Thursday, November 22, 2007

Client Impostor

Though communications is my preference, I take on government funding applications for clients in need. The trouble is knowing new clients from impostors: people who want to pick brains. If you're in business it's part of the business. Going through introductions with someone who really should just ask for advice and pay for the hour.

This short week I encountered one--an impostor--who wanted to learn how to put a service proposal together. She's been asked by a supposed Domincan music sensation to do work for him. This was revealed while getting to know one another. This was supposed to be a sweetener for staying close to her because more jobs were around the corner for me. She's a director of day care center and a food pantry. I'm not swayed by "jobs around the corner or up the road." One paid engagement at a time.

The job was getting funding to embellish her pantry program with equipment, supplies and necessary NYC Dept. of Health repairs. Something was fishy because her office was in a shambles. NYC-funded day care centers are visited by the Dept of Health, Fire Dept and ACS program monitors. A disorganized director's office would be a write-up that needed immediate correction. The public may have doubts about ACS but they're very good about semi-annual program assessments.

The other tool that tipped me off was her cell phone. I couldn't get the make but it was a longer, sleek, silver-toned model. She fondled it frequently when we met in her office. She contacted me from it and it was the only number she gave me, though she called from the faith-based learning center.

The deal was for me to email her the service proposal later that day. It was much later that day because there was other work that came before her job. She didn't want me to take the funding announcement nor could she make a copy of it for me. It took her a moment to accept that I needed the announcement to write what needed to be done and draft the proposal. We were to meet the following day to get the retainer, see the pantry area and define its needs.

The next day came, no call from her. I call her on her sleek cell but go to voice mail. I call a few hours later and get put into voice mail again. I pull out "the dinosaur", a dictionary, to get the ground line. Key in the digits, the phone rings and it's the director who answers the phone. Wouldn't you know it: she just got in the office. What happened to the cell phone? Don't they work out on the street?

The long and short of it is that we did meet later that day. Her files were in a state that she couldn't find any information--not even her EIN or award ID #. She couldn't explain the pantry program because she felt rushed. She was booked for "the D.R." the next day. She wasn't sure whether she was going because she had two other reports that were past due. She needed to call me with her decision. What was there to think about? Papers and books were falling on the floor, file cabinet drawer stuffed with folders and her desk piled with things. It looked like her PC had Office 2003 or 2007. She had her sleek, silver-toned cell phone in hand, though.

I asked her to walk me to the door. I didn't want to be late for my job. When I finally got home that night, before shutting down my PC, I checked my email to delete unwanted items. What did I see? A message from a CEO. "...Yes, he wanted to meet to learn how traditional PR and Web 2.0 would advance his cause."

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