The newspapers recently reported the story of woman who filed suit seeking a $100,000+ recovery from her landlord and former neighbor for damages allegedly caused by cigarette smoke drifting through the adjoining walls of their upscale townhome.  Sue Yu alleges that construction defects at the Tiffany Townhomes allowed Marilyn Marlboro’s (her neighbor) cigarette smoke to seep into her unit resulting in health issues and property damage.

The reported facts make me scratch my head and wonder whether the claim is legitimate or whether Sue Yu is just one of those customers that can never be satisfied.  According to the article: (1) Tiffany Townhome’s managers, at Sue Yu’s request, repeatedly replaced air filters, installed sealant type electrical plates and used industrial grade roofing sealant to caulk pipes under the kitchen cabinet to prevent potential seepage; (2) the smoke was purportedly seeping through a solid, two-hour fire wall; (3) Marilyn Marlboro moved to another townhome unit when a judge issued a TRO forbidding her from lighting up in her townhome; (4) Sue Yu renewed her lease at the Tiffany Townhomes six months after she claims the problem began; and (5) Sue Yu filed a complaint under the Texas Fair Housing Act alleging that her sensitivity to cigarette smoke qualifies her for protection set aside for people with disabilities. 

Tilting the Scales in Your Favor:  Difficult clients.  Difficult customers.  Difficult partners.  You have them.  The question is, what should you do with them?  Often times, businesses try to maintain relationships with difficult people because they are afraid of losing the business or they fear that terminating the relationship would be “uncomfortable” or could result in litigation.  When situations like this occur, you should accept the fact that there are some people that you can please none of the time.  When this happens, do what your mother taught you to do when taking off a Band-Aid…rip it off quickly.  Although it will be momentarily painful, you will avoid what is sure to be a lingering pain.   Maintaining relationships with people that cannot be satisfied will be far more expensive (in legal fees and otherwise) than terminating the relationship when you initially recognize the problem.  When reasonable efforts to accommodate the demands of clients or customers fail, just get it over with and rip off that Band-Aid.