Clients from Hell

Submit your story
August 10, 2014

In the mid 1990s, I was writing the documentation for a client that developed touch-screen technology for the food service industry. I had submitted a draft of the user guide for review. A week later, I sat in the client’s meeting with the heads of various departments and prepared to receive their comments.

Project Lead: I didn’t have time to review it, so I gave it to the head of marketing.

Marketing Lead: Reviewing the Guide wasn’t really our job, so we gave it to the head of QA. 

QA Lead: We didn’t have time to review it, so we gave it to the programmer.

Programmer: I’m too busy with coding to be reading the guide, so I gave it to the Project Leader.

Embarrassed, the Project Leader turned to me and said “We’re very sorry for wasting your time. Charge us for the whole day and give us another week.

One week later, I returned to their meeting room and all the same people were there, except they looked really angry. Apprehensively, I awaited their feedback.

Project Lead: I’ve been hearing horrible things about this guide, so I’m going to let Marketing have their first crack at listing the problems.

Marketing: Reviewing the guide is still not our job, so I don’t know why you even asked us again! We gave it to QA because finding bugs is their job!

QA Lead: Our job is to test the application, not find typos! We’re already overloaded without having to read the guide! We gave it to the programmer. He’s the one who should know if the guide is correct or not!

Programmer: This guide is useless and a piece of crap!

Project Lead: So you did review it this time?

Programmer: Well… no. But I showed it to my mother and she hated it.

August 01, 2014

The client asked me to add headshots of their board of directors to their website.

Me: The headshots are poor quality. They are too low res to use on a professional site.

Client: Are you sure? They are from a high res photo.

Me: What do you mean they are from a high res photo? They are very small files and are very pixilated. Do you have the original high res photos?
The client sends over a high res photo featuring a group shot of the board of directors.

Client: We cropped the headshots from this high res photo we took at our last meeting. They are definitely high res.

Me: The original photo was high res, yes. But when you crop it down to a hundred pixels or so, it can hardly be considered “high res.”

Client: That doesn’t make any sense. They came from a high res photo. 

July 22, 2014

So last week I tried using a language analogy for a client’s project. The project manager said the project was straight HTML/CSS when in fact it was C++.

To help him understand the problem I used this analogy: “Let’s say you’re asking me to write something in a specific language, I am fluent in English and Spanish. Meanwhile, your project is in Chinese. Since I don’t know Chinese and it is not remotely similar to any of the languages I know, I am not your best option for this project. You need someone who is fluent in this specific language for the project to be successful and stay on budget.”

He said he understood and thanked me for my time.

This morning I received an IM from another developer asking: “Why is ‘so and so’ asking us if we are fluent in Chinese?”

July 21, 2014

Client: I threw out that black pen, it was out of ink.

Me: What black pen?

Client: The one that was lying on your tablet.

Me: You threw out my $150 Wacom pen?

Client: I tried writing with it and it didn’t work. It must’ve been out of ink.

July 18, 2014

19th Century Clients from Hell

Charles Babbage received funds from the English Treasury between 1823 to 1842 to build his engine. Today, we would know that engine to be more akin to a mechanical computer.

Babbage recorded his interactions with two members of parliament. It went as follows:

On two occasions I have been asked,—

“Pray, Mr. Babbage, if you put into the machine wrong figures, will the right answers come out?”

I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question.

July 13, 2014

Client: These drawings you sent me are all screwed up. This is an abomination and you should be ashamed.

Me: What’s wrong with them, exactly?

Client: Everything.

After a lot of back and forth, I figure out the issue.

Me: I think I understand. The drawings you are having issue with were ordered and shipped last month.

Client: Correct.

Me: And the issue is that you are missing a bunch of drawings from the set?

Client: Yes.

Me: And the drawings you are missing were sent to me, by you, yesterday?

Client: Correct.

I can tell it’s not quite sinking in.

Me: So, you ordered and got drawings last month.

Client: Yes.

Me: Then, yesterday, you sent me new drawings.

Client: Yes.

Me: That you wanted in the set I sent you last month.

Client: Yes. What aren’t you understanding!?

Needless to say, I now make that client put all his orders in writing before he signs off.

July 09, 2014

Me: I think it’s not a good idea to design such a complicated registration form for a mobile website. Wouldn’t a username and password be enough? The more obstacles or steps you give your users, the fewer that will sign up.

Client: See, that’s exactly what the PDF link is for. Users can download instructions that detail how to fill in the form.

July 04, 2014
"Is there a way to view the HTML without seeing all the coding?"
July 03, 2014

I’ve been editing short videos for a client and uploading them to YouTube so that I don’t have to burn a DVD for each iteration. After finishing a near-final cut…

Client: This is a disaster! The audio is echoing!

I double-check both the original and the uploaded version. Both are fine.

Me: I’m not sure why that could be. All the audio files are on one channel with no duplicates. Let me re-render/upload and see if it was just a simple computer glitch.

I send the new cut.

Client: The audio keeps repeating! And it doesn’t stop when I hit pause! It just cuts the echo out.

Me: Wait a second, are you double-clicking?

Client: What does that have to do with anything?

Me: I mean, are you double-clicking and opening up the page more than once? That would cause it to “echo.”

Client: Forget it, I fixed the problem. 

June 29, 2014

Client: Three things. First of all, I approve it.

Me: Great!

Client: Second, we’re good to go to print.

Me: Fantastic! I’ll send it to the printers now. What was the third thing?

Client: I wanted to talk about the quantities here and the font here.