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Old November 12th, 2008, 12:26 AM   #1
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How to tactfully set boundary with customer

Ok so here's the deal. This guy is going to do a personal video which will involve him going through boxes of photos, videos etc. He has put down a deposit. He lives out of town and is coming into town to go through them.
He keeps suggesting I meet him to either go through the boxes with him, pick up the photos, shoot his interview, whatever, at his house or his storage unit.

I'm not comfortable with that arrangement for security reasons. I don't really know him and don't put myself in those types of situations.

I don't want to invite him to my house because I work out of my apartment, not an ideal situation either.

I have suggested several times we meet at a Starbucks, and even that he fedex the photos to me. He says ok, then the next letter or email suggests I meet him at his house because it's easier.

One tack I took was suggesting that since I live about 45 min from his house, that we meet halfway and I pick up the photos. I really don't like the idea of irreplaceable stuff being Fedexed and in most cases, would prefer to pick it up personally.

When I met him for the initial interview, he was pretty drunk, was coming onto all these women who were in the hotel, and also tried to get me to drive around alone in the car with him. He drinks quite a bit and so I don't really know who I am going to get when I meet with him.

His latest email suggested we actually go eat somewhere and then go to his house and go through his boxes. (Which is not my job, it's his). Even though our last conversation established that he will Fed EX the materials to me.

How can I tactfully but firmly set this boundary with him once and for all? I don't want to meet him anywhere but a public venue and also don't want to offend him as he is going to be a good client. He does not strike me as a stable individual.

Thx

Last edited by Kell Smith; November 12th, 2008 at 01:09 AM.
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Old November 12th, 2008, 01:12 AM   #2
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Based only on what you are saying, I would likely drop the client and refund his deposit. The snapshot you have given of this individual is not too enchanting. However, if keeping him as a client is important to you, it is quite simple to set the boundary you desire.

Sample email to client:

Great talking with you Tuesday! I think your ideas for this project are excellent. I very much look forward to working on it.

Upon reflection of our last discussion, I realized that I am not able to meet with you at your home to go through photos with you.

The best thing regarding getting your photos to me is for you to send them to me via UPS or FedEx. After they arrive I can easily go through them and select any that are unsuitable for our purposes, so the more you choose the better. Just box them up and ship them to me at:

If you prefer to hand them over to me personally, just let me know when you have them ready and we'll meet briefly somewhere convenient to both of us and I'll pick them up from you.

Please do not hesitate to call or write with any questions you have.

Best Regards,
Kell

Kell, notice you do not have to give a reason for not meeting him at his house. You simply say you are not able. If he asks in person or on the telephone, you simply say "I can't meet you at your home. When you have the photos ready just get them to me I'll get to work right away" Just keep your voice casual and relaxed and it will be fine.

Last edited by Jeff Harper; November 12th, 2008 at 01:47 AM.
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Old November 12th, 2008, 07:11 AM   #3
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Refund his deposit!
Your safety is much more important than a few bucks.
There will be other clients.
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Old November 12th, 2008, 07:22 AM   #4
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Kell... I absolutely agree with Jeff. His detached, professional approach appears to me to be the best approach to doing business with this client. However, this looks like a rat hole to me.

Your client's apparent inability to focus or take direction combined with his drinking will make it difficult for you to make progress on this project. The alcoholics I've had to deal with in my life have a tendency to drag me off task. For normal people, the best path to accomplish something is a direct route. A drinker's path will take you through every hedge in the countryside.

Unless you really need/want this gig, I'd walk away.
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Old November 12th, 2008, 07:31 AM   #5
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This sounds like a horror story to me. Run, don't walk, to refund his deposit and get him out of your life.

You are obviously uncomfortable. Why try to keep this client? There are always others.
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Old November 12th, 2008, 08:56 AM   #6
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I agree about stating your boundries.

Look at it this way. From your post, I get the sense that you are approaching this from a personal point of view. I would get used to approaching your affairs from a business point of view.

In this industry it is easy to forget that there are societal protocols for conducting business, and they apply to us as well!

I bet he doesn't ask his insurance agent to meet him at his home!

So don't even go there. Conduct your interactions as if you are a business.

If he insists about meeting you at his house, then tell him it is not your practice to meet clients anywhere but public places. Say the word client. This establishes the client-service provider scenario.

Also, in my experience getting people to get photos together is always a mess. It is like a time warp surrounds this activity and the people nearly always are late or don't get them at all.

I started out doing this kind of work because you only need a scanner and a computer, but now it is often not worth my time as there seems to be so much hassle along with the way.

Good luck!

Last edited by Tim Polster; November 12th, 2008 at 01:08 PM.
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Old November 12th, 2008, 09:13 AM   #7
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Kell,

You sensing a trend in the responses here?

The bottom line is that you're instincts are telling you something.

ALWAYS trust your instincts.

Check back in and let us know how things turn out.
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Old November 12th, 2008, 10:10 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff Harper View Post
Sample email to client:

Great talking with you Tuesday! I think your ideas for this project are excellent. I very much look forward to working on it.

Upon reflection of our last discussion, I realized that I am not able to meet with you at your home to go through photos with you.

The best thing regarding getting your photos to me is for you to send them to me via UPS or FedEx. After they arrive I can easily go through them and select any that are unsuitable for our purposes, so the more you choose the better. Just box them up and ship them to me at:

If you prefer to hand them over to me personally, just let me know when you have them ready and we'll meet briefly somewhere convenient to both of us and I'll pick them up from you.

Please do not hesitate to call or write with any questions you have.
That's perfectly written! I used to use almost the same letter to break up with girls.
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Old November 12th, 2008, 02:53 PM   #9
 
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Originally Posted by Kell Smith View Post
... he is going to be a good client. He does not strike me as a stable individual.
What's wrong with this picture?
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Old November 13th, 2008, 01:53 AM   #10
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Red flags o'plenty here. An unstable, substance abuser who obviously has issues with the opposite sex and is pushy about meeting in inappropriate circumstances is not a "good client" for a young lady videographer, sorry to be so blunt. Doesn't seem like the sort to "get the message".

Offhand the guy looks like a jerk, but there ARE psychopaths out there - female "models" have turned up deceased in the past after being conned by a "photographer" trying to "promote them"...

Better safe than sorry or worse...
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Old November 13th, 2008, 07:19 AM   #11
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Dave brings up a good point: if Kell is female (sorry, names aren't a dead giveaway anymore - I'm Shaun and I'm male but I've received literature about being a female entrepreneur...) walk away.

Anyone of the opposite sex who insists on meeting you in THEIR space after you've expressed interest in meeting in public raises red flags.
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Old November 13th, 2008, 11:01 AM   #12
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Thanks for all your feedback everyone.
By 'good client' I meant that money isn't an issue for him. But certainly, 'good client' in the larger sense doesn't apply.

Yeah. I"ve not been crazy about this whole situation, but I needed the money badly at the time so I took the deposit check, planning to shoot the interview when he is sober and do the rest of the business via Fed Ex, since he lives in another state now. He put down a sizeable, nonrefundable deposit a few months ago. I don't have the resources on hand to refund his deposit, and it's not likely I will anytime soon, unfortunately, so as much as I'd like to do that and get out of it altogether, it's not possible.

So far he hasn't done anything overtly bad that has been clear-cut, other than to be boisterous, rowdy and a little foggy on boundaries.

My instincts have flagged me though, and since I don't have the money to refund, I guess I'll have to take control of the situation and make sure that I dictate when, where and how we meet, either in a public place or when someone is with me.

I don't think that he's a bad guy, just a bit heavy on the bottle. I'm the type of person who is usually very aware, very careful about the types of situations I put myself in and so it's unusual to be in this situation. Normally, I wouldn't have gone forward in a situation like this where someone is drinking, except that I needed the money, he had contacted me some time ago about doing the project so I knew that he had been planning to do it for nearly a year, and I had a slew of bills due the next day that were critical and needed to be paid. But I never at any time intended to meet him (or anyone) in any situation other than a public place, and that needs to be crystal clear to him. If it continues to be an issue, or he makes a move on me or creates a problem, I will definitely walk away, taking that deposit with me until at some future time I can make it right.

Last edited by Kell Smith; November 13th, 2008 at 12:06 PM.
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Old November 13th, 2008, 09:03 PM   #13
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Kell,

Another strategy is simply NEVER to meet with him solo. And hold fast to your intention not to let him come to your turf.

Is there a friend who you can explain the situation to who will accompany you to the meetings?

Understanding that you've already accepted a deposit and find you can't refund it, you're pretty much obligated to the gig. But sometimes the hovering presence of another person is all that's necessary to keep things on a strictly professional basis.

Good luck with this and let us know how things turn out.
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Old November 20th, 2008, 08:59 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kell Smith View Post
He put down a sizeable, nonrefundable deposit a few months ago. I don't have the resources on hand to refund his deposit ...
If it's a non-refundable deposit, why are worried about refunding it?

How did it all work out, anyway?
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Old November 20th, 2008, 09:12 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by Diane diGino View Post
If it's a non-refundable deposit, why are worried about refunding it?
Are you serious? There are reasons for not refunding money to a client, but a change of heart is not one of them. That would be about the same as stealing, in my book.

Kell, you are a reasonable, responsible person who got it a jam, and I sympathize. I hope you took your own and Bill’s advice and found someone to go with you to the interview. Either that or explained to the guy that you will give his money back in installments or at a much later date.
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