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Non-Fiction, Other Musings, Why Not?

One Bad Apple

Okay, it’s usually not my style to whine.  Those of you who take the time to read (or scan) my posts know me well enough to know that.

I do alot of writing in my modest profession.  It’s sporadic but pretty steady for the most part.

Every once in awhile in a writer’s career, there comes a time when there’s that one client of so many wonderfully nice people that, well, you just can’t make he/she happy.  I’ve only had that happen once in my freelance career and it hit me right in my writing gut.

It’s that one “bad apple” that spoils it all, hurts you to the core and makes a writer doubt that she/he is worthy.  Those of you who write for a living or submit your work to publishers or whomever know what I’m talking about.  Rejection sucks.

Not sure what made me think of that “bad apple” today but hey, it gave me a blog topic so stay with me.  This was about four years ago and this person just didn’t like my work.  No matter what I did.

Alan from Southern South Dakota

I’m going to call this client Alan from Southern South Dakota (A.S.S.).  I’d emailed my credentials/resume to his VP and the VP and I corresponded alot before I finally made contact with A.S.S.

After agreeing on a time to have a conference call (on a Wednesday night at 7 p.m.) with A.S.S. and then V.P. calling to inform me A.S.S. couldn’t do it for another two hours because he more important things to do, I had to wait.  (This was my first clue and I got a really bad feeling).

A.S.S. wanted me to write this complicated, boring newsletter about government funding stuff on some medical institutions.  He finally called 20 minutes after the time he was supposed to call (from his car phone on the way to his two-hour drive to an airport) and the conversation went something like this (I’m summing up briefly here).

Me: Hello Mr. A.S.S.  Thank you for the opportunity and I’d like to ask you a few questions in order to glean an idea of how you’d like your newsletter written.

A.S.S.:  Well, caaaaa (that’s his cell phone cutting in and out and car noise), I’d like it to caaaaa, encompass, caaaa the particulars of caaaa this and that. And you may want to research caaaaa and……)

Me:  Pardon, did you say….?

This excruciating conversation went on for an hour and a half.  I was frantically taking notes, recording and trying desperately to understand what he was trying to say.  When I’d ask a simple, direct question like:

Me:  Would you like the tone of the newsletter to be….?

He would answer this way:

A.S.S.  I don’t know, surprise me, you’re the writer.


The next day I had to have conference call with MR. MEDICAL VP, that A.S.S. had arranged so that I could get his opinion on some other boring stuff.  I had pages of notes and recordings to weed through plus research and statistical stuff.  Argh-h!

I finally got the rough draft ready, emailed it to A.S.S. and called him at a time that was most convenient for him.

A.S.S.  You’re mixing stats here.  This isn’t good.  I don’t like the tone of this at all.

Me:  I see what you mean about the stats.  I can fix that — this is only a first rough draft.  What don’t you like about the “tone.”  Can you be more specific? 

A.S.S.  You’re the writer.  It just doesn’t read like I want it to.  Why don’t you give it another try and email me tomorrow.  (He said this while yelling at some other poor worker bee).

Me:  Well, okay…did you like how I brought up what MR. MEDICAL VP said about blah, blah, blah?

A.S.S.:  Yeah, I guess that’ll do.  Still, I just don’t like the tone….

The following day was spent rewriting, editing and finally emailing A.S.S. the next rough draft.  He sent me a scathing email about how I just didn’t get it and he’d find someone else.  He then told me to bill him for my time.

I did.  I copied the nice VP who I’d made contact with to take on this nightmare gig in the first place.

A.S.S. emailed me back quickly with a If you were more worried about writing than you were getting paid, you might have been able to produce the tone I wanted.

My head nearly exploded.  A.S.S. did pay me for my time though (so he wasn’t all bad or maybe he was having a bad day or maybe four years ago my writing really did suck) and the nice VP sent me an email thanking me profusely for my time and my “utmost in professionalism.”  He even threw in he was very impressed with the writing he’d seen.  I’m pretty certain he’d had a few run-ins with A.S.S. himself.

Moral of the story:  No amount of time/effort/hourly rate is worth working with an A.S.S. that you just can’t please.

What’s your bad apple story? — Share please.

Press play below.  This song has been stuck in my head all day (since 6 a.m. this morning) and I’d like you to share in my misery and get it stuck in your head.

About Brigitte



42 thoughts on “One Bad Apple

  1. What an A.S.S.!
    I had that 45!

    Posted by Maggie O'C | June 14, 2012, 4:03 pm
  2. Great post. I can’t think of a bad apple story off the top of my head, but I’m sure they’re in there, buried deep within the hope-I-forget-this recesses of my brain. Loved your acronym for Alan from South Dakota, and it sounds very apropos. I’m willing to bet you weren’t the only one who had difficulties with him. I wonder who he’s tormenting now…

    Posted by crubin | June 14, 2012, 4:03 pm
  3. I worked in Law for over 30 years, my last job 21. I had a new client who ran a development company building apartments. He’d email and phone all day every day so much so that I just found it difficult to look after my other important clients, the mums and dads of this World. He thought he was a high flyer. In the end I went to my boss and said that I couldn’t work with this client as well as giving my other clients the attention they needed. He was “high maintenance”. My boss said that I could give him the flick and that I did. I advised him to go to a larger firm where they are used to dealing with important people!!! Didn’t quite put it like that. He was quite upset that he’d been rejected by a small time firm of Lawyers. Best decision I ever made. Was great kicking some A.S.S. 🙂

    Posted by floatingwiththebreeze | June 14, 2012, 4:09 pm
  4. I have run into a few Mr, A.S.S.’s in my writing career–particularly when I worked for a home magazine that wrote editorial home articles, as well as advertorial. I did editorial and had some pretty intense run-ins with people trying to use my articles as advertising. I told them I did not work on that end of it–it was so frustrating–people would actually rewrite my stuff and say that some professor at college told them they could write–yeah, right–you can write like an engineer or architect–not like a writer.
    Anyway – I have had that line “well, you’re the writer” line thrown at me too–that is usually when I rethink the job.
    Your description was spot on – you are a great writer and don’t let anyone ever make you think you are not.

    Posted by on thehomefrontandbeyond | June 14, 2012, 4:27 pm
    • Lou Ann, thank you! And with your writing credentials, that means alot to me. At times, it seems people take writers for granted, but we’re a pretty intelligent and creative lot, we are! Thanks for your nice and encouraging comments. Nice to commiserate with a fellow writer who’s been there. :).

      Posted by Brigitte | June 14, 2012, 4:30 pm
  5. Unfortunately we all know an arsehat or two or three. I try to look at it as a life lesson/experience and hope like heck that what goes around comes around and bites the arsehat in the arse – ha! Thanks for sharing – have a great day!

    Posted by cravesadventure | June 14, 2012, 4:30 pm
  6. You’re a writer, not a mind reader. Sorry you had a bad experience…thanks for the song. The Osmonds were fun…they had a good beat & were easy to dance to!

    Posted by Margarita | June 14, 2012, 4:57 pm
    • Thanks, Margarita! All of us have those experiences, it’s just part of life. Not sure what brought that memory out today, but glad you stopped by to read. All experiences are learning experiences, right? Hope you’re singing now….:).

      Posted by Brigitte | June 14, 2012, 5:00 pm
      • and dancing! Yes, they are learning experiences. The important thing to remember about people like A.S.S. is that it’s REALLY not you! 🙂

        Posted by Margarita | June 14, 2012, 5:04 pm
  7. As an attorney, most clients are great and very appreciative, however, there’s always that ONE that manages to ruin my day.

    Posted by Ashley | June 14, 2012, 5:47 pm
  8. Unfortunately, things like this happen when we deal with people. Some people are just plain Alans from Southern South Dakotas. I admire people who can put up with bad behavior and not let it ruin their day. I usually get down about it for longer than I should.

    Posted by jmmcdowell | June 14, 2012, 5:51 pm
  9. I seemed to have been blessed in my lifetime to have had some pretty awesome bosses, but somehow I think I might have to brace myself for rougher seas ahead. (Don’t understand why I am in a nautical theme today, but somehow it fits. lol)

    Posted by finally_write | June 14, 2012, 6:01 pm
    • I’ve had, for the most part, awesome “bosses” myself. That’s what I get from thumbing through those old journals and remembering. It must the CA sunshine that’s making you feel all nautical-like. Since I’ve been back from vacay and the sunny South, this is the first sunny day I’ve seen in quite some time. Thanks, Sue. :).

      Posted by Brigitte | June 14, 2012, 6:27 pm
  10. I have had several clients like A.S.S in my career. I am not a freelance writer, but writing looms large in my profession too and we are judged on it. People like A.S.S. just don’t understand that to achieve a great outcome on any project requires collaberation, a good specification and communication. I’m sure A.S.S. would not say to a builder, I want a room with four walls, a door and a roof over there, just build it, you’re the expert. Sounds like a real learning experience, though.

    Posted by the curtain raiser | June 14, 2012, 7:32 pm
    • Hi CR, you are right! Like I said, most people are wonderful, but we (and I’m saying this in collective sense) seem to focus on that one person we didn’t “win over.” I think that’s human nature. Thanks so much for your comment and taking the time to read and/or scan. :).

      Posted by Brigitte | June 14, 2012, 7:36 pm
  11. That guy sound horrible!! 😦 What an A.S.S. Sorry you had to had that experience. And your writing is wonderful!!!

    Posted by 365 Days of Travel, Discovery, and Growth | June 14, 2012, 10:47 pm
  12. Poptastic!!! – I’m going to be humming along to that when I pick my marks up for this semesters essays………! but hey, ‘I’m the writer’ so I should know telepathically exactly what my tutors want regarding tone already?!

    Posted by wordswithnannaprawn | June 15, 2012, 6:10 am
  13. Sorry I’m late in commenting, B—I love that A.S.S. acronym, for starters. This guy is obviously a self-important, pompous tool. I hate clients who do that—they absolve themselves of any responsibility for providing clear direction for what they want, as well as insufficient information about what you need to know. Idiot. Big hug to you!

    Posted by Madame Weebles | June 15, 2012, 2:11 pm
  14. I second what Madame Weebles said… a pompous TOOL. He just wanted to yank your chain… !@#hole!

    Posted by unfetteredbs | June 15, 2012, 9:53 pm
  15. In my career, I have come across several Mr A.S.Ss!! They test our patience and waste our time!

    Posted by adiaryofanewife | June 16, 2012, 10:48 am
  16. You`re most welcome! Have a great day!

    Posted by adiaryofanewife | June 16, 2012, 11:02 am
  17. What an Omegadouche. “You’re the writer. Surprise me.”
    Well, YOU’RE the client. Wanna be surprised? Then be happy with what you get.

    Posted by Smaktakula | June 16, 2012, 3:44 pm
  18. Brigitte! You are so naughty! Alan from Southern South Dakota abbreviatted as A.S.S. LOL! Hilarious! Very well written! It sounds like the guy was in a rotten mood and unfortunately, he chose to vent all his frustrations out on you. Well, at least you got paid! Great post Brigitte!

    Posted by skylarkly | June 22, 2012, 3:16 pm

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