Monday, March 7, 2011

Marketing Rant

As much as I probably get annoyed with situations, want to complain and rant about things, even people sometimes, etc., if I think about it it's usually not a very justifiable cause. Last week I experienced plain old, straight up rudeness though. Since it has decided to spill over into this week I have decided to let out some of my frustration here. Of course, names will be changed to protect the perps (ugh)!

It all started about two weeks ago when the president of the company I work for brought me a flier and told me that AP would be bringing me a $500 check to sponsor an event in a nearby town happening in about a week and a half. He asked me to make sure the people got the check. It is not too often that the head honcho brings me a task like this, so I didn't question his judgment although I wondered what kind of advertising was in it for us. The flier indicated that we would be getting about 10 free tickets to the event to use however we wanted. I immediately thought that they would be perfect for our next Facebook contest and happily awaited the arrival of the tickets while I wrote up a quick plan for the contest to submit to my boss.

The check came to me the next day and I labeled it clearly and gave it to the receptionist with instructions on who it should go to when the lady came to pick it up. A weekend passed, and on Tuesday of the following week, our receptionist brought to me materials related to the event. A stack of small colored fliers printed on heavy card stock (obviously professionally printed), then by contrast a pile of disheveled, black and white photocopied signs, wrinkled, crinkled, and coffee-stained. Looked like they had been rolling around in somebody's trunk. In addition to this confusing mess (I had no idea what we were expected to do with these... stand on the corner and pass them out?) there was a stack of about 200 tickets to the event. I was obviously missing some piece of the agreement. Were all of these tickets ours? Was there some mistake? I thought we were only supposed to get 10? Our receptionist didn't know and she said when she tried to get information from the woman who dropped them off, the woman did not seem to know either. Company president was also out of town on a week long international cruise, so calling him up to ask was not an option, either.

The only phone number I had for contact information was on the pitiful fliers. I called it and left a message explaining who I was and that we had received all of these tickets and weren't sure what the details of the agreement were. I received a call back the following Tuesday (yes, a whole week later). The woman was from a local law office. Apparently this law office was helping with the organization of the event, I'm not really sure how they were involved. She asked me if we had distributed the tickets and been selling them, to which I answered her (starting to feel a little unnerved) that we hadn't. I had been waiting on someone to call me back and let me know what we were supposed to do with them. She was obviously annoyed and I could imagine a well-dressed professional woman with her eyes bugging out a little and frayed hairs popping out of her tight ponytail. I played a little dumb, sure, but I felt like she deserved it after I learned that she was the one who had dropped off the mess of fliers and tickets and failed to communicate with us for over a week despite our efforts to find out what was going on. And playing dumb was the only way I could keep from spouting off these facts to her blatantly. Plus I had the company I work for to think about. I would rather that we come off a little misinformed and naive than rude (like the impression she has made on me of her law office).

I told her that I would send out the tickets that day, even though she wanted them back by Thursday, so they would only be in the stores to sell for one day. It would be futile but she seemed to want to squeeze every bit of effort out of me and that was the best I could do for her.

I operated under the assumption that our company president had struck some kind of deal with her in which we gave them $500 and sold their tickets in our stores and advertised their event to our customers and they did something in return for us. Usually they will hang up a banner at the event with our logo on it and/or the announcer will drop our company name a few times during the show. That was the bare minimum they could do for us for what we were doing. We have done events before where this kind of effort bought us weeks of advertising on the radio as a ticket outlet and our logo on all of the fliers in addition to the aforementioned favors. I wanted to make sure that we were holding up our end of the bargain even though I felt like they were making it extremely difficult and could tell they were not well organized.

After I got off the phone with her, I took the materials and the tickets to my boss just to let him know the ridiculous that was about to ensue and ask him if I could run the Facebook contest with those 10 tickets. He was shocked to see the tickets still in my hand just 5 days before the event. He had been informed about the event by our president and had agreed to be a ticket outlet to sell the tickets. This is usually a pretty sweet deal for us because it gets people to come to the stores and typically the event coordinators will advertise all of their ticket outlets on the radio or TV or otherwise. So he had said we could be a ticket outlet but never heard anything else about it after that and hadn't thought about it. He apologized and said he would take care of it. We have done this kind of thing before and had a procedure. He put the tickets in our inventory and sent them out the stores, that way we could sell them like any other product and then just cut the event coordinators a check when it was over with. So he took all but the 10 tickets for the contest (which he gave me the go ahead on) and it was in his hands. What a relief!

I called her back and told her that it was taken care of, and I had peace until Friday when she called me around noon. She wanted to know how many tickets had sold. I looked them up - just five out of those 200. She didn't hide her agitation. She wanted the extra tickets back. Now. What? What on earth do you want the extra tickets for? The event was the next day and why wouldn't she want them to be in the stores to sell as long as possible? Apparently, in all of their event coordinating savvy, they did not print enough tickets to sell at the gate of the event so they needed the extra ones back. "I'm sorry but that's not our procedure." Our stores were not accustomed to returning tickets before the event was over. Not only that, but our last trucks for the weekend run on Friday morning, so that opportunity was already passed. I told her I'd see what I could do and I hung up. I called my boss and told him the situation, asking him what, if anything could be done. His attitude was better than mine. He realized it was poorly organized but they had really gotten themselves into a jam and he wanted to help them out if we could. So he asked me to call all of the stores that received tickets except for the ones in Tyler (since they were too far away) and ask them to pretty please find a way to send them back to us on a Friday evening. I did just that. Graciously, each manager found a way to get them back to our office that evening, even if it meant making a special trip, maybe an hour out of their way, to do it. I called her and told her that she could pick them up first thing in the morning and letting her know that some of the managers were taking personal time on a Friday evening to do it, hoping she would appreciate the great effort we had made to fix this one problem of hers that I'm sure was just one of many she was dealing with. I did also inform her that we didn't even try to get the ones in Tyler back since it was too far to ask them to come. Her response? "Well, I did call you at noon." That was supposed to mean that she had given me plenty of time to take care of the problem. I told her again it didn't make a difference since the last truck ran BEFORE noon. My patience was pretty thin now.

I went home and the weekend passed. I was going to go to the event myself but we decided not to. This morning I came back into work. When I saw the name of her office on my caller ID, I debated picking it up. I felt some indignation. Turns out, we did not receive any advertising for the event. We were roped into this without getting anything in return. So really we didn't owe them anything. I got curious about what she could possibly want now, so I got the courage to pick up the phone. She said she had received 5 stacks of tickets and they were missing about 67 tickets still. What on earth does it matter now, after the event? I did not think to ask her that, her next problem came out, "And you didn't leave me the check..." I told her honestly that I doubted the AP department had had a chance to process it yet, but that I would check on it. I hung up with her and I am now in the process of tracking down these worthless tickets that she says she is missing and making sure the check gets expedited so we can be through with this mess.

I have never met someone in the business world that was so powerfully demanding, unorganized, and ungrateful as this woman. Anyway, I am looking forward to calling her and letting her know that she was wrong about the missing tickets and that her check is ready. Now be offa my back!

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