Ooh, I’m a Website Terrorist!

April 24th, 2007 at 6:10 pm by Mark
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     Last week, I inherited a website maintenance customer from a partner company.  After getting everything working on Wednesday afternoon with the Indexer team, I sat back and waiting until the next time they’d call.

     On Thursday, I was forwarded an e-mail saying there was an additional issue with their site.  I looked at the file dates, and of course, one of the files in their e-Commerce software had been modified at 9:03AM on 19-Apr-2007.  I rebuilt the file, inserted the requisite variables, and called the customer.
     “No, I haven’t been in it,” he said.  “I just got this stuff yesterday.”
     Clearly, someone had.  The site worked perfectly fine when I left it on Wednesday.  Regardless, I took his explanation, and asked that he setup an account with us.
     “No, all this stuff should be part of the Setup,” he monotoned.  “My wife does all of the billing, anyway.”  Eventually, he promised to have her called me on Friday, 20-Apr-2007.

     Friday came and went without a phone call.

     Monday came, and there were new issues.  At 3:30PM, interns at the company called me to tell me that they were unable to login to the website’s backend yet again.
     Investigation showed that files had been changed at 2:30PM, an hour before they called.  I told them I would call them back, made the required changes, and got it all up and running again.

     The first intern I talked to didn’t know anything about setting up an account with us, but would pass me onto the person who did that.
     Of course, the second intern didn’t know anything about setting up an account with us, but would pass me onto the owner.  “Oh, she’s not in, but I’ll have her call you back tomorrow!”

     Today … I never received a call from them.  I called the company again, attempted to speak to the owner, and was told, “Oh, I’m sorry she didn’t call you back.  But she doesn’t know you, and isn’t comfortable setting up an account when she doesn’t know what it’s for.”
     “It’s for fixing your website,” I explained.  “I’ve been trying to get hold of her since last week.”
     “No, really?  You didn’t talk to anyone here,” she said in a sarcastic tone.
     “No, I spoke with your sysadmin, her husband, last Thursday,” I explained.  “We need to get this situation resolved.  I need to speak with her, and get this straightened out.”
     “Well, what is it that you do?” she asked.
     “Well, you call us for help, we fix it.  Like when you called me yesterday,” I explained.
     “Well, she doesn’t know you, and, uhh, we might not use you anyway.”
     “That’s a bit rough,” I said firmly.  “You’re leaving me in a position where my only recourse is to revert the fixes I’ve made and leave you with it.  I don’t want to have to do that…”
     “Well, okay, I’ll call her right now,” she agreed.

     An hour later, I get a call from my partner company.
     “Mark, she’s going off that you’re making terrorist threats against her website!”
     “Man, I’m still trying to get hold of her.  Her intern said she wouldn’t call me because they don’t know me.”
     “That’s ridiculous … I sent them the e-mail last week!” he exclaimed.
     “Yeah, and it’s their sysadmin’s position that if they break anything on the site right now, that they’ve already paid for it with setup,” I explained.  “But he’s going to have his wife call me, only, she won’t talk to me, because she doesn’t know me.”
     “Well, she said she’s not going to do business with any company that starts making terroristic threats against her website.”
     “Maybe you should give her the number for Homeland Security,” I told him.

     We had a bit of a laugh at the nonsense of the situation.

     Nobody can fault me on my Customer Service skills.  For that matter, no one can say I’ve ever been unfair when issues like these have arisen.

     This is simply a client who’s attempting to get out of paying their bill.  A previous maintenance company allowed them to pay with barter dollars, so I’m guessing they’re a bit miffed at having to come up with cash or a credit card to for the service.

     Some customers nobody needs.

     But in the meantime — I’m a website terrorist!  *thumbs up*

     Should I start wearing a turban?

Stock Photos

14 Responses to “Ooh, I’m a Website Terrorist!”

  1. Mushy Says:

    Oh that sounds so very familiar…I’m so glad I’m out of the communications business. Everyone wants you, but no one appreciates you!

  2. Zacque Says:

    Yeah I had call a similar call this week about a wedding. I was scoffed at and told I can’t believe that you chrage that much for a wedding its a bit high… (Which by that way is total crap for a decently recorded show… She just hasn’t shopped around enough.) Oh well…

    On the other hand if you decide to start wearing a turban you need to let me photograph it… 😉

  3. Hammer Says:

    A humorous story indeed and it sounds like you’ve been very patient, however, any attorney would be able to easily prove that you were at fault if you did indeed revert fixes you’d already made, whether you ever got paid or not. Terrorism might be a strong word for it, but threatening to undo something you’ve already done probably wasn’t the best move.

  4. Mark Says:

    First, that clearly was not a threat. Secondly, no attorney would be able to prove any such thing — I have the original backups prior to the changes I made, and there is log evidence to prove my point that things were being changed after my initial fixes. Clearly, the customer made those changes, so my reverting the site to those changes (a non-working state) would be what said customer wanted. 😉

  5. Hammer Says:

    “You’re leaving me in a position where my only recourse is to revert the fixes I’ve made and leave you with it. I don’t want to have to do that…”

    The above quote is clearly a threat and does indicate that you will change the ‘fixes’ you made. If you ‘fixed’ something and then threaten to remove that fix for non payment, you are holding the website hostage. That is just as illegal as a contractor returning to your house and removing the plumbing he installed for non payment. Whether he felt justified or not, he has no legal right to enter the home, just as you would have no legal right to access a client’s server and make changes without their permission.

    Don’t believe me though. I only play an attorney for fun.

  6. Mark Says:

    That’s fine that you play attorney for fun. The problem is that I didn’t say I was going to do that. I said that I was being put in that position, and didn’t want to be there. You’re also missing the point, given your analogy, that the customer decided to drop two cherry bombs down the pipes and destroyed them, and all I did was put things back like I found them. All free of charge.

    All I needed was for the owner to call me, set up billing, and be done with it. Even after all that, did she call? No. They’re being completely unreasonable, and looking for a reason to blow up — a reason not to pay their bills, which is exactly what I got first time I talked to them.

    Life Coaching != Therapy.

  7. Skywindows Says:

    Too funny!!

    Please don’t hack me anytime soon!

  8. Anton Says:

    I think this would be more appropriate than a turban:

  9. Mark Says:

    I like this one better:

  10. Monty Says:

    Just like a car repair where they replace a part and you don’t pay. They take the part off and put your old one back on. But, I think most car places would just keep your car instead…

    People have no respect for intellectual capital. If you fixed their toilet, they would pay you no problem. But something less tangible like server config, web programming, etc, well, they can’t be so sure you did anything worth paying for. That’s why you have to bring it to the level of real property.

    This is why I can’t do any work for a client at my job until I have a signed quote in my hand for the work.


  11. Kevin Scott Says:

    Hammer, that’s an f-in stupid argument–even if it is legally correct. Any reasonable non-Lawyer can see it.

    Mark, some customers are just not worth having. Trust me.

  12. Zacque Says:

    I’ll second that… I have to say that this customer in particular, is definately subject to the A-hole Tax if you ask me.

  13. Joe Rinehart Says:

    I enjoyed reading the story and comments regarding this client support and lack of payment arrangements incident! I was however a little lost as to why you didn’t send an email that if they didn’t get into your billing system the account would be deactivated in let’s say 30 days for non-payment in the forms which you do accept. Maybe, with a note that any account not in your system can’t be freely supported. By the sound of it, it’ll been another couple of days before they broke it again and you’d not have felt the need to threaten to revert the site back 😉

    The fact that they setup their original site on barter should have no bearing as to their ability to pay in whatever form you do accept. If you don’t use trade exchange or barter, maybe you should consider it and the reasons many companies do. I have personally found that irresponsible clients come from all segments of society, regardless of how they pay their bills! Thank g-d, they are a minority, and most respect and value the efforts of their network administrators who provide quality of service like your efforts attempted.

    I’m currently using barter to pay for advertising in Entrepreneur magazine, The New York food industry (totalfood.com), InsiteGainesville.com (University of Florida students), and other respected publications. Most of the clients we’ve gained from the barter exchanges have been very interesting and respectable companies….

    I do agree that some customers will take advantage of any situation and aren’t worth having!

  14. Mark Says:

    Fair enough question.

    The problem was that they don’t host with us. We were handed this customer by another company who we do work for, and called to make arrangements with said customer. But past a phone number and the “one” person that I dealt with, I had no information whatsoever about the company. We don’t host their sites. No account was ever setup.

    Instead, they called twice within a week asking me to fix different things, always promising to setup the account later.

    This story picks up after a week of them avoiding setting up a billing account, at which point, I get the “She doesn’t know you, so she’s not going to talk to you,” bit. That’s that.

    This customer obviously has no intention of paying — I STILL haven’t heard from them. They owe me $150.

    As for barter in general, I have no serious problem with it. But as a business with low overhead, there’s very little to barter for.