Clients from Hell: Malaysians Reveal the Clients They Never Want to Work With

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There are reasons why you would play Daniel Powter’s ‘Bad Day’ in the office. Maybe your horrible boss is giving you a hard time. Maybe the office’s gossipmonger is talking smack about you. For me, it reminded of someone whom I never want to work with again.

That person was a client from hell.

Everyone knows a client whose life’s purpose is to make your weekdays a living hell. They make the most ridiculous demands. They bother you after working hours. Then, they email you in caps to remind you who’s boss.

And their favourite phrase of all time?

As soon as possible.

Ugh, don’t we all hate that?

Despite how annoying they can be, dealing with clients is the part and parcel of our jobs. In other words, we’ve got no choice.

If there’s one thing you need to remember, you’re not alone. We’ve interviewed a few Malaysians who survived the wrath of their clients to share their stories with us.

The client who calls during odd hours

Believe it or not, there are clients who don’t understand the definition of working hours. To them, their waking hours are your working hours. For example, if you receive an email at midnight, you better get your ass up and reply ‘received with thanks’.

Replying late-night emails are annoying to many people, and that includes accounts manager Justin*. His daily routine includes managing requests and replying emails from different clients. Sometimes, it gets overwhelming. He wished clients would respect his working hours.

“I had a client who called me numerous times at ungodly hours, even though all the issues could have been resolved in the day,” Justin highlights. Furthermore, his everyday tasks like accounts activation are more time-consuming than one would imagine.

Nowadays, he’s more upfront when dealing with demanding clients. That’s because he cherishes his leisure hours more than anything. “Unfortunately, it had to be done for the sake of professionalism. I would remind them in black and white and hope it will never be repeated again.”

The client who asks for the moon

Securing advertorials for a magazine is hard work. When you do get clients, there are the endless advertorial demands, which make working with them a living hell. Accounts director Sheila* is no stranger to these over-the-top requests.

One time, she worked with a client who asked for the moon. “They paid us peanuts but demanded many things. If they could, they would love to have the entire magazine dedicated to them,” Sheila says. “My client requested for many advertorials and demanded to be mentioned in all articles. Plus, they wanted their listing to appear first.”

When things took a turn for the worse, Sheila confronted her client with the help of her editor. “When we made things very clear, they stopped bugging us,” she shares. “Now, I learned not to comply with my client’s demand for the sake of closing a sale.”

The client who is difficult to please

One time, freelance writer Judith* was hired to write product descriptions for a paper manufacturing company. Yes, think paper rolls and inkjet photo papers.

Product descriptions require product specifications. When Judith didn’t receive any, she emailed her client about it. “I needed basic guidelines, so I asked them. You can’t bullshit about product specifications.”

However, her client said to just take whatever was written online. She felt agitated. “Sure, I can write about paper rolls, but there are other things I need to know. Are their paper rolls thermal or carbonised? Are their photo papers water resistant or quick drying?”

When she submitted her draft, the client sent it back and demanded more details. On top of the product specifications, they wanted selling points and benefits – all without paying for additional writing fee. “I felt cheated at that point, but I sucked it up and completed it anyway.”

After a few revisions, her client remained unhappy. This time, they wanted to change the format from paragraphs to bullet points. “They wanted bullet points all along?” she questions angrily. “Why didn’t they tell me in the first place? What a waste of time!”

Despite the miscommunication, she finished everything and submitted an invoice. That’s when things ended badly. “My client promised to get back to me but completely disappeared without any response. He vanished with my completed work. I was so mad!” she expresses. “After all the trouble of meeting his expectations, he disappeared.”

If she can learn one thing from this experience, it would be this. “Now, I always prepare a contract to protect myself from dodgy and demanding clients. I’m never going to put myself in that situation again.”

The client who demands attention

Juggling between motherhood and work is tough, and supermom Nasuha* knows it well. A graphic designer by day and a full-time mother by night, she takes her working hours seriously, which are on weekdays between 9:30 AM until 5:30 PM.

However, not every client obeys her working hours.

“It happened on a Saturday. I was attending a wedding and had no time to reply to my messages. My daughter loves playing with other kids, so I need to keep an eye on her,” she begins. “I heard my phone buzzing non-stop, but I was too distracted by my daughter to pick it up. Also, I thought those were messages from my WhatsApp groups.”

After the wedding ended, she looked through the messages and sensed trouble. “My client was so angry for not replying any of her messages. The thing is, I was only away for three hours,” she says. “The client even demanded a refund, which was ridiculous since I’ve completed her work. I was only waiting for her feedback.”

Nasuha explained about being at a wedding. However, her client got defensive and said she should at least inform her. “It wasn’t a big deal. I could amend the design for her, but she made a huge fuss about it,” she elaborates.

The argument continued until Nasuha got fed up by the ridiculousness of it all. “I just refunded her money and blocked her number. Seriously, I can’t deal with a client like that.”

Not every bad experience is designed to hurt us.

Behind every hellish client experience, there are life lessons to learn. We learn to stand on our grounds. We understand the need to communicate better. We pick up tricks on dealing with difficult people in our lives.

When you’re dealing with a client from hell, remember that this too shall pass. If that doesn’t work, give Daniel Powter’s Bad Day another unapologetic spin.

Sometimes, you need a sad song just to turn it around

…until you work at a smile for your next client from hell.

*Names have been changed to protect their privacy

For more articles by Cheng Sim, read WhatsApp Woes That Malaysians Go Through, and How to Fall in Love with Yourself When You’re Not Feeling Good Enough.

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If Cheng Sim can have it her way, she would live in a penthouse with an imaginary cat named Genghis. Since life has a sense of humour, she resides in Subang Jaya where she deals with their infamous traffic and subpar bak kut teh instead. She doesn't wreak havoc, but she writes at
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