The primary purpose of any business is to serve the needs of the customer. If you make your customers happy, the money will follow. But the customer isn’t always right. When a customer decides to start holding a company hostage, it is time to fire that customer. Here’s a situation that recently happened at my company…

Normally, we charge a one time setup and design fee to put up a website, plus a monthly maintenance and hosting fee. Our standard contract requires a payment of half down and the balance due upon completion. Because this particular customer cried poor-mouth we decided to make and exception and allow only 20% down with monthly payments spread over a year for the balance of our work. And we got burned.

We completed his entire website in two weeks, despite a lack of information on his part. This included the full software installation and database configuration, website design, wholesale and retail shopping cart functionality, 2 different logo designs, domain registration, email setup, and up to 2 hours of personal instruction. Then he refused to start making monthly payments, saying that the prices were wrong (He hadn’t logged in to see the wholesale prices, so all he saw was retail pricing). We explained this to him and he gave us a new price sheet. Trying to make him happy, we went in and adjusted all the prices to meet his new price sheet. He still would not pay us and gave us yet another price sheet. In hindsight, we should have canceled his contract by now. By this time we were already losing money, had had 3 different people work on his site, and had given him 4 hours of training.

But he now said he was happy and would pay us for one month! Sorry, we need to get paid for the last 4 months when you kept changing your mind – pay us to get caught up to where we should be and we’ll give you an additional 2 hours of training and consulting (normally $75 hour) at no charge. But no deal.

He continued to try to hold us hostage, saying he would bad-mouth us to everyone if we didn’t do as he wanted (paying for only one month). By now, my employees had zero respect for this customer, and I knew we had to get rid of him. Had I allowed him to tell me how to run my business, he would have continued to hold us hostage every month in order for us to get his installment payment. Each month he would have wanted additional training and price changes. I said no and took down his site. (I have not sued him for the balance of his contract).

Bottom line – the business owner (in this case our customer), not the webmaster must be responsible for a website’s content. If you make unreasonable demands on your service provider, it drives up the cost for everyone else. You cannot expect your webmaster (or anyone else) to work for free – you get what you pay for. Only paying customers are right.