Sunday, October 03, 2010

Some customers are always wrong

Since I have a twelve-day series in my blog queued up, you won't see this post until weeks after the incident that inspired it. By that time, maybe I won't be so annoyed, but it's still worth a rant.

Let me first frame this incident in its proper context: this is within Lusternia, so it has only that much importance that something that happens inside a game can have. At the same time, it's a case of a person being a jerk to another person, and medium doesn't change that a jerk is a jerk. Of course, multiplayer online games are infested with jerks, so this is more interesting for being so egregious than unusual.

I am a well-respected designer; I have a talent for writing that I have learned how to apply to the form of the object design, so I can create well-written, well-envisioned descriptions of items that can be made by crafters. I run several cartels in which such designs are created, submitted for review, and then made available to be constructed. Designs can either be public (visible to any crafter in the game) or, for a 5000 gold design fee, private (visible only to members of the cartel who practice that trade). One of the cartels I run has as its members all the crafters in the commune; the others are strictly private in that no one else is in them.

I recently had a customer approach me to design a throne for her, but while she sent me an incredible number of words about what she wanted, she did not tell me what she wanted it to look like. She just gave some vague generalities and an ingredient list (designed to be a cheapskate) and asked me to intuit her intent and create a design. For this service I charge 1000 gold, a fairly small amount; I can make the same amount in about a minute in the game, but it takes me at least ten minutes to draft a design, and in a case like this, it took more like a half hour since she'd given me so little to work with, and took so long to say it. I came up with a throne cut from a tree, sheathed in vines covered in flowers and leaves, which I think was pretty nice -- as much as it could be given the lack of direction and clear vision.

I shouldn't've been surprised that she not only ripped up the design and made it ugly, and berated me for not correctly intuiting her intent, but also proved to be the kind of person who just seems to be itching for an excuse to take offense and to project. She got very defensive instantly, and only a few moments after doing so, she started showing it by accusing me of being defensive. This pattern continued; every time she was a jerk, she immediately projected the same behavior. We spent more than an hour with her berating me, changing her mind over and over, refusing to be clear about what she wanted, and gutting the design.

Even after all that, when the design was submitted, she changed her mind about it twice more, forcing me to recall it, modify it, and resubmit it. One of those times she changed it from public to private, which required me to collect from her the 5000 gold that I would be charged to submit it that way. The other time she wanted to make more wording changes. Throughout, she was as high maintenance as they come; she needed to be constantly reassured that I had made every change she asked for, and she constantly lost the design and needed me to send it back to her again. All told I probably poured three hours into this project.

She also made clear that she did not intend to pay me for my efforts in actually building the throne. In game, a throne lasts 50 years -- that's almost two real-world years -- and one is lucky to get 5000 gold for it, despite the considerable investment required to gain the ability to make them. So basically, all I could expect for three hours of time invested, most of which was listening to a constant litany of complaints, projections, defensiveness, and insults, was that 1000 gold.

When the design was finally approved, I got a lengthy message accusing me of cheating her. Why? Because it got submitted in commune cartel, as per her directions. Apparently when she changed her mind to making it a private design, she also wanted it moved to another cartel, but didn't realize that she had to say so. Imagine how loud she would have accused me of flimflammery if I'd realized she wanted that, and told her she'd have to pay that 5000 gold again -- because I can't move a design from one cartel to another, and the fee I'm charged is not refunded. She imagines this 5000 gold is lining my pockets, but I don't see a single coin of it.

So I've refunded her not just the 1000 gold, but also the 5000 gold fee, just because it's better to be out of pocket and take a loss than to have to ever listen to her again. Meanwhile, for a transaction on which I took hours of abuse and a significant net loss, and to which I nevertheless contributed time and talent, I am being accused of pulling some kind of scam.

To top things off, at the time she berated me and asked me to get rid of the design and refund the fee, she'd already gotten someone else to build the throne. So the 5000 gold out of my pocket that I gave her to submit it again in some other cartel, she just pocketed and walked away. She actually used the design I did in the cartel I put it in (at her request) while still demanding a refund on gold that wasn't even mine in the first place. In short, she flat-out (and at least partially intentionally) robbed me of gold, time, and talent, and then accused me of trying to scam her.

I really need to get out of the position of running the commune's cartel. There's absolutely no profit to me in doing it, just hassle that I endure as a service to the commune. I'll endure so much crap for that and no more. I'll need to be able to turn away customers when I realize they're going to be jerks. So I intend to ask to be contested. By time you read this hopefully it will be done.

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