A few months ago I posted about overhearing offensive right wing comments made by a then new client. Gary urged me to drop them, but I argued that unless such remarks were directed to me within a business context, I had no reason to give up the account or the revenue.
Yesterday I notified them that they were off my roster effective immediately. Not because of politics, but because one of the senior partners has proven himself to be a boorish, angry bully wannabe and a self-proclaimed philistine.
It was something as innocuous as new business cards that brought the house down. I will forego the details but say that because an umbrella entity plus five semi-autonomous stores fell within a new brand platform, the order required many unique cards and a 15-page InDesign production file. The client went berserk and unleaded a torrent of invective-laced emails because it had taken a couple of months to go from design concepts to press-ready files.
I bit my tongue and replied with empathy for his frustration and an explanation of why a complex project that had to be vetted by a half dozen stakeholders is like herding cats and takes longer than a simple business card order.
He responded by accusing me of laying blame on everyone else and compared my process to a well-known Rube Goldberg donut-dunking contraption. He went on to say that at least Rube's invention actually dunked the donuts, and that he did not want to discuss the issue any further and just deliver his damned cards.
I emailed him back and offered to give him a call or drive down to Cincinnati so we could resolve his complaint in a reasonable and mutually respectful manner. To which he responded that if he wanted to hear anything else I might have to say, he would call me.
So next week, I am gong to hand-deliver his new business cards and pick up the closing check. But I plan to present him with a couple of extra goodies:
The mouthpiece half of an old phone handset because he likes to talk but refuses to listen.
A single donut, which I will tell him that, in the absence of Rube's machine, he will have to dunk manually either in his coffee, or his philistine ass!
Done and done. I opted to take the high road and leave the snark out of it. I delivered his 17 lots of business cards and a disk containing all documents and work files related to the account, and got my check.
And just as you might expect from one who attempts to bully and intimidate others through digital channels, he was a little lamb when I walked into his office. "Cold enough for ya?"; "Thanks for bringing these down."; "Who do I make the check out to?"; "How much again?"; and finally, "Have a nice day." All in such a mild, respectful voice.
We all handle sh!t in our own ways. I recently "resigned" my ongoing monthly retainer from a swanky nightclub client. The delivery of work was front loaded in order to open their business (club's theme development, logo, interior graphic installations, signs, menus ) and I had to jump ship when it was all delivered because the client was so rude and contracted payment schedules didn't mean much to him. I wrote a detailed letter showing each project produced and date of delivery, just to let him know he got the best of me. I took the high road, wrote a very respectful letter, burned no bridges. Club opened the day after I resigned the account . and he was swamped with compliments on how great all the graphics and interiors were. I'm working now on a fun tiki bar/restaurant project that'll be opening in a few weeks and that new client treats me like family. My other clients I've had for many years have relationships based on mutual respect for each other. Makes all the difference in the world.
The one thing you and I share is that we know we upheld our integrity and performed beyond the contracted assignment to give the client the best product. You're obviously way better than me at twisting the shiv once it's in.
But the point is, I left the shiv home. Just took care of business in a professional manner and walked out of his office. When I got back, I emailed him a confirmation that the Comp Agreement was now satisfied and all obligations had been met by both parties.
Although I couldn't resist one small needle: I also explained that it's customary for an out-going agency to turn over all files and documents related to the account, and to remain available for a short time to answer client or new agency questions during the transition. I told him I had honored the former, but wouldn't honor the latter. 'Nudder words, suckah, if there's anything on that disk you don't get, or if your next agency ain't on CC, youse is sh¡t out-a luck!
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