How to avoid a bad customer

For years, small business owners and landlords have complained about bad customers and tenants online. Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Twitter have been used to vent frustrations with bad customers. Unfortunately, this is nothing more than writing a “Dear John” letter and venting to the wall. You may get several likes and comments by venting on social media, but after a few hours, the situation hasn’t changed, and it eventually becomes an old post no one sees. To avoid a bad customer or tenant, they need to be identified before you commit to doing business with them.

First is the customer refuses to pay for the services provided or wants to renegotiate the price after the job is completed. At, we feel this is the worst customer because their actions cause the most financial damage to the bottom line. Many of us who own small businesses have been emotionally and financially crushed by these customers. I have personally interacted with hundreds of business owners with customers they wish never met. Many have been forced to give discounts, free services, or even shredded some unpaid invoices because collecting the money can be difficult and expensive. Included in this group is the customer who takes forever to pay. Sometimes by the time they finally pay, they act like they’re doing someone a favor.

I remember we had to sell a car to make ends meet after a customer refused to pay for a water damage restoration job – even after winning in court. I also had a customer who messed around for two years before the bill was paid entirely. Then they had the audacity to ask us to work for them again. We refused.

The second is the customer who has unrealistic expectations. This may be the most common complaint we see online. If you have owned a business for more than a week, you know precisely what unrealistic expectations a problematic customer can have. It’s not impossible to deal with these customers, but it isn’t easy. The unrealistic customer either doesn’t understand the scope of work performed or uses ignorance to manipulate the situation to get a discount or free service.

The third is the customer who leaves unfair bad reviews. Many customers have learned they can weaponize online reviews to get what they want. These customers know a bad review or two can damage the online reputation of a business for months or even years. Many have been threatened with a bad review if they don’t give the customer everything they want. Not all negative reviews are wrong; sometimes, the business deserves it.

The fourth type of bad customer is the tenant who refuses to pay the rent or damages the property they are renting. I have interacted with dozens of landlords who (after some coaxing) have admitted they often don’t follow through with background checks, financial checks, or called references. Like playing Russian Roulette, they seem to get away with it a few times, and then BANG, they get nailed with a tenant that runs out on the rent or leaves the rental in shambles. Many of them admit they usually keep the deposit and move on – let that tenant be someone else’s problem. Essentially, they are just playing “hot potato” by passing these bad tenants around.

What is the best way to avoid a bad customer or tenant?

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Matthew Winfrey CEO