A Distributor Asks: Through a referral, I’ve been working with a new restaurant client. I had done tons of T-shirt mockups, drinkware suggestions, ordered apparel samples and even corrected some issues with the PMS colors that had originally been assigned by their logo designer. But so far, they have only placed a small order for staff uniforms, as the restaurant is still under construction. They recently hired an assistant with design experience, and I’ve felt a shift.

Three weeks later, the assistant wants me to “help her out,” and clarify the embroidery thread color we used on the first merch so she could get aprons done to match. It’s obvious they have gone elsewhere, but I’ve put in a lot of time and effort. How do I respond?  

Rise above it. Give her the info, and if she comes back, then great. At this point, you have nothing left to lose. It’s a tough lesson, but learn from it and move on. Don’t let them waste any more of your time. Best wishes and good luck. 

Paul Buchanan
B. West Marketing Group
Folsom, California
PPAI 178448, D2

I am struggling with a similar situation. Created art and a logo and did all of the design work at no charge, with a spoken agreement that I’d get the merch orders. They are using someone else. I tried getting in touch with the original purchaser – she’s embarrassed and is blowing me off so as not to deal with it. The new purchaser just replies to me, “We are good on stock, thanks.” I have decided to send them an invoice for the work I’ve done. No amount of cajoling will convince them to use me, now they are ashamed of their bad behavior and it’s easier to say goodbye to me than look me in the eye and accept that they’ve done me wrong.

Julie Woodall
HALO/Promotion Perfection
Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin
PPAI 716628, D1

A Distributor Asks: I need help crafting a polite and professional response. I have a customer who is complaining (via email) about multiple products she received. She reviewed and approved proofs for all these products. One item I urged her to go with a white imprint, but she insisted on a black imprint and now feels the imprint is difficult to read.

I am not overly upset; I think she’s just venting. But I am struggling with a kind way to ask her what would make her feel better. I don’t want to knee-jerk offer her a discount or refund. I think if I reply in the right way, I can make her feel better. What would you say?

I’d suggest doing pre-pro proofs next time so she can see the exact item with her imprint on it. If the factory does free spec samples, great. If they charge, charge her for them, and credit back a portion or all if they proceed with an order.

Ray Billock 
Perfect Promotions
Wadsworth, Illinois
PPAI 143327, D2

Maybe something like this: I understand how disappointing it is when something doesn’t come out as anticipated. We always try our best to provide excellent service and make appropriate recommendations. Your feedback is helpful. How would you like to proceed?

Jodi Scher-Gast
Leader of the Pack
Blue Wolf Marketing
Hollywood, Florida
PPAI 771778, D3

A Distributor Asks: Have you found a polite, respectful way to explain to clients that time is money? I’m looking for creative ways to avoid getting stuck spending valuable time on projects that will have little to no return.

Ask them upfront what their budget is and use your time accordingly. 

Kathryn McDonald 
The Global Toy Box 
Cardiff By The Sea, California 
PPAI 637758, D1

This will happen. You can’t avoid it, just be vigilant and professional. Ask what the purpose of the quote or the research is. In future projects, you have to decide how much value you will put into it. For example, a customer requested a quote for around 10 items in around 10,000 of each one, but never returned call or emails after quoting. A year passed by, and he called again. Guess what? I confronted the customer and let him know the time and effort that goes into a large quote. Basically, explain the value you are giving.  

Rodolfo Pascual 
Promotional Consultant 
The Vernon Company/

Pon Tu Logo 
San Juan, Puerto Rico 
PPAI 197585, D11