Earlier this year, I had a designer drop off the face of the earth. She is an extremely talented, and respected designer and I’m very sad to lose her. She worked with me at E.Webscapes for four years. During her time, her work was always stellar, customer service above par and work ethic beyond reproach.
A few months ago, she just disappeared without a word. She didn’t just vanish – – she left, in her wake, seven projects in various stages of completion. Some almost completely done… some only halfway done…. some just started. Seven of them. One, I had already paid her in full for. Some, I hadn’t paid her for, yet (thankfully).
I tried, in vain, to get in touch with her. I tried every single email I had for her. I even called — international long distance calls to Hong Kong (cha ching!), several times – to no avail! I begged. I pleaded. I put myself on the line.
After several weeks, she did get in touch with me – on February 7, 2008, after about a month of trying to get a hold of her. She apologized several times – – sorry she let me down, sorry she put me in such a spot and promised to deliver and get right on those projects and see them through to completion.
First off I am so, so sorry about everything. I never meant for things to get this bad and I owe you the hugest apology and an explanation as well.
She proceeded to explain. School got too busy. Family issues cropped up. All of this stuff, I understand. Life happens. Believe me, I know!
…I’ve had the files prepared for ages but need to give myself a swift kick to go finish up. I’m not sure if you’ve jumped in with any of those, but I’ll go through the tickets to see what needs to be done where. I know how unhappy they all are and I feel so terrible about not having been there and for making such horrible messes….
I was relieved! Happy to hear from her.. knowing that she’s ok and that she would get these projects completed shortly! I offered to help where I could – – told her to give me a shout if she needed anything… anything at all! Whew!
I never heard from her again. Neither did her clients.
I attempted a few more times – – several, actually – – finally I just gave up and emailed her and asked her to PLEASE send me the files for the projects that she had been working on. I said “You don’t even have to say a word – – just attach the PSD’s, any code, CSS, programming, etc and I’ll take it from there!” My last email to her, requesting the files, was on February 27, 2008.
Of course, I just couldn’t afford the time, any longer, to wait and see if she would resurface again. Time was running out.. and in some cases, time had already passed me by.
Having a full queue of client projects, myself – it was very difficult having to absorb her projects as well and, as a result, I was faced with the very difficult task of offering my apologies and completely refunding several projects and, in some cases, referring some projects out to other shops.
Some clients I refunded completely and yet still finished their full project. In most cases, having to start from scratch because she didn’t send any of the files. I only had rough design mock ups to work off of.
One client she had done a fair amount of custom programming for. Programming which was broken and a complete fiasco, I had to outsource for in order to get it fixed.. on my dime.
Another client is so upset with me – – she’s spitting nails.
Yet another client did a not so very nice post about his experience with me – making me sound like the devil incarnate. In all honesty, I don’t blame him a bit for being upset.
Some of the clients I just refunded completely and sent them off to someone else to complete the work.
Other clients, I was late on deliverables because of this incident. While they have their project completed and they are happy with the end result — a couple weren’t too happy with the time it took to get it completed.
So I have a handful of very upset clients, my stress levels reaching critical mass and I took financial and PR hits because I was too worried about giving her the benefit of the doubt and wasting time trying to give her the chance to make good. I had no reason to think she wouldn’t – – in the four years she had worked with me… I had developed a very strong trust in her as a person and designer.
I feel horrible on so many different levels. For my clients, for my family who had to bear the brunt of my stress filled days and nights, to my friends who didn’t hear from me…the friends who called and constantly got my voice mail.
Not too mention that, on a personal level – this hurt. I had grown to like her a lot and considered her a friend.
I really started worrying if she was ok – – ya know, still alive? This was so UNLIKE her. I started asking around if anyone had heard from her. My worry quickly vanished when another designer friend of mine mentioned that she was regularly updating her Facebook. She still is to this day. And I still haven’t heard from her, not even so much as the courtesy to send me the project files she had been working on. The project that she initially took responsibility for – then abandoned, leaving me to clean up the huge mess she left in her path. Not too mention, she was PAID for things she did not complete!
I shouldered it all… the disappointment, the angst, the stress – – I apologized my head off and felt so horrible because in the 10 years I’ve been doing this, I have never been in a position where I let my clients down like this… let myself down like this. For some, it was to the point where the apologies were trite and not accepted. Some were wonderful, and understood my position. But, this is business, ya know? You don’t just play around with people’s money and time just because YOU happen to be having a bad day/week/month with one of your contracted employees.
The money I could refund. The time I could not.
In the end – it is my business and the responsibility is my own, ultimately. I do take a lot of pride in what I do – – a lot of pride in what I’ve built… this just really crushed me for a time.
I have since recovered from this and things are now back to normal – – but dealing with the fall out from her disappearance took a good couple of months, and a few very dissatisfied clients from whom I will never regain trust.
This is the price I pay for putting too much trust into one single person.
Or is it?
I don’t want to become jaded, pessimistic and untrusting of people. What kind of life is that to lead – – either on a personal, or professional level? I came across a post that Matt did about Optimism Tax – you should check it out, and then click the link in his post and read the story. I’m thinking… this situation with my (ex)designer is my Optimism Tax for the year.
It’s the price I pay to remain optimistic and trusting that, by and large, most people ARE good.
I dunno. Maybe it’s someone else who is updating her Facebook account? Ya think? Well, I was forced to move on, the way you do when relationships dissolve. If you happen to see her around, her name is Becca – let her know I’m still kinda worried about her.