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View Full Version : Yet another "what would you do" scenario


Simmy
03-07-2008, 10:23 AM
Hello all :)

Just had a 15minute debate/semi-argument with a guy I did some work for last month. He bought an e-machines computer for his daughter, for 50, off one of his mates. However he couldn't get windows 98 to install. So I go over and notice there is an XP COA on the back and suggest installing XP instead as the spec of the machine was actually pretty good. Half way through the install, a BSOD comes up complaining about portcls.dll. I've come across this before and suspect the onboard sound as a problem. So I disable it from the BIOS and the install completes successfully. An hour later, everything is updated, installed and ready to go bar the sound. I said that I think it required a new sound card, so he said he would buy one from Maplin.

Whilst windows was installing on that machine, I also diagnosed another one of his computers which was running slowly. The hard drive was running at 2mb/sec in DMA mode 5, so I replaced the IDE cable and it sprang back into life. So I had fixed two computers in 2.5hours (I only charged him for 2). He paid me my money and I was on my way.

That same evening he phones up and says he can't get the new USB sound card working, so I spend 40minutes on the phone going over things and it sounds as though it's installed properly.

Now to the reason why I think this customer is so peeved. I was recommended to him by his sister who said I charged 30/hour, which is what I charge his sister. However my rate for new customers is 45/hour and I thought I had told him that, but he claims I didn't. So he rants to me about the soundcard and the hourly rate. I apologise for the mix up with the hourly rate and say I thought I had told him, so I went out to him the following morning for free.

The sound card was fine but there were a few options muted in one of the applications he was using. So I was in and out within 3minutes.

A few days later I get a phone call saying windows is crashing as soon as it loads up. After a few checks over the phone, I ask him if he turns his computer off at the wall. He does, so I know the onboard battery is dead and not keeping the BIOS settings. The onboard sound is enabled every time the computer is switched off at the wall, so I tell him that the battery needs replacing.

I get a phone call today and he starts ranting about how he's replaced the battery but it's still crashing. I ask him if he's disabled the onboard sound (like I originally told him to several times), which he hadn't. So he starts saying how he's paid me to do a job and that I should really come back for free and do what I was paid to do.

Now that pissed me off a bit, as he clearly didn't understand the nature of the job. So I spent 15 minutes arguing my side, saying how I didn't supply the computer, I'm under no obligation to get the hardware working, it's his choice to turn the computer off at the wall and that I charge for my time, not a fixed rate. Plus there's no way I could know that problem existed, unless I unrealistically tested every possible scenario on every job, which I told him would effectively double the amount of time I spend on each job. He's a bricklayer and runs his own company and he says he would go back and fix a job for free as it's what he's paid to do.

So I told him to phone me this evening when he's infront of his computer and I will talk him through disabling the onboard sound over the phone. I refuse to go out for free though.

Sorry for the rant and long winded explanation. But what is everyone elses take on this?

RKDus
03-07-2008, 11:00 AM
You did everything exactly right. This kind of situation is one of the real problems that computer tehnicians have. It's not your fault that the BIOS battery was dead and it is unreasonable to expect that you would know that just from installing a sound card. The difficult part is expaining that to the customer without him thinking that you are a bad tech or a chancer.

Bryce W
03-07-2008, 12:25 PM
I was recommended to him by his sister who said I charged 30/hour, which is what I charge his sister. However my rate for new customers is 45/hour and I thought I had told him that, but he claims I didn't.
Did he ASK your rates? Its a two way street. If he didnt ask, too bad.

I hate people who think in absolutes "it either works or it doesnt". I find the best way to explain things to these people is tell them an equivlent in their industry. Since hes a bricklayer I would say something like:

"Lets say I paid you to build me a house out of bricks. Then, a week later I find out that the ground is unstable and there are big cracks up the side of the house, damaging most of the bricks.

Now, I paid you to build my house out of bricks, and now they are all damaged. Since you built the house you should replace all of the damage bricks... for free"

Any other trade would scoff at this. So they'll get what you mean.

Nathan H
03-07-2008, 12:36 PM
Peronally I would have charged him for the 40mins i spent on the phone.

as you did not supply the part and he decided not to get the part from you but to get it himself, your under no obligation to do anything.

Also I would have charged him for 3 hours, (My charges are per hour or part thereof)

You know the old saying give him an inch and he'll take a yard!

I would not have gone out for free, (I would have offered to look at it for fee back at my place - no out lay)
A 3 min job in the shop I would do for free, but 3 mins at his place, - Chargeable, (3 Min job, Travel Time there and back, Fuel costs, wear & Tear on the vehicle: your 3 min job has cst more than that)

As for the difference in rates, a trickey one but if his sister was a customer from a while ago, you could mention an increase in outgoings, such as the huge rise in electric rates.

or if you wanted to get sarcastic, the bank charges people differents rates for a 5k loan, so do we .......... (I could just imagine his face ROLF...)

Basically the bottom line is, your in business to make money, not friends, Please don't get me wrong, friends are nice, but they don't pay the bills or put food on the table.

Simmy
03-07-2008, 07:32 PM
Thanks for the replies guys. The most annoying part is trying to get the customer to see it my way. I do alot of work for the rest of his family (his mother and 2 sisters) so I don't want to ruin that, as they're a lovely family. If it wasn't for the rest of his family, I really wouldn't care.

I'm raring to go for round two when he calls me this evening.

MrMille
03-07-2008, 09:18 PM
So I had fixed two computers in 2.5hours (I only charged him for 2). He paid me my money and I was on my way.
You should have charged for 2.5 hours. Only reduce if it's off-site (your office) and straight forward work.


That same evening he phones up and says he can't get the new USB sound card working, so I spend 40minutes on the phone going over things and it sounds as though it's installed properly.
This is NOT your problem. You should have charged him for the 40 minutes.

Rate for new customers is 45/hour and I thought I had told him that, but he claims I didn't.
You aren't the first and you won't be the last to give a discounted hourly rate to regulars. He ASS-umed that he would get the discounted repeat customer rate. That's his problem.

I apologise for the mix up with the hourly rate and say I thought I had told him, so I went out to him the following morning for free.
Mistake. You have made no mistake, and your second mistake is working for free.


The sound card was fine but there were a few options muted in one of the applications he was using. So I was in and out within 3minutes.
Plus 15 mins to get there, 15 mins to get back, petrol, and wear and tear on your transport.


A few days later I get a phone call saying windows is crashing as soon as it loads up.
This is your *first* and only reason for you to be still working on this box.

After a few checks over the phone, I ask him if he turns his computer off at the wall. He does, so I know the onboard battery is dead and not keeping the BIOS settings. The onboard sound is enabled every time the computer is switched off at the wall, so I tell him that the battery needs replacing.

I get a phone call today and he starts ranting about how he's replaced the battery but it's still crashing.
At this point, you should explain that ranting will result in a hang-up. You do *not* have to tolerate abusive calls.

I ask him if he's disabled the onboard sound (like I originally told him to several times), which he hadn't. So he starts saying how he's paid me to do a job and that I should really come back for free and do what I was paid to do.
You successfully installed the OS, all other issues after that (due to a bad pre-existing BIOS battery are his problems. He can pay you to fix them, but he can not demand you do an on-site for free.


I agree with Bryces summation of the cracked foundations and damaged bricks.

Simmy
03-07-2008, 09:50 PM
I agree with Bryces summation of the cracked foundations and damaged bricks.

He used this argument earlier this morning infact. He claims that it's upto him to determine what work needs doing before carrying it out, so if the brickwork did get damaged he would go out and repair it for free. Sounds like BS to me, but I can't exactly say "no you wouldn't".

He then had the cheek to say "At 45/hour you'd only have to work 10hours a week and you'd be done. I bet that's not bad is it!". I get the impression he resents me for not doing "hard work" like he does. He commented on it the very first time I went round aswell by saying "Bloody ell, is this all you do, sit and watch a screen flash all day". Errr no...it's a bit more complicated than that!

Right, I'm going to stop thinking about it now as it's driving me crazy :p

Jory
03-07-2008, 11:22 PM
A customer belittling your knowledge, profession, or rate is automatically a major red flag. Never under any circumstances you should stand for that. People are paying you a premium rate for your expertise. If they don't respect that then they probably don't respect you. You'll have problems with them sooner rather than later and they'll always be more trouble than they're worth.

I can understand wanting to please him since the rest of his family are good customers, but you have to ask yourself whether you'd think so much of those people if they treated you the same way he did. Besides, those family members probably already know he's a handful to deal with.

It sounds like you handled it well even though you're giving up some time. After you fix his problem explain to him in the future you will charge for extra work like this and you're only giving him a break this time because you like his family and there was a misunderstanding with the rates. Everyone is happy and he knows you won't tolerate any shenanigans with future work.

Bryce W
03-08-2008, 02:04 AM
He then had the cheek to say "At 45/hour you'd only have to work 10hours a week and you'd be done. I bet that's not bad is it!". I get the impression he resents me for not doing "hard work" like he does. He commented on it the very first time I went round aswell by saying "Bloody ell, is this all you do, sit and watch a screen flash all day". Errr no...it's a bit more complicated than that!
Ive had that as well. I usually say:

"well, actually, there are alot of things that employers automatically pay on top of your wage. Lets say you pocket $20 an hour, your employer is probably really paying out $30 as its going into superannuation, health care, sick pay, holiday pay etc..

However, I have to pay for all of that myself. I need to pay for my own business insurance, business rent, my own accounting, superannuation, lawyers, signage, sick pay, holiday pay etc.. So at the end of the day Im not pocketing much."

For this client, look for the quickest way to drop him.

As Jory above me said, he doesnt respect you and will cause problems.

JohnG
03-08-2008, 03:29 PM
Nice example of "You can't please everyone all the time." If you were to get another call from this guy...I would say its time to refer him to a competitor, perhaps of the "big box" kind. ;)

stoobee
03-17-2008, 12:42 AM
Thanks for the replies guys. The most annoying part is trying to get the customer to see it my way. I do alot of work for the rest of his family (his mother and 2 sisters) so I don't want to ruin that, as they're a lovely family. If it wasn't for the rest of his family, I really wouldn't care.

I'm raring to go for round two when he calls me this evening.

It is very difficult to replace a tire on a car and attempt to let the owner know that the tire had nothing to do with the radiator hose busting, even upon being told the radiator hose was fine before you replaced the tire. Only with a contract and a courtroom will you ever win in a heated debate over "he said, she said" arguments.

Since these types of situations do not occur regularly, and in order to stay on good terms with a "lovely family", I would do that one job as a favor---without charging him for your time while he must pay for parts (The family will observe your kindness---as will he). I would avoid any additional repairs with him since you already know the outcome when things do not go his way.