Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Behind the Scenes: Dealing with Vendors

Part four of our Behind the Scenes series examines dealing with vendors, and how sometimes things get a little crazy when you are a small business.

As a fairly new business, we have been trying out a variety of different vendors to purchase our product blanks from (we do the printing/creating of the designs on the shirts, but not the shirts themselves).

We have been judging the vendors on a variety of different aspects, including price, shipping price (for some reason, some of the vendors charge a ridiculous amount for shipping), speed of delivery, professionalism, ease of use for ordering, etc. While price can be important, it's not always as important as finding a reliable, friendly vendor willing to be professional whether we are ordering 5 shirts or 500 shirts.

Recently, we needed to order in a special order that contained a 4XL shirt. After searching through some vendors, we finally found one that had that size, and we placed the order. During the order process, we provided the sizes and colors that we needed. After waiting 11 business days and still not receiving any product, I sent a followup email to check on the status of my order. 2 days later I got a reply stating that the company "had emailed several times" asking me the sizes and colors, because for some reason it didn't show up on the order.

Needless to say, I was a bit disappointed and upset by this news. I check both my inbox and my junk mail two to four times daily, and NEVER received anything from them. But regardless, they also had my phone number on the order, and could have easily called me at any point and I would have been able to clarify for them.

I was put off, but decided it was just a little glitch, and sent them an email reply clarifying what they asked for.

Two more days passed before I got another email, this time containing a bit of a rude tone, telling me that I still hadn't responded to their request. Of course, this made me less than happy and so I got a little short with them. I emailed them TWICE from my email, and ONCE through the contact form on their website, with the answer they needed.

For some reason, though they had never received my original request and had been taking their time getting to me on my order, now they received my emails quickly and felt the need to respond very rudely. They ridiculed me, telling me that my order didn't matter to them and that I was incompetent if I had filled out their order form incorrectly, and that this was all my fault and not theirs.

Boy, did I wish they had a phone number I could call at that moment!! Of course, this particular merchant didn't list a phone number on any of his merchant sites... I wonder if it was because he was a little shady? But I took a deep breath, emailed again stating I had moved my business elsewhere and to please refund my purchase (even though they had never bothered to fill my order, they took my money the very same day I ordered), and then filed a BBB report.

I waited... and waited... and began sending daily emails reminding them that I wanted a refund. They were only two sentences, very politely asking for a refund. I did this for two weeks before finally sending a note through their contact form on their website that I was filing a PayPal dispute and would like their cooperation to get me my refund. They were quick to respond to the PayPal dispute, doing more namecalling, ridiculing, and mudslinging about how I was "on a rampage" and a "smear campaign" and how their BBB agent had called them and "laughed me off as a joke" since it was over a measly 5 shirts.

I couldn't believe how incredibly rude, uncaring, and unprofessional this vendor was being! However, enough was enough. I sent ONE response to his rudeness. It simply stated that once I received my refund he wouldn't hear from me again, and that I hoped God would bless his business in the future regardless of his treatment of my "tiny" order.

I received my refund within two hours of that. Finally.

I'm not putting the vendor name here, because I really wasn't on a "smear campaign." I just believe that if you are running a business, you don't send hate emails to your customers, filled with grammatical and spelling errors and a tone of rudeness. I also think any customer, whether ordering 5 shirts or 500 shirts, deserves respect.

I can guarantee we will not do business with him again, and that I won't recommend him to any of my colleagues. In the meantime, we have found a few key vendors that treat us like we want to be treated, and we give them all of our business.

Perhaps it's like dating in that respect - sometimes, you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince. ;)

Jess Buike is the owner of Java Jess Publishing. To find out more about her business, check out her store here.

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