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Posted on Wednesday, January 05, 2005 - 05:02 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

I was advised from another discussion to open this under a new thread:

I've recently had an experience with a manufacturer (not a rep) who has treated a Project Manager in our office disrespectfully by trying to strong arm us into using their product exclusively. We work in the public sector so are required to specify several equivalent manufacturers for each product. This particular manufacturer has previously insinuated that they felt they were superior to their competitors.

I must add, we have been working with this manufacturer's local rep as well as several of their competitors over the past several months to revise our spec to "level the playing field" so to speak. It has been tough because the product may well be superior. Though close, there may not be an actual equal. However, the competitors, by getting UL testing and current ICC reports, modifying their assembly slightly, changing adhesive, etc. could easily become equal. This is what this manufacturer wants, and they feel they can do that by pushing us to write our spec around their product which would force the other guys to raise the bar. I mean, granted, why force them to lower their quality to compete; it should be the lesser manufacturer’s responsibility to raise their quality, right? Or no? And we aren't talking that much difference, they really are all almost identical. But I also don’t want to give them ammo to pick apart our spec or to corner the market and raise their prices by being exclusive. After all, we endeavor to provide the best “value” to our clients. Quality vs. cost.

So as it goes, this PM in our firm needed some CAD details for this particular product, so he sent a request to the technical department at the manufacturer. Several hours later, the PM gets a response back from the manufacturer’s national sales manager stating:

“Here is the drawing you requested. To be honest, we usually don’t provide this type of service to firms that treat our competitors as equals in their specifications”.

The utter arrogance! As you can imagine, there were some partners and principals who lost a few buttons on their shirts around here. First thought, oh well, we’ll just write them out of the spec. (still considering…;o/) Unfortunately, we have clients who prefer this product over the competitors, and we are one of the regions biggest users of this product. It could hurt them here. So, as professionals, we called the local product rep into our office for a face to face. The rep had been cc’d on the email from the manuf. so knew what was had happened. I found it disturbing though that I had to call him first. At the least, he should have pre-empted immediately to do damage control. After all, it wasn’t his fault that the manuf. reacted this way, was it? Anyway, he promised a formal written apology from this sales manager. Not that it matters, it won’t take away the sting.
John Bunzick, CCS, CCCA
Senior Member
Username: bunzick

Post Number: 306
Registered: 03-2002
Posted on Wednesday, January 05, 2005 - 05:45 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

The question I would have is just because the product is better, does that mean that the project needs that extra quality? Always specifying "the best" isn't necessarily serving the client's interests. If you decide that other products have sufficient quality, this manufacturer can still compete with those with "sufficient" quality, though they may have a tougher time if price is the only concern of the contractor. As to forcing other manufacturers to bring up their quality level--you would have to ask them if they're willing to do that. It has been my experience that unless it is a very large project (or more precisely, a lot of that particular product on the project), manufacturers will not make such changes. Aside from the cost of the engineering, there is likey to be retesting and certification costs as well.

I must note that it is not unheard of for a contractor to use a more expensive product if they are getting more from a manufacturer, particularly regarding items of unique concern to the contractor: delivery, terms, ease of installation, and technical service.

I remember a number of years ago having a well-known manufacturer use some pretty strong arm tactics with me as well. Not long after some senior officers were convicted of bribery or extortion in connection with school work in a major city nearby. Obviously the vast majority of manufacturers are not like this, but it gave me a certain smug satisfaction to see them go down.

In the end, I guess the thing I would do is to be rigorous in determination of the salient product characterics and quality for the project, and then politely and firmly stick to your guns. I would also probably shy away from them when it was feasible and didn't truly hurt the client's interests. It's too bad that some manufacturers can't see the tremendous ill-will they create with certain types of tactics.
Helaine K. Robinson CCS
Senior Member
Username: hollyrob

Post Number: 122
Registered: 07-2003
Posted on Monday, January 10, 2005 - 02:25 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

I just LOVE pushy salespeople.
Posted on Monday, January 10, 2005 - 04:31 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

I was recently involved in a nearly identical situation. I had specified Product X as basis-of-design and allowed products Y and Z, as long as they met the minimum requirements (which were written so that all could be considered).

Product X manuf inexplicably, and suddenly, rudely and angrily demanded that their product be pulled from the spec and that we return all binders in the office to them. I wrote to the higher-ups in the company wondering what the deal was and recieved an email shortly after from the VP of sales that stated, among other things, that the company took umbrage at being listed in a spec along with product Y - which they consider to be the "Walmart of the ____ industry." He went on to say that: "In a perfect world, we would name our price and our terms and would not have to compete with Products Y and Z." They could offer no legitmate reason why product Y was inferior, and the manuf of product Z admitted that they were all equivalent, but that product Y routinely comes in as the low bid on every project.

I happily removed them from the spec and offered to toss the binders as well.

Talk about burning bridges.

David Axt, AIA, CCS, CSI
Senior Member
Username: david_axt

Post Number: 406
Registered: 03-2002
Posted on Wednesday, January 12, 2005 - 03:15 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post


You should get all the specifiers and architects in town to mail back their binders to them. It would be interesting to see the company's reaction when hundreds of binders come back to them along with letter stating that their products are taked out of the specs.

After all, give them what they want!
Posted on Wednesday, January 12, 2005 - 04:34 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

A few years back we specified a system. A sales rep for a different type of product than was specified, took it upon himself to contact the Owner and tell the Owner that his Architect designed an inferior product and his was infinitely better. Never mind that the system we spec'd has been used successfully by many people for many tears, his newer product was better and the Architect should be ashamed of themselves for putting the Owner in that situation. The guy even documented his spiel in a letter.

After three meetings with the Owner, CM, product reps, we finally got our originally spec'd product and system. It worked fine. Needless to say that rep and other reps from the same company are no longer allowed in our offices. Their name is removed from our specs and the only way they get in is with a substitution request. Their catalogues have been removed from our library and sit under my desk, just in case I ever need them.

It's a shame. This is a MAJOR manufacturer that certainly does not need to do business in this sort of way. It is difficult to deny the substitution request, because they make products as good, if not better, than others in the same field. However, I refuse to line this guy's pockets with commissions coming from my specs. All I can say is I'm very happy to say that most reps do not act this way and I have wonderful relationships with most of them. Some have even turned into friendships. But, the business does not need folks that work this way, hence the blackball.
Marvin Chew
Senior Member
Username: bigmac

Post Number: 18
Registered: 03-2001
Posted on Friday, January 14, 2005 - 07:11 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

I have had the same experience with a pushy single ply roofing "saleman" of a major waterproofing/roofing manufacturer who does alot of advertising. He insisted that his product was the only one allow to be used on a publicly funded project and that this was the campus standard. The campus never told us of this and we wrote the specs so that it was generic and fair to other manufacturers. PS I don't think they got the job.

On another project this same salesman went to the Owner directly, behind the Architect's and our backs and insisted that his product be used because it was the "best stuff in the world". We defended our position to allow equals, and he lost again due to our concerns regarding performance. Thicker is not better!

We have found another excellent product and we are using them as the basis of our design, but allowing the offending saleman's product to be listed if their products could meet the performance specifications that we have set forth. They haven't yet to my knowlege because their equal materials would be more expensive.

After complaining to many people about this salesman, I have not heard from him again, though other salemen representing the same firm has been in our office and have been seen; he would be shown the door. For me, it does not pay to be pushy or be a horses rump.

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