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How Customers Rip-off Businesses

May 28th, 2007 by shawn · 4 Comments

An unfortunate fact of being in business is that you will be a target of people that simply want to steal from you. It’s sorta funny that these people will go through so much trouble to rip someone off – it’s a lot of work to steal things. But customers do it every day – and if you’re a business owner you need to be aware of a few of the ways that these jerks will try to take from you.

Using your quote/specification/mock-up to get what they want from other business. The situation is unfortunate for the business providing the quote, but it works out great for the scamming customer and for the business they eventually hire. But it’s a total rip-off for the business who is asked for a quote and goes through the trouble of creating a detailed quote or even a mock-up (like a web site layout or a logo mock-up), only to have the customer bring that to another company and say “Here, this is what I want you to make for me.” The solution? Charge for detailed quotes or mock-ups. The only thing you give them for free is something non-tangible (your less-detailed advice over the phone) or totally generic mock-ups that you use over and over to provide examples to all your potential customers.

Returning an item they used or damaged. I once had a coworker who was in a college film class, and his class project was to make a commercial for a fake product. He wanted to edit his filmed footage on a Mac. Since I wouldn’t let him borrow my brand-new iMac for the weekend (“Uh, no…I won’t let you bring my brand-new computer to your house for the weeked.”), he did something even more brazen (and unethical): he bought a Mac laptop, used it for his project, and then returned it. I can still remember him laughing about how he bought and then returned the video camera as well, and me thinking: I’ll never trust this guy. What a scumbag…

Changing job details after work has begun. What customers may not realize is that they aren’t the only one you’re serving – and you have limited time and resources. The customer who makes major changes to a job interrupts the workflow and wastes your time, causing you to re-do a job for them, when you could be using your time to complete other work and make more money. It’s important that once you get approval by the customer to start a job, they agree that any changes will cost them. Unless you are getting compensated for changes, you’re getting ripped off.

Complaining in order to get free goods or services. I mean making a false complaint, of course. This is a form of theft, plain and simple. A friend of mine was once a waitress at Outback. She served a family one evening, expecting a great tip because they ordered appetizers, drinks, and steaks – and looked like they were enjoying themselves immensely. However, things took a strange turn when they were winding down: the husband became very nitpicky and when she brought the bill he raised a huge stink about how awful the meal was! Of course the manager came over, and after more complaints about the food and my friend the waitress being an awful server, they were apologetically sent off with a free meal, compliments of Outback. My friend told her boss, “No way! They LOVED their meal. I gave them GREAT service!” but remember the customer is always right. But they did it again. And again. And eventually the manager caught on an banned them from the Outback location. But they probably scammed over $350 in meals before they got banned.

There are other ways that people rip off companies that are specific to an industry or type of business. For example, eBay buyers that want to rip off a seller can simply threaten negative feedback because they aren’t satisfied with the product, etc. and many sellers will simply refund the customer to avoid a negative and to get the customer off their back.

Why do people do this? Why do customers try to rip off businesses? Because there are bad people everywhere. There are unethical people everywhere. Some customers are just scumbags. There are people who simply enjoy stealing, and look for opportunities to steal.

These people are in the minority; most customers are honest and if they complain, they will have a legitimate reason. But as a business owner you need to be aware that there are some bad apples out there, and if you’re aware you will be less likely to be a victim.

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    Tags: Advice & Inspiration · Running a Business

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    Comment by mrsnesbitt
    2007-05-28 15:01:06

    Absolutely true.
    So many scams on the go at the moment, here in UK too!


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    Comment by John
    2007-05-28 15:28:33

    Sadly true and far too common and you have not even mentioned the professional con men that target businesses!

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    Comment by shawn
    2007-05-29 03:06:25

    Yes you’re right – this is supposedly just the regular people I’m talking about.

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    Comment by loc
    2009-02-09 00:46:52

    wow haha i hope i can dodge as many scammers as i can when i open up my site. Great post by the way.

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