I'm a freelancer and deal mostly with web, a client of mine has hired me to deal with a monthly newsletter: improve the deliverability and the message itself, I signed up for a popular online service (don't know if I can say the name) made a template for them to use with it, imported the mailing list they had and showed them how to use the service, deliveries and opens skyrocketed and the cost lowered over 50%, the client was so happy with the results we signed a contract with a monthly fee to manage this service and do other jobs related to web development and consulting.

All fine and good until this one guy who works at this company, I believe he was the one who hired the previous service, began complaining about not receiving the mails. So I logged into the management software and there it was - the guy had reported the message as SPAM, the first time I removed his email from the spam list - resend and when I asked him if the message were getting through he told me it went into the spam folder, ok... the second time , again he complained about the message, but this time he opened the message just to send it to spam again, I hate to assume the worst of people, but now I'm sure he's doing it on purpose, because the software uses the images in the email to register when a user opens the message.

It's obvious that he's lying, but I don't want to create a conflict inside the client - he appears to be a good accountant , what is the best way to gracefully deal with such a situation.

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    You may find more help here: freelancing.stackexchange.com
    – MackM
    Commented Sep 1, 2015 at 19:10
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    Are you physically located near the client? Can you arrange to physically sit with the accountant or do a web conference while you send an email and watch what happens on his machine? Either it will show up as you expect or you'll discover that there is something about the spam filter on this guy's machine that is creating an issue. Commented Sep 1, 2015 at 19:16
  • @JustinCave that seems to be a sensible option, I might be able to convince them to let me connect through teamviewer or I could visit the company next time I were to be in their city.
    – anon
    Commented Sep 1, 2015 at 20:03
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    It sounds like you are sending the emails as requested, and the one person is complaining because it's hitting his spam filter (whether intentionally or not). At this point it sounds like a problem on the receiving end that you shouldn't have to deal with.
    – David K
    Commented Sep 1, 2015 at 20:45
  • Already posted on freelancing Commented Sep 2, 2015 at 2:43

3 Answers 3


It's obvious that he's lying, but I don't want to create a conflict inside the client - he appears to be a good accountant , what is the best way to gracefully deal with such a situation.

Talk with whoever is your direct contact ("boss") within the client. Presumably this is someone with more technical knowledge than the problem accountant.

Explain that there must be some confusion, but that one accountant seems to be having problems handling spam correctly.

Offer to help your boss work with the accountant to explain how to properly handle the emails. Perhaps if your boss would walk over to the accountant's desk, the accountant could show your boss what he was doing while you were on the phone, and together you could all correct the issues.

Basically, make it sound like "it must just be an honest mistake" rather than a lie or stupidity on the part of the accountant. That could avoid a conflict, and would be a graceful way to handle it.

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    Honest mistake, or buggy spam filter. Either way, definitely don't start pointing fingers.
    – David K
    Commented Sep 1, 2015 at 20:43
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    Use the phrase, "I'm happy to work with your IT department to help resolve this user's email issue." - Make it clear the issue is with the user, not the system, and that the responsibility is between the user and IT, but offer any and all assistance. Commented Sep 1, 2015 at 21:04

This is a question on how to deal with lies. But you've asked the wrong question.

It should be a question on how to deal with your belief that a client is lying.

In fact, you are metaphysically incapable of telling the difference (in this example) between him being profoundly confused vs. deliberately deceitful. You might be EXTREMELY CONFIDENT you are right, but this is still a red herring.

How should any of us handle it when we believe someone is lying to us?

There is exactly one answer that works every time: assume positive intent.

Assume positive intent.


This works brilliantly for three reasons.

  1. If he's actually merely stupid, you've NOT falsely accused him. You can move on to solve the technical problem. You've avoided creating a new and very dangerous problem. An honest stupid person can become VERY upset with your false accusation and cause you a lot of trouble.
  2. If he's actually a liar, he'll pretend not to be. You're still free to move on to solve the technical problem. By not outing him, you avoid his need to hide his dishonesty by pretending to be an honest stupid person, fake being upset, and cause you a lot of trouble.
  3. You come off as super nice and reasonable to bystanders. (If you start "gathering evidence to prove he's a liar" you start to smell toxic to others.)


In this case, screen share. Have him share his screen with you as you send him an email, and watch (and record) him opening and handling the email. Odds are excellent he's hitting the spam button by mistake.

You get him to cooperate by asking him to help you "debug his spam filter."

Oh, and get your actual client to agree that since 99% of recipients are getting their emails just fine, this guy's problem is not your problem.


When choosing between assuming honest error and malice, bystanders are VERY upset to see anyone assume malice. They fear being treated the same way. And 99% of the time, it really is honest error.

Einstein is supposed to have said that even the universe is finite -- only stupidity is infinite.

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    "Never assume malice when stupidity will explain the situation." And never assume stupidity when a malfunction outside the user's awareness and/or control could explain the situation. The customers aren't trying to make your life difficult; the universe is. And that's what we get paid to cope with. Having said that, it is possible to fire a customer... but that's rarely necessary and is the last resort.
    – keshlam
    Commented Sep 2, 2015 at 2:06

It's not obvious to me that he's lying, and it's irrelevant if he is. Follow professional protocols and either remote in somehow and try and sort it out, or get the clients IT to work with you if you can't go there yourself.

It's not actually your problem at the end of the day, if you can verify that the mail is being sent correctly. The onus is on the other side to find out why they're not receiving it.

I can't think of anything worse than getting into a personal conflict and accusing anyone over something so easy to verify. It's not productive nor is it professional.

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