The very first time I meet him I have come to his office to present website designs. It takes me a little time to find the office, to realise that it’s in a room built on the terrace of a blocky, mid-sized office tower that looks like it was built in the early 90s. I know that a certain kind of self-styled entrepreneur likes to talk about empires that were born in garage offices, but this just seems tacky and cheap. In the office, I speak to the woman I’ve been corresponding with about this job for the last few weeks. She is apparently the Head Of Operations of this organisation. Later on, I am told that she is his wife. A mom-and-pop data mining company. How very Bangalore. During this time, he is closeted in his corner office, talking to someone. It’s such a tiny space, I’m a little impressed that he even managed to squeeze in a corner office. After a while he finishes his conversation. The man he was talking to comes out. He is in his 50s, he looks like the sort of person who has been a manager at some level in various mid-sized to large organisations, several in the public sector, almost the entire span of my life. He talks to the lady I have been speaking to about the plans he has just been discussing. He conveys the impression of someone trying to convey the impression of being an experienced and shrewd managerial person.
After a while, the man he has been speaking to enters the room I am in. He is also in his 50s, has grey hair and a french beard, also grey. Is dressed in khakis and a short-sleeved shirt. Wears rimless spectacles. Says he’s seen my work - I had to send his company samples of my past work at the beginning of this job - ‘Some good work there. I hope you keep it up.’ Already, I dislike him. It’s the way he says it. Suggesting that my entire career until now may just have been a fluke. The meeting happens. I leave.
A week later we meet again. It seems he wants a far more extensive job to be done than was first envisaged. I tell him it will cost more. He asks how much. I tell him. He agrees. Later, I send him a quote. He writes back saying that he accepts it. He asks me to ‘note that I have not tried to negotiate over pricing and I hope you will fulfill your end of the bargain. Should you fail to deliver what we expect, steps will be taken to penalise you.’ I seriously dislike this man at this point.
When I show him what I’ve done, he starts asking for more things, things that were not defined in the initial brief. I sense that I should start putting my foot down, but some of these are fairly easy things to do. In another meeting, he shows me the ugliest site I have ever seen and essentially asks me to copy everything on that site, reword it and use it on his site. He asks me to take this other company’s case studies, change their titles, rewrite them and put them up under the case studies section on his site.
I spend a couple of weeks doing all this. I miss my first deadline because my designer takes an unexpected vacation. His site goes live a day late. He sends me vaguely threatening text messages and I reply asking what he is implying. He immediately calls up to chew me out for missing the deadline. He talks about how the ‘wow factor’ is missing. About how his site is his business’ lifeline, and how it is completely screwed up. I begin to understand why his previous web company did such a half-cocked job on his old site, to envy them for no longer having to work with him. I respond that I am sorry for the delays, but that he has also expanded the scope of work with new requests along the way when I’d told him to be very sure of what he wanted right at the beginning. I raise my voice a little. He says ‘I can’t shout, I have a problem,’ and gives the phone to his wife who concludes the discussion. It turns out that he is using an obsolete browser on his laptop, one that the site does not display properly on. I point out that almost no one uses a 2-year old version of a browser anymore, but they ask me to optimise the site for this browser anyway. I wonder what kind of a tech businessman doesn’t even upgrade a free internet browser.
So I make various changes and additions. At some point he calls me and asks if I can add a social media connect on his site. I say I can. He says a lot of business happens through internet networking these days. Then he asks me if I can register his company on facebook twitter and linkedin. Rather than point out that I am not his secretary, I give him some line about password security and how I wouldn’t be able to fill in all the details of his company properly, it’s best he does it himself. He agrees reluctantly.
Finally, the revised site goes live. He calls me the next morning at 8.40. I am in my garden having tea with my wife. He tells me to go sit in front of my computer, that there are ‘glaring errors’ on the site. It turns out that some material he asked me to add at the last minute is actually copyright of another organisation. I ask him how I was supposed to know that, I assumed that any material he gave me would be above board. I tell him I do not appreciate him calling me out of work hours and barking out orders. He tells me to keep a civil tongue, at which point I cease to. I tell him he is a fool and an asshole and that I would rather not work for him anymore. I hang up.
He sends me another threatening mail, speaking of ‘penalties’ and so forth. I reply explaining in detail how I have done everything he asked for, including things that most web companies would charge extra for, and inform that should he choose to make this a legal matter, I also have rights and am not without recourse to legal aid. After this he sends a remarkably meek email asking me to please just finish the last few corrections and changes that need to be done. After this, the remaining correspondence is between his wife and, beyond a certain point, my designer. For once in my life, I am glad that I lost my temper and told a fool he was a bloody idiot.