Crime

Why the Trade Has Been Getting Back Invoices from Brinks

CrimeOct 20, 2020

Why the Trade Has Been Getting Back Invoices from Brinks

National Jeweler speaks with a Brinks executive about a situation that has been causing major frustration for members of the jewelry industry.

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New York—Over the past several months, many members of the fine jewelry industry have been receiving back invoices out of the blue from Brinks.

Some claim these invoices, which date as far back as 2015, were for charges that had already been paid, while others said they couldn’t get a clear explanation of what they were being charged for.

Either way, these invoices have been causing frustration and kicking up chatter, so National Jeweler went to Brinks to ask for an explanation.  

In a recent phone interview, Jim Horgdal, president of Brink’s Global Services USA, explained the issue, which started with a former employee who was indicted for embezzlement, has been convicted and is now cooperating with Brinks Global Services on the issue.

The embezzlement scandal created several issues for the company, including the misrepresentation of its ledger.

This resulted in some cases in which customers who owed money ended up with a zero balance and vice versa, Horgdal said. Brinks has spent millions fixing the problem.
Additionally, a year ago, Brinks switched to a new ledger system.

Once reconciliation of the books was completed, the company loaded them into the new ledger and started communicating with customers about what the new records showed, sending out statements beginning in March.

“The conversations we’re having with our customers are, ‘Here is the ledger. We’ve gone through and spent the time and money to make sure all your payments were properly applied. This is the best information we have. If you have different information, additional information, please reach out to us and we will work with you to reconcile this.’”
In the industry, the Brinks back invoice issue has created quite a few headaches.

One colored stone wholesaler, who reached out to National Jeweler and asked not to be named, said when his company asked for copies of the invoices from Brinks that the latter claimed are unpaid from 2017, all they provided was a statement of the account.

Meanwhile, a jewelry appraiser who came forward said the issue he’s having concerns an invoice for a 2016 transaction in which Brinks didn’t make an overnight delivery on time.

The Brinks accounting department admitted to the error via email correspondence back when the transaction occurred, the appraiser said, but he no longer has access to the email account in which it is stored.

The issue went “fairly dormant” after that, he said, until recently when his company began receiving notices from a collection company that it owed money to Brinks.

When the appraiser asked the collection company for a copy of the original invoice, the company couldn’t provide it, he said.

What happened to the appraiser seems to be a common story among those affected by the Brinks back invoice issue—they’re not able to get a straight answer, or even talk to someone at Brinks for an explanation.

Horgdal said Brinks doesn’t have enough customer service employees to handle the volume of calls it’s been receiving, so it changed the system to route pertinent outreach from clients from customer service to credit collection to talk to the department directly to address the issue, Brinks said.

He added the collection agency has been advised to refer any requests for invoice copies to Brinks to address.

Horgdal also said they’ve also been trying to communicate as much as possible with the industry at large, working with various trade organizations—including a conference call in August with several industry leaders—as well as reaching out directly to clients whose email addresses they have to communicate ways to reach Brinks.

“We’ve sent out thousands of statements to thousands of customers. There is not one instance where we believe a customer doesn’t owe us money,” Horgdal said. “If they can show us otherwise, we’ll gladly correct the records.”

But it’s not easy for everyone who might not have retained documents to prove every payment for shipments a few years back.

One gemstone dealer and jewelry manufacturer in New York, who received invoices dated as far back as 2015, said his company keeps shipment records for two to three years but no longer, adding he believes this is normal in the industry.

It’s also a question of how much time business owners have to spend on an issue like this.

“For me to sit there and spend a week, maybe more, to pull up things from five years ago, analyze movement by movement, country to country, shipment by shipment, and then come up with things we’ve paid, it is absolutely not something I’m willing to accept,” that same dealer said.

To the former concern, Horgdal said Brinks has been able to “amicably settle” with many customers who are unable to provide evidence of past payment and reach an understanding where they provide other relevant information that might help the company validate past payments, including reports from their accounting system or email communications, among others.

There’s also has been chatter about Brinks holding packages until back invoices are paid.

To that, Horgdal said: “Nothing could be further from the truth.”

Brinks has stressed to the industry that it won’t hold packages for any customer who is working with the company to resolve accounts receivable.

The bottom line, Horgdal said, is for industry members to at least be communicating with Brinks rather than ignoring the invoices.

For those with overdue balances, Brinks asks they contact their assigned collector to discuss the account and options.

To request copies of statements and/or invoices, customers can email Brinks at bgsus.docrequest@brinksinc.com
Brecken Branstratoris the senior editor, gemstones at National Jeweler, covering sourcing, pricing and other developments in the colored stone sector.
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