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  1. #1
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    Default Business practices in the USA.

    This horse has been beaten before I'm sure, but I'll beat it again.

    Fill out a product inquiry for a Widget at the Ace Widget Co.
    One week later and no response.

    Phone the Ace Widget Co. and ask for a application engineer.
    Get routed to Suzy Slotbox who doesn't know her ass from a hole in the ground.

    Suzy hands me off to Ace #1 engineer who gives me a part number and tells me I have to call a local distributor for a price.

    Call the local distributor and he says he will get a price and call me back.
    One week later and no response.

    Call the local distributor back and he tells me he has to call Ace Widget Co. for a price..HUH!
    One week later and no response.

    Call local distributor for a update. He gives me a crazy price and a delivery date of 3 months.
    All this for a item they list as on-the-shelf..in stock!

    How in the hell does anything get done with companies that operate like this...or am I approaching this from the wrong direction.

    Stuart

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    I'd try calling Ace Widget Co.'s competitor.

    Unfortunately, if the widget in question is a relatively mature product (or worse, a legacy product!) the company making it may be old-fashioned, e.g. using manila folders to store data. Don't laugh, you're not alone in being enraged by companies with a website who still think it's a paper-and-postage world. My reaction to that is, Fuck Them.

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    Quote Originally Posted by atomarc View Post
    Get routed to Suzy Slotbox who doesn't know her ass from a hole in the ground.
    Actually the Suzies of this world know all that can be known about their orifices. UNfortunately that "focus" means it is about ALL they know, so it doesn't help YOU one damned bit with Widgets.

    How in the hell does anything get done with companies that operate like this...or am I approaching this from the wrong direction.

    Stuart
    Mostly, one doesn't.

    I use a company that has a "Shopping cart" online and get what I want in a day or so. Weird stuff, too. Exotic stuff. Or common things folks say cannot be had or not in that size. These days, google will find alternative suppliers fast, and a peon of a buyer does not have to be GMC to place an order.

    Needed DTE Light, didn't want 5 gallons or 55 gallons. It came in one-gallon factory jug from a supply house serving the aircraft maintenance market, not from MSC or MMC.

    Those online systems nearly always ID quantity IN STOCK. They are too "automated" to give you s**t.

    WHEN.. there IS no such option?

    AND you have had the run-around?

    I look up the key information and call their owner, Chairman or President.

    No joke.

    He started in first grade, not 12th, he still wears only one pair of shoes or undershorts at a time, same as you or me. Nobody special. Just has a different title and pay rate.

    More to the point, his Personal Assistant that screens your call gets them often enough (s)he will know exactly which Division head or VP or warehouse manager or order-picking CLERK to ring-up and say "fix this before this <asshole> bothers the Boss again!"

    So long as you get yer damned parts in time? "Asshole" who should be taken care of promptly next-go ain't a half bad reputation to have in their files.

    Mind - they can't always fix the problem, anyway, "nuclear" option or not.

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    Quote Originally Posted by atomarc View Post
    This horse has been beaten before I'm sure, but I'll beat it again.

    Fill out a product inquiry for a Widget at the Ace Widget Co.
    One week later and no response.

    Phone the Ace Widget Co. and ask for a application engineer.
    Get routed to Suzy Slotbox who doesn't know her ass from a hole in the ground.

    Suzy hands me off to Ace #1 engineer who gives me a part number and tells me I have to call a local distributor for a price.

    Call the local distributor and he says he will get a price and call me back.
    One week later and no response.

    Call the local distributor back and he tells me he has to call Ace Widget Co. for a price..HUH!
    One week later and no response.

    Call local distributor for a update. He gives me a crazy price and a delivery date of 3 months.
    All this for a item they list as on-the-shelf..in stock!

    How in the hell does anything get done with companies that operate like this...or am I approaching this from the wrong direction.

    Stuart
    If nothing else it helps me understand why I get a "Thanks for the speedy reply" when I answer a request from a US company.

    "Speedy reply" is almost always next day at the latest. As I'm at -1 GMT it isn't always easy to reply the same day.

    It is sad though that "service" isn't what it was.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gordon B. Clarke View Post
    If nothing else it helps me understand why I get a "Thanks for the speedy reply" when I answer a request from a US company.

    "Speedy reply" is almost always next day at the latest. As I'm at -1 GMT it isn't always easy to reply the same day.

    It is sad though that "service" isn't what it was.
    Any supplier of any size - and MOST shops right here amongst We Chik'ns - has scars on his financial reports is a part of the "why" of it.

    Starting a long time ago, now, companies of any size began to "age" their Accounts Payable to their (BELIEVED) advantage and the detriment of their suppliers. The technique was taught as virtuous in University classrooms.

    Materiel Managers, AKA "purchasing agents" went from having to have a primary supplier and ONE emergency fallback, to need of as many as a DOZEN alternatives. Vulture Accountants had gotten greedy.

    WHEN, not IF, a primary supplier finally hit their limit 60 and 90 days past payment due, they slammed the door. No more goods 'til bills were caught-up at least "mostly".

    Purchasing didn't control the vultures upstairs. They had to make excuses, then shift to the second, third, etc source of supply. They'd start the round-robin all over again as one or more got a enough crumbs tossed to them to reopen the account.

    Suppliers became afraid of opening new accounts. The familiar old ones were screwing them badly enough already.

    Enter online CC clearing and BUSINESS use of PayPal?

    Joe Small Shop, paying "for real" and before shipment, not 90 days out or NEVER was now a safe bet, even on onesies.

    The old term was "CCF". Cash Comes First.

    Utility bills have to be paid, payrolls must be met, raw materials bought, so he who pays earliest gets the goods and f**k the month older order-entry date or how big the late-paying vendor is, that crucial chunk of money is desperately needed, or the supplier himself risks going tits-up and of no further use to anyone.

    Service? I got GREAT service!

    Zales was paying as much as two YEARS out if at all. Fairfax Distributors (Kay's / Black Starr & Frost) had 13 month "dating". I had checks cut and out the door every Tuesday and Thursday, turned the merchandise eight times in a year to their MORE than a full year.

    Screwing over suppliers you depend on is stupid. But they still teach "ageing of accounts payable" at university.

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    Quote Originally Posted by thermite View Post
    Screwing over suppliers you depend on is stupid. But they still teach "ageing of accounts payable" at university.
    I have an arrangement with a local foundry. They do castings, not loan money. I order castings and pay by bank transfer within 48 hours of getting an emailed invoice.

    Both of us are happy.

    In another of my sidelines, I don't mind 'aged' invoices. I simply inflate mine outrageously. I'll get paid eventually as I'm dealing with Govt bodies, I just know how inefficient their AP systems are. Not my problem really, I know it can't really be fixed (way too much for CC payments which can be done fast) so I figure out how to make it work for me.

    As for the OP, yeah, as soon as I hit that sort of vendor I look elsewhere. They have to be a unique supplier or have some other overwhelming marketing position before I'll tolerate that crap in this century.

    PDW

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    It's probably my fault as these are really small, start-up companies and they don't have their shit together yet...take a look!

    Curtiss-Wright
    Kaman Automation
    Hiwin
    Thomson Linear
    L.S. Starrett Co.

    Unique, to say the least.

    Stuart

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    OK, a while ago I figured out a weird thing.

    There's a class of company who literally does not want YOU (or me) as a customer. They already know who their profitable customers (or customer) are/is, and would prefer everybody else went away. There are a very small handful who outright say that or outright rude to calls from anybody else. But most others just can't bring any attention to bear on anybody other than where the real money is.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bryan_machine View Post
    OK, a while ago I figured out a weird thing.

    There's a class of company who literally does not want YOU (or me) as a customer. They already know who their profitable customers (or customer) are/is, and would prefer everybody else went away. There are a very small handful who outright say that or outright rude to calls from anybody else. But most others just can't bring any attention to bear on anybody other than where the real money is.
    I think you hit the nail on the head. It's either the way you explained it or, those companies are so big and cumbersome the have lost sight of what they're there for.

    On the flip side..ask folks like McMaster-Carr a question and they typically respond in less than an hour.

    Months ago I had a question/problem with a Sopko wheel adapter and called the company. I was routed to Bill Sopko Jr who took care of my problem. A week later he called to confirm things had been taken care of..either he has spare time on his hands or the guy cares about his customers and the reputation of his company.

    If everyone sells Widgets, what do you do to make your Widget company stand out from the rest?

    My interactions with these companies probably screams "small potatoes" so their SOP is to round file any request or call back info! As 'Oldwrench' so aptly stated "fuck em"!

    Maybe Amazon will start selling the shit I need..and I'll get it dropped on my stoop by a drone.

    Stuart

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    I posted this before:
    +1 Same thing I wrote about "Daco Jaw"....
    Me: "Hello Daco Jaw company ?"

    Mr. Daco himself: "Yes, what do you need ?"

    Me: "I want to order some 6" soft jaws, 1/16 x 60 serrations,
    how much ?"

    Mr. Daco himself: "Doug, they are $16.00 a set, and you'll have
    to go thru your local supplier, ABC supply, but I knock
    the price down to dealers, so you'll pay $16.00 to them,
    and don't let them nick you for shipping"

    Me: "Why can't I just mail you a cheque, and you send
    them with the brown rugby team ?"

    Me: "Hello ABC supply, I need a price on Daco jaws"

    ABC Supply:" Who the hell are you ? Do you have an account?"

    Me: "Uh no, I always use the counter, and pay cash."

    ABC Supply:"We sell Daco jaws ?"

    Me; "Apperently, please give me price"

    3 days go by, I have to ring up ABC Supply myself, as they never called back as
    promised.....

    Me:" Well, how much ?"

    ABC Supply:" Oh, you again, $23.00, and u.p.s., and it'll
    be 6 weeks"

    I HATE old time suppliers that don't stock anything, don't provide
    any service, and seem dismayed that you would even call.

    I call it "Pushing it in one end, and pulling it out the other end" work
    trying to get anything thru a dealer.

    Usta be I would call up Grand Tool in New Joisy, get a gruff
    guy on the first ring, but he knew the product, and I would
    have it in no time.

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    Quote Originally Posted by digger doug View Post
    Usta be I would call up Grand Tool in New Joisy, get a gruff
    guy on the first ring, but he knew the product, and I would
    have it in no time.
    Dunno about "present day", but a mere few years ago, Grand Tool had an eBay presence. They also had the elusive #12 Jarno dead centres, carbide tipped and plain, that were much less costly that Stark or Riten. Ebay ordered. Arrived right away. No hassle.

    Mind, when opened, from the looks of the fossilization and disintegration to flakes of the oiled or waxed old skewl paper one did wonder if Oscar J. - pen-name "jarno" - Beale - B&S Director of Engineering "a while back" had made them with his own hand!

    But I had what was asked for.

    As to the list Stuart posted? Major firms. OLD firms. Significant turnover in the present era.

    But most of them share another characteristic.

    They have much, much smaller percentage share of present day markets, globally, than they once had in their best years.

    Is that the cause of sub-par customer responsiveness?

    Or might it be the result of not being as responsive as their newer, younger, competitors?

    2CW

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    OK, to be fair, there's more going on here.

    Some companies sell only via distributors for complicated reasons. Things like they have contracts that require that. Or, little known to you, they have some kind of interlocking ownership with one of the distributors, or are owned outright by the same parent, or some other such thing. Or their really large end users have resupply agreements with JoeLocalDist company, and so to sell to GiantCorp they HAVE to have a relationship with JoeLocalDist.

    Or while you think "these people should sell direct" the history of industry is that "sell direct" has been a failure (aircraft industry going through this pain right now.)

    But there can be other issues - interstate law w.r.t. sales taxes. Interstate law w.r.t. inventory taxes and the like.

    And while this doesn't apply to things like machine tools, note that it's outright illegal to sell cars direct to consumers in many states (causing Tesla a lot of grief) - the law explicitly requires that cars pass through the hands of dealers. (There's long knarly history behind this.)

    While that *particular* thing won't apply to left-handed grozzle scuppers for inversion ungrind machines, other kinds of structural issues will.

    None of that is an excuse for the local rep to be incompetent. But see post above about where the money is.

    How do MSC and mcmaster stay in business with their pricing? Solution to the above.

    Also, I was once turned away by a local welding shop, who flat out said "we really hate to send work away", called a buddy/competitor, called some other reputable folks, and finally said "do you have a wire machine? do you know about flux core?" - so yes, I'll go back there, because they treated me decent even when they couldn't solve my problem. (And helped me solve it myself...)

    Now, I was kind of surprized to learn that bad behavoir is NOT normal. Like, I *can* buy steel direct from the local supply houses - yes there's a minimum order. It's a whopping $50. I can cope.

    And I am blessed with a really good local supply house, who I generally turn to first, because things are efficient, pricing decent, and mistakes very rare (and get fixed.) Funny how they earn a lot of my business...

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    Agree with posts above.

    The company eejits who think I should fill in a questionnaire, register my business, etc. BEFORE i see the retail price and price breaks on their products ..
    Are simply incompetent eejits.

    They are mostly the incompetent smug people who think that "this way we can profile our new customers..",
    but totally ignore that 80% of their potential customers leave before going through the kabuki dance.

    Spain where I live is terrible for this.
    Most companies really want to know everything about You, before giving You a catalog and industrial prices and price breaks on qty.
    This does them huge damage, as it is often much easier to buy the stuff in the UK or germany or italy, get it shipped, done.
    At 1/2 the price because the local profilers think they can overcharge by 0.5-3x.

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    I probably shouldn't throw fuel on the fire but the comment above about overcharging brought this to mind.

    I was attempting, quite unsuccessfully, to get a price from 'Stober' for a hollow bore/ball nut servo motor. After the typical runaround they sent my request for a price to their west coast rep.

    I received a phone call and the caller wanted to know some information about the Stober part number. I was confused and asked what he needed it for. He said 'I have a $5000 order here and I need to check availability. He thought he had called Stober when he actually called me..the customer. I was confused and asked him what he needed from me..he paused and said "nothing" and hung up!

    Two hours later I got a email from that same west coast distributor with a price quote for the item in question...$9879.00. He basically doubled the price.

    Maybe that's how it works in the real world, maybe that's how you make the Fortune 500 list. Maybe I'm a sap for not doubling or tripling my markup, I don't know...but I thought the whole thing stunk!

    Stuart

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    Quote Originally Posted by atomarc View Post
    Two hours later I got a email from that same west coast distributor with a price quote for the item in question...$9879.00. He basically doubled the price.

    Maybe that's how it works in the real world, maybe that's how you make the Fortune 500 list. Maybe I'm a sap for not doubling or tripling my markup, I don't know...but I thought the whole thing stunk!

    Stuart
    Yeah BTDTGTTS. I wanted some Edson Simplex steering gear for my boat. $3300 AUD (converted price) in the USA. Exclusive Aussie distributor wanted a touch over $8K AUD and 8 weeks delivery as they had no stock anyway. I couldn't buy direct because of the 'exclusive distributor' agreement.

    I just reverse-engineered it and made my own. Took a while but the money I saved basically paid for the lathe, milling machine *and* tooling.

    PDW

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    Quote Originally Posted by atomarc View Post
    Maybe that's how it works in the real world, maybe that's how you make the Fortune 500 list. Maybe I'm a sap for not doubling or tripling my markup, I don't know...but I thought the whole thing stunk!

    Stuart
    Ever notice the Fortune 400 list isn't static?

    Those were my assigned customer base. We did well enough a "political move" within Big Corp wanted to wrestle the top 15% AWAY from our business unit and start a NEW one with higher-paid sales "professionals". Our unit head was furious, ready to go to war. I said no - let them HAVE those accounts. And here's why.... < whisper, whisper, database printouts .>

    He smiled. We transferred responsibility. New unit failed. Badly, and expensively.

    Payback was their being re-merged back into our unit so I could handle the grief of terminating the lot of them for under-performance against the growth they had committed to.

    What had they missed that we knew?

    ALL, repeat ALL of our growth towards surpassing our targets was coming from the "new entrants" at the BOTTOM of the Fortune 400 list - or not even close to yet being ON the list.

    ALL those at the top were either stagnant, beginning a decline, and/or rich enough in any case to insist on deep discounts on their global telecoms & data network spend.

    And force us to grant those deep discounts.

    We lost money serving that lot and there WAS NO annual "growth" in revenue. Just more investment in facilities and more work for the same money or less.

    You do not need the complacent, the arrogant, or the greedy for suppliers any more than I wanted them as customers.

    "Stunk" is exactly the right word.

    They carry the arrogant stink of body-corporate illness and gas gangrene about them. Many will randomly butt-f**k your business by accident or indifference as often as by "policy" or design.

    Find ye still dynamic partners from amongst the living who still give-a-damn, one's not yet infected with complacency.

    Work well in shared good health. Long prosper together. Even if.. you have to change your own product targeting to avoid a potentially lethal dependency.

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    #6 PDW
    " I'll get paid eventually as I'm dealing with Govt bodies"

    Possibly a digression but an example of how people are treated this side of the Atlantic Ocean, and if they do not care about people they sure as hell will not care about "anonymous" businesses.

    About six years ago I changed banks, not for the first time, and not with any expectation that the new bank would be any better than before. I notified all the organisations with regular transactions in or out of my accounts PDQ to minimise any problems.

    I had two accounts #1 with nearly zero balance, #2 with a c£20K balance, which was a lot of money for me.
    #1 account transferred quickly no issues, to get #2 account moved I had to go to my local branch and threaten to cause the biggest noise ever in a UK bank branch short of a bank robbery. I got the account moved on the spot and the lady who "solved" my problem a) blamed my new bank for the delay and b) told me I had been advised of the issue in a letter. I am still waiting for this letter to arrive.

    The only regular transaction (standing orders or direct debits in the UK) to my new accounts which failed to be transferred promptly was the state pension to which I had recently become entitled. When I contacted the relevant UK government department the lady who I spoke to had clearly not read the menu on her screen. I was told two things a) the delay in my pension was due to my original bank b) the real reason for the delay is that the goverment policy is to IS TO DELAY THE PENSION PAYMENTS UNTIL A COMPLAINT IS RECEIVED AND BLAME THE BANK.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ManicMetalBasher View Post
    The only regular transaction (standing orders or direct debits in the UK) to my new accounts which failed to be transferred promptly was the state pension to which I had recently become entitled. When I contacted the relevant UK government department the lady who I spoke to had clearly not read the menu on her screen. I was told two things a) the delay in my pension was due to my original bank b) the real reason for the delay is that the goverment policy is to IS TO DELAY THE PENSION PAYMENTS UNTIL A COMPLAINT IS RECEIVED AND BLAME THE BANK.
    I thot you lot already knew that the UK banking system was a joint venture between an insane asylum and the Devil?

    First go at UK employment, early '90s, I had to tell the bank what they WANTED to do as policy just over a C&W salary direct-deposit would get them 20 years in Federal Prison, USA rules, no contest possible. Didn't phase them a wit.

    Among other things, they wanted a silly amount of time to open a new account, vs 10 or 15 minutes, walk-in, USA. Taking weeks or months instead wasn't the killer. They wanted MONTHS of sequestering the cash, plus set up of an "overdraft" LOC I had no NEED of before they would release MY money to me to pay bills!

    F**k that. Called the boss - C&W Plc's CFO - got a reference, had a Midland, Jersey, St Helier account up within the hour, voice or fax controlled with code words to direct TT's onward to my US Bank.


    End of problem. Or so it seemed.

    Destination USAA FSB technically isn't EVEN a bank any more than USAA is technically an Insurance Company. But no one does either function any better.

    Found out later that it had been taking USAA FSB six weeks per each four-week paycheck to collect the ACTUAL funds from the UK nut-house, Jersey faster than average, even so.

    Hadn't bothered them. They had been making 100% of the funds available to me all along, no fees, not even telling me of the delay until I was done with that assignment and asked.

    USAA y'see was founded and run by Military veterans. Dealing with the Devil has never NOT been part of their job. UK nut-house f**ked with 'em? They had a dozen ways to do it right back, and earn interest off the battle.

    Coz "page two"?

    UK Banksters ain't just arrogant. They are to a fault, blind STUPID!


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    Quote Originally Posted by digger doug View Post
    Me: "Hello Daco Jaw company...
    A perfect example of the damage a distributor with an exclusive territory can do to a manufacturer's sales. Doug, if you haven't already, it's time to call US Shop Tools. Nobody can beat them for soft jaws, endmill holders or pull studs, and their paper catalog is quick and easy to use.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Oldwrench View Post
    A perfect example of the damage a distributor with an exclusive territory can do to a manufacturer's sales. Doug, if you haven't already, it's time to call US Shop Tools. Nobody can beat them for soft jaws, endmill holders or pull studs, and their paper catalog is quick and easy to use.
    Be damned. F** Daco. "Paper" catalog of both being .pdf'ed online? Just compared US Shop to PTS.

    Thanks for that tip!


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