In the spring of my senior year at Harvard, I was awarded the contract to make passport photos for any of my fellow Quincy House residents who needed them.
By "awarded the contract" I mean that the assistant to the House Master was a friend of mine who knew I knew my way around a darkroom (that may have come out wrong…), and so she gave the project to me.
Everything went along swimmingly until an underclassman I shall call Philip came to pick up and pay for his photos.
I don’t recall what I charged for the set of photos, but I remember it was nominal and considerably lower than the going rate, and it was advertised ahead of time. People knew the fee when they sat for the pictures.
So I hand Philip his photos and ask for my fee, and he starts in on me.
Are you kidding? You want $X? Let me ask you… How much does one frame of film cost? And how much developer and fixer are needed for one frame of film? And how much did these two squares of photo paper cost?
I don’t remember my exact response. But I’ll never forget the encounter.
When a one-time customer trivializes your products or services, there’s not much you can do. Make the exchange. Bite your tongue.
When a long-term client suddenly trivializes your products or services, call a time-out. Something has gone sour, and you really ought to get to the bottom of it.
PS: Many years after college, I was gratified to learn that Philip, who pursued a career in government service, had once been referred to as
the dumbest f***ing guy on the planet by an American Four Star General.