The Client From Hell

One recent website I discovered is quickly becoming one of my favorites. The website is called “Clients from Hell.”

It’s a showcase of quotes, stories, and e-mails from designers who have had a rough experience with a client.

Here’s a quick example:

I realy love it but can you change the colors and design? [sic]

My Client From Hell Experience

I submitted my own experience a week ago, but since I have yet to see it on the site, I’m assuming it got rejected. Here’s my own “Client From Hell” experience.

Please Provide an Estimate

Client: Hi! I saw you do excellent AJAX work. I have no clue how it works and need some AJAX work done on my site. Here’s my problem (xxx). Please provide a quote.

Me: Here’s my quote. I estimate the project to take 1-3 hours. My quote bills my hourly rate.

Client: There’s no way this can take any longer than one hour. My budget is only $40. Take it or leave it.

[I took the client’s budget. Did the work. I billed the client for a little over an hour and charged him the agreed $40.]

Client: Great work! Say, I have another AJAX project in mind. Here are the details. Please provide an estimate.

[Rather than get nickel-and-dimed on another estimate, I decided not to respond. I also don’t like it when a client who has “no clue” about a technology tells me how long something should take to finish.]

Do You Have a “Client From Hell” Story?

You can go over to Clients From Hell and submit your own story (which will hopefully be published).

Or, you can leave one here (as a comment) and be published immediately. Either way, have fun 🙂

19 thoughts on “The Client From Hell”

  1. I have a friend that is a programmer—he should really weigh in. I emailed him this post, I’m sure he has some great hell clients to share. I had one that insisted we install xp on his new Sony laptop because he didn’t want to ‘learn’ Vista. Unfortunately, that laptop had no XP drivers…..of course, he didn’t want to pay us to have Vista re-installed on it.

  2. That Client From Hell site is pretty funny. I can’t think of any personal quotes right now, but I think I’ve experienced the one on the site where It’s 11:02a… in the midst of an hour long meeting… and a person is asked if they can have something done by noon!… :-]

  3. Wow, could I fill their web site up!! Here are three of the best (or worse) ones:

    Client 1 – I quoted a short database job for a local client, 9 hours total. This guy happened to be the President of the company. I guess he had nothing better to do so he sat down and watched me work, which does not bother me at all. In the process, he commented several times that “wouldn’t it be neat if the report also did ….” and I responded with each request with “no problem but the addition will cost extra time and increase the cost”. He agreed every time. I invoiced for 12 hours instead of the 9 I quoted and he went through the roof!!! He refused to pay for the additional 3 hours that he requested of me. We ended up in his partner’s office where he accused me of trying to over bill, quoting the initial 9 hour estimate. I responded with a summary of the discussions we had and his partner wrote me a check for the entire bill. They’ve asked for more work since and I’ve been “too busy”.

    Client 2 – Had me quote a job that would have taken me about 30 hours to complete. I gave them my quote at my standard bullable rate and they immediately stated that they could have a College student do the same work for $12.00 / hour. I responded with “then hire a college student” and they returned with “but we want you to do the job”. I explained that I was already working more than 60 hours / week at a much greater billable rate and asked why I should take such a pay cut just to complete their project for them. And they explained that the job was only worth $12.00 / hour. I left with one of them following me to the door asking if I would reconsider – some people really don’t understand.

    Client 3 – Was a customer who’s project got out of control and ran way over budget early on through no fault of mine and no fault of the client. Third party issues were burning up my development time. I kept the lady I was working with up to speed with phone calls and emails but apparantly she did not keep the decision makers up to speed. When cost over-runs became obvious, she back peddled and denied knowing anything. The end result was that their project ended incomplete and they refused to pay me $3200. I hired a collection agency to go after them – the Lawyer stated that I had an excellent case with the email trails I provided and I would win but they would counter sue for non-delivery. They would loose, because of the email trails I provided plainly documented the cost over-runs, but I would burn the $3200 plus more defending myself.

      1. That’s exactly what I did – I moved on.

        I could have gone after Client3 “for the principal” but the time was better spent developing solutions for other more appreciative clients. And in the long run I’m doing fine. It’s just unfortunate to all involved that stuff like this happens.

  4. Client from Hell

    Q. Hi, I have a ring and I wondered how much you thought it was worth.

    Action: Client provides the most common Marq. diamond ring and wrap on the planet with a cloudy carbon filled center stone, and near brown chip stones, 5 per side of the center and 4 in the wrap. 10k – 2.8 grams total.

    A: Sir, I am very familiar with this style. How much would you be looking to get for it out of curiosity?

    Clients reply: Well about $1500.

    My Answer: I’m sorry but I simply wouldn’t be in that price range. Unfortunately I typically sell this ring for roughly $200 or less. If you would consider a lower offer, something that would be fair to both of us I would be able to help you with it.

    Clients reply: Well, if you don’t give me $1500 for it I’ll call the police.

    (??? – This is apparently his form of “Negotiation.”)

    The story ends in the customer selling us the ring for roughly $120 once he was shown our trays of the same ring style.


  5. I was asked to design a sign and do some logo work for my sons daycare. so i threw some work together and presented it to them … they liked the rough draft so much they decided to send it to the print shop with out discussing it with me first well to make a long story short when i told them we haven’t talked about compensation yet and i would like to do this before anything gets printed or used for your gain. well as soon as i brought up compensation they called the print company and told them not to print and instead of telling me they weren’t going to be able to pay me … i found out when when i dropped off my son and they used the sign they developed in Microsoft Word. so now they are stuck with a piss poor sign and no log and I lost a few min of my time… no love loss.

  6. I no longer do ANY pro-bono work.. which is sad, but I’ve found that the moment folks get something for free, they just abuse it. I’m also sick of clients treating me like some geeky teenager next door. I’m 40 years old and I’ve been doing this since the internet was born. Grr.

  7. I’ve actually done quite a bit of pro-bono work and the return on my “investment” has always been greater than my cost. Good clients always remember you, even the good ones who start out for free.

  8. I used to be a mainframe computer programmer for many years and it didn’t take long to realise that most clients haven’t a clue what they really want.

    Even if you were lucky and they gave you a detailed spec the chances were high that they’d utter the phrase – “that’s not what I wanted”. What I discovered is that most of them expect you to be able to read their minds, a skill I’m somewhat lacking in.

  9. I believe that clients know exactly what they want. I also believe there is a huge communication barrier between clients and developers. It’s caused by culture differences and if you as a developer don’t understand and work around these differences then you, the developer, and not the client is destined to fail.Let me explain.Let’s say a bakery asks me to help them get their business in control and their current system is based on a notebook that they record orders into.Based on their culture, they only know to ask for a replacement for their notebook. It’s my responsibility to educate them – to make them understand what’s possible. At the same time I need to make them understand the costs involved.My next step in this case would to see if Quickbooks will work for them. It may seem odd to offer a canned package that would take work away from me but I discovered a long time ago that the right solution for a client is what works best & not necessaraly what I want to deliver to them.Assuming they reject Quickbooks then we finally have a potential project. We go through & understand costs, I deliver a rough timeline and go to work.BTW, another mistake many developers make is they assume they are smarter than their client. The bakers in this example aren’t dumb or stupid, they are just as smart as me but they put their brains into developing and baking tasty pasteries and breads.

  10. My client from hell sat down with us for approximately 3 hours deciding EXACTLY what they wanted, and then once it was made, decided they wanted to change one thing… then that became 2,3,4 things and there was no pleasing him!! Ended up giving the customer the unfinished code and told him “on your way!”

    Thanks for the smile though!

  11. That bugs me SO much. I’m a web designer, and it is so annoying when people who don’t know anything about coding dictate to you how long a project should take, or tell you to do something that to them seems easy, but in all actuality is hard as can be in a coding perspective. On top of that, they give you pennies for a job that should be giving you a lot of money because they don’t understand the amount of work involved in doing what you’re doing.

    lol /rant.

  12. The right answer is to walk away from these type jobs when you identify them, even if you are hungry. Otherwise you will be finding yourself averaging down & soon will be developing for less per hour than you can make delivering pizzas.

    Hungry is better than starving!

  13. I agree with you there Tom. It’s best to walk away from those types of jobs. Sometimes it’s hard though. Turning someone down must be an art of some kind that some people have a knack for and some people don’t. I’m learning though!

  14. Oh I love Client From Hell stories! Here is mine… We install and repair garage doors and openers. We were out at one customers house whose door would not open. Upon inspection we determined the problem, the opener was broken. The opener was from the mid 80s, so not only are parts hard to come by but it is UNSAFE. The gov’t passed a law in 1993 requiring certain safety features be built in, this thing didn’t have them. We explained all this to the customer but she became very irate, refused to believe us, and threatened to call the BBB because we wouldnt fix her opener.

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