# Customers drive me nuts!

1. Nov 26, 2007

### Ivan Seeking

Staff Emeritus
I just got a call from this guy who whines and whines and whines. He is a small oem that I did a job for about seven years ago. Back then he had bought twenty-year old equipment [industrial controllers] from an HP sale and then expected it to work like the new technology. Of course this only hurts him in the end because in this business you either pay for it in hardware, programming, or other integration needs, but there are no free rides. But, being that he had his entire life's savings riding on this venture, I personally ate a good bit of time because I was trying to help him out. But does he appreciate a minute of it? Of course not!

He just took a power surge that damaged some equipment. Now he has the nerve to complain that he can't download the program without the required proprietary software, and he has decided that this is my fault. :rofl::rofl::rofl: The fact that he couldn't afford to buy the software back then seems to elude him. I finally just told him that if all of my customers were like him, I'd be out of business. I've told him before that he got the work for half of what it should have cost but he always seems to forget that part.

One of the lessons that I've learned over the years is that the little guys are often more of a pain in the butt than they're worth. They will try to nickel and dime you to death no matter how much you have tried to help them.

Last edited: Nov 26, 2007
2. Nov 26, 2007

### Staff: Mentor

Oh definitely. The best thing one of my old bosses taught me was when to walk away from a sale. He'd tell me "if this guy is giving you this much grief before he signs the contract, just think of what you'll have to deal with later".

Recently my company sent letters to chronic complainers stating "after a thorough review of your records, it appears that there is nothing we can do to make you happy, so we have zeroed out the amount you owe us and we'll even waive your termination penalties, you have 30 days to find the company of your choice before we cut your service off.

I got so many calls from clients applauding us for killing off the deadbeats.

3. Nov 26, 2007

### Moonbear

Staff Emeritus
Ivan, does that customer call you about the same time every year? I swear I've heard this story before.

:rofl: Wow, that takes some moxy! But, it makes sense. After a while, the time and effort to please someone costs more than just dropping them as a client.

4. Nov 26, 2007

### Ivan Seeking

Staff Emeritus
Yep, I've heard about what your company is doing and I think it's great!!! I saw some of the complaint histories that motivated this move, and the bottom line is that some people are impossible to please. When I saw your story reported, it was also reported that some retail stores are banning customers based on their returned items rate.

Last edited: Nov 26, 2007
5. Nov 26, 2007

### Ivan Seeking

Staff Emeritus
Heh, I might have posted something similar the last time he called to whine...

6. Nov 26, 2007

### wolram

My company is different, we have hero bosses who go out and buy second hand plant cheap, 9 times out of 10 it ends up at the farm or the holding scrap yard, just in case there is some part worth salvaging (there never is), and now they are quibbling at the amount of overtime we work,

7. Nov 27, 2007

### FredGarvin

That is awesome. I can't believe someone finally had the guts to do that in this day and age. Bravo.

Ivan, I bet the guy that keeps bugging you also expects free technical assistance every time he can't get something to work right?

8. Nov 27, 2007

### BobG

I learned about cheap customers when I was in high school.

I took care of our front lawn because I had to - plus, once you start to get into it and start to see some of the effort pay off it was kind of fulfilling. We had a nice looking lawn.

Nice enough that when people saw me mowing the front lawn they'd ask if I was interested in mowing their lawn. They'd pay me $3 -$5 dollars for around 30 - 60 minutes worth of mowing and then complain because their lawn still looked nothing like our lawn. There's a heck of a lot more to making a lawn look nice than just mowing it. (Enough work that I really wasn't interested in taking on entire landscaping jobs for other people although a couple twins I knew went that route. Their business grew so fast they wound up having to hire a lawyer to do their contracts before they'd even graduated high school.)

9. Nov 27, 2007

### turbo

Years back, I had a client (large trucking company) for which I had written custom accounting software and custom state fuel tax programs to track pro-rated fuel tax refunds in states that do that kind of thing, and I started getting trouble calls from the head bookkeeper telling me that my programs were crashing. I'd make the run down to their place and try to troubleshoot the problem only to find that everything was working well. Finally, after visiting every couple of days or so over the next couple of weeks (the frantic phone calls were getting pretty tedious), I happened to be in the office when lights dimmed briefly, and the bookkeeper said "There! It crashed again!" I contacted the power company, and they sent out a guy to hook up a data-logger on the meter. The next day, he came out again and identified a number of large voltage drops that had happened the previous day. The heavy-equipment shop across the street was on the same transformer as the trucking office, and they had installed some new equipment that had pretty heavy current draws when in use. The power company installed a new separate transformer that afternoon, and miraculously, my programs stopped crashing. That company had been a pretty good client, but as soon as problems cropped up, they blamed them on my programming (which had operated flawlessly for months) and held my feet to the fire. Since they were a prime reference and I had gotten lots of other work based on their recommendations, I couldn't just leave them hanging, but they sure knocked a big hole in my productivity for a few weeks.

10. Nov 27, 2007

### Ivan Seeking

Staff Emeritus
It gets better than that. He tries to use old buddies to do the work, and then they call me asking for free help.

The only reason that it has gone on this long is that he and his wife are very nice people. As people they are absolutely wonderful. As customers, they could be the death of a company like mine.

11. Nov 27, 2007

### Ivan Seeking

Staff Emeritus
This is common in my world as well. Whenever there is a problem, the first thing people blame is the black box. They overlook little issues like the inside of a 480 volt control cabinet being pressure washed!

12. Nov 27, 2007

### turbo

Yep! "Little issues" indeed. When I was selling dryer felts (woven synthetic fabrics that support the running sheet of paper around huge steam-filled steel cylinders for drying) I got a call from a paper machine superintendent saying that one of my company's felts was causing an entire dryer section to shake and vibrate, causing sheet breaks. I knew that was bogus, but headed right over since they were going into a shut-down and I didn't want them to cut off a \$30,000 fabric for no reason. I looked the dryer section all over and couldn't find anything out off the ordinary, and the head of maintenance showed me printouts of their vibrational analysis that "proved" that the felt was causing the vibration. I convinced the superintendent to start up that one section of the paper machine, and sure enough, the whole dryer section shuddered every time the seam of the felt got to the guide roll on the top of the section. I pointed out to the maintenance manager that since the guide roll was supported by air-bags, it was the most poorly-coupled roll in the whole section, but he was still convinced by his printouts. I walked around to the back of the dryer section and started listening to the machinery, using my flashlight as a stethoscope, and sure enough, there was heavy clunking accompanying the shuddering. I told the operator to shut down the section immediately, got the superintendent and the maintenance manager together and asked if the bull gears in that dryer section were helical-cut or straight. the maintenance manager said they were helical, and I nodded and told him that the retaining nut on the primary bull gear had come loose and that as the speed controller tried to slow or speed up the dyer section, that big bull gear was sliding back and forth axially on its shaft, being driven by the smaller gears that it was meshed with. They opened the inspection covers and found that that indeed was the case. It cost them a couple of days of extra production while they got a new bull gear in and replaced other damaged gears, but that was far cheaper than the huge smash-up that would have occurred eventually.

Now, anybody who is an engineer should have known that a fabric weighing several hundred hundred pounds running over and around rolls and steam drums in the sheet-flow-direction does not have the capability to couple to a huge iron-framed machine section weighing many hundreds of tons and shake it violently from side to side in the axial direction. They believed a coincidental timing turned up by their vibration-analysis equipment and tossed common sense out the window. I can't tell you how many times paper-mill staff with poor trouble-shooting skills wasted my time like that.

Last edited: Nov 27, 2007
13. Nov 27, 2007

### DaveC426913

Yep. The small guys can nickel & dime you. It doesn't help that you know that, if you don't, they might go under. And it really doesn't help when they're likeable.

I had a software app that the boss' friend had his life savings resting on. But the scope of what we knew he needed was way larger than his grasp. And the project would come back and haunt us every time he needed to put it in front of another potential investor.

14. Nov 27, 2007

### K.J.Healey

I used to feel bad working in private tech support for individuals that had no computer skills at all.
This one guy (75yr old man) wanted me to back up some of his files and reformat his computer for him. So I came over, backed up everything I saw that was important. Asked him if there were any pictures, documents or anything hidden that he might need. He showed me one directory and I grabbed it. I had him go through TWICE to let me know what he wanted backed up before I formatted. I thought I had everything.

After the formatting is complete, everything reinstalled, he installs some email program that came with the system (never seen it before) and says "What happened to all the emails from my grandchildren?"

Talk about a torn heart between feeling bad for losing a guys memories and anger from being put in a position when all he had to do was say "oh yeah, theres this program that stores my old emails for me".

At least he tried to hook me up with his attractive neighbor :)

15. Nov 27, 2007

### ShawnD

Sounds a lot like "the wind pushed my car into the ditch", ignoring the fact that they were driving 60mph on an icy road.

16. Nov 27, 2007

### turbo

At the very least, they were stretching cause and effect to its limit, looking for a scapegoat for what was obviously a serious mechanical problem. To abuse your car analogy, their "analysis" was on a par with observing that their engine threw a rod at the exact same time they turned their windshield wipers on, and their response was "Darn wiper blades! Gotta get new ones!"

17. Feb 28, 2008

### Ivan Seeking

Staff Emeritus
The saga continues: After doinking around with Jim-bob's machine design for two months, he came back with a still failed unit and many more thousands of dollars out of pocket. So now the situation is desperate and he dumps the whole thing on me. Unfortunately, I've had his system here for testing and it turned out that all of the hardware [controls, servo's, etc] was damaged by the power hit.

So I have this guy constantly reminding me that his entire financial future rests on this system. He has been having chest pains - already been to the ER once - and now he's out of money [this includes his retirement money] and inventory and is losing orders. But I think we about have him ready to go again. Today he is getting the servos and at that point he should be ready to rock and roll. But here's the worst part of all: Now that I have a better understanding of his business I have come to realize that he is absolutely insane. He is making nickel and dime widgets for a very limited market - nuts!!! [He will have to sell about 170,000 widgets just to pay my bill!] It is about the saddest situation I've ever encountered in manufacturing and I don't have the heart to just walk away...and I've never worked with anyone who is so helpless. He is absolutely incapable of understanding any of what's going on.

Last edited: Feb 28, 2008
18. Feb 28, 2008

### david90

what is he selling?

19. Feb 28, 2008

### Art

Why not ask for some equity in his business in payment? If you had a vested interest perhaps you could help redirect him in a more profitable direction.

20. Feb 28, 2008

### lisab

Staff Emeritus
Ugh, sounds like you're in a tough spot.

When you say "insane," do you mean he has real mental health issues, or is he just insanely bad at business? (Well, I think it's a given that he's bad at business!) Does he have any assistants, or family members working there you might talk to?