When I first started my promo business and a potential client requested a quote, I searched products on my industry system of choice and quoted based on the information I found. I’m pretty sure that’s how most of you do it. I soon realized that this information was many times incomplete, so I added a disclaimer to my product presentations to the fact that “additional charges may apply”, and if so, they would be included in the” formal quote”. This gave me a chance to add any charges that might come up once discussing the project details further with the supplier, without the client questioning them.
In time I also found that some suppliers, when calling to verify charges, omit certain ones that come up on the final invoice as an unpleasant surprise.
Proof charges, third party shipping, extra packing charges, among others, are a frequent reason for distributors complains in industry forums. Some suggest suppliers absorb the cost. Some don’t think they are justified. Others think they should add them to the cost of the item. The bottom line is that nobody likes charges they didn’t see coming that erode profits.
What Can We Do About It?
It is unlikely these charges will go away, and asking a supplier to eliminate them just won’t work. In a perfect world supplier would have these charges specified on their websites and/or the industry search platforms, but not all of them do. It’s up to us to do our homework.
Know Your Suppliers
• Our suppliers universe is made up of a wide array of different types of businesses, ranging from small mom-and-pop to large enterprises. Each of them works differently, and has different processes, different equipment, and can run their business however they want.
• Suppliers are also affected by price wars, and many have reduced their pricing to the bear minimum, so they need to add extras as separate items, because most times they are optional. Even if those items are standard in our process.
• Many of those charges are somewhat standard and we should expect them. We need to account for them when we are quoting projects adding them to our costs, and charge accordingly.
Implement Systems and Processes
• Create a checklist with all these possible charges so you remember to ask the supplier each and every one of them when verifying product pricing information.
• Read carefully supplier’s sales orders to ensure charges and other details are correct, so you have time to address any extra charges, both with your supplier and with the client.
Know Your Numbers
• Call the supplier and verify pricing information, every time, even for re-orders. Keep in mind that suppliers might change their processes so it’s best not to make any assumptions.
• Ask the supplier for a written quote including all charges
• Add a factor for incidentals (we add $30 – $50) to the quote to allow for variations, especially when dealing with new orders/suppliers. This way you always come out ahead.
The bottom line is that every supplier will have the price structure that works best for them, and it is our job to know how much an order will cost before we make price commitments to our clients.
At the end of the day, these charges are in the “it is what it is” category, and we have no control over them at all. We have to deal with it.