Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Haggling With Your Wedding Vendors – Smart or Stingy?

Today's blog post was written by the seriously creative Sarah Spano of Hip Ink. Hip Ink's goal is to work with you to set the stage for your unique event with show-stopping invitations and stationery accessories – whether you choose to have them design and assemble your dream invite or let them supply you with the paper, tools and advice to create your own masterpiece. Visit their site here.

Photo from Hip Ink

Oooooh watch out – it might be a hot one ;)

Today I’m going to address something that all wedding vendors deal with, and that I think it’s important to talk about openly as a vendor.

What is it, you ask? Haggling. Bargaining. Negotiating. Asking for a discount. Whatever you’d like to call it, we’re talking about asking vendors to lower their prices for you.

Is is okay to do so? Are you being smart and frugal, or are you just insulting your vendors? Are you really just going to be paying less, or will you be getting less?

First, let’s look at it from a couple’s point of view. You’ve got your budget – it may be tiny, big or giant, doesn’t really matter in this case – and you are trying to stick to it the best you can. At the same time, you WANT things…you want them bad. What’s the solution? Ask the vendor for a discount of course…makes perfect sense, right? Maybe.

What about the vendor? Most wedding vendors I know price as fairly as they can – after all, I can tell you that most people aren’t in the wedding business because it allows them to come home, strip naked and roll around in $100 bills every weekend. Far from it in most cases. It’s important to realize that most, if not all, of your vendors do what they do because they are passionate about it, they mostly work for themselves or very small companies, and any type of discounting hits them directly in the wallet. Will a vendor discount their product or services if you ask? Maybe. Will they like it? Probably not.

So now it’s opinion time (I know you were waiting for it, right?)…is it cool to ask your vendors for a discount, or are you risking offending them by doing so?

That depends – how are you asking, why are you asking and what are you asking for?

Approaching your stationer and saying, “I absolutely have to have these programs, but I can’t afford $3 each. Could I get them for $1 each? It’s no big deal right? I promise I’ll recommend you to all my friends”, won’t get you very far. The fact that you absolutely must have something that doesn’t fit your budget isn’t your vendors problem, it’s yours. Straight up. I guarantee that no vendor is going to say, “Why yes, I’d love to take a loss on making these programs for you so that you can gloat to all your friends about the deal you got and then they can come and try to stiff me as well. When can I start?”

So, yes…this kind of approach *is* insulting, because it completely disrespects the vendors time and talent. Would you be happy if your boss walked in one day and said, “Hey, how about I cut your salary by 60%, but I promise I’ll consider you for a promotion someday”. Would your landlord be happy if you said, “Sorry, things are really tight right now. What if I give you 50% of my rent without paying you the rest. Is that cool?”. Yeah…thought so.

Approaching your stationer and saying, “I really love these wrap address labels, and I know they would complement our invites so nicely, but we just can’t fit them in our budget. Could we possibly split the cost with you somehow?”, may get some consideration. Asking politely always works. Asking for a discount on an upgrade often works much better than asking for a discount on the base product/service. And asking the vendor to suggest something that they are comfortable with means that they have the opportunity to provide a fair offer, rather than you (even if it’s unknowingly) insulting them with a ridiculous offer that amounts to asking them to work for free.

If you somehow end up berating a vendor into giving you a big discount, you have to wonder a few things. Why? Why are they willing to give you a discount. Is it because they need the work? And why is that? Do they have poor skills, bad reviews, no experience? If they give you a discount, will they really be giving their all, or are they going to be resentful and not perform to their capabilities? We’re all human after all, and everyone wants people to recognize the value of what they do.

I’ve said it before, and I’m going to repeat it here – we’re all on the same side. This isn’t a battle between you as a couple and us and vendors – it’s a partnership. We all want you to have the wedding of your dreams, we’re just not willing to work for nothing so you can have it.

So, should you ask your wedding vendors for discounts? It never hurts to ask – politely, respectfully and knowing full well that the answer may be no.

What’s my personal point of view, as a vendor on discounting?

I can tell you that I price as fairly as possible (in fact, probably too fairly) for what I do, and I never discount. Ever.

Why? Being completely honest, I feel like discounting send the message that my pricing is more than it needs to be, that I need to cut my prices to get your business, and worst of all that it devalues what I put my heart and soul into every day. I’m only speaking for myself here, not other vendors who may discount for other reasons completely, but I personally won’t do it. Value-adds (free upgrades etc.), sometimes. Discounting, no.

I make a deal with my clients – they pay me fairly and treat me respectfully and I do my damnedest to over-deliver. For me, that is the perfect client/vendor relationship.

If that is the kind of relationship and performance you want from your vendors, ask yourself if it’s worth souring that relationship to save a few bucks.