"Paying To Get Screwed: No Hookers Required"
Can someone please deliver quality merchandise, on time, at a fair price, without all the headaches?
Not so far, in my experience.
If you can, PLEASE CONTACT ME.
Though I am young and newer to this than musicians, I have been dealing with the same problems when it comes to getting merchandise for my band for several years now. Recently, I have been even more unlucky in the game of customer service, and I am tired of it. It gets old, real fast.
Let me go back to the incident that left a bad taste in my mouth as no other has: Nemesis' CD project, Retribution. We (the band) recorded it ourselves and wanted to have it duplicated professionally, so the Internet search began. An Indianapolis record duplication company came up as the winner. We contacted them, lined out the details of the disc and made the trip. We paid a payment in full, pending overrun. This was on July 15, 2002.
Our contract stated that the order would arrive at my house on August 5, 2002, just in time for our CD Release show on August 9, 2002. Needless to say, it didn't.
WMG's explanations were less than what we wanted and expected. We needed our CD, and they said they could not deliver.
We went through a big mess with them about artwork, fees, deadlines, etc. After much heated debate, long-distance phone calls, and stress beyond belief, they agreed to get us some CDs delivered to our CD Release show at 5 p.m. On the day of show, 300 arrived from Cincinnati. Better late than never, but too close for our comfort. (I know, I know, clichés but applicable nonetheless.)
This column is not solely devoted to the issues revolving around the CD duplication, so I will not waste any time with the abundance of detail, but it was frustrating, and eye-opening. It demonstrated how the little man (this means you and me - local bands/musicians alike) gets pushed around by the big man - the merchandise vendors. This column is about people that conduct business with the attitude, "So what if your order is late? I still get my money."
I got my CD order. It was late, more expensive than planned and was not discounted in any way for the inconvenience. Personally, I am tired of being the little man. But I digress...
Another incident comes to mind when thinking of frustrating situations in merchandise-land. It involves hooded sweatshirts. I placed my original order at a Louisville tee shirt producer and everything went fine with that order (Yea!). Later, we had a request for oversized items, up to 5X. I made the call to place the additional order and was told that they would be ready to pick up on a Tuesday following the call. When that day arrived, I called again to see if they were ready to be picked up. You guessed it, they weren't.
I had already made the commitment to the four people who were asking for the sweatshirts based on the commitment that was made to me on when they would be ready. Therefore, I loose credibility when I have to go back and explain that they will not be in, as I said they would be.
This went on for more than a few days, rather for weeks. Approximately six weeks went by, during which I placed several phone calls to see what the standing of my order was. Each time I was told that they were on back order and that nobody could get them right now.
I made one last effort to check on my hooded sweatshirts, but the phone call only led to a personal conflict and the termination of our business together.
Wait a minute... common theme here: I have to call them? The business is the one getting the money, and I have to chase them down to give it to them? I have to call to see that my order is late? Something does not add up in this equation. If my order is going to be late, I want to know as far in advance as possible and I want to be contacted. I should not have to call on the expected date of delivery and see why my merchandise order is not ready.
Let us continue with one last tale.
I heard that a Louisville music business did short-run merchandise production, including lighters, for local bands, so I checked into it for Nemesis. I asked if there was any way that they could get them done by our show that weekend, and the guy said it shouldn't be a problem.
"Wow!" I thought. It was pretty short notice, just a few days. Later I learned that they could not get them finished that quick, which was understandable considering the short notice. I then stressed the importance of our upcoming show the following weekend in Clarksville, TN. We usually do very well in merchandise sales and attendance there, and I had a good feeling that we could easily sell our new lighters there. We ordered 100 of them. I was told they would be ready by the following Thursday, before we left town.
They weren't. ("I'm shocked! Shocked!")
I was told it was due to technical problems, ranging from the printer not working properly to the lack of the correct sheeting used to laminate them. I was told something different on each occasion I spoke with someone. Though they apologized in the email they sent to me at 11:30 Wednesday night explaining that my order would not be complete by our deadline the next day, it was still a great financial loss and disappointment to the band.
I was told on Thursday that there was no way they would have anything done even by Friday morning before we left, and that they were going to drop our order and discontinue the service completely.
I want to explain the reason for including business names. I feel wronged as a customer, and I am speaking out. I do not feel it is necessary to give the specific names of the people I dealt with (though I have them) because they all represent their respective companies. I feel it brings a bad reputation on the business as a whole when incidents such as these occur.
I also feel these occurrences are concentrated when it comes to merchandise vendors that provide goods that are popular with local bands. You would never put up with someone at McDonald's giving you this kind of service, so why do it any other place?
I am not looking for special treatment from anyone. I just want to get what I am paying for. I want quality merchandise, on time, at a fair price, without all the headaches. Is that so hard to ask?
If you are that business, let me know. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are one of the businesses I mentioned, I hope you seek improvement in your methods, so this does not happen to anyone else. I'd rather write nice things than complaints.
In a later piece, I may attack the second portion of this story: how important merchandise is to a local band's financial welfare. Emphasis on the "welfare" part, since being in a band can (and often does) make you broke. Peace.