True Stories – Getting Quotes from Vendors
I come from the school of comparative quoting – I was always taught to get three quotes when hiring someone for a given service. So when I opened my company, I continued this practice on behalf of my clients. I always thought that was the right thing to do until I ran into a problem, which is why I’m sharing this story with you today. This incident is the only negative dealing I’ve experienced within the event and wedding planning industry. Maybe that’s why it bothers me so much!
As you’ve probably gathered, honoring my relationships with other vendors and planners is paramount. I work hard to juggle respect for both my clients and my suppliers, being very careful to act in both parties’ best interests. Which brings me to Salina and Shawn’s wedding back in 2008. I was looking for a florist for this couple – it was my second season as an independent planner and I was still getting to know the various vendors in the area. I had sent some past clients to “Florist A,” so I decided to go to her again to get a quote for my couple’s floral requirements. We had a pretty good idea what we wanted for centerpieces, and we knew exactly what we wanted for bouquets and boutonnieres, so I wasn’t looking for much creative input – just a good price. Florist A’s quote came back at about what I had expected; but then again, being a newbie business owner, I didn’t fully know what to expect.
Once I had the first quote, it was time to seek out the other two. But I wasn’t sure where to go next. The few florists with whom I had worked just weren’t my cup of tea. They were either out-of-date or had personalities that I knew were not the right fit for me, Salina, and Shawn. Then I found “Florist B.” She had recently left Florist A’s business to manage another shop. She had a great personality, and was very talented. I thought it would be a great fit. I knew I could trust either florist with this lovely wedding. And since both had been good to my clients in the past, there were no two other ladies to whom I would rather give business. I wanted to play fair – I decided if Florist A got this contract, I would make sure the Florist B got the next one, or vice versa. I thought it was a win-win situation.
Florist B sent me her quote for the exact same order. The quotes were very close, but hers was just a tad under. I presented both quotes to Salina and Shawn and they were pleased with the numbers; they told me that a third quote would not be necessary. They asked me who they should hire, and I told them I had no preference. Because her quote was slightly less, they ended up hiring Florist B. After all, you might as well save a few dollars! Like a good little planner, I thanked Florist A for her time and told her that my clients had decided to go another route. All was good.
You might chuckle at the next part of the story (or maybe you’ll kick me for being so foolish!). I remember it like it was yesterday. I was blow drying my hair, getting ready for a networking affair, and a thought came over me like a hot flash. What if Florist A and Florist B talk between themselves, and think I was playing one against the other?
I felt like I was going to faint. I called my husband in and spilled all of my concerns. I told him how I wanted the business to go to either of them, which was why I chose both in the first place. I knew they might chat, but I thought they would be pleased that I was trying to give them both business. At that moment, I could see the other side. What if they weren’t as fond of my rationale as I had originally thought? What if they thought I was trying to undercut them? I felt sick to my stomach. My husband, lovely as he is, tried to comfort me, but felt I could no longer go to the networking event. I picked up the phone…
I called Florist A – no answer. Then I called Florist B. I explained exactly what I had done and my rationale for doing so. She was so great! She assured me that everything was okay. She appreciated my wanting to give her business, and didn’t seem concerned that I had asked her former boss to quote on the same project. After all, as I explained to her, I was just doing my planner job by getting more than one quote. She told me to go to the function and enjoy myself, and not to worry about Florist A; she was sure her reaction would be the same. So off I went, not totally at ease, but feeling encouraged that my paranoia was probably unwarranted.
The next morning I called Florist A once again to be totally honest with her about why I acted as I did. Just in case there was any chatting between the two ladies, I wanted there to be no confusion whether my intentions were honorable. I remember speaking into the phone with Florist A and the air feeling heavier and heavier as I babbled on nervously. When I finally stopped to allow her to speak, her reaction was everything I had feared and more. My heart sank and I just wanted to cry. It was a horrible conversation, and it was pretty clear to me as I hung up that the relationship had been permanently altered. I feared that our working together in the future would be so uncomfortable for both of us that I chose to avoid it, and have never stepped foot into her shop since.
You may be wondering why I’ve chosen to share this story with you today. What does this have to do with you and your business? Perhaps nothing. Perhaps you are of the mind that multiple quotes are important and it’s our prerogative to source them. Maybe you agree with obtaining more than one quote, but would have been smarter than I on who to approach. Or maybe you just think I was a nutball and should have known better. Either way, I wanted to tell you about this in hopes that it might help even one of you from making the same mistake. Now looking back from my sixth year of business, I can see how short-sighted I was.
The event and wedding planning industry in my city is very small, and almost everyone knows everyone else. Everyone talks and compares, and your successes and failures are all too well known. It’s also a woman-dominated industry where communication is very open and feelings get hurt very easily. I’m not sure if a male vendor would have been as upset as Florist A was, but I am sure of one thing – if I knew then what I know now, I would have tread much more carefully. If I really wanted to get more than one quote for the job, I should have gone to two businesses who had no relationship and no direct contact. Or I could have better educated myself on floral pricing when I first launched my business. Perhaps if I had, I wouldn’t have even needed more than one quote. I would have known that my industry is one of personalities, not just cold corporations. I would have seen all the instances where hurt feelings had ruined relationships in the past, and disallowed people from ever working together again. My hometown wedding industry is full of such examples. If only I knew then what I know now!
Today, I’m in a different place. My clients trust my judgment when I recommend them to a particular vendor and very rarely do I ever attend more than one vendor meeting per category, or get a second quote for the same job. I also know my own market so well that I can pretty much guess what a quote is going to be in advance, or at least provide an educated guess. I no longer adhere to the three-quote theory and do not feel that my clients are more poorly served as a result. I’m a smarter planner than I was four years ago, and I have worked very hard to develop trust and a good reputation within my industry. But I know that I will never have that trust again from Florist A, and for that I am very sorry. I learned my lesson the hard way, and I doubt I will ever forget it.
Till next time, happy planning!
Written by Lynn Lee
Lynn Lee has over 10 years experience in the event and wedding planning industry. These days, she’s focusing her attention on her growing wedding planning business, Weddings Unveiled. Her weekly blog posts include business tips, wedding trends, and expert advice.