Art of Accounting: Dropping Clients Who are Stalkers

Register now

IMGCAP(1)]I have been very fortunate to have really nice clients that I liked working with and for, but I have had some clunkers.

During my career I have dropped very few clients and in retrospect I dropped four clients that were “phone stalkers.” This was before cell phones. The type of person still exists today, but with different equipment.

Phone stalkers are clients that are chain callers, i.e. they call every 10 or 15 minutes until they get to speak to me. Now, let’s consider the situation. They call and are told I am in a meeting that will last two hours and will return calls afterwards, or I am out of the office and will be back at 3:00 pm, at which time I will return the calls, or I will return all calls in the morning. Almost not listening and certainly not paying attention, they insist on speaking to me as soon as possible. When they do not get a return call, they call again in 10 or 15 minutes, and repeat this pattern until I am able to—or forced to—interrupt what I am doing to take their call.

This also has happened when I left a message on my cell that I am at a conference or out of the country, and they overload my inbox with their messages.

Now I always think the best of people and especially of clients. Their being stalkers is not always evident or something I believe. However, at some point it becomes clear. One time the calls were so frequent and repetitive during tax season that it completely disrupted the receptionist who was trying to answer the phones and also call clients with messages about their tax returns.

These are clients I dropped on the spot once their status became clear. Their lack of courtesy and consideration for my time, along with the disruption to others in my firm, made them unacceptable to be clients. I was certainly richer without them.

While I am on this track, another unacceptable client was a man who dropped off his tax return information one afternoon. He then showed up around 8:00 pm that same night demanding to know who was working on it and watch them doing the work. I finally had to threaten to call the police to get him to leave, along with his tax information.

Another type we are richer without are clients who agree to a fixed fee and then try to bargain it down after the work is signed, sealed and delivered. Their leverage is holding back the payment long enough until you finally agree to a reduction. Or those who offer to pay you, with a small discount, just before it is time to have their next year’s work done. And then they expect superior service. Do you know what? “Goodbye Charlie!” Actually, a client who agrees to a fee and then offers to pay less is a liar and there is no room for liars in our lives.

The very few clients I’ve dropped were those who made my life better by not having them around.

Edward Mendlowitz, CPA, is partner emeritus at WithumSmith+Brown, PC, CPAs. He is the author of 24 books, including “How to Review Tax Returns,” co-written with Andrew D. Mendlowitz (published by CPATrendlines) and “Managing Your Tax Season, Third Edition” (published by the AICPA). Ed also writes a twice-a-week blog addressing issues that clients have at Art of Accounting is a continuing series where Ed shares autobiographical experiences with tips that he hopes can be adopted by his colleagues. Ed welcomes practice management questions and can be reached at (732) 964-9329 or

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, click here.