Client from Hell

(Any former clients of mine who read this, I am NOT talking about any of you! Any folks who were this rude, did not get a dress…and I do thank Susan for keeping the pitch fork in my behind until I came to my senses.)

A dressmaker on the Celtic Flame board asked for perspectives on a situation with a client…a client that should now reside in the “former” category but instead has been allowed to bulldoze her way into the “current and continuing to be rude, condescending, grasping and non-paying” category. As I wrote in my short reply to the original post, this chaps my ass!!!!!

I feel bad for the dressmaker. She has allowed herself to be badgered into this situation…yes, it is her fault. But this happens a lot because the smaller dressmaker does not want to make anybody angry, does not want an idiot client like this to say bad things about her because it might affect her business. I understand that…I bet most, if not all of us understand that. In fact, I’m sure many of us have found ourselves in situations when we are completely taken aback by potential and/or current clients who make the astoundingly condescending assumption that because we are not a BN (big name) that we are there solely to be taken advantage of, to work for nothing, to spend our own money making them happy just so they might pass our name on to other prospective clients….what do they call that crap? Oh yeah, EXTORTION!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I found the definition of extortion here in this internet law library:

EXTORTION – The use, or the express or implicit threat of the use, of violence or other criminal means to cause harm to person, reputation, or property as a means to obtain property from someone else with his consent. USC 18

The Hobbs Act defines “extortion” as “the obtaining of property from another, with his consent, induced by wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence, or fear, or under color of official right.” 18 U.S.C. S 1951(b)(2).

Sounds dramatic, doesn’t it? Well it is. The feelings that this behavior from clients brings on are depressing & overwhelming! And it has to be downright mind-blowing when you get clients who are bold enough to actually threaten you with a bad review as I have heard about from dressmakers but thankfully not experienced…I have this image of my head exploding were I ever to be confronted by such subnormality! Where do they get off treating dressmakers so badly?

So what is this behavior?

This current story goes like this (I have made things a bit more obscure to protect the dm, NOT the client who should be locked in the stocks and pelted with rotten eggs): The dressmaker sold a semi-custom dress 3 months ago, an OTR (off-the-rack) that was bought during construction, so it was fitted to the dancer and a couple of time-consuming design enhancements were made at their request at no extra charge. At the final fitting, 2 days before a feis, they asked for another whole “addition” to the dress and that was delivered, also no extra charge. Should have been the end of the story.

The client called not long ago to say she was dissatisfied with the dress as the side panels were not laying flat. She wanted it fixed in less than a week. The dm offered to look at the dress to see what needed to be done, not wanting to have a dissatisfied customer sharing her opinion with all who would listen. The problems were OBVIOUSLY caused by the dancer – an obvious crease line across the panels from being sat in and side panels that were distorted because of the dancer’s particular way of pushing forward with her arms. The dm agreed to take the dress to flatten the panels and pull it up a bit at the side seams to make it harder for the dancer to distort the panels as she danced. Then, the mother says that the (emergency) “addition” was not what she had asked for.

Here is when the dm should have said that seeing as how the “addition” had been thrown in free of charge, if the client wanted a new one, she was going to have to pay for it…and the alterations she was about to do. But she did not. She spent more of her own money, spent valuable time fixing the dress, and gave it all back. At this point, even though our dm had not said up front that there would be charges for her work, an ETHICAL HUMAN BEING would have asked what the charges were. But this piece of work simply took the dress. THEN the dm saw her at a feis, and the client mama from hell and her dancer complained that the “addition” still wasn’t what they wanted -they liked one her friend had better- and they told her how to make it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The dm had one last question for us: “Do you other folks think I have any obligation to spend another day and $20 in materials to make her another gift???”


Here’s another: The dressmaker spent hours consulting with an entire family on a dress. (Right there, Susan would have fired the clients!) The dm went out of her way to help them, spent hours searching the world for their desired fabric. She made a mock bodice which fitted perfectly, did two fittings, and at the final one, the girl had the dress on for at least half an hour. There was never any mention about the dress being tight, uncomfortable etc. 6 months later, they are not happy with the fit of the dress. And this is all her fault, and they want the dm to alter the dress. For free.

This dm is getting ready to tell them a firm NO, thank goodness. She says, “I provided a well tailored, perfectly fitting dress made to their requirements. (Dealing with this dress is) NOT AN ONGOING SERVICE. It is not my problem if the girl has had a growth spurt or wants the dress to be as loose fitting as her pajamas. This time I am going to be firm and not be taken for a ride.”

One of my dressmaker friends had a former client come to her to say that the dress did not fit and it was her fault…although they were happy because it fit “so perfectly” when she danced in it at the Southern Region Oireachtas 6 months earlier! And, in the same incredibly long and convoluted email, the client went on to blame this dm for the fact that a dress she had bought from her 18months EARLIER was not selling…and she really was hoping not to have to resort to telling folks what a bad dressmaker my friend is!! It was the weirdest piece of deluded rationalization I have ever read.

Idiot dressmaking clients (if you are not an idiot, please disregard this question), would you call Gavin or Siopa Rince or Elevation or etc, etc, etc to tell them that you no longer like the cape/applique fabric/lining/tutu or that the dress that they made for you 6 months ago/ 1 year ago/ 18 months ago does not fit now (because your daughter grew, but you don’t admit that) and that IT IS THEIR FAULT AND THEY HAVE TO FIX IT? FOR FREE???!!! And then threaten them with smears on their reputations if they don’t? No, of course you wouldn’t! So, why do you do call your lone dm and tell her that? Why is her work of less value? What is it that you think she owes you?

I choose to believe that this kind of client is not the norm…if it was, there would be no lone dressmakers. I have really been lucky with the clients I have worked with so far, knock on wood. But, I know there will be a time that a loony gets by Susan’s PITA radar (she IS my first line of defense), and it will be my luck that the fireworks will start after Susan is done with her part, so I will have to figure out how to handle it myself. I know it will not be easy, believe me.

After writing this, I am thinking I should finish my contract and state very clearly where and when my obligation stops. Perhaps we all should.

8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. picperfic
    Jul 29, 2007 @ 06:48:00

    oh I can feel this fury! I had a similar experience with some curtains I made for a client. About 15 years ago. I interlined and had stiched, I made swags and drapes just as they requested even though I warned them that the fabric they chose wouldn’t drape as freely as the curtains I made for the friends that they admired. They kept calling me back to alter this that and the other and I, foolish as I was then, geve them their money back less any costs I had incurred, not thinking at the time that all my precious time was money too! I just wanted these horrid people off my back, to go away and leave me alone. It was many years before I would make any curtains for people again, my confidence took a nose dive and I actually was really upset and ill over the whole experience. I wouldn’t treat anybody like that and I’m sure that is why I got so hurt by it all!

  2. lymabean
    Jul 29, 2007 @ 08:27:00

    Ann, I’m writing to let you know that now that we have had our dress for about 6 weeks, we have several issues with it, & we want to know what you expect us to do about these:
    1) You had some nerve creating a dress so outstanding that people waste our time ooohing & aaahing over it. They stop my dd & I in our tracks to compliment it & ask who made it. Now we are spending time smiling & meeting people!
    2) This dress fits too well, & moves too easily. My dd feels comfortable in it, & has no movement issues when she dances. Now if she is not top 3 at every feis, we are prevented from blaming it on the restriction & poor fit of the dress!
    2) You & your family were far too likable & interesting. This is intolerable! You were just supposed to make a dress. I did not know you would have a great blog I would want to keep up with reading. That sometimes gives me something useful to do for 5 minutes with my coffee. Also, I was not warned my daughter & yours would become email penpals. Now my dd wants to use the computer to email yours, instead of playing computer games. Unbelievable!
    :o) ;o) :oP

  3. picperfic
    Jul 29, 2007 @ 11:48:00

    lol @ lymabean’s comment….and ‘had stiched’=’hand stitched’. I have just slept for 2 hours on the sofa and now my fingers are less tangled! :^)

  4. webmaster
    Jul 29, 2007 @ 20:37:00

    And of course, when Susan’s PITA radar is down, I’m happy to contribute mine. Never know what I might know….


  5. Gina Foster
    Jul 29, 2007 @ 20:58:00

    ahhh the trials and tribulations of irish dance dresses … might just be the reason all the sparkly fabrics are boxed rightnow with black satin and velvet abounding as my personal sewing muse is in a HP stage and only making capes …

    I remember when working on an Irish Dance Solo was a pleasing and fulfilling as making a lined cape is now.

    another one bites the dust.

  6. Ann
    Jul 29, 2007 @ 22:35:00

    Thanks for the smile, lymabean!!!

    I always value your input, webmaster. (bows low…)

    And ID is the poorer for it, Gina.

  7. ENC
    Jul 30, 2007 @ 16:32:00

    As a customer I am appalled at the behaviour of some of my fellow dress buyers. We have one mom in particular from my dd’s school who has just enough costuming experience to be dangerous. She sends numerous micro management emails to the DM, then changes her mind. Or she will insist on a particular weight of fabric or a particular way of fitting the bodice to the skirt. She has so incensed the DM that before the DM would continue to work with her on the latest dress they’ve insisted on payment in full up front (something they have never done before) and for a price much higher than they usually charge. It was a not too subtle hint that perhaps it was time that they part ways. I’m sure this has been a hard decision as this mom has purchased about 5 dresses from them through the years but I think talking to the DM it sometimes just isn’t worth it…and it makes those of us who are associated with this woman guilty by association. It is true that one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch. My sympathies to all the DM’s out there who have to deal with this kind of behaviour.

  8. Anonymous
    Aug 05, 2007 @ 01:37:00

    Oh My!! I had a good chuckle to see my rant and rave about my horrible customer, (story # two)who incidently still won’t go away, here! For all the nice and wonderful people you deal with, it is sadly the bad that stand out from the good.

    Luckily I was intending to have a break and complete some more home renovations before taking on any more ID dresses. This should give me time to move on from this nutter of a mother..

    Id better not post my name incase she happens to stumble by your blog:)

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