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Dan Rubin's SuperfluousBanter

Design, random musings, and the Web. Since 1977


Copy & Paste Mentality

We all know that a digital environment is prone to illicit reproductions: songs, movies, stylesheets, markup, code, graphics, software etc. You name it. All your bits are belong to us! As such this is nothing new, I remember the days when tapes were hot, hot, hot! But somehow there was at least some level of effort put into getting that wicked new album on tape – after which you shared it with your friends getting drunk while playing NHL or Road Rash on a Sega Genesis (yup, those were the days).

Presently sharing requires as much effort as switching on your computer. Aside from the fact that sharing is inherent to a network, a worrisome trend is taking shape: copy and paste mentality is infecting all layers of society, not only the computer literate and hardcore geeks. In the great tradition of client stories from hell, here’s my version.

While working on a corporate web site I get a phone call from the client: “Umm, yes, we just had a meeting with our 3 CEO’s and would like to expand the site with a few extra sections, is that possible?” Ok, first of, what the f***? 3 CEO’s? Ugh, welcome to feedback and approval cycle from hell. Anyway, more business is always good, so I told them I’d send a revised offer and contract. No biggie. Right?

Two days later I get another phone call: “Yeah, errmÂ… we had a look at your offer but found its price rather disturbing.” I get these types of answers most of the time, clients always think any price is ridiculous, whatever the amount (tip: odds are a client will try to bargain, make sure you calculate some safety margin; anywhere between 15% and 20% will do). After getting the “this price is ridiculous” preach, I explain how I calculate my fees, the amount of work it will take and of course offer them a 15% rebate since they’re requesting more business (safety margin, remember). But at that exact moment lightening strikes: “Yes, yes, yes, that’s all fine, but isn’t a few extra pages just a matter of copy and paste.”

Click, click, boom! Copy and paste mentalityÂ…

It’s during moments such as these that I hate clients more than I need them. As if matters couldn’t get any worse, my sensible explainations failed miserably to convince the client otherwise: “Yeah, well, if you’re going to charge for these few extra sections we’re afraid that we’ll be forced to take our business elsewhere.” Talk about extreme measures. Worst of all, I already finished all the compositions and just got approval, from all 3 CEO’s, which is close to a miracle.

So I ask you? What would you have done? Give in, and finish the project without billing for the other sections and keep a client happy (and get the full initial amount)? Or, refuse to do work for free and tell them to f*** themselves, accompanied by the traditional middle finger. Yet bill for the hours already worked and risk losing a referral and money?

This item was posted by Dan Rubin on Monday, February 23rd, 2004.


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