Troublesome customers beware. There is a new tax in town and it could cost you dear.
Prices are rising, disposable incomes are falling. The government is taxing us every which way it can. We’ve all heard about income tax, stamp duty, fuel duty and VAT, but how many of us have heard of the new tax slowly creeping into our businesses?
Its level is not set by the government and its existence is not enshrined in law.
“What is this new tax?” I hear you cry.
Ladies and gentlemen, may present to you, ‘The Muppet Tax.’
The Muppet Tax. When a service provider predicts that a potential client will be troublesome or stupid, (ie: a Muppet), they’re likely to be hit with ‘The Muppet Tax’ – The extra levy aimed at the client justifies the extra hassle the client is bound to give.
Not heard of it? Let me explain…
In the 70’s and 80’s, the Muppet Show was the one of the coolest programmes on TV.
This sublime sketch show featured puppets and real life celebrities. Its jokes, songs and parodies were legendary as were it’s characters, including Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy and Gonzo.
Now skip forward a few decades to Noughties.
In the UK of 2009, the phrase “You Muppet,” has become a term of derision.
It’s a way of saying someone is stupid, idiotic, foolish or troublesome.
Are you sure this exists?
In concept, the Muppet Tax has existed for decades (and some would argue, centuries). In certain trades the tax has been rife – Construction, Plumbing or any industry where the service provider sets his/her own rate.
I’ve seen other service providers inflate their prices when faced with a foolish client. I’ve even used this technique myself to price myself out of the market. It’s easier than telling a client you don’t want their business.
But this is terrible. What ever happened to ‘The client is always right?’
Having worked in client facing roles for almost 15 years, I can tell you with complete conviction, the client is NOT ALWAYS RIGHT.
Clients are human (well most are) and are subject to same frustrations and foibles as the rest of us.
Some customers are a joy to work with, others not.
A close friend told me about an I.T. professional who bases his hourly rate on how difficult the client is going to be. Even when the client is extraordinarily difficult, the service provider is happy. He can revel in huge cash payments he’ll receive at the end of the job.
But why have I never heard about this tax?
Usually, leviers of the Muppet Tax apply it discretely. They’re unlikely to advertise its use.
However, some sellers actually tell their clients.
This week, a colleague told me about a service provider who had experienced significant problems, with a client’s account’s department. When the client booked the provider a second time, the provider doubled his rates.
When asked why he’d done this, the provider informed his client about the Muppet Tax, and explained why it had been charged.
Impressively, the client understood, and agreed to pay twice the going rate.
I see. How can I avoid this frightening levy?
1) Be a nice customer. Remember, the service provider has emotions too!
2) Understand that just because you’re paying for the provider’s time, you don’t own them. Start-up companies are notorious for this. Understandably, firms short on cash will want to squeeze every last bit of value out of a service. That’s fine. Just don’t squeeze the fairness out of the relationship.
3) Value your provider’s time. Understand it is as precious as yours.
A troublesome client, who had agreed to meet me, didn’t bother to turn up. Nor did he bother to ring to apologize. Three hours later he rang to inform me that he was far too busy to see me. No apology was offered.
Mistakes happen and sometimes life gets in the way, but arrogance is never justified. Your service provider is likely to be as busy as you are.
4) Know what you want.
By all means, get the advice from the provider. They’re the expert. Ask all the right questions, be honest and listen. If you need to change your mind, tell the provider as soon as possible and be reasonable.
5) Don’t play mind games.
Some business pundits will tell you that business is war. It isn’t.
In the long run, ‘getting one over’ stakeholders will only cause resentment. Treat others with decency and the favour is usually returned.
If however, you’d rather play mind games, expect Kermit and Miss Piggy to come a knockin.’
You have been warned.