A Distributor Asks: Here’s a situation I haven’t seen addressed in this column before. My client is not happy with the product she received. The imprint is fine but we did not examine a product beforehand. She simply showed me a photo of the product in a catalog and told me she wanted to order it. The supplier is not willing to help in any way. I’m uncertain how to deal with this now. Also, how can I avoid this problem in the future?

This is a perfect example where you needed to step into a consultant sales model. Was this even the correct product to reach your customer’s objective, audience and budget? Was it from a QCA-member supplier that you trusted? Could you have suggested a product you had used in the past and therefore knew the quality of? Did you ask the basic question: Why did you choose this particular item? Moving to a promotional product consultant can be hard as all sales people want the sale, but your customer will value you for future projects when you help them spend their budget wisely.

Eric E. Ekstrand, MAS+

Regional Vice President Mid-Atlantic

HALO Branded Solutions

Aurora, Ohio


To safeguard yourself always get a sample for client approval. If there is no local rep with a sample you can order the sample and include the cost with this order or with the next one.

Ted Polish


TNM Promotions

Winnipeg, Manitoba

UPIC: tnmpromo


Try to always get a sample, especially for something you have never worked with before. If it is a good customer, we will eat the cost of the sample. If it is someone we have never worked with, we charge them for the sample. If they do not want to wait or pay for a sample, you need to tell them up front it is special order and cannot be returned. We had a customer who did not like any of the hats we carried and wanted a hat he had gotten somewhere else. I told him I had never ordered that hat before and I would get them in but they would be special order, would need to be prepaid, and, like them or not, he would have to take them. The first time he and his crew wore them it rained and the [color] bled. He said I had to take them back. We did not.

It is your customer, not the supplier’s. You need to make sure you are not getting bad product. You also need to look the product over when it comes in. I don’t know how many times we get garments from customers, and the box has never been opened and the packing slip is still on the box. They are always surprised when we tell them the supplier shorted them.

Paul Throndsen


Throndsen Lettering

Janesville, Wisconson

UPIC: T338112

You and the client made a poor business decision by not getting a sample. But she really has no ground to stand on since she simply wanted that product and asked you to order it. Gently explain that your hands are tied and you both have equal responsibility for this problem. If she is a new client, you might lose her. But, if this is a repeat customer, she should understand and you could suggest a discounted deal on the next item as a make-good offer.

Glen D. Eley


Eley Imprinted Products

Lima, Ohio


We tell our customers to browse our web page for product ideas and let us know when they find an item they like so we can do some research, using SAGE grading to assess the quality of the product and supplier. We are happy to order a sample so they can try it for themselves and we try to choose a nearby supplier to reduce shipping costs. If their expectation is a little high for their budget, we may make a different product suggestion. I feel it is our responsibility as promotional product consultants to inform our customers to the best of our ability regarding the quality of the items they want to purchase.

As for addressing the current situation of the unhappy customer, that’s a tough one. You could offer a 10-percent discount or free setup on her next purchase. I would not expect any compensation from the supplier unless they misrepresented the product they sold.

Mary DeWald


Ink Nutz

Monroe, Washington


Can’t pass the blame along to the supplier or expect them to assist you after the fact. They provided the correct product (their product) you referenced in placing your order. To prevent this from happening in the future, you need to order a random sample to show the client in advance. To solve the current problem, I would suggest you discuss further with your client about what is fair and see if you can come to an agreement by offering the client a slight discount. You don’t want to set a precedent where the client takes advantage of you in the future but a “good faith discount” may help you in the long run. Chalk it up to a lesson well learned.

Bob Kreuzburg

VP of Sales


Waco, Texas

UPIC: H456129

Do you have the answer?

A distributor asks: Walking into a large business cold is one of the most difficult tasks for our sales people. What are some effective ways to approach front desk staff and successfully connect with the right decision maker?

What's your answer? Email answers along with your name, title and company name to Question@PPAI.org by September 7 for possible inclusion in an upcoming issue of PPB magazine.