Author Topic: Going over someone's head to ask for an exception  (Read 3065 times)

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CakeBeret

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Going over someone's head to ask for an exception
« on: September 15, 2013, 11:02:11 AM »
On Friday, at work, I needed to buy 2 widget caps. These are very small things and not very expensive; unfortunately, they are also really old and therefore hard to come by. One of my suppliers had only one widget cap in stock; I found another supplier who had plenty in stock. None of my other suppliers had any widget caps.

The caps were only $1 each, so a grand total of $2. I called my salesperson, Wes, at the supplier to order them. Wes informed me that they had a $100 purchase minimum and they could not sell me just the two caps. Long story short, I desperately needed just these two caps, and my company doesn't have money to buy $98 worth of stuff we don't need.

We've been buying stuff from Wes and his company for years, and both my boss and I asked him to make an exception. He refused. We didn't have any other options for purchase, so finally I called the company and asked to speak to a sales manager, explained the situation and asked for an exception. The manager gave me a bit of a lecture (we have a sales minimum for good reason, we'd go out of business if we wasted employee time on $2 orders, etc) and said that he would make this exception one time and one time only, and don't ever ask again. Furthermore, he wasn't going to lose money on his employees' time having them write up and receive payment for the order, so he would simply give them to us for free.

My question is whether I was wrong our out-of-line in going over the salesperson's head to request an exception. If I had any other options, I would have bought the items elsewhere; so I rather felt like I was between a rock and a hard place. Still, I feel a bit guilty that not only did I get the exception, the manager chose to give us the items for free. :( Thoughts?

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PastryGoddess

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Re: Going over someone's head to ask for an exception
« Reply #1 on: September 15, 2013, 11:11:07 AM »
I think you were fine.  This was an exception, not the norm for you guys.  If the sales manager made the decision to give you the items for free, then that's on him.  no need to feel guilty.

I actually think both Wes and the sales manager handled it ok. 

Shoo

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Re: Going over someone's head to ask for an exception
« Reply #2 on: September 15, 2013, 11:57:41 AM »
I think you were absolutely fine.  If I were you, however, I'd do everything in my power to NOT give future business to a company whose sales people and managers lecture me.  How unprofessional and rude!

PeterM

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Re: Going over someone's head to ask for an exception
« Reply #3 on: September 15, 2013, 12:01:25 PM »
I think you were fine as far as etiquette goes, and I wouldn't worry much about going over Wes' head or getting the stuff for free. It's business, and their decision on both of those things. If you're good customers it makes sense for the manager to give you what you wanted to keep your business, even if Wes wasn't authorized to do that.

I do wonder, though, what you're going to do the next time you need these hard to find widget caps. I do think it'd be rude to repeat the process and ask for an exception when you can no longer honestly say you didn't know about their minimum purchase policy. If you normally buy a fair amount of stuff from these guys, maybe throw a few spare widget caps onto an upcoming order, just to be have them lying around for the next hypothetical emergency.

Pen^2

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Re: Going over someone's head to ask for an exception
« Reply #4 on: September 15, 2013, 12:30:49 PM »
I think you were fine. It's a normal part of what happens in business, and if Wes is upset over it, then he probably gets upset about a lot of similar things that happen every day when you're a salesperson. I'm sure he's experienced and doesn't take this sort of thing personally.

cicero

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Re: Going over someone's head to ask for an exception
« Reply #5 on: September 15, 2013, 01:13:56 PM »
I think you were fine.  This was an exception, not the norm for you guys.  If the sales manager made the decision to give you the items for free, then that's on him.  no need to feel guilty.

I actually think both Wes and the sales manager handled it ok.
I agree.

It's 2$, not worth spending any more time/thought on this.

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VorFemme

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Re: Going over someone's head to ask for an exception
« Reply #6 on: September 15, 2013, 01:26:42 PM »
Is it possible to add two spare widget caps to a future order of $98 to $100 - just to have them on hand?
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CakeBeret

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Re: Going over someone's head to ask for an exception
« Reply #7 on: September 15, 2013, 04:13:45 PM »
The nature of our business is such that we will probably never need this particular cap ever again.

Thanks for the replies, I'm relieved to hear that I wasn't out of line :)
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Sharnita

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Re: Going over someone's head to ask for an exception
« Reply #8 on: September 15, 2013, 04:19:36 PM »
You probably won't need the caps - is the nature of your business such that having a good reputation could be impacted by Wes or the manager relating their experience?

I might be worried about being known as difficult or demanding as much as any future need for caps

oogyda

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Re: Going over someone's head to ask for an exception
« Reply #9 on: September 16, 2013, 11:56:10 AM »
You shouldn't feel guilty at all.  You asked and I assume would have accepted "No" as an answer and either would have figured something else out, or placed a $100 order.

I do think the manager you spoke to at the supplier was out of line, though.  He certainly laid the "this is such a bother/favor" guilt on a little too thick for my liking.  In sales the smart thing to do would be to say "Oh, what the heck.  I don't want to do the paperwork on this, so I'll just send them to you at no charge."  Something like that would guarantee my return business.

With his attitude, I'd have second thoughts about using that company for any other supplies we might need.  If I had any say in it, I wouldn't use them again. 

I have been in the position of procuring certain supplies for a company that included 13 branches or departments.  That kind of attitude would have moved that supplier either to the bottom of my list or off it completely. 
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TootsNYC

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Re: Going over someone's head to ask for an exception
« Reply #10 on: September 16, 2013, 01:33:54 PM »
You probably won't need the caps - is the nature of your business such that having a good reputation could be impacted by Wes or the manager relating their experience?

I might be worried about being known as difficult or demanding as much as any future need for caps

The only thing is--they should be wanting to please YOU. You are the customer, the one who is giving THEM money.

Wes doesn't want to go out of business because he's afraid an EXISTING customer, someone already proven to spend money with him, will do this again, for a rare item?

And as for "going out of business by wasting employees' time filing out paperwork for a $2 order"?

Insert a giant old eyeroll here. The two of them spent enough time telling you "no," that they could have gone out of business!!

I can see two courses I might pursue from here on out.

Next order, I'd call the manager and say, "We want to buy this; we're giving you $125 worth of business. I wanted you to know that we *could* have spent this money with your competitor, but because you were willing to help us with our widget caps, we're giving you the business."
   (It would be lecture-y, but I'd be so tempted to then say, "You seemed worried that accommodating us would hurt your business, so I wanted to be sure you realize that the *goodwill* you created by making that exception is coming back to you in the form of continuing orders and incoming revenue.")

Or, the other option is to simply switch over to the other firm--but these guys are SO illogical that I can totally see them saying, "Hmph, never make an exception for anybody again, no matter how good a customer they've been; they'll just be like CakeBeret's company and ditch you after they've taken advantage of you."


You were totally fine to ask for an exception and to escalate. I don't know if you did this or not, but I've been known to say stuff like--"We give you a lot of our business, and we tend to choose you over your competitor. Are you sure you can't make an exception for us, since we are a good customer? And I'll tell you, if you're not willing to help us, we'll probably take more of our business elsewhere."
   Or even, "If you don't want to accommodate us, I'll go to your competitor after all. I'd prefer to deal with you, but if you don't regard us as a valuable customer, I'm sure they will."

Twik

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Re: Going over someone's head to ask for an exception
« Reply #11 on: September 16, 2013, 02:18:07 PM »
I do think the manager you spoke to at the supplier was out of line, though.  He certainly laid the "this is such a bother/favor" guilt on a little too thick for my liking.  In sales the smart thing to do would be to say "Oh, what the heck.  I don't want to do the paperwork on this, so I'll just send them to you at no charge."  Something like that would guarantee my return business.

With his attitude, I'd have second thoughts about using that company for any other supplies we might need.  If I had any say in it, I wouldn't use them again. 

Scolding/humiliating customers, while giving them what they want anyway - it doesn't make for great customer relations any more than it makes a great child-rearing strategy.
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SoCalVal

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Re: Going over someone's head to ask for an exception
« Reply #12 on: September 16, 2013, 02:51:12 PM »
Next order, I'd call the manager and say, "We want to buy this; we're giving you $125 worth of business. I wanted you to know that we *could* have spent this money with your competitor, but because you were willing to help us with our widget caps, we're giving you the business."
   (It would be lecture-y, but I'd be so tempted to then say, "You seemed worried that accommodating us would hurt your business, so I wanted to be sure you realize that the *goodwill* you created by making that exception is coming back to you in the form of continuing orders and incoming revenue.")

Or, the other option is to simply switch over to the other firm--but these guys are SO illogical that I can totally see them saying, "Hmph, never make an exception for anybody again, no matter how good a customer they've been; they'll just be like CakeBeret's company and ditch you after they've taken advantage of you."


You were totally fine to ask for an exception and to escalate. I don't know if you did this or not, but I've been known to say stuff like--"We give you a lot of our business, and we tend to choose you over your competitor. Are you sure you can't make an exception for us, since we are a good customer? And I'll tell you, if you're not willing to help us, we'll probably take more of our business elsewhere."
   Or even, "If you don't want to accommodate us, I'll go to your competitor after all. I'd prefer to deal with you, but if you don't regard us as a valuable customer, I'm sure they will."

I would be inclined to do/say this ONCE, along with "However, the attitude we received both from your salesperson AND your sales manager for asking you to make an exception was really off-putting so, after this one order, we will be not be placing any more orders with your company."

Or, place the order and say nothing at all but cease doing any more business with them.  If the salesperson calls sometime down the road and says, "Hey, I see you haven't ordered from us lately, then would be a good time to say, 'Yes, we really appreciated your sales manager going out on a limb for us and providing with the two widget caps -- and for free! -- but the attitude we received as a result of making the request made us realize that it was best to take our business elsewhere.  We made one more order once as a gesture of goodwill for the favor, but we are done.  Goodbye."



blarg314

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Re: Going over someone's head to ask for an exception
« Reply #13 on: September 16, 2013, 08:43:48 PM »

I think you were fine to ask at a higher level - it can also happen that a lower level sales person doesn't have the authority to make an exception.

Their response - well, it is certainly their prerogative to say no, and I can understand a reluctance to set a precedent, but they were really stupid to scold you. Giving you the two widgets as a favour to a good customer of many years standing would have been a reasonable  exception - if you tried to take advantage of it they could crack down.

As their customer, I think they would be going to the bottom of my list of choices for purchase. I wouldn't tell them off in return - after all, I might want to buy from them later - but they'd be the last choice of the various suppliers.

The Wild One, Forever

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Re: Going over someone's head to ask for an exception
« Reply #14 on: September 17, 2013, 04:06:20 PM »
Wow. 

I agree with TootsNYC's post.

They most definitely should be treating good customers with more care and respect.  What a different experience it would have been if they would have just sent you the $2 worth of widgets for free, anyway, without the accompanying lecture and reluctance.  At the company I used to work for, we came up on very similar situations, and that was how we'd handle them.  It fosters very good will with customers.  (I am not saying give away the store, but an inexpensive freebie, generously offered, tends to pay off way more than it costs.)

I am surprised Wes handled your initial request as he did.  The sales people at my former company would not be working there too long if that was how they treated their accounts.
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