Thursday, November 15, 2012

Ambiguity Doesn't Work in Business!

Boy did we learn this lesson the hard way a couple of months ago! We had a full plan bride that was from out of town and we were in charge of every last detail pertaining to her event. We had worked with a caterer (Who shall not be named) on an event in the past and he did a pretty good job. Service was good, food was good, all in all the experience was good. I knew this particular caterer was on the lower end as far as budget was concerned and I thought that his food style would be a good match for our bride. We contacted him and went back and forth several times before deciding on a menu. I told him that we wanted to book him after their tasting and asked what the deposit fee was...to my astonishment he said he doesn't work off a contract....he collects all moneys on the day, no deposit necessary....red flag number one!

When reviewing the "non-contract" I saw that he had a flat service fee for the event...not gratuity, just the fee. It did give times as to when service would be provided but did not specify the NUMBER of servers....red flag number 2. I didn't think much of it as I had done an event with him before and I felt that it was adequately staffed.

At the final meeting I asked about breakdown for the event and he told me that his staff would be able to breakdown the event and asked if there would be dolly's for the chairs...I replied yes.

The day of the wedding comes.....the caterer has a bartender, a server, and himself for the event....that's it! Not nearly enough staff to cover all the needs of the guests...Not nearly enough staff to justify his service fee! Luckily we had brought an assistant of our own to help bus the tables! Food service goes well...guests are happy and fed....Few minor things go wrong but nothing major!

Well, we are lining up the guests for the big exit and I look over to the road and what do I see...my caterers van driving down the road!! What....what is going on, where is he going?? I thought he was breaking down this event! I call him up (after the bride and groom exit mind you) and ask just what was he doing! Well at this point he starts talking about the CONTRACT we have...and what he didn't say in that final meeting.....Nice how all along we have the "non-contract" and now all of the sudden, the word contract is being thrown around! Dana and I broke down the event ourselves...hauled all the tables, chairs, finished busing etc....it was fine, we lived....our client had a great day and it went well! That is the most important thing....but we did learn a lesson!

Even though we have been in the business for over 7 years....we still overlooked this ambiguity in the contract (non-contract)....we were betting on past experience to forecast the future and it bit us! We obviously will not be recommending him again (very short sighted on his end), but we learned such a valuable lesson here that is SO important to pass on..You want your contracts as specific as possible...all hours/cost/duties broken down to the second/penny/nitty gritty detail! Don't be afraid to ask to re-write or amend a contract. In the end, the vendor will probably appreciate it so that there is not ambiguity in the expectation you have for them.

Anyone else have a situation where ambiguity came back to bite them?

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