20 September 2007

Why Can't People Talk About Hurdles?

You know, I've observed something over the past while that baffles/intrigues me regarding human relationships. It's the fact that many people instinctively shy away from conflict, and, moreover, many of those same people avoid anticipated conflict, whether or not that would have been the outcome.

Take an example today with a business that I am working with to develop some candles for me. I need them developed right away for a conference at the beginning of November in California. Actually, I needed them for a conference in October, but that isn't going to happen anymore due to my conversation with the gal there today.

The situation began back in June when I emailed them to ask if they did custom candle molds. I didn't get a reply. I emailed again, stating that I was interested in a large quantity, etc., etc. to try and get a swifter reply. No reply. I decided that I must not sound serious enough, and so I called them directly. Finally, a person! They said that it was expensive, but that they did provide that service. I was happy to investigate, and so I sent them my pi cookie cutter with the expectation (and explicit instructions) that they would call me to start the discussion.

Nothing happened. I waited for about two weeks, and then I called them again. It turns out that they had made some prototypes and they were going to e-mail me, but they just hadn't, yet. They said they would email me pictures of the prototypes, which I thought was great. We talked for a while about the different possibilities, and I was excited.

Basically, nearly all talk stopped after this. It seemed that they were wholly disinterested unless I called them to remind them that I wanted to give them all of this business. I decided that I would look elsewhere for a business that was pro-active in taking care of me. As it turns out, there appears to be no one in the United States who is willing to make custom candles except these guys.

After a month of searching for another manufacturer, I called them back in August. They had never sent emails, has apparently lost the prototypes, and had no more idea what they were going to offer me than the first day that we talked. So, we talked over the same options again and we settled on the fact that they were going to put a proposal together for what they think would be best with respect to making pi-shaped candles.

Nothing ever came. No proposal in an email, no telephone calls, no prototypes in the mail. Nothing. I diligently called them once a week (we had a standing call) to ask them about progress. Each week, nothing had been done, and each week there was more of a "well, since we haven't started, yet, we should really get going" tone in their voice. Yet, they still did nothing.

Up to this point, I had been extremely nice and understanding. So, today, I finally shook of a little bit of the nice guy and told them plainly what I thought of their business practice. They either needed to simply tell me whether or not they could provide the solution.

I think that the jolt woke them up a bit and they finally gave their two concerns. The first concern was that the copper cookie cutter wasn't going to work and that they needed me to get someone to create a ceramic mold for them to use. Oh, my goodness! Had they just told me that in June, I would have had a ceramic pi mold in their hands in July! Why did they try to avoid the conflict and not tell me three months ago? The second concern was price (which we had never discussed to this point, though I had requested pricing many times). They were concerned that the price of these custom candles was going to be way over my budget. We had never talked about pricing, and yet, this was what was keeping them from making progress! It turns out, when they finally quoted a price, that it was a lot cheaper than I was planning on.

In my opinion, it comes down to the fact that they avoided the conflict of me turning them down as my manufacturer because of the mold and the pricing. Yet, after they brought it up, I was totally willing to accommodate! I really have no idea why they were so concerned. Had they just brought these things up in the beginning, we could have created a roadmap so I would have the candles in my hand right now. Instead, because they were wishy-washy about it, I was carted along for three months, and now, I can't have the candles for another six weeks while I get this mold ready.

If they weren't the only custom candle mold shop in the US, I'd be looking elsewhere. Not because they wouldn't do a great job, but because they didn't seem to care about my businesses needs enough to bring up problems as they arose; they simply let it slide until the problem became unsolvable.