On Motherfuckers

As you may or may not know, in addition to writing HILARIOUSLY FUNNY THINGS, I also do some web development. Yes, even still. Despite what you (and I, for a long long time) may think, writing doesn't actually pay. And while you CAN write in the dark, it's really preferred that you have some electricity handy - either for your computer or, at the very least, for the lamp near your legal pad and feather quill. Makes things better. So to pay that bill, I consult.

So, a year and a half ago, I made the incredible mistake of trusting someone's recommendation for a client. This client is a leading manufacturer of a particular summer recreation product that you have most certainly heard of. And they fucking suck.

Everything about them, from day one, smelled wrong. The current "IT Professional" running their site was bitter, hostile and uncooperative. I thought this was because HE was a motherfucker himself, but would soon learn it was because he'd been ridden roughshod and was now on the brink of snapping. So, my company inherited his mess of a site, and we rebuilt it and it was pretty damn decent.

And then, it came time to invoice them. And I saw no money.

I called. I begged. I pleaded. I visited in person. And at the end of almost 9 months of hammering on them, I was eventually paid 1/3 the final price - which sucks, because I'd paid my developers 100% of the final price, leaving me 2/3 in the hole.

Now, I know I could have just yanked the plug and left them hanging, but I'm not that type of person. I'd much rather just eat the dough and learn a lesson and move on with my life. Which is what I did. And every month since then (October of last year), I've gotten an email from the president of the company - the man I sat face to face with and practically begged to pay me - which would ask how I was doing, and if I was interested in more work.

This is the very man who left me hanging on 2/3 of the bill. So rather than snapping and yelling, I'd just ignore him. Then, early last week, he emailed saying he's ready to pay the final amount he owes me.

This got my attention.

I finally responded and asked him if I should resubmit the invoice, or if he has a copy. He asked that I come to the office (an hour drive) to pick it up. I said "How about no, and you just mail me a check?" and he said that, with the holidays and delays, he'd rather just write me one and hand it to me.

So, like a dummy, I got in the car this morning and drove up to meet him. And at this "office" (which is actually a condo block converted to office spaces), security has to buzz you both into and out of the office. So once I buzzed in, I proceeded into the president's office, where I was greeted with a bright fake smile and a handshake and an offer.

"We'd like to roll your final payment for the past work into a down payment on new work," he said.

I immediately countered saying that I was uninterested in doing any further work for this company, and I'd like to be paid what I was owed. I spent my own time during my holiday to come to this office and I'd hate to leave empty handed.

He responded that this new project would be worth my while, and that I should hear him out. And so I sat and I listened as he described a new feature of his company's site where customers could customize full kits of this particular product, much like the Nike ID site allows you to customize shoes. And with almost every single sentence that came out of this asshole's mouth, the price kept climbing.

By the end of it, I told him that, just off the top of my head, I spec'ed this job out to be at least $10,000 and that there was no way I could take it on unless they paid the entire amount in full up front, over and above what they already owed me.

He made a face like I'd just farted, and said that the developer they were currently using estimated this would cost between $1500 and $2000 dollars.

I wanted to pull the man's head off of his neck and throw it against the wall. But because that'd be messy and I was wearing a new sweater (one my wife says I look "totally hot" in), and I'd HATE to ruin that sweater, I opted for a more professional approach. I said "well, let me know how he does." I stood up and turned to leave.

"But wait!" the president said. "Aren't you interested in new work?"

I turned and said "Write me a check for the amount you owe me right this second, and I'll consider it."

He said "Well, we'd need to roll that into a down payment for the new work with an agreement..."

I turned and I left. And as dramatic an exit as I'd hoped that'd have been, it was completely foiled by the fact that the security guy had to buzz me out the door, and he wasn't at his desk as I approached. So I had to stand there and wait for the guy to get back, all the while the president of this shitty company is hammering me to take on the new project. It was a very uncomfortable minute and a half.

And that, my friends, is the very definition of a motherfucker. And I share this with you for one reason and one reason only:

Trust is a commodity. And once you've decided to put your trust in someone, you need to understand that any failure in that trust is really your own fault. Disappointment comes from failure to meet expectations, and we are in direct control of our own expectations of others.

But that doesn't excuse the other party from being a motherfucker.