Yesterday, Suzette Franck posted the following to the OC WordPress Facebook group: A German developer named Frank Jonen had a dispute with his client, Fitness SF. He claims that the client did not pay their bill. Frank took his dispute to the web by hijacking Fitnes SF’s website and posted a note complaining (frankly, whining) to the world about his client. What Frank Jonen has done is completely unprofessional.
A screenshot of the hijacked page is at the bottom of this post. Leading up to the hijack, Frank tweeted about what he was doing.
I bet these bastards still think I won't fight back and let them get away with betraying me and escaping payment.
But first, coffee.
— Frank Jonen (@frankjonen) February 14, 2013
Bad form, dude.
Frank, I get it. You’re pissed. You feel wronged. You want revenge. This is not the way to go about it. Here’s why:
- If you had any chance of reconciling a business relationship with this client, you can kiss it goodbye. You put a nail in the coffin. You will never have a relationship with this client and you will never get paid. Instead, you may be facing a possible lawsuit.
- The page you posted is getting traffic on Twitter and you are getting noticed. But this is not the kind of press you want. Any potential clients that see this page will never hire you. You will forever be labeled as unstable.
- It looks like you were attempting to make Fitness SF look bad and that you want their clients to take action. Make no mistake, you are the only one who looks bad here. And you look really, really bad.
I do not know the details of the relationship between Frank and his client and I have no idea what led up to the relationship going sour. Frank may have delivered late. He may have delivered work that was not what Fitness SF was expecting. Fitness SF may not have paid their bill for a number of reasons, many of which are not malicious. Who knows…
Regardless, Frank’s expectations about how he was to get paid were not met. And it was Frank’s responsibility to communicate those expectations before things got out of hand. I wonder if the milestones were set up in a way where the majority of payment was paid after the project was delivered. If they were, Fitness SF would have been motivated to make sure their entire project was absolutely final before paying for their project.
We prefer to establish milestones for our projects that include interval payments. This ensures that we ask for approvals throughout the project. Aside from payments, we make every effort to stay in constant communication with our clients. We request client feedback throughout our production process, at some points on a daily basis. If there is something wrong, we know very quickly and we can address it right away. Small problems should never have a chance to escalate to the level of complete dissatisfaction. But even with the best of intentions, it can happen.
Lots of things can change while working on a web project. I have never been on a project where the scope hasn’t changed over the course of the project. How you deal with scope change is what separates a good developer from a great developer.
This is a sad day for web developers everywhere.
The reason I’m disappointed is because Frank’s actions make all developers look bad. It tarnishes our industry and creates a trust barrier between clients and developers. I have spoken to many potential clients in my career who have a horror story about a former developer. I’m sure Fitness SF has their own story to tell.
Not getting paid is usually a matter of expectations being out of whack. We’ve had clients that weren’t able to pay their bills. It happens. And while I don’t like it, we have always found a way to deal with it peacefully.
Don’t be like Frank.
For more, see this AdWeek post.