Venting About a Vendor

I spent too much of today on the phone with a vendor from whom I’d requested an advertised, free, 30-day trial of an information resource on behalf of a clinical department at MPOW. (For now, I won’t name the product or company, but I welcome your guesses in the comments.)

After 30 minutes of my patiently letting her finish pitching me with sales information I did not want (We’re already interested in the product! Why would I ask for a trial and quote otherwise?!), I asked for the third time if we could get a quote.

Vendor: Well, I’d really like for you to have the trial for a week before I tell you that.

[Uncomfortable pause]

Me: I can understand why, from a sales perspective, you’d want that. However, if my internal client evaluates the trial for a week, likes it, and THEN finds out it is impossibly beyond her budget, she will have wasted a week of her valuable time…so I need to have that information up front.

Vendor: Well, how much money do you have budgeted for this type of resource?

[Uncomfortable pause as I wrestle with my disbelief that the question was asked]

Me: (Slowly and calmly) Lets assume for a moment that I have that information. The quote you give me should be based on what you feel the product’s market demand merits. If I have that kind of information, let us assume that there is no way on earth I’d share it with you. The quote you give us will not be based on how much money is available.

Vendor: Well, we don’t want to devalue our data either.

Me: That’s why you set prices based on market demand, not on how much money the prospective client has, especially in this economy. Right now, you’re devaluing a prospective client– and I suspect that’s even worse for your bottom line than devaluing your data.


Fortunately, my internal client finds this behavior as despicable as I do.

How often have you had conversations like this with vendors and how do you handle them?

Seriously- tell me your vendor horror stories?

(Again, I’d love to hear your guesses about who the vendor/product is. If you guess correctly in the comments, I’ll email you and tell you so.)

19 thoughts on “Venting About a Vendor

  1. I've had similar conversations with a DNS hosting company (this is not limited to any industry). It is uncomfortable and inefficient. The bartering system is alive and well when time is worth less than the product – so you might find this getting worse rather than better as the economy goes down.

    I prefer when the price list is available on the web site. In my DNS story, I ended up going with a vendor that allowed signup online and actually was rated better than the other one with better response times on queries.

    The real question is, if this an information vendor delivering via the web, why can't you just signup online and see the price list?

    • That is because we decided to make Pubget free to researchers and libraries. As a result, there is no price list. 😉

      If you did want to snoop on me, my first business was ProjectLounge which is very upfront with the price list. However, bringing up the fact that you have a business that is honest does not help much in the negotiating either. You are just better to find another vendor that shares your ethics.

  2. Yuck! That is seriously slimy to refuse to quote you a price. We've had vendors quote a price and then offer us a better deal when we tell them that we can't afford it, but for them to ask YOU what you have budgeted for it seems incredibly unreasonable and unprofessional. The sad fact is that different institutions with the same number of users sometimes get different prices based on how much their the folks licensing e-resources are willing to haggle over price.

  3. I had a similar experience with MD Consult. I called for a trial and asked for a price. I was quoted a price that was way beyond reach of my budget. I told them there was no way we could do that price, so the rep asked me what I could afford. I came up with a reasonable figure (after I talked to a few other facilities that had the product). The figure I quoted the rep is the price we ended up with. Just got a renewal notice, and the price jumped 5.5%, which we did not feel was too bad considering some of the other horror stories. However, I would bet that your experience is with Up to Date.

  4. This sounds an awful lot like UpToDate. I once spent a fun afternoon trying to pin an UpToDate sales person down as to how their product pricing worked. There were a number of failures of logic in their explanation.

  5. I didn't know you'd decided to make PubGet free to libraries, Ian! That's spectacular! The trick with vendors of information resources is that sometimes there really isn't an appropriate product available from a competitor.

  6. Got an emailed comment from a reader who wishes to remain anonymous but gave me permission to share her experience.

    My vendor rant relates to a salesperson’s response to my request for a quote for a reduced number of simultaneous users. I explained that we had to economize and cut back and his response was “Is there anything we can do, such as offer you XXX, along with your current XXX subscription, for no additional cost? I am trying to get creative and would be open to any suggestions or ideas.”

    My (internal) response was, How about giving me the info I requested, not suggesting we pay the same amount and also receive a product we don’t want? His creativity left a lot to be desired. While he promised me the quote that same day, I had to send another email a few days later requesting the quote again which I didn’t receive for a week after my original request.

    This same vendor once opened up access (unbeknownst to me) to one of their products for our entire campus for a month and then had the nerve to quote me usage stats as an indicator of interest then insisting we should purchase it. Boy that salesman…got an earful from me.

  7. I'm guessing this sales person previously worked in real estate. How much is it worth? Whatever you'll pay! ARGH!

  8. Pricing for electronic products like databases can be negotiated very much into the extreme, as the vendor has no additional costs, only profits to win. Most librarians don't (dare to) negotiate. I think they shouldn't do but leave it to the procurement officer. That can be a reason for a vendor not giving a price upfront, but it remains stupid as you asked for it.

    If I were you and you have the possibility I would by the product somewere else.

    Good Luck

  9. Unfortunately, I think this is a new trend. I just purchased a new product (not UpToDate) and that is exactly how it went down. I have a sales background (diamonds, to be specific) so I quickly recognized this, gave them an crazy low "allowance" and got exactly what I needed for a really great deal. Everyone was happy:)

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  12. I had the same experience with UTD. I was told by a representative they don't provide bids before doing a trial. We're looking at DynaMed instead.