Is Your Client Feigning Ignorance? Don’t Be a Dummy!!

Is Your Client Feigning Ignorance? Don’t Be a Dummy!!

Something that really gets my goat is when people pretend to be stupid in order to take advantage of me in some way. After being in business for 23 years, I’ve seen my share of Faux Ignoramuses. And, if you’ve owned your own business for awhile, you probably know EXACTLY what kind of client I’m referring to.

Their emails leave you shaking your head. You say to yourself (or out loud), “Can this person POSSIBLY be that stupid? I mean…they managed to wake up, get dressed, turn on their computer, and get online, right?”

No, they are NOT. They’re actually quite intelligent because what they’re doing is playing dumb in order to rip you off.

Examples:

THE DENIER
This is the customer who gave you the wrong shipping address, and who KNOWS he gave you the wrong address (because it’s right there on the receipt that was instantly emailed to him). Yet, he continues to blame you, the shipping company, or even the person who printed the shipping label. When you gently tell him that, if he can’t contact the person at the address where the package was delivered, he will need to pay to have the product reshipped to the correct address, he goes ballistic, insisting he didn’t screw up….when he knows he did. This type of client will even use threats to your reputation to get free replacement products. I’m not referring to a $20 order. I’m talking about several hundred dollars of product.

I once issued a credit to a client’s credit card because, to be frank, he’d turned into a jerk and I didn’t want to do business with him any longer. Our website clearly states, “We don’t work with jerks.” On the exact same day I credited his card (and sent him the credit receipt), he issued a chargeback to his card. And, guess what? He ended up getting double his money back, which equaled several hundred dollars.

I contacted him numerous times. He at first ignored my emails. When I threatened to report him for fraud, he finally responded, and pulled the ignorant card. I already had proof of the chargeback so I knew he was playing dumb in an attempt to rip me off. It took TWO MONTHS but he finally sent the money he owed.

The exact statement on our website is: “We, unfortunately, don’t work with jerks. If you are a jerk, you’d be better served by one of our competitors. We prefer to work with professional individuals…who have manners.”

And, that statement has been a GREAT filtering tool!! Jerks get really offended by it while nice people think it’s funny.

THE BACKSLIDER
Then there are the people who admit they screwed up at first, but later deny it when they realize there are financial consequences associated with their own screw-up. Let’s say a magazine editor sends you an assignment that they meant to send to another writer. You do the research, write the article, and submit it. The editor initially apologizes, and says she will send you the correct assignment right away. You gently remind her that you DID do the work and that you DO need to be paid. And, then she responds by saying you should have known it was the wrong one, it’s all your fault, not hers, you’re out of luck, etc.

When I mess up, and realize my error is going to cost somebody ELSE some money, I always offer to pay whatever the error has cost that person or company. Unfortunately, many people in this world don’t work or think that way.

THE TIME THIEF
Then there are the people who you’re really, really nice to because they seem to need more support than your other clients. Perhaps they are elderly, or computer-challenged, or they have some other difficulty. You go above and beyond to help them, even offering extra free services to help them get their project moved along.

Unfortunately, it has been my experience that, the more you give people for free, the more “free” they’re going to expect. Worse, when a client starts to assume that you are working only for them, and doing nothing else with your time, their needs and demands increase. They may even get upset if you don’t respond to their emails right away. And, that’s when you realize that perhaps that client claimed to need special attention in the beginning in order to get free services and extra chunks of your time.

When you finally realize what’s going on, you put your foot down, and put your finger in the dyke to stop the bleed. Then, the needy client gets furious when you explain to them that their requests have gone far above and beyond, and that, if they want additional special services, they will need to pay for them.

THE EMAIL REPEATER
Have you ever received frequent (often daily) very short, one- or two-sentence emails from a potential client? They may repeat their questions, or simply send you a note telling you about their day. They haven’t yet signed up for your service but they keep emailing you. And, the emails are obviously a waste of your and their time.

Why are they emailing you nonsensical stuff? Because they want you to respond so they won’t forget about signing up with you some time in the future. They constantly want a “new” email from you in the top of their in-box. I can count on all of my fingers and toes (and those of my employees as well) how many times I’ve dealt with email repeaters over the years. After a week of daily emails (sometimes several per day), I gently ask these folks to not email me again until after they sign up.

THE WEAR DOWNER
And, that brings me to my final example – people who play dumb over and over and over just to wear you down, hoping to get something for free. I had two experiences like this just in the past week. Rather than paying for the service that was quoted, these two individuals spent hours sending me numerous emails daily with questions, comments, additional questions, repeats of previous questions they’d asked, and far more. And, like the email repeater, if you don’t respond to them right away, they start to get angry. I’ve seen this type of behavior many times over the years. They assume that you’ll get tired of answering them, and that you will simply do free work for them just to get them out of your hair.

When I meet someone like that, I do the opposite. I tell them to take their business elsewhere. Of course, when you do that, and when they realize they can’t get that service for less anywhere else, they quickly rectify their behavior. However, do you really, really want to keep doing business with someone who spent days (or weeks) wasting your time while trying to get free work out of you? Yeah, me neither!

I’ll get off my soapbox now. Thank you for listening…I mean reading. 😉

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Angela Hoy is the publisher of WritersWeekly.com, the author of 19 books, and the co-owner of BookLocker.com (one of the original POD publishers that still gets books to market in less than a month), PubPreppers.com (print and ebook design for authors who truly want to self-publish), and Abuzz Press (the publishing co-op that charges no setup fees).

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One Response to "Is Your Client Feigning Ignorance? Don’t Be a Dummy!!"

  1. E.S. Abramson  May 7, 2021 at 2:15 pm

    The graphic designer who claims she/he did not see the awards you received, holds your book for four months, then tells you your project is being dropped because she/he feels that it impossible for you to have earned those awards. If he/she was so jealous, he/she should never have accepted the project instead of waiting until half way through to drop the project thereby making it harder to get another graphic designer to take over the project and complete the book for you.