Some people email you out of the blue accusing you of things that are not true while being rude and condescending. One person stated that they were certain I sold their email and that I am unethical and etc etc etc

My response was short and sweet
"go ___ yourself. we don't sell our user information."

To which there was a response about how I am not very professional. And the thing is, how are you supposed to respond when people falsely accuse you of criminal conduct while using your services for free AND insulting you?

Is there a professional way to respond?

Does the person who gave you no benefit of the doubt, insulted you, and wasted your time somehow deserve the benefit of the doubt? If yes, why? They certainly didn't give you any.

The way I look at business is that being short and sweet (or short and sour, in some cases) is probably one of the most professional things you can do. You only have so many hours to live and you only have so much time to service paying customers. The worst thing you could do is give someone like that the benefit of the doubt after they walked all over you, because then they might become a customer. And that type of person tends to be abusive, lazy, rude, selfish, and ignorant. Not a good customer.

If you don't enjoy what you do then its best to stop doing it. Part of ensuring work is enjoyable is filtering out those who do not fit.

So if a person says "___ off" at hello, then, if you are concerned with professionalism, reciprocating is the best thing you can possibly do. Any other course of action simply wastes time that could be spent servicing real customers - which certainly isn't very professional.

Published: March 15, 2010 by Aaron Wall in marketing


Wesley LeFebvre
March 15, 2010 - 5:40pm

That was the best response ever! I can't stop laughing, while at the same time wonder if I have it in me to do respond the same way. I'm sure there was a good message here too, but all I can think about is how shocked that person must have been to get your response. That's too awesome!

Mark Hansen
March 15, 2010 - 5:47pm

I have had to deal with the 2% crowd myself... the 2% that regardless of what you do, are never pleased... even when it was free!

Sounds like it was a reasonable reply to me! :-)

March 15, 2010 - 6:11pm

I know when people wrongly accuse you of something, it gets your blood boiling, but to reciprocate with vile words is not professional. In other words "2 wrongs don't make a right." My suggestion is that you simply state facts, as in: "Sir, I apologize if it appears that your email address was sold or marketed by my company, but I can assure you that it did not happen. I run my business by the highest ethical standards." That's all you really wanted to say anyway. Saying "Go ___ yourself," makes it sound like a couple of teens arguing. At least one person needs to be the "adult."

March 15, 2010 - 6:14pm


I love most posts - very refreshing to hear the openness and not-rehashed content, although on this one I don't see the benefit of responding to "clients" (using the word loosely), other than a personal ego boost. Silence or a boiler-plate answer would be better (and less time-consuming!) as responding in kind can potentially get you into a PR mess... Why stoop to their level?

March 15, 2010 - 6:32pm

That is what my wife said too, so she has volunteered to handle such emails going forward, so looks like I won't send out too many more curt emails :D

I did not tell my wife about this blog post yet though. She will likely be mad at me once she reads it. Hmm...sorta already put it out there...not sure what to do now.

Luckily my wife is super sweet and doesn't stay mad at me very long even when I act like a fool sometimes ;)

March 15, 2010 - 6:34pm

Right, he wasted your time and insulted you, so why waste any more time by responding? Ignore. That would be professional.

March 15, 2010 - 6:45pm

Well if you don't reply at all then a person like that thinks they were correct. And then when another person like that starts a thread with a similar accusation then you get pile on from others like that.

Slowly it shifts the perception of your brand.

Search for my name and negative comments and its quite hard to find any. But if I just didn't respond at all when people complained to me I bet a lot more of the complaints (factual or not) would get published online.

March 15, 2010 - 7:44pm

Your response looks fine to me. You could eventually skip the F word and just say "You are wrong. We don't sell our user information.". But losing time and playing too nice with such a person is just not worth it.

P.S. I can write a book about rude clients accusing about various things (for example "Your software comes as zip file, I'm sure it's spyware!!!"), so I know how you feel :D

March 15, 2010 - 8:23pm

With rarest exception, calling an a-hole an a-hole is a classic feckless action.

Often, when someone speaks poorly about another, what that someone says about another often says far more about the speaker of the words than about the subject of the speech.

When it's obvious to everyone that X is a jerk nothing much is to be gain by stating the obvious. (It's an important lesson to teach your kids, if you choose to have any. Learning to not react/respond to certain jerks in certain situations can keep them out of needless fights.)

You just have to trust that, in many/most situations, those who really matter will know the truth about you and will easily recognize when you are speaking the truth. And, when called upon to produce facts, jerks are notoriously bad at backing up their words/actions. So don't sweat it.

Figuratively speaking "just walk away". Fools just don't get it. IF they could they wouldn't be fools, a-hats, whatever.

And we - me, you, all of us, need to remember: Every dog, me and you included, gets to have our day - up or down - so we should always . . try . . argh, grrr . . to hold onto our humility, humbleness, . . GRACE in the presence of what . . really . . is plugging us in . . . ;)

Easier said than done, but I usually feel better if/when I keep my cool and don't give my skin to "the game/gambit".

Lastly, FWIW you could consider the F-U to really, honestly, be surplusage. Someone of such a bad ilk, to speak and behave so wrongly-badly towards you, is likely already . . . f-cked, right?

Karma has its way.

Inhale. Exhale. Relax.

And, lastly lastly, what's up with the growing midline? You're as bad as me, but I have age as my excuse. Get your fat arse back into shape. Me too. ;) It lowers the stress response, as it makes us more relaxed and centered, right? I gotta drop 50. Want to make a wager about who gets there first? :) No kidding. It sounds just a bit like you're stressing and I know what that sounds like . . unfortunately . . . Argh. I say too much, my friend.

March 15, 2010 - 8:48pm

Agreed. I need to drop about 100.

About to go workout in the next hour long as I can get some caffeine in me real quick ;)

March 15, 2010 - 9:30pm

You said this guy was not worth you time...

Yet, had you said "No, you're wrong, we don't sell user information", would your blood be boiled to the point of taking the time to

1) Write an entire blog post


2) Check out the user comments to confirm that your actions weren't unreasonable

It sounds like this guy just took up much more time than he would have if you responded differently.

You wrote this post on professionalism, most likely because you did something that would not seem very professional, so I don't think you would have written this post had you not said "go ____ yourself"

March 15, 2010 - 10:00pm

But I plan on sending this post to anyone else who acts that it will just be a cut and paste link send. Spend 5 minutes now to save hours of frustration & effort later. A small segment of people interesting the SEO industry are self loathing hanger ons...and with nearly 300,000 registered accounts on the site, anything that save me 30 seconds here or there down the road adds up to a good bit of time savings over the years.

March 16, 2010 - 1:00am

One of the reasons I stay in touch with this site is the refreshing attitude you have towards freeloaders - my own evolution in attitude towards non-paying and rude customers has evolved over the past few years in pretty much the same way - I am prepared to share my time and expertise with people for free, to a degree and if they reciprocate with civility and common sense. If they don't, they certainly get short shrift from me.

My business is offline also (through an office / retail shop and trade shows), so I deal with incoming telephone calls and walk-in customers on an hourly basis.

I was so enraged with a punter that asked for my advice on an issue at a recent trade show, who ridiculed me as soon as I answered (in front of about a dozen other customers and attendees), that I told him to f off in a rather forthright manner in front of them.

Although those physically closest to the interaction completely understood why I got angry, I'd be kidding myself if I thought everyone there thought my response was appropriate.

That's the cost of being short and sour - personally I don't mind paying it from time to time if that's what it takes for me to be at ease with myself, but there is a cost.

Online, I use scripting tools and pro-forma email responses to save myself time in responding to the 2% crowd, that leverage of pre-planned responses allows me to be a lot more professional than I would otherwise be.

Kudos to you for having the nuts to post about this, warts and all.

March 16, 2010 - 5:10pm

You know, sometime you just need to get to the point. Why waste time dancing around? Professional or not, I just think its better to say what you mean and mean what you say in these kinds of situations.

March 16, 2010 - 10:26pm

as long as its sincere and honest, it's professional in my book. you might offend people when choosing words, but sometimes that is the point. if you never offend anybody, you're either a push over or dishonest.

March 17, 2010 - 12:04am

I with you! Aaron

March 18, 2010 - 10:40am

Well, Aaron, count me among the commenters who have demurred.

IMHO, such a response gains you nothing, not even the few seconds you are hoping to save by pointing people to this post. You know you can achieve the same effect in a much more graceful manner.

I may be in a minority here, but one of the things that attracted me to you three/four years ago (and keeps me here) was your ability to be sharply critical without using the F-word on some pretext as many bloggers do.

Please consider this - I was about to refer your name as our authoritative SEO/SEM source to a really high profile company (deals with Fortune 50/100/500 crowd etc.). The person I am talking with is CTO level and very, very search savvy and is likely to come across this post. What I mean is that a one-minute rant has larger ramifications than we can think of at that moment.

March 18, 2010 - 11:44pm

I hear what you are saying...some people may be afraid to refer to a site which has curses in it, but note that posts like this are rare & it still didn't have a curse word in it.

It could have been "go hug yourself..." ;)

March 18, 2010 - 9:50pm

That is a funny response.

I normally would just say prove it. Then when they try to, they will realize where they were wrong and not respond.

If you know what you are doing, then I would like you to prove me wrong.


March 19, 2010 - 9:48am

"Freetards" and those with an entitlement complex treat all companies - even one-man bands and self-employeds - as if they're contacting Microsoft's help desk of 1000 support agents and expect some bland voice on the other end to offer them platitudes and 100% politeness no-matter-what while they verbally abuse you in return. No different with email. Entilement complex makes them think all companies must always be polite to them at all times, and treat them as if they're a VIP even though they've made no commitments to earn such a right.

My tactic is that I say I'm part of a very small company (which I am), we don't do "customer service" other than doing a good job. I didn't start up a business to sound like a helpdesk support agent everytime I email or talk to someone on the phone.

March 21, 2010 - 3:10pm

The best advice I heard was that if you are misquoted or slandered, it is best to say nothing when that option is politically feasible.

November 30, 2010 - 8:19pm

I realize I'm coming late to the party. I'm not even sure how I happened across your post. But it caught my attention, and I would like to offer feedback, directed not only at the post's author, but the commenters as well.

I completely disagree that responding in that manner is warranted or appropriate. There isn't anything in such a response that distinguishes you from those that are rightfully accused, and there most certainly is nothing to be gained aside from self glorifying indignation.

I must ask if the purpose of the post is to have an honest discussion, or merely to solicit attaboys, which I trust you expected would be forthcoming.

I believe it disingenuous to say that your chosen response somehow saves you more time to take care of other business than any other course of action would afford you. And to say that no reply would leave the accuser open to misjudge your integrity or business practices, well, there is simply no reason to believe that the chosen response would leave them otherwise enlightened.

While it's completely natural to have an adverse reaction to false accusations, how you behave in the face of adversity says more about you, and less about your accusers. We all allow our emotions to get the better of us at times. But rather than concocting policies meant to justify your reaction, try using some of that energy for calm introspection.

Consider the following: It's less about what "they" deserve, and more about what you deserve. In other words, how you conduct yourself directly reflects upon your character, not anyone else's. It also has to do with setting a good example. If you show a reserved response, others can and often will learn from you, even if not immediately evident. Otherwise, you are simply feeding the cycle. Exercising your position of impunity in that manner leaves you no better than they are. You're instant gratification of "I sure told him!" doesn't pay long term dividends. This is something that parenthood painfully teaches.

I realize this philosophy will likely fall upon deaf ears. Either you "get it", or you probably never will. Those on one side or the other are rarely swayed. I'm not out to go against the popular grain demonstrated here, but felt compelled to be a voice of dissent, based on thoughtful consideration.

If I can make a final suggestion, it would be that your proper reply to such folks should consist of the relevant portions of your privacy policy, and if needed, also tell them you take offense with their accusatory tone. If they persist, you can then discontinue any business with them and take your stand. This approach strikes me as the more righteous, if not more professional.

December 1, 2010 - 4:56am

While it's completely natural to have an adverse reaction to false accusations, how you behave in the face of adversity says more about you, and less about your accusers. We all allow our emotions to get the better of us at times. But rather than concocting policies meant to justify your reaction, try using some of that energy for calm introspection.

There was no 'adversity' just unsolicited rudeness.

With how I sometimes behave, I have been told I had the patience of a saint. And I responded with "at this point it isn't patience, it's numbness."

If you had about a half-million registered users on your website and almost every day you had a person who was not a paying customer demanding that you give them a free consult (because they are too lazy to read your instructions & want free support outside of the 30 pages of in depth detailed documentation you offer), demand you make your paid products & services free to them (so they may act like a jerk there as well and scare away your paying customers), tell you that you are engaging in illegal activities, demand you give them a refund for them buying something unrelated to you on a site you have no knowledge of (while threatening to smear your brand if you do not make the prescribed payment), etc etc etc

Eventually at some point you say enough.

The part you talk about 'discontinue any business with them' ... IMHO I never even started any business with them. Those sorts of folks want the time and attention and value of a business relationship without paying anything for it.

I wasted years of my life politely responding to such folks, but when I decided to mostly ignore them / delete them or tell them what I really thought I had another hour of free time every day. And it had 0 impact on sales.

Life is too short to waste time on those sorts of folks.

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