Clients from Hell is a collection of anonymous, user-submitted stories about dealing with difficult, obnoxious, or simply weird clients. While it might sound a little mean spirited, it’s put together in such a way to be fun without pointing fingers. It also helps that it’s generally pretty hilarious. Clients from Hell is popular because we all have stress in our jobs and need a way to laugh at it instead of letting it bug us. I think of it as a sort of shared catharsis.
With that said, there are a couple things about some of the submissions that bug me. For instance, a lot of posts feature professionals acting like anything but a professional, with sarcastic responses that should end up losing them work. For instance:
From this exchange it’s pretty easy to parse out what the client was saying: “I want a significant change, so much so that we’re almost back to where we started, but not quite”. It’s a bit inelegantly stated, sure, but it’s not at all difficult to understand. The professional’s response? To latch onto the metaphor instead of the spirit of what the client was saying, and belittling his employer in the process.
Don’t get me wrong, we’ve all been in a situation where we’d like to respond like this designer, but we don’t because it’s a surefire way to strain the relationship with our client, or possible break it altogether.
Another issue I have is with stories that make fun of clients because they don’t know something, use a term incorrectly, or are generally not up to speed on the latest trends. One thing I’ll never quite understand is getting angry with customers for not being an expert in what they’re paying you to do. After all, you’re being contracted for your knowledge and experience. That client sought you out because they need someone specializing in the area to handle some work. If they already knew this stuff, they’d just do it themselves.
There is also somewhat of a suggestion that, because the client is ignorant in a particular field, that they are stupid, which is patently ludicrous. We live in a highly specialized society where no one can reasonably be expected to be well versed in every aspect of their business. From marketing to finance to logistics, there are a lot of things that go into running a successful business. Sometimes you need to bring in people with specific knowledge in a field.Put another way, you wouldn’t go to a dermatologist if you were having chest pains, but that doesn’t make that dermatologist any less a doctor.
What I’m getting at is that there’s a fundamental difference between having a laugh at a ridiculous situation, and belittling a client. Too much of the latter and Clients from Hell goes from being a fun site full of silly stories, to a place that gives professionals a bad name.