Tuesday, September 22, 2009

There is a Fungus Among Us!

DM Con Artist on the Loose.

Dear “Guy in Florida,”

I’ve lost too many jobs to you this year. Jobs I should have won. And I am pissed.

I won’t quibble about your printing prices. Maybe you ARE a little bit cheaper than I am.

I can’t argue about your list rental fees. We’re both getting our list from the same places, so we’re paying the same thing. Maybe I’m marking it up too much.

I can’t question your mailshop fees, either. I can’t pay my highly-compensated (and highly professional) staff for what you are apparently paying your illegal aliens.

But all these jobs were local jobs to me. I should have won them. After all, they required local postage to be included in their costs. And you are beating me over and over again.

“Sorry” I heard way too many times this Spring. “There’s some guy in Florida who is doing the job for 1/3 your cost.”

One third my cost??? It couldn’t be! It just didn’t make sense. I can’t be that far off.

One job I lost to you had postage alone of $900; yet you said you’d do the entire mailing for $700. Another had postage of $3000; you said you’d do the entire project for $2100.

The end users wouldn’t listen to me. They went with you, the low bidder.

OK, Guy in Florida, I found out how you do it.

It isn’t right. It isn’t ethical. And it isn’t legal.

It’s dishonest, disingenuous, and damaging our entire industry.

I feel your pain, Guy in Florida. I don’t want MY shop to go under, either. But I DO play fair. And you DON’T. You’re a liar and a thief.

Here’s what I finally figured out last week:

Last week we were both bidding on a 100,000-piece job that would bill for $18,200. Most of the money—$13,900 of it, in fact—was local Carrier Route postage.

“Sorry,” the familiar plaint started. “Some guy in Florida will do the job for $9300.”

“No!” I protested immediately and loudly. “It can’t be! The very best postage that the US Postal System can give this job is $13,900.”

“Sorry,” the erstwhile client came back lamely.

“Think about it” I demanded. “He’s willing to do the job—the list rental, printing, mailing AND postage—for less than the cost of the postage? It doesn’t make sense!”

She was silent, soaking in the implications.

My gears were spinning furiously. You—my own Moriarity, the unnamed Guy in Florida—were about to steal another job from me.

My anger at this repeated injustice spilled forth. Like a flash, the nefarious brilliance of your plan swept over me. It was truly genius. But it was also evil to the core. Moriarity indeed.

“I’ve never said this about any competitor before” I bravely tried to sound professional and rational. “But he is LYING to you.

“There is no way that he is going to mail 100,000 pieces for you for $9300. It will cost him $13,900 in postage alone! He may swear he’ll mail 100,000 pieces for $9300. He even show you a doctored drop slip to ‘prove’ his point after the fact. But he is LYING to you!

“He probably intends to mail half the job, but tell you he’s mailing all of it.

“And when you don’t get the response you were expecting, he’ll tell you that the problem was with your art. He’ll blame YOU! You’ll be victimized twice by this guy!”

This had to be what you are doing. Over and over again. It was déjà vu at its very worst.

No wonder no ethical mailshop can beat you—you’re undercutting the postage which is the single most expensive line item on a mailing project. Since you come in with a quote at 75% of the postage cost, no one can beat you. Ever.

It’s genius. You probably close nearly 100% of your quotes, don’t you? But it’s patently unethical. And most certainly illegal. Doctoring postal drop slips is mail fraud. And that’s messing with Uncle Sam.

Like the wolf in Little Red Ridinghood, you prey on innocents. You promise low-priced goodies to get the attention of mailing neophytes, but you intend to eat them for lunch.

After all these people had one thing in common: They had never mailed before. They didn’t know postal rules or rates. And they were convinced that “the best price wins the job.” That’s Econ 101 logic, right?

It’s a hell of a “business model,” Guy in Florida. Promise 100% and deliver only 50%. Then blame poor returns on your own victims. The sheer audacity of it leaves me breathless.

But your victims don’t stop with the mailing naifs you are targeting.

You’re also victimizing ethical, legitimate mailing services like my own…and like the dozens of others you have probably bilked out of honestly won jobs in the last year.

That makes me furious. Our industry is already reeling because of a bad economy, crooks in Nigeria who are successfully scamming us into taking stolen credit cards for payment, and now we have you to contend with, our own home-grown Florida Bad Guy.

The barbarians are at the gates.

But back to the lady I had on the phone.

“He’s lying.” I said one more time. “If you don’t believe me, call the Post Office’s Department of Mailing Rates and Requirements. Here’s their number…..”

Two hours later, she called me back. I had won the job. The Post Office had backed me up.

Call it a day, Guy in Florida. Pack it in. Find a new line of “work.” Preferably in an industry that can use creative problem solving, which you seem uniquely qualified to provide.

What you’re doing now will land you in jail sooner or later.


Kathy said...

What a great post. I used to be in the DM industry in South Florida and recall running into a few sneaky guys like this from time to time, especially when the economy was bad. Good job saving your client!

Elizabeth Turnbull said...

Thanks for speaking up for the rest of this. This is a classic case of clients being "penny wise and pound foolish"

michaelejahn said...

I would have thought that everyone inserted a 'mole' in the mail list - where one of names on the list was "Ima Ontoou" would either get a copy or not - if not, well...

Mark said...

The "mole" Michael refers to is what is considered a seed. It's pretty easy to spot a lot of them. In a national mail campaign, the seeds often make up the single piece trays.

Kudos to you for sticking up for your rights. This should be a time where printers, direct mailers and everyone in the industry call a "truce" and quit killing each other by bidding those jobs that break even or just lose a little bit. It's the only way we will survive.

Heck, it's hard enough to get the Post Office to do their job correctly without having to deal with scum like this.

READ IT said...

Kudos to you for exposing a cheater and getting the message across to your client!

However, although "Florida Guy" may have been ill-intentioned, I am pleased to report that there are many reputable printers in Florida that service their clients without cheating the system. We don't employ illegal aliens and we definitely don't mess with the postal system! Great job and best of luck!