October 09, 2002
HOW TO DEAL WITH "JERKS" ONLINE Behind the Scenes at the "Home Office"...on a Bad Day By Angela Hoy | printable version
Everything is not always rosy here at the "Home Office." With the blessing of having a financially successful home-based business also comes the dread of dealing with jerks on a frequent basis.
"We don't work with jerks."
That statement, from our submission guidelines, attracts a lot of attention. The media quotes it frequently and sites for writers and authors never fail to include it when describing Booklocker.com. So, why is that one of our corporate policies? Simple. Life's too short to waste even one minute dealing with "jerks." No amount of money is worth dealing with abuse from another human being.
I've talked to other online entrepreneurs and the trend is disturbing. Email has rendered manners and ethics old-fashioned. People who wouldn't think of raising their voice in a professional business setting use profanity with abandon. Men and women who would never steal in the real world have no qualms about ripping people off while hiding behind their monitor. And those who won't try to openly steal from you won't hesitate to lie to try to get something for free.
Being a relatively new entrepreneur (since 1997), I am still astounded at the number of dishonest and unethical people in the world. And I know my colleagues are experiencing the same thing. If you're an online entrepreneur, watch out for these "jerks."
1. People who use the word Christian in their marketing materials. Anybody who uses the word Christian to try to get your money should be avoided. I'm pretty sure God doesn't want us using his name to convince people to spend their money in our shops. As one writer said about an unethical "Christian" firm on our Warnings page, "God's gonna getcha!"
2. People who ask for free things because they "don't have any money." I've found that the recipients of free things are the ones who keep demanding more and more.
Cathi Stevenson, author of How To Publish & Market Your eBook For Just $5, says, "If you give something away, you take away its value. People then treat it accordingly: as something with little worth."
There really are disabled veterans out there. Unfortunately, there are also many crooks out there claiming to be disabled veterans. It's impossible for entrepreneurs to know who the crooks are. And, my feeling is that most disabled people don't go around asking for handouts, so I'm always suspicious when people do.
3. People who claim they "lost" a product they never bought in the first place. While I don't mind resending ebooks to people who lose them in hard-drive crashes, a large number of the people who request a replacement never purchased from us in the first place. So, my research into each order usually results in an email requesting a copy of their receipt. And, of course, they never respond.
4. People who make empty threats just to get something for free. "I don't know how to download a file. This is a scam. I've contacted the attorney general and you're going to jail!" You wouldn't believe how many times I've seen variations of this email. (In almost every case, our system shows they did, in fact, download the file.)
Many of these "jerks" openly admit they're at fault, yet will threaten to sue you for their own naivety. Believe me. The attorney general doesn't get involved when one moron complains about a $10 transaction. Neither does the FBI, other law enforcement agencies and ethical attorneys. What kind of lawyer is going to sue somebody over a $10 transaction? Ignore these empty threats. And, as a general rule, we never give refunds to jerks who send us empty threats. We do, however, get quite a laugh out of their creativity.
Empty threats can come from clients as well as the public. We once had an author in Canada threaten to terminate his contract if we didn't overnight his books to him. His original order never arrived at its destination because he'd used the wrong postal code on his order. He blamed us stating we should have known the postal code was incorrect. Uh huh. We emailed him stating, "We accept your offer to terminate your contract." He had been repeatedly abusive (a jerk) and we'd had quite enough.
Another author used the same empty threat, stating if we didn't offer him free services, he'd terminate his contract. Fine. Though we may have sold many copies of his books, our relationship was ruined.
Don't allow yourself to react to empty threats. Their intent is simply to intimidate you. If you allow yourself to be intimidated by empty threats, you'll be a perpetual victim of this form of manipulation. Believe me. If someone knows they can get a reaction from you by this form of deceit, they'll keep it up forever. Stop it immediately. No amount of business is worth being treated like garbage by this very common type of "jerk."
5. People who assume without asking or who verbally abuse. I received a phone call from a woman we'd published two years ago for no set up fees. She'd been through some hard times (so she said!) and I truly felt sorry for her. Unfortunately, her book never took off. I took her second book on, and paid the fees on that one, too. I even paid an editor to work on it. Then, I didn't hear from her for months. Last week, she called me here at home, screaming into the phone, with her husband screaming at me in the background. I was juggling the phone and Max, while cooking dinner, and helping Ali with her homework.
It took about five minutes for me to figure out what was going on. She was accusing me of selling 2 million (yes, 2 Million!) copies of her book without paying any royalties. It took another minute for me to figure out where she got this assumption.
She'd gone to Amazon.com and looked at her sales ranking. (#1 is their best seller, #2 is their second best seller, etc.) Her book was ranked at 2,361,973. That means 2,361,972 books were selling more copies than hers. Instead of thinking how ridiculous her claim was (If 2M copies had sold, she'd be on every best seller list in the nation), she and her husband chose to verbally abuse me to an extent that I can't even describe. She hung up on me, called back, screamed some more, threatened to slander my name and turn me into the FBI, and hung up on me again. She never let me get a word in edgewise. She just screamed at me continuously. I even thought perhaps they were on drugs. The exchange was that bizarre. She ruined my entire evening with my family and has probably since made a fool out of herself to family and friends, all because she was...well, really stupid!
I emailed her after the second phone call explaining how the Amazon ranking works, and referred her to an article describing the ranking system. I also, of course, terminated her contract on the spot.
I'm not sure what happened in this world or where we've failed in educating our citizens on ethics and kindness. I just can't fathom how any human being can steal from another, try to intimidate others for selfish reasons, or be otherwise dishonest in any way while still being able to sleep at night.
And, the most disturbing part of this entire equation is that I truly believe most people in the world will steal if given the chance, will look you in the eye and lie just to get what they want, and will aggressively abuse anyone who stands in their dishonest path, no matter how good that person is and how badly that person wants to help them.
So, how do writers, authors and other online entrepreneurs avoid these types of personalities?
1. Kill them with kindness. Whenever someone is abusive to the extreme, I remember to maintain my professional personality. If you're really nice to the aggressor, it will probably catch them off-guard and will render their tools (abuse) useless. It is never a good idea, nor productive, to allow yourself to become embroiled in an exchange of rage.
2. Terminate the relationship immediately. If the financial rewards are not worth the emotional price, don't be afraid to tell a client to get lost or a customer to not shop at your store again. Richard frequently tells the jerks to "Please take your business to one of our competitors."
3. Leave it at the "office." This is the hardest one for me. I frequently lie in bed and night and seethe about somebody who stole merchandise or someone who was overtly rude to me. The children and family time help me get my mind off the abuse, but it's hard sometimes.
4. Know that it's not personal and it will go away. Jerks don't know you, nor do they care about you as an individual with feelings. They're just trying to save a buck or feeding their own sick need for control. So, never take it personally. And, no matter how angry you are one day, please know you will feel better the next. After you're in business for several months, you'll notice that one incident of credit card theft or an abusive email doesn't bother you nearly as much as the first few did. You are a human, which makes you remarkably resilient.
Dealing with mean people can create burnout in even the strongest souls. You can continue to thrive as an online entrepreneur if you learn how to recognize the "jerks" and distance yourself emotionally from the situation. The longer you're in business, the more you'll recognize the evil trends. And, once you recognize those trends, you'll be better equipped to deal with jerks quickly and professionally.
Angela Hoy is the co-owner of Booklocker.com and WritersWeekly.com. WritersWeekly.com features new freelance jobs and paying markets for FREE via email every Wednesday. Booklocker.com publishes print on demand and electronic books and pays the highest royalties in the industry.