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Thread: Advice Needed on Dealing with Bad Customer

  1. #1

    Advice Needed on Dealing with Bad Customer

    Hello,

    I have a few things to discuss and I hope everyone can follow along and give me the advice I need.

    Back in January, I agreed to write a multi-player Chess game for a client. I quoted a really low price just because I was strapped for cash.

    Since then, I have been through numerous changes ranging from small cosmetic adjustments, to large scale week long modifications. None of these changes were in the original specification, and with the promise of more work, I let them slide through (except for one which I charged a token amount).

    Now my client is on to the next game he wants me to write and I quoted him on a spec a month ago which is still a really low price (not as bad as the first job, but still way under market rates).

    My problem is that he still owes me 40% of the money from the first job and has delayed the payment a number of times. I was supposed to be paid nearly 2 months ago. The first two times that the payment didn't come on the promised date, I was given the typical "You will get it next week" line. The third time, the excuse was that he wanted a CD mailed to him with the game (It's been running on his server some time now). So, two weeks ago I mailed the CD. He claims he has not received the CD, but I don't feel like sending another CD just because I think he's trying to screw me.

    To top it off, he has now come up with a major design change he wants done to the second game. It's a change big enough to justify re-quoting the entire game and means a total re-write of much of the code from the first game that was supposed to be shared between all 10 games this guy wanted.

    I know he won't pay much more than I quoted the games for (that's why I quoted them so low), but I'm now at the point where I just want to drop him. I have one outstanding bug in the first game (which I learned about yesterday) and another cosmetic change.

    I want to see his site be a success, but I don't want to spend 2 months on each game (when they should take 3 weeks) just because he can't stick to a plan. I also don't want to get screwed with being paid on each job.

    My decision would be a whole lot easier if he hadn't paid me anything yet (I could just drop him and cut my losses), but I'm really not sure how to handle this.

    Anyone have any suggestions?

    Thanks.

  2. #2
    Senior Member MG315's Avatar
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    firstly, you shouldnt have sent him a cd before receiving a full payment. now you will have to assume he didnt receive it, although chances are he did. i wouldnt start the second project until i received a major downpayment (35-50% of quote) and until the first was paid off, assuming it is done already. Then tell him your hourly rate and charge that hourly rate for things not covered in the initial quote.

    it seems harsh but if you keep doing it the way you are, he will definately take advantage of you (he already has in my opinion). A few rules i like to follow are the following:

    • always require a downpayment for jobs over a certain amount you decide upon
    • ALWAYS use a contract
    • never give full product away without being paid for it in full, however you should show your progress or send trials.
    • state somewhere in your contract that any work done that is beyond the scope of this job as written in this contract will be charged at $XX/hour. that will stop most of the unneccessary, small changes.
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  3. #3
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    ^ good post

    not a lot to add really apart from wanting to clarify the contract situation you have/had with this person.

    Do you have a signed contract?
    If yes, remind them it is legally binding and if payment as agreed in the contract is not forthcoming immediately (recommend bank to bank transfer to avoid "cheque in the post" situations) then you will be forced to seek other means (collection agency/legal representation) to get your money.

    Have you got a contract for the next project?
    If not, don't do anything until you have!!

    Future/further changes
    You're going to have to tell him straight out that you're making no further changes, updates, modifications or sending anything more to him. The files are available on the server, he can get them there.

    It's a common lie that things are lost in the post, I sometimes use it myself when I've forgotten birthdays etc () but the truth is that the postal services in most countries these days very very rarely lose anything so it's not really a reliable lie.

    //

    There comes a point where you almost have to cut your losses and accept no further work from someone because it will prove more trouble than it's ultimately worth. This sounds like one of those jobs and it's a very tough decision to make, in this market it's difficult getting work so to leave some is hard but you're going to save yourself a lot of grief.

    I'd advise him that you're going down the debt collection route if payment isn't immediately forthcoming and sell the debt.

    Make sure you cover the excellent points regarding contracts in MG's post above

    Good luck getting the money!!
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  4. #4
    Well, I have a little update on this. As of an hour ago, he started the payment through PayPal's e-pay for the remaining balance. Of course, that can still be cancelled within the next 5 days so I won't be satisfied until the money is in my account.

    I still have many issues to deal with concerning this client. The biggest one of course are the constant changes. He's one of those "do the changes or you won't get paid" types.

    Personally, I'm not too worried about finding other work as once I'm done the jobs for this guy I'll be leaving the business. I make enough with my full time job that I can start spending my evenings with my family.

    On the other hand, my word is everything to me and I basically agreed to write 10 games. So far one is done and at the current rate, I'll be still writing them 2 years from now.

    I'm not sure what to do. My problem is that I suck as a contractor. My products are good, but I'm too nice when it comes to dealing with people and I always get the short stick.

    More opinions are still welcome.

    Thanks.

    John

  5. #5
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    I still have many issues to deal with concerning this client. The biggest one of course are the constant changes. He's one of those "do the changes or you won't get paid" types.
    I've had several clients very similar to this as well in the past. One of the problems that most contractors have when they are first starting out is that they lose control of the project (i.e. the Client is the one dictating all of the rules of the game). One way to maintain the control of the project that you should have is with a contract as everyone else in this post has already stated. To be sure this is the only resource you will have when it comes time to point out to your client that what they want was not in the original agreement.

    Another way to maintain control is with money. The only clients I have had that have tried to screw me over where the ones that I had given a low bid to either "Just to get the work", or because the client said "After this I will have several more projects for you." I have never had a client that appreciated me more because I worked cheap - they figure I'm just that - cheap labor. Whereas if you charge what a project is actually worth you are telling your client that you are a professional, and if he wants the project done to those standards he's going to have to pay for it. Another money issue (as already stated MG315) regards changes - NEVER do anything beyond the scope of the contract without reminding the client that he will be billed an additional amount for the work you do.
    www.electricbluemonkey.com

  6. #6
    default user juxtaflo's Avatar
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    Get your money and terminate the relationship. Someone like that can help you in no way.

  7. #7
    Thanks everyone.

    I've been doing contracts for the last 10 years and have never had problems like I have with this guy. My mistake was being desperate for the money when I first took on the job. My situation has changed a lot since then but unfortunately I have to live with what has happened over the last six months.

    The worst part is, this guy seems to be a master of turning situations in his favour. Just last night he sent me an email stating on how patient he was while I took so long getting the game ready for him. Well if he didn't change the spec every 3 days he would have never had to wait.

    In truth, the game I wrote for him is an amazing piece of work. It is nowhere near what was originally specified and I coming to believe that my clients goals are to have a low quality game quoted, and work in a much better product for the same price.

    I should have listened to my gut when he told me months ago that he mistrusted programmers as some had screwed him in the past.

    Thanks again. I'll be making my decision on what to do later tonight. I'll post an update when I have more info.

    John

  8. #8
    An Inconvenient Serving Size hurricaneone's Avatar
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    Originally posted by juxtaflo
    Get your money and terminate the relationship. Someone like that can help you in no way.
    I second this motion - and this guy wanted you to put together 10 games?

    R i i i i ght.
    Stand by for emergency synapse rerouting

  9. #9
    An Inconvenient Serving Size hurricaneone's Avatar
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    Thinking further about this situation, the whole problem could (with a little lateral thinking on you, the reader's part) be traced back to the reduction of price to close the deal.

    I think that in some cases, a high price instills some sort of respect from a client that may otherwise walk all over a low-price developer who doesn't charge what they are worth, or enough to command the client's respect.
    Stand by for emergency synapse rerouting

  10. #10
    default user juxtaflo's Avatar
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    Hey borngamer, have you ever developed a crossword puzzle? New York Times style?

  11. #11
    Juxto,

    I created a crossword puzzle program about 15 years ago for the Commodore 64. I haven't done anything else with them since.

    As far as Flash games go, I have written the following titles.

    Black Jack (Single Player Tournament)
    Asteroids (Single Player Tournament)
    Halloween Havok (Arcade Platformer)
    Duck Shoot (Arcade Shooter)
    Chess (Multiplayer turn based)

    There isn't a game I don't think I couldn't write, but to be honest I'm trying to get out of the game business all together. I just gave away my entire online game site a couple of weeks ago to my marketing promoter.

    The only contract work I plan on doing from here on out is hospital related development as I have a massive amount of health care related programming experience. I also have enough contacts to get the work when I need it and most jobs pay around $1000 for two evenings worth of work.

    Thanks

    John

  12. #12
    Former Member now elsewhere
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    Hey John, got any light work you need handled?
    I'm unemployed and looking.

    On the original question:

    An experienced friend advised me to specify what kinds of changes and how many of them were covered in the original contract with anything beyond those changes being billed hourly. This gives the client one or two chances to adjust the look or functionality (within limits, say 5 horus of adjustment work each) without paying more.

    In fact, there's an idea. A contract that includes the original work with perhaps the first 20 hours of changes free but an hourly rate for any adjustments beyond that.

    Also, as the others stated above, never give them a fully finished piece until after the check has cleared the bank. You can give them a fully functional sample that needs something on your server to work properly. If they don't pay, take away the file on your server and it shuts the sample down. When they pay they get a functional finished piece that works on it's own.

    NCD
    Last edited by NCD; 07-03-2003 at 01:25 PM.

  13. #13
    I know, I know. I've been doing contract work for so long, and for some reason I didn't follow my own rules when I accepted this job.

    I mostly accepted it because I was at a low point financially plus I was looking to expand my list of finished games. I wrote a full multi-player Chess game including member sign-up screens for a measly $950. It's actually quite embarrassing really.

    Of course, the second game is only quoted at $850 and the changes he just asked for are at least double the effort of the original quote.

    I know I low-balled these jobs big time. Chess should have been $3000+ and Dominoes should have been $2500. But like I said, when I quoted them, I needed the money.

    NCD,

    If you are interested, I have a client who needs 9 games written. The first will be Dominoes. Just be warned, he likes programmers who work for peanuts and who will jump through flaming hoops. He also tends to change his mind on a spec frequently. But if you want the money bad enough, I'll pass your info along when I give him the boot.

    John

  14. #14
    Former Member now elsewhere
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    LOL

    Ummmmm, I'm not hurting that badly yet, thank goodness!

    Although, if you do give him the boot, I wouldn't be adverse to offering him a contract that is fair but doesn't allow the nonsense... but I doubt he'd sign it!

    NCD

  15. #15
    I'm pretty sure I'll be giving him the boot. I'm going to try and hold off until the money he owe's me is safely in my pocket first though.

  16. #16
    I promised I would post the resolution to this situation, so here it is.

    I managed to get paid ok, and ended the contract with my client. I was surprised how easy it actually went. I simply wrote an email explaining the situation and how I was not going to do anymore work, and he sent a response back basically saying "ok, but call me if you change your mind".

    Strange.

    John

  17. #17
    default user juxtaflo's Avatar
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    Fantastic. Glad to hear it worked out.

  18. #18
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    congrats a clean and conclusive ending like that is always good to hear

  19. #19
    Member ghost_flash's Avatar
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    Originally posted by borngamer
    I promised I would post the resolution to this situation, so here it is.

    I managed to get paid ok, and ended the contract with my client. I was surprised how easy it actually went. I simply wrote an email explaining the situation and how I was not going to do anymore work, and he sent a response back basically saying "ok, but call me if you change your mind".

    Strange.

    John
    Change your mind.
    Just put an expiration date in the code, so if he goes past the payment date, a password takes over and the page will be locked until payment is made.

    Clients, no matter how a-holish are not so easy to come by.

    I just lost a good client because his "Friend/Secretary" thought she could do what I was doing and for FREE, so I told him, you get what you pay for.

    Guess what? Nothing has changed in the site,
    and I lost the client. I should have maybe BS'ed around and kept him, but I don't work that way.

    Be honest above all, and don't take any $hit.
    Your livelyhood may take a hit, but you soul will get a bonus.

    :O)
    CHEERS!

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