Contracts and Difficult Customers Oh My!

Contracts and Difficult Customers

One question I’ve been asked is, “How can I protect myself against difficult customers?”

Boilerplate Contracts Are Almost Worthless

A client contacted me about a couple of demanding clients they were having trouble with; she wanted to know if she handled the situation appropriately. We talked about the clients at length, but it eventually came down to her not having a proper contract.  She had paid for a contract that was on a website.  The problem was the contract only had boilerplate language.  It did not fully protect her interests (or the client’s interests, for that matter).  It was worthless, well, almost worthless.  Having a written contract is better than not having a contract at all, but for a contract to be effective, it needs to protect both parties’ interests.

Vague Contracts Are Construed Against the Drafter

The contract only provided for the basic remedies in case of a breach.  It did not offer any remedies if the customer became difficult or uncooperative.  It did not spell them out explicitly.  Unfortunately, in a vaguely written contract, the language is viewed in a light most favorable to the non-drafting party.  The theory is that if it were significant enough that a provision was in the contract, the drafting party would have put it in.  A boilerplate contract does not know what is essential to the drafting party and what is not.

A Good Contract is Made for Difficult Customers

My client was stuck performing the services she had agreed to perform because there was no remedy. She was miserable trying to fulfill her contractual obligations because these demanding customers were unreasonable.  They had gone behind my client’s back and broke something my client had worked on.  They blamed her for their lack of performance.  It was her word against theirs.  Because she could not prove it and did not want to lose out on the money from the customer, she held her tongue and fixed it.

Final Thoughts on Contracts and Difficult Customers

It is impossible to anticipate every scenario when drafting a contract; however, a good contract should anticipate the most common scenarios in that business area. It will provide provisions and clauses that will protect you. A well-written contract will help you avoid a scenario such as the one that my client went through. You can always download a boilerplate contract and hope for the best or hire an attorney to draft one. A contract that will protect your interests.  In the long run, a custom contract drafted exclusively for your business will save you time, money, and heartache.

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