Sometimes I hate dealing with vendors. Don’t get me wrong. A good relationship with a vendor is crucial to a successful technology program. However, for every good, successful vendor relationship, there are a dozen cold calls and down right annoying sales people. Since this is E-Rate season, the number of such calls has increased.
First, there are the "webinars" and "webexes." These companies don’t want to spare the expense of sending a salesperson out, possible taking the risk that the message will be rejected and a trip wasted. I’ve gotten requests from at least a half-dozen companies for me to take part in such web conferences.
Then come the scams. I got one call today from guy sporting a serious Tony Soprano accent. It went something like this…
Salesdude: I’d like to send you a copy of our catalog along with a complimentary combo CD player and alarm clock. Feel free to enjoy, just don’t play it too loud in your office. We’d also like for you to try out our new printer cleaner sheets….We usually sell these in batches of 1000 at $3.50 each, but we’ve been able to break them into packets of 250 just so you can try them…
Me: OK, let me stop you right there. We’ve had people offer to send us products like this before, only to surprise us with an ugly bill at the end. Is this a free trial, or will you bill us for the cleaners?
Salesdude: We are in the business of selling the cleaners…
Me (interrupting): That didn’t answer my question. I asked if you were going to charge us for these that you want us to try. I’m assuming from you intend to charge us. I think I’d rather not receive the papers, thank you, but feel free to send the catalog and CD player.
Salesdud [sic]: I can send you a smaller sample, if you would like…
Me: Let me be very clear. I do not want to receive any of your product as trial if you are later going to end us a bill for these. Do not send us anything unless we specifically order it from your catalog.
Salesdud: Aren’t you authorized to make decisions about technology purchases?
Me: I am, and I have just made one. We do not want a trial of your product, and that’s my final word on it.
Salesdud: FUGGETABOUTIT! (phone slams)
I wonder if it was only then that he realized he had lost the sale. Slamming the phone down must be some new sales technique of which I’m just not aware. Regardless, I saved the district $875 (plus ridiculous shipping and handling) for a product which may or may not have worked.
Finally, there are the totally clueless. These folks have created a product for which there is either no market, or that miss the target by such a wide margin as to be laughable. I actually felt sorry for this one dude – to a point.
This final salesman first called on our curriculum coordinator, who quickly shuffled him in my direction. He and his wife had written a series of books targeted toward 4th and 5th grade students. These books were meant to developed technology skills in specific Microsoft Office products while enhancing writing skills. I looked at the demo he had for MS-Word. It looked like a very, very boring technical manual. It was all single-spaced type, and was not written on a level that these kids would read. The book STARTED with a description of how to press CTRL-ALT-DEL to stop programs! Reading and writing skills were only addressed peripherally, as were the standards these books were meant to address.
That was bad enough at $47 a pop per book. (The poor guy was self-publishing.) The clencher came when he tried to show me the teacher’s manual. He handed it over, and I didn’t even want to put my hands on it. There’s no delicate way to put this. The edge of the book looked like it had snot smeared on it, embedded with long strands of hair. I politely declined, then promptly scrubbed my hands for ten minutes thereafter.
For all the vendors with whom I enjoy a successful relationship, I truly, truly thank you for not behaving like these bozos. For everyone else, please stop calling. I really have no more district money to spend.