Preferred Vendor or Paid Arrangement
Recently we have been getting less referrals from some great venues and wedding professionals. When I started wondering why, I was shocked and disgusted at what I found. I guess it’s my definition of a preferred vendor and from what I hear my discovery is not limited to the wedding business or our corner of the market. In my humble opinion a preferred vendor is someone that you have worked with several times and based on that experience you know that professional does a good job and treats their clients with respect. Someone that is fair and in your experience a good fit for the person you are suggesting them to. In our office we are often asked about the photographers that have canvases hanging in our office. I say this line almost every time. “When your choosing your photographer or videographer it is important to look at the style they shoot in. While I can’t tell you what style is good for you I can tell you that each of the vendors we suggest are a good upstanding business that treat their clients right each and every time we have worked with them. I am not vouching for their style, I am vouching for them as good ethical businesses that maintain their reputation by performing as promised at each event and treating others with the respect they deserve. That is my definition of a preferred vendor and I know I am not alone, but there is an infection spreading that threatens that honest approach.
Some companies are signing contracts with other businesses making them the only preferred vendor in a certain category. How do they get this distinction? From a stellar reputation and hard work performing at events? No, they get this distinction by trading their services to the other vendor with the contractual obligation to only refer them when a Client or Planner asks. Let me give you a quick example. Say I am a wedding vendor that provides several services. One of them is decoration and the other is a magazine or storefront of several wedding vendors.
This company goes to a wedding venue and offers a contract to trade advertisement for being the only preferred wedding vendor. This is just one example but the list goes on and on. Am I wrong to assume that back door deals are not the most honest way to crown a preferred wedding professional? We were also hit with this one a few months back, a wedding venue contacts us about being a preferred vendor. This is a venue that has been around for a long time, but now under new management. We are asked to come in or schedule a phone interview. Sounds great to me, I will put Legacy Event Group's services and reputation up against anyone in the business. After the interview I am feeling good about our relationship and since we have been there several times under the previous management we can’t go wrong. That is until the contract came out, not just any contract but the one that says we must give them a percentage of each of our shows that we perform at their venue. This is absolutely wrong in my opinion so we declined the offer. A larger entertainment company with questionable scruples took the deal and is now boasted as the preferred entertainment and décor sponsor for this venue.
I may want a pipe dream, I may be out of my mind, I may be losing touch as a savvy businessman. I think it is wrong to deceive someone in letting them believe that the suggested vendor is chosen from anything other than an honest option that they are right for them. But the question remains, what can you do to prevent from being a victim of a bad door deal made in a virtual alley to benefit the bottom line instead of your best interests? You can ask the person referring you some hard line questions like “Are YOU entered into a contract with any of your preferred vendors” Any good salesman is going to admit to being in bed with one of them, but not the one he or she suggested. If they do say yes, the door is open to be a victim with any vendor they suggest. Without going through the financials I am afraid you’re never going to really know.
I have to bring up one last topic which is the possibility the vendor will do a good job and/or is the best at what they do, but also entered into the despicable contract arena. This is always a possibly and if you’re a victim of “The Deal” I truly wish the best for your event. Chances are the suggested vendor will do an ok job or the vendor that sent you there would have a hard time keeping a good reputation. But behind the scenes reputations are viewed very differently and the most un-ethical things often never make it to the eye of the public. Once a business enters into this paid referral realm, you have to play the game to maintain your image because you are contractually linked to someone, like it or not. In this situation you sink or swim together.
I prefer to have our own boat filled with vendors and colleagues that I can count on and they on me. If someone loses the right to be called one of my preferred wedding professionals, there is no need to get a lawyer involved or maintain a lie to save my own reputation. We just part ways and maintain on our own separate paths, just the way it should be. ᐧ