I’m a freelance IT Specialist and sometimes I do house calls. A good client of mine asked me to help a colleague of his setting up a couple of things on his computer. It was implied his colleague didn’t have too much money to spend. I offered him a low, fixed rate. Plus this new client lived in my neighborhood so I figured it was okay.
We arranged the visit by email and agreed on how much exactly it was going to cost him. I had to update a couple of drivers and install a program and set them up. At one point I had to move his laptop about 2 inches so I could plug in my USB drive. When I did this, the screen started flickering and flashing.
Client: Oh yeah I dropped this computer a couple of weeks ago during my last trip. Just wiggle it a little and it’ll go away.
Me: You’ve obviously got a very loose internal display connection and it’s going to cause a lot of trouble if you don’t get it fixed.
I finished the job.
Client: I don’t have any change to pay you.
Me: We agreed on the price two days ago. You couldn’t get exact change?
The worst part was I was charging twenty dollars but he only had fifty dollar bills. I checked my wallet and counted all my change: twenty-nine dollars.
Me: I could give you twenty-nine dollars as change. Maybe you can just give me a one dollar tip?
Client: Just walk with me two doors down. There’s a store there. I’ll break my hundred.
He took literally 10 minutes to find his shoes. I walk with him – the store wasn’t “two doors down,” it was a few blocks away and also closed.
Client: Let’s just keep walking there’s a bakery around the corner.
There was no bakery around the corner, it was another 5 blocks. We get to the bakery and they didn’t want to break his 50 dollar bill if he didn’t buy anything.
We went to two other stores and finally, he got the change to pay me the 20 dollars he more than owed me by now.
I thought I’d never hear from him again, but after a few weeks he emailed me:
Client: You need to come back. Whatever you did means the screen is flickering every ten minutes and now I can’t do any work.
Me: That’s a hardware problem. All I did was change some program settings. They wouldn’t create that problem. Remember you said you dropped it? That’s the cause of that.
Client: Look, if you’re a professional you’ll come and fix what you did.
Me: If you want me to undo what I did to your settings I can do that, but it has nothing to do with your hardware problem and I’d have to charge you for my time.
He didn’t take me up on this, instead opting to tell his contacts that I’m “not a professional” and that I “broke his computer and refused to fix it.
Later I would learn this client was actually a freelancer himself, a successful journalist working for some of the biggest news networks in Europe, and he wasn’t broke – he was just extremely cheap.