Clients From Hell: a case of clam idiocy

An over-zealous HR department gets the wrong idea about an email discussing clams in this anonymous account of client woes.

"I was working with a large company to help them design a new series of mascots aimed at children. We settled on an ocean theme, and we started to create mockups for family members based on sea life. For reasons unknown to me, human resources (HR) had to be CC'd throughout any and all interactions we had. This, however, turned out to be unnecessary as HR wasn't reading the emails. And that was fine, until we had a misunderstanding ..."

Client: I love the initial mockups you've given us, but I worry about consistency. I was thinking in terms of species. That said, I mentioned it to [redacted] in HR and he was worried that it might come across as racist.

Me: I ... think that might be an overreaction, but I can certainly appreciate the concern. Did you have any species in mind?

Client: Well, I was thinking we could go for a visual consistency instead, you know? We could have a killer whale and a shark as the mother and father, and make all the kids different types of mollusks or something. I like the clam design you showed us. I was thinking we could use the clam as the main mascot, but can we see some variations? We'll either use one for the main mascot, or use the variants as the different kids.

"As per usual, I sent the client our meeting notes afterwards, which included a summary of what we talked about and what needed to be done. The client responded to this email with a new one, the subject line 're: Your Clam'."

Client: Took another look at your clam after I got home, and something about the lips are off.

"The client continued to write specific revisions and included pictures of real and cartoon clams as reference. I didn't read this email in detail as it was the end of my work day. The next morning, I got a call from the company asking me to come in for a meeting regarding my main client contact.

"It turns out that the first email HR read was the last one, and they stopped after the first sentence, worried that the attached pictures were of a sexual nature and "clams" was a less than subtle code word for my vagina. Though everything was explained, my story corroborated my client contact, and they had the mockups to refer to, they decided they 'would feel more comfortable' if I was let go."

This article was originally published in issue 253 of net magazine. To read more stories of client nightmares, head over to Clients From Hell.

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