To be clear, this is not about avoiding liabilities but simply to show the lack of empathy which can occur from those who would have the racing industry believe they are the paragon of support and empathy in these difficult times for all horsemen. Indeed in order that I feel able to post this blog, I have actually paid the invoice IN FULL as I think it important to be able to make comments without feeling beholden, or indeed threatened, through debt.
So to be clear, this debt is from before the Covid-19 outbreak, but the timing of the demand for payment, and the tactics used today are not.
At a time when many breeders are giving up, when racing and therefore breeding is in suspended animation, and the subsequent sale of any horses will be done in a climate of (hopeful) recovery but where the market is even more likely to see great pedigrees sold at cut prices, and those at the “lower” end even more unlikely to sell at all, I have received an email from Goffs UK reminding me of my debt and the requirement to pay it “as soon as possible”. I would add that my other business is also unable to trade due to the global crisis we face, and that my debtors are unable to pay any of their invoices due for the same reasons. We are all awaiting whatever bail out funds there may be, but using whatever means to survive in the meantime. Additionally you may have seen that I have been recovering myself from the virus, and my wife looks to be starting it. But we are all in this together and to add stress by sending demands for payment is hardly helpful or well timed to anyone.
I received an email from Goffs UK Accounts Dept. today (27th March) asking me to pay an outstanding invoice for sales fees. The fees were due for entries made at the end of 2018, for the Autumn yearling sale which took place at Doncaster. You will recall the yearling element had a 46% clearance rate and a median sale price of £3000. 40 of the lots are listed as being purchased by VENDOR – meaning that the statistics do not actually reflect the reality, and which for those of us that were there, consisted of nothing more than a social get-together. Click for stats page We sold nothing but spent over £700 in additional expenses to attend (Hotel, transport, food, vets etc). Not, of course, that that is Goffs fault – although it is a cost which sales companies fail to factor in sometimes.
I had already been threatened with legal action for posting these statistics at the time, and asking if consignors should really be paying high fees to enter a sale attended by so very few buyers. In mediation, Goffs agreed to waive 50% of the fees in February/ March 2019 and I in turn agreed to take the Tweet down. I also explained that until the horses were sold or otherwise disposed of, I would not be in a position to pay. We still have two of the 3 horses with us, and the one we did subsequently sell at the HIT sales in 2019 realised £53 in commision which has been credited to the account. One of the horses, whilst accruing sales fees, was unable to attend the sale due to an injury which meant it could not be sold subsequently.
On receipt of the email today, I asked on Twitter if this was the right time to be sending out reminders, having first responded to Goffs in a similar manner and received, at the time, no reply. Within 3 minutes of posting I had a Goffs director on the phone demanding I take the post down – which I agreed to immediately, but at the same time voiced my concerns as to the timing of the email. It seems that whilst Goffs are keen to protect their public image, they are just as keen to threaten their customers into submitting to their demands.
I have subsequently received a number of text messages from Mr. Kent – the last one claiming I have disregarded his subsequent calls. The fact is, I was actually trying to borrow the money to pay him and was unable to answer his call – but in line with the aggressive stance taken, his assumption is I was being rude! In turn he has also said “you are still breeding horses so there must be some funds”. Well Mr. Kent as you will likely know, horses are in foal for 11 months. Therefore at the time of the new invoice being prepared the mares were being covered. I had deals which allowed us to cover for next to nothing, or on extended terms to alleviate cashflow issues. I have also very publicly made it clear that we are NO LONGER breeding after the current foals are born as we can no longer afford the costs v. minimal benefits.
To be fair to all my suppliers I am trying not to go into liquidation in order that they will get paid at least something. We are currently buying everyting on a “as funds allow” basis rather than building additional credit debt. However, if some suppliers insist on full and immediate payment, we will be unable to pay anyone, will enter administration and therefore everybody loses out. The £837 paid out today will, obviously, adversely affect this and will hasten the actions we were hoping to avoid.
In the last few days we have seen businesses celebrated for their stance in these worrying times. We have also seen businesses completely misjudge their approach and as a result they will undoubtedly (perhaps hopefully) suffer in future. All I do know is that this is an industry that we were once proud to be part of, but with every passing day, the actions of some means our decision to stop is vindicated.