Bait and switch tactics are as old as the hills. You’ve seen advertisements for products or services at a great price that are suddenly not available when you attempt to buy them. Sadly, it happens too often. Webster’s Dictionary defines bait and switch as “a sales tactic in which a customer is attracted by the advertisement of a low-priced item but is then encouraged to buy a higher-priced one.” These schemes that put the emphasis on revenues instead of client quality occur in every industry…even the event industry.
Case in point is the following case study of a recent event where multiple issues arose because of this scheming tactic.
A colleague of mine contacted me with a referral to one of her clients who wanted pipe and drape around the perimeter of a large ballroom room. I promptly contacted her to get the ball rolling so we could work on getting the scenery she desired. We discussed her expectations via a few emails and phone calls. On the day of the scheduled site inspection, she canceled our meeting. She explained that her caterer was going to take care of the pipe & drape for free and she wouldn’t be needing my services. I was very surprised that a food supplier would provide pipe & drape, let alone that much pipe & drape and at no charge to boot. I told her that seemed like an incredible deal, wished her well, and asked her to call me if she needed anything else. Unfortunately, the story does not end there, nor did it end well.
A few months later I received a phone call from my colleague who filled me in on the details. It turned out that the caterer supplied one small section of pipe & drape as a backdrop to the stage. And to add insult to injury, the room layout was not followed by the caterer, which in turn changed the entire look of the venue and created challenges for the other vendors. Attention to detail was also lacking – near the end of the event, the tables were still littered with dirty plates and half empty glasses. In addition, the company had used the wrong color of table linens.
The end result for this client was a tainted event riddled with displeasure and disorder. What happened to the “free” perimeter draping? Why was the floor plan not adhered to? What happened to the client’s approved color scheme? And the biggest question of all, if the client “saved” money, did that make up for the turbulence encountered during the event?
It seems the caterer for this event took on too much responsibility. They wanted the sale but were weak on details, communication, and ultimately execution. The client wanted a specific linen color, pipe & drape to cover the walls, and a caterer who would keep the tables clean and presentable; none of these expectations were met. They had lured her in by promising everything and then switched to providing what they could, which was inadequate.
Remember the old saying “If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.”? It’s true. Don’t be a victim of bait and switch. Get everything in writing, be clear on expectations, and know that your vendors understand your goals.