Fun With Firing Clients

( — Last night, I had the pleasure of listening to my friend’s side of a phone conversation with an extremely difficult former client who just won’t leave him alone. (My friend is not a writer, but is self-employed.)

The background:

  • My friend sells this guy a product.
  • The guy breaks the product and demands a replacement.
  • My friend says, “Okay, this is how much it will be.”
  • The guy threatens to sic his lawyer on my friend for not replacing it for free.
  • Repeat ad nauseam.

Evidently this has been going on for several weeks now, and last night’s phone call was the culmination of all that frustration. Here’s approximately what I heard:

“I have already told you three times, I gave you what you asked for, you used it for something different, and you broke it. I’m not going to replace it for free. You need to buy something different.

“Why would you have your lawyer call me? …Okay, fine, give me your lawyer’s phone number and I will have my lawyer call him. …No, just give me his phone number. I’m not going through this will you again. I have already told you three times that I gave you what you asked me for. I don’t have the kind of money to just go replacing things for free after you break them because you told me the wrong thing.

“Well you can’t replace it with the same thing because you’re just going to break it again. …$300. No, I am not going to give it to you for free. You’re not listening to me. I gave you what you asked for. You used it for something completely different and broke it. I’m not replacing it for free.

“Fine, give me your lawyer’s phone number and I will have my lawyer call him. …You’re the one who wants to get your lawyer involved, not me. …Then stop threatening me with your lawyer.

“No, $300. …NO, THREE HUNDRED. What part of this aren’t you understanding?

“Fine. …Saturday. …Three hundred dollars.”

“Okay, okay, listen to me very carefully, because you are not going to like hearing this. Are you listening? After I do this for you on Saturday, I don’t want you to call me ever again. I am done. I don’t work for you anymore. If you break it again, you are on your own. Do not ever call me again after Saturday. Am I being clear? I don’t ever want to hear from you again after this. …Yes, I’m serious. Never again. I am done with you. I’m not dealing with this crap anymore. …Seriously.

“Okay, I will see you on Saturday morning.”

I just about leapt out of my seat when the call ended, I was so impressed. The thing that blew me away about it is how calm my friend was the whole time. No squeaky nervous voice, no hands shaking, no red face, just plain and simple and calm and firm. What the client was demanding was the equivalent of someone buying a new car, driving it around in first gear with the parking brake on at 60 MPH for a month, and then demanding that the dealership give him a new car because “It doesn’t work. you gave me a crappy car.” It was completely absurd, and I don’t know HOW I would have handled it.

“That was awesome,” I said when he hung up.

“I need a cigarette,” he replied.

What was your best response to an unreasonable client? Or what do you WISH you had thought to say at the time?

Contents Copyright © 2006-2014 Kristen King


10 comments… add one
  • Dick Margulis Nov 25, 2008

    Ooh! Ooh! Me! Me!

    I had a classic CFH with a project that ended badly. Two projects that ended badly, actually. And throughout both, she was verbally abusive and completely inappropriate. Luckily, she was three thousand miles away. In the end, it took a long time to collect what she owed me; but eventually she paid up. A couple of months passed. The phone rang.

    “This is M___. Do you have a few minutes?”
    “Actually, I was asleep. It’s 11:30 at night here. As far as I’m concerned we’re done.”
    “I have a new project.”
    “I’m sorry, M___. I’m really not interested in doing more work for you.”
    “But this will be easy for you.”
    “I’m not interested in doing more work for you.”
    “Does that mean I shouldn’t call you again?”
    “Yes it does. Good night.”

    I pulled this off in a calm,relaxed, professional voice, according to my wife. I’m not quite sure how. In any case, it worked. I never heard from the woman again.

    Dick Margulis´s last blog post..The unbearable paralysis of being

  • Kristen King Nov 25, 2008

    @Dick, Evidently the calm, relaxed, professional voice is the key to success with these nutjobs. I will have to practice this technique the next time a crackpot client calls. Not that all of my clients are crackpots. Just some of them. Mainly the ones who call me.

  • Allena Nov 30, 2008

    Seriously, I am probably jinxing myself, but I haven’t had to deal with any of THOSE kinds of clients. But I realllllly commend your friend on getting rid of the guy. Life is just too short.

    Allena´s last blog post..Now YOU Can Review Books for, too!

  • Lori Dec 1, 2008

    Maybe I could use this approach on that current client who has no clue, huh?

    My best response is always to be the calm one in the equation. For some reason, calm voices tend to lower their blood pressure. Also, I stick with the facts. Leave the emotional crap at the door and stop calling me a lousy writer – you got what you asked for. You asked for X. I delivered X. We didn’t contract for Y or Z. Repetition and calm. Works as well as anything, I guess.

    Lori´s last blog post..The Great Big Internet Popularity Contest

  • Kristen King Dec 1, 2008

    @Allena, I’m glad you have had minimal jerk exposure in your business. :)

    @Lori, that’s a GREAT idea! Heh heh. I am a big supporter of the broken record approach. I’m working on the “stop sounding like a panicked chipmunk” approach. ;)

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