Shut up and give me a number

We got a call this morning from someone looking for custom t-shirts. That’s not really very mysterious or special, what made it worth writing about was the hushity-hush-hush secretness of his request.

If you’ve ever tried to coax a dog to the vet (how do they always know?), you might have some idea of how difficult my conversation was this morning.

I had to drag information from this man like a CIA interrogator. Simple questions like, “Oh, what are the shirts for, do you have an event?” were met with cold silence, following by very hesitant, limited answers. “Conference.” “Public outreach.”

So I kept it up in my typically casual way. “Oh, great. So tell me about your organization. What’s the event?”

I figured since it was public outreach, he would be jumping to tell me all about what they want to do.

“Listen, David. It’s nice that you want to know about us and what we do, but I really just want a cheap quote on t-shirts.”

I politely told him that he had called the wrong company.

Just give me a number

From his point of view, he just wanted a number. Tired of calling around. Just give me a number. How much do t-shirts cost?

I get it. Similarly, I’m looking for a price on a stamping machine. The one I want doesn’t have a price listed, so I’ll need to talk with someone. In fact, I got a voice mail from the company asking for me to call so they can learn more about what I need to do.

It’s not that they’re trying to pry into my personal affairs or judge my possible motivations behind stamping napkins. What size shoe do you wear? would be a weird question. They just want to make the best recommendation possible. They want a happy customer who bought the right machine, which benefits them as well as me (less support calls or complaints). I could be looking at the wrong machine for what I need. So even though I’m not a huge fan of talking on the phone,  I appreciate this approach. I’ll call them later. I’m even happy to tell them about our business, because hey: free marketing.

Back to our tight-lipped quote seeker. I’m sure he’s called around and will likely get plenty of printers who will dole out quotes, no questions asked. Hell, you can get free quotes all over the web without talking to anyone, just by typing in numbers in a form.

When I take a call like this, I feel bolstered by the feeling that this is not what we do.

It’s not that I don’t want to help someone get a great price on t-shirts. It’s just the opposite. The more information I have about the event and company as a whole (or end recipients of the t-shirts), the better t-shirt they’ll get.

Our business is based on working with honest, upfront people and forming long-term relationships. If we replace that with a calculator, we’re no longer Sparky Firepants. And what’s the point anymore?

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