Imagine for a minute that you are in your favorite restaurant, a steakhouse perhaps, and you order that favorite dish. You know the one, the filet cooked to perfection, accompanied by the grilled veggies and of course paired with the perfect wine. It’s your go to dish, and all for $49.99. Every last morsel is consumed with delight as always, yet when the bill comes something seems off—what was supposed to be $49.99 is 25% more for a total $62.49. Surely there is a mistake and so you inquire. The waiter explains that while cooking the vegetables, there was a mistake in the cook time so they had to re-do them and thus increased the cost- which they passed onto you. And then there was the meat, seems you asked for a cut that was not stock and so they had to pull from another allotment which came with a higher cost- again passed onto you. Imagine how that would affect your experience? Of course, this would never happen would it? There is little doubt that any restaurant would surely go out of business using this sort of pricing practice- the customers would not stand for it.
So why then do exhibit managers accept this very same pricing practice over and over again from their exhibit suppliers? There are endless stories of how you thought a graphic was going to cost X only to have it show up as Y on the invoice. Or maybe you choose a custom rental exhibit on the balance of its design creativity and the price only to have the costs end up being more when it is all said and done. We have all heard the horror stories of the notorious addendum invoice explain why you need to come up with another $11,000 after the show. Of course the exhibit house has few reservations in explaining why and how the additional costs occurred but that does little to help you explain to your boss why you just when over budget. In the restaurant example, how would you possibly be responsible for paying for extra vegetables when you are expecting the restaurant to cook them correctly the first time? Shouldn’t they know their business enough to account for such possibilities so their customers are not impacted or surprised when the bill comes? It should be the same with custom trade show exhibit; if the exhibit company designed the booth and estimated the production costs, it seems reasonable for them to deliver the exhibit for the price they told you and not a penny more.
Why doesn’t the same apply to your display house when you hire them to provide services? How about this all too common practice- many exhibit providers charge a management or services fee which is a fixed percentage above the base service cost, say 20 to 30%. So let’s say you ask for setup and dismantle services and they estimate the cost to be $1,000. Base on a 25% management fee, they would earn $250 so your total would be $1,250. Seems fair right? Oh, but what happens when the final bill comes in at $1,500? Surely the exhibit house waives their fee in light that the service you are paying them to manage has gone over budget don’t you think? Wishful thinking I guess. No, they simply add their 25% “management” fee to the $1,500 earning them $375 instead of the $250 had they actually managed the activity correctly. How on earth does this make any sense? It doesn’t which is really the moral of the story.
At the heart of any partnership is the belief that more can be accomplished and experienced together than on our own. So choose your exhibit partner(s) wisely. Event Managers rarely enjoy surprises since the job is all about planning. Of course not every event and every detail goes as planned, but when you are counting on partners to execute the price should be that last thing that should qualify as a surprise. A free cupcake with a candle on it on your birthday at your favorite restaurant on the other hand works well as a surprise. Just as long as they don’t charge you for itJ