The salesman’s dirty little ploy

Age has brought wisdom to tread carefully, but not enough wisdom to know precisely what to do.

In bringing a more updated look to our marketing, our papaya boxes are lagging behind. Our old box manufacturer is not to blame, there’s only so much you can do with two colors and a print process that make gradients look like vibrations.

From my second day on the job – when one of the sales managers took me aside and showed me a beautiful competitor’s box with fruit poised on a wave lapped beach – I’ve known what the sales team wanted. But boxes are variable costs, add twenty cents costs to each box of a low margin item and you have to question the cost.

And that’s what I did, today I questioned the additional cost of twenty cents a box.

The new papaya box project has been going on for quite a while. I first got my hands on the project five days ago. Right away, something didn’t quite jibe. The sample box bore a three color process, the specifications only provided measurements and illustration. My calls to customer service ushered in full details on the 3 color process but referred me to the salesman for details about the full color process.

The salesperson was allusive. He was driving could I email what I needed. Oh he got my email but I wasn’t clear on… He couldn’t find my email could I send him another. He’ll send me some info but first I needed to email him again.

Exasperated, I called back customer service. One of the reps let it drop that full color was printed on a wrapper off site and then glued to the box material before cutting. I knew that process meant more than just the little additional cost my folks expected.

When I twisted the salesperson’s arm today, he let me know the twenty cents additional costs (approximately, don’t hold him to it). I knew he hadn’t given us a quote, so he was thinking an additional cost was nothing when you didn’t have the base cost to begin with. What’s an additional cost, if I had put together some tempting artwork for the box by the time he did get around to giving us a quote.

The salesman’s ploy was deeper and darker than a timing issue. He had talked my OPS and Sales VPs into launching a box test. To test the box’s stability, unprinted boxes have been sent to Belize for packing and shipping back here. By the time the quote will actually surface our company would be far down the sales path, perhaps too far to hike back out and make the journey with another box manufacturer.

What made his ploy darker, is that the salesperson told me about the box test. He must have hoped my guts level was low, he must have told me thinking that I’d let it slide. Sliding heightens the chances of getting a beautiful new box. It felt a little like blackmail.

Chances are I’ll get burned so I choose to get a little charred vs. flamed. I told the Sales VP. I’ll be slightly charred if the salesperson comes back with a slimmed down additional costs of say ten cents more. Sales VP’s thought process, “Mary chicken little.” Better than full flamed, if I let it go and my CEO vetoes the whole thing at the end, somehow I think the salesperson would let it be known that I knew the costs all along.

I’ll keep the salesperson in the dark on what I did on his little blackmail bar-be-que grill. I may have chosen charred but the bar-be-que isn’t over yet and this salesperson seems to like flipping whatever he’s grilling.
No plastic flowers for my grave,
when silk will only do.”