Special Events
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Rental Pros Sound Off: Do You Match the Desperate Client's Lowball Bid?

Special event rental pros discuss the challenge of clients presenting lowball bids from prior vendors who fell away

A Facebook post about a bridal client who initially turned down a "too expensive" vendor only to return at the last minute in desperation—and asking for the same lowball price the failed vendor promised—has launched a tidal wave of comments. Here, Special Events shares the comments of rental professionals on how they deal with this dicey issue:

WHAT'S BEHIND THE LOWBALL BID? "When it's a cheap vendor, you ask the client, why are they so cheap? If we have the items, we will try to figure out what we can offer to make their event happen. This happens a lot with tents, but that is why we require a 50 percent nonrefundable deposit. That tent is reserved for them. We have clients who tell us have reserved a tent [with another vendor] but then they are told it's no longer available the week of. The Internet is part of the problem. Anyone can have a presence on it without being totally legit and licensed."
Anonymous rental expert, West Coast

SAY YES TO 'NO' "If someone has never thrown a major lifestyle event, they get sticker shock when they get the quotes. We won't compromise our quality standards to do a wedding at a unreasonable price, and we'd rather be honest with the client and even offer them a referral to other companies who might be willing to work with their budget. In the early days, I rarely said no. I've learned the hard way that we can't do every party and do them to the standard we wish."
Michael Berk, M&M The Special Events Co., Chicago

MAKING CLIENTS SMARTER "When they come in a panic because their vendor has screwed them, that’s one thing as they really have no other alternatives. However, when a current client comes to you because their DIY mess blew up in their face or their cheaper vendor bailed on them, that’s when we should stand up. However, one also needs to be careful because if this client is from a preferred venue or a client referral, the backlash could be worse, resulting in lost future business. I try to explain to them why the DIY fell apart and ask if now they understand why we charge what we do: because it really is hard and a lot of work to decorate, do 25 centerpieces or set up that backdrop--which, no, cannot be picked up and moved after the ceremony! I hope to educate through explanation in an effort to stick to my price. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but in order to stay sane, I have to stay the course, stick to my guns and know that eventually logic will prevail!"
Tania Newman, Chair Decor Etc., Vancouver, British Columbia

"I started a pricing policy 10 years ago, and I’m pretty ruthless. I’ve lost some clients over it but they all wanted to order two or three days before an event and that just made me/us frantic. You earn the best price if you confirm 16 days or more in advance. Less than that--my prices increase 50 percent, and nine days or less, my prices double. In fact, yesterday a local rental company called. They had ordered Spandex from somebody, and [that company] failed to perform. I told them my prices, they checked, confirmed. They didn’t like the price—they thought it was high--but they needed it. But it is not my fault that they choose an undependable vendor who promised more than they could deliver. After the deal was completed, I sent over my price list and told them what they could pay in the future if they ordered timely."
Bernie Gaps, Absolutely Fabulous! Events and Productions, Costa Mesa, Calif.

See the full story in the September-October issue of Special Events. Not a subscriber? We can fix that—just click here.

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