I have a very difficult customer, and I'm considering walking out on the job. We made a few mistakes that we cheerfully fixed, and took care of some poorly documented changes at our own cost. The rest of the work looks exactly like the drawings, and she acts as if we kicked her dog. I don't think it's possible to make her happy.
We have delivered all materials and received payment. We bill for installation after the job is complete. We have one room left to install, (on a separate contract) but we have already taken a considerable loss on the job. Seems like the more work we do the more drama I have to deal with.
Tough situation to be in - but I think you should reconsider walking away because I think it will hurt you more than the customer. They will pay someone (likely your competition in your area) to finish the job - making that person/company the hero and you the villain. This will only confirm their negative thoughts about the whole job and anger them even more. It sounds like this customer is not all that rational so they will probably bad mouth you all around town - hurting your reputation.
You are close to the finish line on this one - my advice would be to keep your head down, finish up the job to the best of your ability and thank the customer at the end. By finishing up the job with a bit of (feigned) humility you might turn the whole situation around. You never have to work for this person in the future but they certainly will never recommend you to any potential clients. Difficult customers are inevitable in any business - you wont be able to control them, only how you react to them.
I've walked away from two jobs over ten years, though at the front end--after getting a deposit but before starting fabrication. These were cases where my gut said serious problems would await due to some incompetence on the part of a designer or homeowner. Of course I returned the deposit. On another job I had a dispute about an installation detail that the client wanted me to re-do, which I resisted, and instead took a small deduction off the final bill. In each case I had some lingering ambivalence about whether it was the right thing to do or not. Especially when things got slow and I had time to think about how I could use that money now. Since you are so close to the end, I would encourage you to find a way to come out clean without walking away. Approach the client and have a heart-to-heart about her dis-satisfactions. Tell her you want to finish the job as required, but not more than that. Gently correct her where she is off base or non-rational. Come to an agreement on what has to be done. If that doesn't yield a positive path to completion, then it may be necessary to fold and walk. But then the burden of responsibility would be on her. There are people who play this game to get out of or reduce final payments. Others are just plain ornery. And some really can't be satisfied.
Are you talking about breaking a contract? If so, she may have it built by someone else, take you to court, and then you get to pay your competition for completing your contract. I bet you won't loose that much money if you complete it. There is some kind of old saying, a happy customer tells 3 people about their experience, an unhappy one will tell 3,000. Be careful!
First of all, stop being "nice". Secondly, fulfill your contract. Finally, use the full force of the law to ensure that you get paid for every bit of the work that you've provided. It is irrational for your client to make this into an emotional situation: same goes for you.
I have taken some serious hits here and there,, Had one women enter menopause after falling and breaking her hip during the job, they asked us to stop while she was in hospital, she went in as the best client ever and came out like she lived in murder house on Netflix,,, look to complete as all first order, the hit may be worse than the finish.
The good news is while it will not seem so now,, the experience you receive may be very profitable in the long run if you use it correctly.
I've been in your shoes and I'm sure I will be again. It can be very difficult but I've always fulfill my contract for your own peace of mind. When they ask me back I can give them the no thanks or make it well worth my time. lessons learned, re-write on my contracts and make sure everthing is signed off on. You'll start to see signal signs on potionial royal pains and charge extra for it. My filling is you can work for anyone if your charging enough.
I have a sneaking hunch that your demeanor may be working against you. You may be too nice, or be acting the part of the guilty one trying to make up. Marks post is right on, but it will be hard to for you to change course at this point, if in fact I'm correct in my assumption. In any event, I wouldn't walk. Be strong. A heart to heart with her will be useless, your actions will say what is needed to be said.
Some things that have helped me survive these types would be to first, make the hard decision to see it through, or not. Once you get past that decision that come hell or high water you will finish, it seems to get less stressful. Then go ahead and anticipate the worst and prepare for it, never seems as bad when it comes. Take a little satisfaction in understanding that you are probably not the only one catching heck from the customer. I find this is usually true among other contractors, subs and just about everyone doing business with the person. More than likely, even her friends and family are well aware she is an unreasonable type. Even if she never ever pays you a single compliment, others who see that you faithfully upheld your end of the deal will know you did so under trying circumstances, and hopefully send you work in the future.
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