Most clients are pleasant and easy to work with. But there are some who will be a straight-up pain in the ass.
You know the type: They’re unreasonable, expect the impossible right away, and aren’t willing to pay a fair price.
Fortunately, you can save yourself a lot of grief by identifying these clients early on, and deciding whether to turn them away or take precautions to ensure they don’t drive you nuts.
Here are some telltale signs of pain-in-the-ass clients:
1. They complain about another shop’s work
If the previous work was shoddy, it’s totally understandable. But if the job looks good to you, then chances are you’re dealing with a client who can’t be satisfied.
No matter how well you execute the project, he’s going to find something to complain about — and might even leave you a bad online review.
2. They boast about bringing you lots of future work
How many times have you heard this b.s. line? “I have a full restoration project coming up. Give me a good price now and I’ll bring it to you.”
Spoiler alert: He’s not bringing you more work. He’s trying to scam a discount. Don’t fall for it. Charge him your regular rate.
3. They want to barter services
Nine times out of 10, this client will offer to seal coat your driveway or silver coat your roof.
Avoid bartering like the plague. It’s a hassle and chances are one of you will feel like he got screwed. Bartering should be reserved for only those with whom you have a long and trusted relationship.
4. They offer to do half the work to save money
This isn’t always bad. For example, if a client pulls his headliner board out and brings it to me to cover before he reinstalls it, I’m more than happy to oblige.
But if he’s wanting to disassemble a convertible top, I pass. After all, there’s no telling what hardware he might break or lose in the process.
5. They insist you can keep the car for as long as you want
On the surface, this sounds like a good thing. But it can also be a trap, as some classic car owners are looking for free storage for their vehicles.
To avoid this problem, tell customers that vehicles need to be picked up within 10 days of completion. Otherwise you could be stuck storing a car that’s taking up valuable space in your garage.
Did we miss any? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
Fred Mattson says
After doing the research for parts and giving a detailed estimate, a customer wanted to know if I could “Sharpen my pencil”. He then counter offered to give me half of the materials deposit I requested for his project.
I told him that I was worth every penny and more for the work I was going to do and what an insult it was for him to even think of asking for me to “Sharpen my pencil”.
I then told him I would not work on his project at any cost. He then begged me to reconsider and I just turned and walked away with no regrets.
Excellent article. It is as important to know “who your customer isn’t” as “who your customer is”. Time IS money. @Fred love your response to the “sharpen your pencil” buzzword request. Im down to negotiate (most times) but it needs to be done tactfully and respectfully on both sides.
Sorry bud, using a pen. Bye bye now!
Steve cossette says
Any agreement made between a customer and business needs to be good for both sides. If it’s one sided there will be problems
Edward Munday says
My dad God rest his soul drove out to a Lake Hickory House in our big town to give a boat seat estimate. The owner came out and said Ed (my dad’s name was on his uniform ) look out tere, this is the kind of …. I have to put up with all day long. My dad looked in the direction that man was pointing and saw two fishermen drinking a beer and laughing. My dad thought to himself that could be me out there on the weekend. He told the fellow he couldn’t do the job after he seen the boat that we were booked up on boat work for the summer.
Cody Lunning says
Great everything you just wrote about is the customer who’s bringing stuff in next week… lol
Don Franzini says
They want and agree to a cash price and then bring a credit card
Rodney Bean says
After 30 years some people sill try that stuff. but I make it a game .a game I make the rules and own the ball .if I dont think I can make the customer happy ,you probably cant .so you explain more and wright what your doing and how much .you get the job.custmer gets knows what they are getting.
Roy Perkins says
These customers always want the price upfront on custom jobs and soon as you agree on a price start adding stuff on they will do this throughout the whole job and then when you’re done
They will have exact change to what you agreed on no matter how many things they added on whether it be tax shipping on something they had to have the next day or something seen it too many times
Sarah Stubbs says
I’ve started spotting stinkers by the vocabulary they use in voicemail or email. Mainly “just” a “simple” recovering. “Cheaper/cheapest” materials requested.
The all knowing clients that already have their foam, fabric and notions from Joann’s. They could “DIY it” “so easy” but in a “rush”
They weed themselves out these days!
When a customer tells me it is a simple job. I tell them why don’t you do it then. 10/10 they want a low ball offer. Or when they want a written estimate for Uber/Lyft repair quote 10/10 they will never do it with you. They will use your estimate submit it to the company. Then go with Juancho down the street.
Richard Tice says
For the longest time, I fell for all those ploys. Eventually, I learned and stood up to them. Now, as I’m scaling back, with no need to have every customer that comes to me, I see how quickly people drop their scam when they realize its not getting them anywhere and I realize that I could have saved myself a lot of grief if I had the confidence to be ready to walk away years ago. Maybe a young person can benefit from these words.
Ed Wolford says
The trump supporter customer s buy from Walmart and don’t complain about prices but to a small business owner they insult and demand you have to give them a break because their pathetic lives suck
What the hell do you mean by “Trump supporter”?? There is no room here for politics, make assumptions you can’t back up.
Ed Wolford says
The worst ones say they don’t care if the material matches or it’s a cheap car and they don’t want to put a lot of money in it
wayne munro says
Or just make it look good because I’m going to sell it. Three years later you see them still driving it.
Bob Stephens says
Another great way to deal with customers wanting to upgrade after getting price is deal like home builders; bring out a change order sheet & agree on new changes & price.