I had a very similar experience for my first client, who was a lawyer. I came for the first meeting prepared with prices and a contract. He hand waived the contract away, and who am I to argue with a lawyer over the need for a contract?
I would get "summoned" to his office for meetings with no explanation other than "Chad, come meet me at my office". All for it to be a request to "change this colour" that could have been done over the phone. I finished his website and sent my invoice, and then he ghosted me. I eventually did get the last laugh though, as I found a credit collections company that agreed to chase him. Cost me a third of the invoice, but he did eventually pay.
I had another potential client in the next town over an hour away that insisted I come to them for a meeting rather than they come to me to or to discuss anything on the phone because the CEO was "very busy". I said sure, but I charge for in person consultations. They found that insulting and ghosted me. I guess it was ok to waste my time but not their's.
I've had many more great clients than bad though, and I've gotten better at spotting and avoiding the bad ones.
That's just it – I think for a lot of us early on, we just don't know any better and really, REALLY want the client... certain people can smell it and take advantage.
But once we get burned and quickly learn our lessons we improve our business and keep a lot of the tire-kickers/time-wasters at bay. And like you mention, just being able to spot and take action to avoid potential problem clients.
Also, I love that you referred that client to collections!
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