though it would not be any sort of record year it would certainly top our 13 year average (which by the way we have a 99.9% accuracy count of). Something to the tune of 1800 bales is what this years yield should be. We always make side bets on the number of bales and the winner will get a dollar from everyone who makes a bet. This year the bets were: 1725, 1750, 1581, 1836, 1776, 1431, 1620 and 1598.
Additionally, we count on the baler to zero his baler before he starts baling, and we keep a running total of bales p/field so that we can take a buyer into a field that has enough hay so that he doesn’t have to move from one field to another with partial loads. This system has worked for ever. This year there was a slight problem and the bale counter wasn’t working quite right. But before he started, we wrote down the number that was on the counter. Before the baler moved into field number two, however, the custom guy thought he might have fixed the counter. As a test of this “fix”, we assigned someone to follow the baler through field number 2 and physically count the bales as they fell onto the ground. Once the field was baled, we compared the physical count with the bale counter, they were both within 3 bales with the bale counter 3 higher than the physical count. BUT, later on, when a buyer was moved into this same field, the remaining bales matched what the baler counted and not the physical count. What happened with the physical count is unknown, but from that point on, we trusted the baler counter.
When all the bales were on the ground and the sold bales and bales put into our own barn were deducted from the bale counter, there should be 1227 bales laying in the field waiting for the last buyer! The last buyer was called and told the total and they were happy. I’d see them the next day. Upon arrival that next day, the buyer went immediately into trying to negotiate something we had not agreed to. Instead of all of them, they would take a lesser amount because of some fabricated reason…the bales are too light!
Having been involved with baled hay for all these years one gets used to having buyers try and talk you down in price or up in quantity at a discount rate etc. Anything to make their side of the deal better. But we know we are already giving them a bargain of a deal in the first place and that without this particular buyer, we can readily sell the hay to someone else. We stick to our agreements and life goes on. So it went with this one and a check was cut for the amount agreed upon for this number of bales. But I did allow for this buyer to post date the check so they would have time to transfer some money.
Well, the agreement was for them to load their own hay, count the bales when they unloaded on their end and give me the total when the fields were all cleaned out. Pretty straight forward and very trusting on my part. I have to pay the baler and I pay him on the number of bales counted and stacked and not necessarily on what the bale counter says.
So, last night I get a call from the buyer and they say they have taken out loads to the tune of almost 800 bales and there are less than 200 bales left in the field! Red Flags begin to fly in my face! I make the trip to the field and count the bales remaining and sure enough less than 160 bales lay in the field.
Now I’m an honest and very trusting guy and I expect others that I deal with to be equally above board, but this time I have screwed myself! I put my faith into a person who does not necessarily lose sleep over taking from someone else without paying for the product or service. They have loaded up out hay and are saying there were not as many bales as they have written their check for and what will I be doing about that? I inform them that I will keep my side of the agreement and will refund their money, or better yet, I will give them back the check they wrote the other day, in exchange for one in the amount of the hay they say they have taken, plus the bales still remaining in the field.
Last night was a pretty much sleepless night for me, as my head was wrapped tightly around the fact that we knew we had over 1700 bales produced and now with this latest count our total production would be less than 1500 bales. Something did not set well with me as I have no way of knowing just how many bales were taken. Again my word is my word and even though we are being seduced out of nearly 300 bales of very expensive hay, I can do nothing about it except learn from my mistake….”Never trust anyone”!
Well, in my sleepless stupor, I got up so as not to keep disturbing my wife and do a quick search on the company name that is on the check….sure enough, the Utah Better Business website shows this is a defunct company! So, I’m going to be receiving another check from this person with a smaller number on it, still with the name of the defunct companies name on it. Who keeps checks laying around that say a defunct company’s name in the upper left corner? Nobody! And so, again my trust has been broken. As the daylight begins to lighten outside, I decide I need to go to the bank with this check and see if the account is even still open. At the time they open I’m there with my questions….is there sufficient funds in this account to cover this check? No. If I was to bring in a check with a lesser amount, say closer to $X,YZQ.oo is there sufficient funds to cover that? No. Nuff said.
Well, with about 150 bales still laying out in the field for this customer to come and get, I know they will be coming to get them today. I did get some counseling from the local police and it was suggested I call this person and tell them of my position. Which I did and the bottom line went to “You can keep your 157 bales and I’ll mail you a check for the amount I owe you for the bales I have”!
Well, we shall see and for sure, I’m not going to get paid for “all the bales they took”, I’m just hoping I get paid for the number of bales they “SAY” they have.
Will I be doing business with this person ever again? Not in the hay business I won’t. My biggest fear right now is that I will get to know them a lot better before I ever, If I ever, get my money for the hay they took.
Wish me luck!
July 22, 2014