Sunday Steinkirchner / Contributor
I discuss the triumphs and challenges of being my own boss.
Ever have a “client” that is all talk and no action? I put “client” in quotes, as this person leads you on but never actually buys anything. Recently, a man overseas had a habit of placing multiple orders on our website, only to never pay for the items. Every month for about a year, five- and six-figure orders were placed, always with the same result- credit cards declined, foreign checks bounced, bank fees incurred. In response to our repeated inquiries, this gentleman sent us lengthy emails containing intimate details of his private life and manuscripts for his unpublished novels. Eventually, our optimism of this man becoming a regular customer subsided and we agreed that he was just plain nuts.
On a house call a few months ago, we encountered a guy who loves to debate religion and politics with strangers. The best way to deal with this, of course, is to not engage in the discussion at all. However, it’s a little difficult to get away from this guy when he keeps cornering you in his mother’s dark, labyrinthine house, and you can’t leave because you really want to make a deal. We were relieved when we finally left (with the books we came to buy), but more than a little freaked out when he said he was going to call us to follow up on the discussion. Thankfully, he never did.
The very worst experience we’ve had buying happened rather recently. We visited a man who wanted to sell his books to pay for his daughter’s cancer treatment. If this sounds rather heavy, it is, but we come across unfortunate circumstances like this all the time. Illness, or inability to pay for treatment, is often a reason people decide to part with their possessions. We pay well for the books we buy, but this man’s expectations were way too high. When we declined to accept his inflated prices, a calm and polite demeanor gave way to explosive and unpredictable lunacy. He was loud, abusive and accusatory. He shouted that if we did not pay him the money he wanted, we would be responsible for his daughter’s death. We found out later from local sellers that he rants to anyone that will listen, and even called our professional association headquarters, the ABAA, to curse out our executive director. He is well-known for his erratic behavior, and might even be a pathological liar (he does not even have a daughter, let alone a sick one.)
These days we are more likely to check with colleagues before we deal with someone unknown to us. The man in the above scenario finally stopped filling our voicemail with raging tirades when I picked up the phone, called him out on his behavior and told him we would never answer another call from him. While it is in most job requirements to deal with unsavory characters, you should not be subject to abuse or ridicule, and it is not your responsibility to fix your client’s personal problems. Be knowledgeable within your job description, patient when dealing with a hysterical client, and seek help from co-workers or colleagues when the scenario is above your pay grade. Even if you cannot predict what will happen, with each new experience you will learn about a new type of client, a new personality (or personality disorder), and a new way of negotiating. That way, you’ll be more prepared the next time something even crazier happens.