Tom’s Law #42
Like a boss or a customer in a restaurant, anyone paying you money to do work on their behalf believes it is their duty to make your life a living hell.
Demon clients are customers where you lose money. They are basically squeaky wheels that aren’t worth the grease to fix. (That’s not to say, however, that a fix would be having them greased.)
Consider: You and another person are customers of some product or service. You pay on time, are reasonable, and an all-around good egg. The other person, however, is slow to pay, constantly whines, excessively consumes your time and resources, and basically sucks your life away like the machine in the dungeon in The Princess Bride. Coincidentally they use the word “inconceivable” a lot.
What if you both pay the same rate? If so, then simply by being nice, you are getting ripped off. Big time. Essentially your function is subsidizing assholes.
Smart companies know this and charge demon clients more and good clients less. Generally speaking, less subsidizing that goes on the better. Subsidizing is an affront to concepts like fairness and equity.
PITA? That stands for, of course, “Pain In The Ass.”
When you combine demon and PITA into a single client? That’s where the magic happens. That’s when it’s truly something special. A singular experience worth writing home about.
You think I’d learn. The moment you enter the eye of the shitstorm is easy to spot. It’s the moment you decide to try to do something nice for somebody. And yet I keep doing it over and over again.
Nice to meet you. I took a look at your website. You say you paid someone $8,000 for that hot steaming bowl of elephant piss? Not too quick on the uptake, are you?
What? Your spouse/child/girlfriend built your website? I apologize. I certainly didn’t mean to offend. Pro tip: Always find out who built the website to determine if there is a need to be diplomatic or if you can actually speak the truth, i.e. rip the site a new one.
Yes, I will help you. I’ll fix the whole thing for $40. After dropping $8 mega clams that should seem like a bargain. No, I don’t think I’m totally worthless. I’m not undervaluing myself. I’m trying to do you a solid and be nice, because, at this point, I still like you. (That will change soon enough.)
There are a couple of conditions to this offer, however. I don’t do phone. I don’t even own a phone. I don’t call you. You don’t call me. Ever. We will communicate via email. Perhaps Skype if you are literally on fire.
Second, no on-site meetings. There’s nothing that important we need to discuss. You’re not a multi-national corporation and I’m not IBM. This is tinker toy time. Lives do not hang in the balance. You don’t possess enough money to make it worth my while to actually go somewhere just to talk to you and listen to your bullshit.
Lastly, for this project to work, you have to be an active participant. You have to respond to my requests for information and direction. I’m not the decision maker here, you are. I know that any actual decision I make will be ripped to shreds. So part of your obligation is actually reviewing the work that gets done. I know, that’s a make-or-break thing for you. A line in the sand as it were. Realistically I know you’ll never look at anything until it comes time to bitch at some perceived slight. You’ll also expect me to write copy and magically read your mind regarding what you want. Because you’ll never ever ever bother to make anything clear.
No problem, you say? You accept the terms of my conditions? You’re thrilled to be on this project with me? Those are backstab words. I know you’ll go back on them by this time tomorrow.
And now, Tales From The Pro-Bono Webmaster: The Latest Incident.
As you requested, I adapted your piece of crap website to the new template you requested. It’s what I do. Please note the home page: I loaded some temporary images to demonstrate functionality. You need to provide production images prior to site launch. That’s on you. Because I can just squirt binary out of my butt.
I have provided in your new site an actual working contact form. I know, something it has never had before. I tested the form using my own email address. It works great. I then pointed it at you and sent several test messages. Please confirm that you received them because this is something only you can do. I don’t normally receive your mail. (I know this is complicated stuff.)
Fast forward nine 1/2 weeks:
You can’t reach me on the phone? No shit. What’s the emergency? Oh, your site was mentioned on page 42 in the local newspaper? Wow, that is huge. No, the site isn’t finished. It’s been sitting there gathering dust this whole time. All action items have been safely ensconced in your lap. Yes, I know that’s a problem, although not as enormous as you make it out to be. Over the next week you might actually be looking at a single visitor to your site due to that article. Yeah, the fate of the world practically rests in the balance.
What? You’re livid that the contact form isn’t working? How do you know it isn’t? Did you ever get my test messages? No. What? You don’t know how to check your own email? That’s useful information. Might I suggest that, perhaps, that’s something you could have brought to my attention a long time ago? Maybe even before this emergency?
Perhaps I should have charged $8,000 after all. Maybe then you would haven’t actually given a shit. I guess it’s true that no good dead goes unpunished. I guess, just like you, there are some things that I’ll just never learn.
Until next time when I try to be nice to someone else…