The user is not broken

I spent my entire morning emailing with a sales rep, culminating in this, from me:

[beginning bits unique to our negotiation elided]  Additionally, this whole conversation highlights something that I really want to make sure you’re aware of. You are the only vendor that we work with which operates under the business model that you have, and it’s infuriating from our end. We’re academics, in a small library, working under state budget guidelines and restrictions. And my entire morning, and likely my whole day, are going to be given over to figuring out how to get the best possible [Vendor removed] deal. I don’t want to do that. If I wanted to spend my time navigating options, haggling, and being a hard-line negotiator, I could take my middle management experience and go work in the corporate world, making double what I make now. I don’t want that, and I don’t want to have to do the tasks related to that environment. What I want is for all library vendors selling to the academic market to offer sane, reasonable, fair, and consistent prices, at all times, to all customers. I want prices and the pricing schemes to be published on the web or otherwise readily available. I want prices to be the same from month to month, barring incentive sales and discounts. I want vendors to tell me why their product is good and what it costs, and then walk away until I make my decision. I don’t want to spend an entire day figuring out how to make this all work because I’m operating in the dark as to what’s available, at what cost, and under what parameters.

And if that sounds like an unreasonable request, look around you. EBSCO, JSTOR, Project Muse, and Gale, just to name the first four that came to mind, all operate the way I described. I may not always like the pricing they feel is appropriate, but I always know what it is. And it works far more effectively for us than this dance that we do with you every year. Frankly, I have colleagues who’ve requested that we cancel our [Vendor name removed] subscriptions because they don’t like the process.

I’ll keep dealing because it’s how your company works, and I still think the content you can provide is, in the end, worth the time and effort, if I don’t have any other options. But I’d rather have another option.

Please pass this on up your management food chain; I’m fully aware that you don’t set your sales and marketing policies.

I got a reply a few hours later. It said, taking four pages or so to say it, that their business model is the right one, and that they were vaguely sorry that I felt differently, and then explained why those other vendors do what they do, and then explained why their own way is clearly the only way they can do what they do, and, frankly, too damned bad for me if I don’t like it. No options were offered. No olive branch extended. Only justifications.

I. Am. Not. Wrong. This is the core of my request: “What I want is for all library vendors selling to the academic market to offer sane, reasonable, fair, and consistent prices, at all times, to all customers. I want prices and the pricing schemes to be published on the web or otherwise readily available. I want prices to be the same from month to month, barring incentive sales and discounts.”

Asking for fair pricing, transparency in financial structures, and respect in our transactions is not wrong. I refuse to concede this point. It may be best for certain businesses to operate as they currently do in order to maintain their profit margins — but it is not wrong to ask for fair play, transparent operations, and consistent access to information from my vendors. It. Is. Not. Wrong.

fin.

11 thoughts on “The user is not broken

  1. Bill Drew

    Well stated and thought out. If it had been me writing the post I would have included the name of the vendor but then I am not as diplomatic as I should be either. 😉

  2. radicalibrarian

    Yeah girl! You tell ’em. We have a nasty vendor like this on the med side. They clearly don’t want to deal with libraries (they like it when each physician/students buys their own subscription).

    And who doesn’t get tired of the whole idea of non-disclosure? What a bunch of crap! Great, so we can’t share info and work together for a fair price…yeah, that’s just what libraries are like.

  3. Ane

    I have that experience at least a dozen times a year. I’ve made the same complaints and gotten the same response. They don’t care because they hold us over a barrel.

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  5. Andrew Badera

    Vote with your PO, and take it elsewhere.

    Or is the product or service difficult to source?

    I have to admit I never really thought of a library, academic, general public, whatever, as the kind of place that had to deal with a lot of vendors, beyond procurement and maintenance of reading material.

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