Be Wary of the Handout Customer

April 09, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

Drawing on a recent experience I am reminded of the countless meme pics of artists in general being frustrated by people offering "exposure" or "promise of future work" or some other such gimmick to entice them into performing under their value or worth NOW.

Such cheapskates posing as legitimate customers are rather manipulative and there are a few things to look for in spotting such and reasons why you should never do business with them. One recent experience, in another industry, reminded me of these things and I'd like to pass them on to you.

With the most recent experience, as if to reaffirm what I already know, I decided to let the relationship continue right up to closing. It started with an innocent phone call about his intention to re-open his business in this new location and that he'd like to hire me (again). Fair enough. I'll look at anything, whether or not I do it is another matter.

I went to the location and met him, he gave me a sob story about some health issues, I acknowledged. While playing the victim card, he then proceeded to complain about the other contractors and landlord. In my head I told myself that this is the type of person who will complain about me when I am not there too. That aside, I wanted to map out this experience so I didn't cut and run just yet - normally that would have been enough.

Next on a follow-up visit he convinced me to go to the store and pay, out of my pocket, for some samples that he could look at. This cost time and money to me.

Next, he was told the price and the job was scheduled for a Monday. The job was never started as other contractors were still doing work, though he had texted me THAT day to come down and talk. It was just chit chat and complaints about these other people. Meanwhile I had pulled help from various areas that now had to be told, that it wasn't going to happen, at least that day. You cannot maintain work relationships with this sort of instability.

He called about a week later. When I show up to finalize the start date, he acts like he never got the text on my price. This isn't true, unless he was blind at that moment in time. He then proceeds to tell me he "has other people" who will do it cheaper. He names two prices, one $200 less and another $600 less. Both, I believe were lies (if he is pinching pennies why didn't he go with the $600 less right off the bat)? I tell him that he should go with the cheaper bids if that was what his priority was. In other words I was calling his bluff. This I believe pissed him off a little but at this point I didn't care if I did the job, in fact with such people I often blow the bid sky high in an effort to get them to run away from ME. If they do accept it, then it is enough money for me to put up with the headache.

However, before I leave the job site, he tells me to meet a price of $2200. I tell him I will let him know that night. He wants to know when I can start if this is the case. I text him later that night agreeing to meet at $2200 and to start on Thursday. I did exactly what he wanted, yet didn't hear back presumably because he was either sitting disgruntled about something or because he was trying to find the cheapest contractor "to be right". I tell him, the following day, that I need him to confirm this by the end of the night as I cannot schedule other help and then have it fall through again.

He said he would.

I never heard from him that night nor up until about 9-10am the following morning. I texted him and rescinded my estimate and wished him luck. He was going to waste my time again. And possibly not even pay. So my experiment was over.

This is not an industry specific story. It can happen to any artist. It can happen to ANY service industry; real estate, banking, contracting, you name it. Therefore the following CAN be applied to your service industry (as a self-employed person).


The moral of the story:

1) Be wary of anyone getting you to invest your time or money into something without any concrete contracts. This is often done to get you to "stick with it" to recoup your invested time/money. They may play the victim, or play the clueless person; "you know all about this, just go to the store and buy it and I will pay you back" and other such red flags.

2) Be wary of anyone who overly complains about other people in your industry. You know they will talk the same way about you if you don't do their bidding or meet their (often impossible or highly unreasonable) demands. They probably will anyway. 

3) Don't work for people that want to cheapen your service. I won't come into your place and try to talk you down on your menu prices, so don't abuse the privilege of negotiation.

4) Don't work for people playing the victim card as they feel entitled and that it is YOU who should be the one to give to them.

5) Be wary about people who make promises, especially promises of future work or exposure. In the case above, the same guy made the same promises a year or so prior when I had done some work for him. Nothing came of it, no "future work" as promised except for this new work for him with more promises of "future work" - that's a con.

So cut and run from these people. They are leaches, manipulative and dishonest. And in his words, which he often repeated after almost every statement.

"Would you blame me?"


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