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The Case of the Price Mistake

A sales rep quotes the wrong price at a trade show. The owner rudely corrects him. Readers show how they would respond.

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IT WAS DAY two of the annual trade show, and Tonia was on the hunt for new toys to bring into her stores. She had just opened a fourth location and was excited about the bulk pricing now available to her.

ABOUT REAL DEAL

Real Deal is a fictional scenario designed to read like real-life business events. The businesses and people mentioned in this story should not be confused with actual pet businesses and people.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

NANCY GUINN is founder and president of Dog
Krazy Inc., an award-winning pet supply store in Virginia with six locations. Also a clinical pet nutritionist, she consults with veterinarians and pet parents alike. Nancy shares her life with business partner and husband Chris, and their pets Sushi, Pork Wonton, Stirfry Fatguy, Tala, Jimmy Dean and Max.

Tonia had a long list of vendors to see as well as the latest issue of PETS+, which featured new products debuting at the show.

After placing several orders that morning, she came upon a large booth for a toy brand new to her and was greeted almost immediately by a friendly sales rep. Jon introduced himself and told Tonia about the company and its highly durable toys. Interested, she asked about pricing for ordering in sets of 40 each for all of her stores. He quickly pulled out a form, and they began discussing which toys would be in her initial order.

A woman approached them and asked how many stores Tonia owned. Jon responded that she had four doors and would be ordering directly to get better pricing. The woman rolled her eyes and pulled Jon aside. She whispered loudly enough for Tonia to hear that four stores were not worth offering bulk discounts and shipping direct, and to tell her to use their distributor instead.

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Tonia stepped toward them and asked, “Is there a problem?” The woman responded, “I’m sorry, but Jon was confused. To buy direct, you have to order in quantities of 400 or more. He missed that other zero.

You will have to buy through our distributor.”

With a quick look at the order form, Tonia saw that distributor pricing was 20% higher than what Jon had quoted her. The woman walked away toward another customer in the booth.

Tonia stepped back and began to reevaluate the toy line. They would sell well in her stores, but the woman who interrupted Jon was very rude and handled the mistake poorly. He apologized for the error and asked if she would still like to place the order.

Tonia thanked him for the apology and asked, “Who was that woman?” To which Jon replied, looking down, “That was the owner of the company.”

The Big Questions

  • Should Tonia simply leave and not place an order?
  • Should she ask the owner to honor the original pricing offered?
  • If the owner won’t, should Tonia place the order through the distributor at the higher price? Or walk away?
Ramie G.
EVANSTON, IL

We would move on to another brand immediately. There are too many options available to waste time on such a short-sighted manufacturer. I would not start by telling the rep I have four stores, though. Let them come up with good options on pricing and quantities first. Let’s look at who else is carrying it in my area, big-box stores, their online presence, Amazon? I prefer to study up and place orders at the end of or after a show before I commit to any brand or product.

Susan N.
CHESTER, NJ

A manufacturer is not obligated to honor a misquoted price. Maybe they could meet in the middle this one time. And she could order direct this one time or through the distributor at the discounted price. If the manufacturer will not do this, then Tonia will have to decide how badly she wants the toys. Completely walking away when she liked the product would not be a prudent business decision.

Melissa S.
KNOXVILLE, TN

People make mistakes. If the toys are interesting enough to add, buy them through distribution. At least you won’t be tying up as much money. It’s nice to have a product with extra margin, but if that isn’t your sole criteria, make sure the toys are something you want to stock for other reasons. If not, walk away.

Sylvia Glee T.
ADAMSVILLE, TN

Of course there would be disappointment that the “real deal” wasn’t going to happen. Anyone speaking in an annoyed voice adds to the negative vibes. However, if that is the worst thing that happened, what is the big deal? Communication gaps happen all the time. All day long misunderstandings occur in our little business amongst staff as well as with customers. I sometimes wonder if we are speaking the same language. If I thought the product would be good in our location, I would sign with a smile and say thanks.

Carolyn B.
MCHENRY, IL

I would ask the owner to honor the price quoted. I would also inform her why I think the product would work for my business and that it would lead to many future purchases. If she says no, I would ask her to split the difference. She assumes 10% of the additional cost, and I would pay the additional 10%. Surely she would not turn this down. If she did, I would evaluate if the income is worth doing business with her. Bottom line: I’m running a business so I need to think about what sells versus a rude person. I would continue to shop. If nothing matches that product, I could always order later.

Kristina R.
Falls Church, VA

That’s a big mistake, 40 to 400. I think it would be really hard to honor that misquote. If Tonia really liked the line, I would suggest she talk to the distributor and see what they can do. It was a shame that the owner didn’t value Tonia and her four stores. If it was me, I would have just said, I’ll find another vendor that will appreciate me as a customer.

Pattie Z.
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA

I’m surprised that an owner of a company would be so ungracious when trying to gain a new client. Even if the customer making the inquiry brought the attitude, a good salesperson would try to make it a positive experience. If that had been my company, I’d honor the price the sales rep quoted and take a look at my sales presentation and pricing materials in case they needed to be more clear to the sales team. That customer might have made many return orders that far outweigh the initial stocking order. The supplier will never get the chance to find out.

Carol W.
ST. LOUIS, MO

I would ask the owner to honor the pricing initially offered. If she continues to say no, then ask for something between distributor and direct. You are in a booth in front of everyone who walks by, so I’m betting she will concede.

Matthew O.
SPRINGFIELD, VA

Walk away. There are so many decent companies out there fighting for our dollar, it’s easy to find something better. We have one store, and when the reps at the shows aren’t interested in helping our fanatical clients, it’s the company’s loss, not mine. We only work with companies that want to help every pet parent, and understand that every sale is potentially a lifelong customer for that brand. My customers will most likely be able to pick up their items in PetSmart soon anyway!

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Carrie C.
MILAN, MI

She should ask for the pricing to be honored, and if the owner will not, walk away. There are too many brands out there with much better customer service. This owner does not seem like an easy person to work with. What will she be like if a customer has an issue with a toy? Or if Tonia receives her shipment and there are issues?

Errin J.
ST. HELENS, OR

In my stores, if a price tag says one thing and it comes up as a higher price at the register, I always discount the product to what the tag says. It’s my responsibility to have the correct cost on all of the products, my bad if I missed updating a price tag. Also, with this woman being so rude, I would take that into consideration. The toys may be awesome, but do I want to support someone who doesn’t have the same integrity I do? I guess it would depend on how badly I want the toys in my store.

Diana F.
SAN ANTONIO, TX

If the owner hadn’t been rude, but had calmly explained her program (and her employee’s mistake), I might have considered purchasing. But if she’s that rude to a potential customer before the purchase, how customer focused will she be AFTER the sale if there are problems? Strong nope for me. There are plenty of other toy manufacturers out there who want my business. Plus, she seems to have training issues with her employees. That is NOT a small mistake, and she tops it off by berating the poor guy in front of a customer. Praise publicly, counsel privately. Sheesh.

Paige E.
ERIE, PA

Nope, I’d be done. Red flags galore! To start, 20% is a huge pricing difference. Pricing aside, the company is clearly a bit unorganized and not on the same page. I totally understand how that can happen, especially if it’s a new company, but that doesn’t excuse the lack of professionalism. It would be one thing if that were just an employee, but since it’s the owner, that’s a no go.

Stephanie R.
CHADDS FORD, PA

I would not place an order for this company’s products. I might tell Jon that he should look for a job with a nicer owner.

Margo T.
BROOKLYN, NY

If it’s a brand I really must have, I’d ask if they would honor the same deal through the distributor. The company may not have the capability of fulfilling smaller orders, but that should be made clear to staff and to buyers. Also, another promo should be available for indies through the distributor, especially at a trade show. If they won’t honor it or offer a promo, then it’s a deal breaker. I don’t care how well it would sell, there is always another brand willing to work with smaller independent shops with integrity and respect.

Chuck T.
CHICAGO, IL

Tonia should leave and not place an order

Dawn T.
VERO BEACH, FL

No, Tonia should not just leave and not place an order because that would be unprofessional and unfair to her customers if she is really interested in the toys. Yes, Tonia should inquire with the owner to honor the original pricing Jon offered because she is a store owner and a growing store owner, so if she could speak and explain to the owner why she would like the original pricing to be honored, and the growth potential. If the owner won’t honor the pricing, Tonia should walk away and not place an order through the distributor at the higher price because apparently, the company does not need the business that badly.

Karen C.
DELAVAN WI

If I thought the product was a great fit, I would likely fight for the pricing. It’s a trade show, where deals are made! If the owner refuses, I’d walk away and express my disappointment directly. First impressions are important, and if this is the company attitude toward potential customers, that’s a big “HMMM?!” If I love the product, I’d buy from a distributor and not have to deal with an owner with a chip on their shoulder.

Jennifer L.
WENATCHEE, WA

I would just move on, bringing my business elsewhere. Mistakes happen, and though she didn’t handle it professionally or how I would expect, I wouldn’t be doing business with them anyway so I would just let it go. It isn’t worth worrying about. Plenty of vendors and options out there and I don’t want to work with vendors that don’t work with indies anyway.

Stephanie S.
AMARILLO, TX

I would go back and talk to the owner. Ask her if she does support small businesses and ask why she would want to work with a distributor that has nothing to gain promoting her products, whereas if buying directly from her that she would be getting free promotion and marketing at stores with a proven track record. Then if the owner refused to work with her, walk away because there is no point in working with a company that doesn’t believe in servant leadership and wants a mutually beneficial relationship.

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Jennifer Moore B.
NORTH RIDGEVILLE, OH

I don’t deal well with rudeness, and I think I would have walked away regardless of whether she would honor the original price quoted. There are a lot of great toys available. Tonia could have found something comparable from a company that didn’t belittle her.

Brett F.
OWEGO, NY

The manufacturer needs to train their reps better and honor the initial quoted pricing, at least a one-time ISO if they want to establish any integrity and credibility at this point. The owner should approach Tonia and quietly apologize for the confusion, then state the policy but be willing to make that deal. Or Tonia should walk away. I wouldn’t buy it from the distributor if the manufacturer won’t own up to the mistake and honor even a one-time deal. There are lots of alternatives for durable toys. No need to kill yourself to help them grow their business if they can’t make it right.

What’s the Brain Squad?

If you’re the owner or top manager of a U.S. pet business serving the public, you’re invited to join the PETS+ Brain Squad. Take one five-minute quiz a month, and you’ll get a free t-shirt, be featured prominently in this magazine, and make your voice heard on key issues affecting the pet industry. Sign up here.

Nancy Guinn is the founder and president of Dog Krazy Inc., an award-winning natural pet supply store in Virginia with six locations. She helps other small businesses succeed through her contributions to industry magazines, webinars and podcasts. The Guinn household includes Nancy’s husband and business partner, Chris, and their furry and feathered inspirations Sushi, Pork Wonton, Stirfry Fatguy, Tala, Jimmy Dean and Max.

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