Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Just My Opinion

I'm feeling a bit sad lately about what I think the economy has driven some competitors to reduce themselves to.
Yesterday I wrote about a new company selling office supplies in Vancouver, called E. Madill from Nanaimo BC. Recently they sent out a price sheet to random businesses in downtown Vancouver boasting they were "The Cheapest!" and guaranteeing "We beat all competitors prices" on their catalogue cover. Then last week I had a complaint from a good customer about them.
Now I have been in business for 20 years, and have seen many competitors, including Staples, Corporate Express and Office Depot, come to Vancouver, so I'm OK with competition. I support small business, and believe there's room for everyone in the marketplace, especially when it comes to other local independent stationers like Mills Basics (good job on beating out the big guys and being the official office supplier to the Olympics BTW). So when a small office supply company resorts to big statements like E. Madill has, it sets a bad tone for what a local office supplier should act like.
My good customer of 12 years called to let me know she had a sales person from E. Madill drop off a catalogue. She said she kindly told them she was not interested and had a great relationship with Costless Express. Since that day E. Madill had called her repeatedly, to the point she say is almost harassment. She said they keep telling her they will under cut anyone's prices by 10% and sent a HOT SHEET showcasing their low low prices on the top selling items. This sheet was faxed over to me by her, and we used it in our recent cost comparison.
What I found is the prices on their top selling items were not as competitive as Costless Express, and in most cases not even as low as Staples (ask for the comparison if you would like to see). Second was that many other popular items not on their HOT SHEET but on their website were priced exceptionally high in comparison to the average market price (we priced out 700 items). I can only assume that they plan to win customers by marketing they are the cheapest, undercut a few items to appease unsuspecting customers, and then make it all back and then some on the other items when the customer isn't looking.
I have known the owner of E. Madill (Ehren Madill) for a few years now. I see him a few times each year at industry trade shows, and he is about my age - 40, with a young family. So I gave him a ring. What I tried to mentioned to him was how his sales people used tactics that left a negative impression on customers. Also, I explained, independent stationers usually support each other. Hey, all is fair in yadda yadda... but if Costless were to go into battle over a customer, it would be against Staples or G&T, not trash-talking an independent like Mills. Why fight against another local business, when it's Staples selling a billion dollars each year in Canada?
While Ehren and I chatted, he said he lets his sales people win business however they see fit. No prisoners. They were on commission, and as long as they brought in the sales, he was fine with how they did it.
Like I said, I'm feeling a bit sad that this is the service a local independent office products supplier has been reduced to. Good luck, Ehren.