May 10, 2011

Dealing with Vendors Who Can't Deal

Occasionally in wedding planning, you'll run into people who require what I like to call *special care*. 2Es and I ran into one such person -- one of our vendors, in fact -- who, for whatever reason, made it impossible to work with him. (We'll call him Alex.) And had we been asked to fill out one of those comment cards following our experience, we might have responded with the following:

Alex was the one and only person we worked with in the course of the sixteen months that I genuinely disliked. The man actually drove me to punch a wall, for chrissake.

Why, Brian? What would drive you to do such an aggressive thing? Did the wall crumble from the blow??

Alex's company offers services for a whole range of events, and weddings are not their primary source of income. Hence, Alex finds weddings/brides/grooms to be a nuisance and often too much trouble for what they earn per event. But rather than suggesting to his superiors that they raise their prices or cut weddings from their scope of services, Alex gave us attitude. He gave us curt answers to all questions, didn't speak to us for months, and then surprised us with unfavorable news the week BEFORE our wedding. That was when I punched our living room wall. And I'm not the kind of person who punches walls. I've seen those guys in movies. They're highly repressed or 'roided up or in serious need of a hug. I get plenty of hugs. But Alex drove me to that place when he asked us to pull up our contract and indicated a loophole which allowed him to conduct himself like a total jerk-off. 

Alex could have ruined our wedding, but we wouldn't let one person interfere with this occasion or sixteen months of planning or any of the million other things that matter more than one sour a**hole. 

So what did we do? Well, we did three things (outside of punching the wall), and I would recommend them to anyone who's battling with a vendor or manager or contact person and is unable to come to a sensible resolution.

1. Find someone who can say SUCK IT, ALEX without saying SUCK IT, ALEX. We have a few ball busters in our circle of friends, but one in particular stood out. We asked this person (we'll call her Alexa) to handle all correspondence and communication with Alex in the week that followed. We didn't need the stress. We communicated through someone logical who could sense our frustration and respond more rationally, professionally and calmly than we ever could.

2. Signal the troops. Once Alexa was fielding Alex's phone calls and emails, we alerted our family members of the unfortunate situation. We told them what they needed to know and only what they needed to know. We described the tight situation Alex had put us in and where we had been forced to compromise. And, most importantly, we asked them to not bring this up at the wedding. We just wanted them to be aware, we said, to keep them in the loop. 

3. Avoid contact ... eye or otherwise. We avoided Alex like the plague on our wedding day. Our amazing day-of coordinators took charge of the situation and immediately diffused all of the negative energy. They addressed his questions; they went to him when issues arose; and at the close of the evening, they paid him. It was a huge gift to us to get Alex off of our hands. 

Our precautions may seem extreme in hindsight, but we accomplished two things: (1) we avoided any incidents at the wedding, and (2) we're now able to laugh at the whole thing. And laugh at Alex. Sometimes we just sit on the couch, TV on mute, and laugh at Alex: at his sourness, the phone conversations we had with him through gritted teeth, and the thought of him having to deal with more and more weddings as time goes on. 

And no, the wall did not crumble from the blow, but it did leave a noticeable impression in our living room wall. We've named that impression "Alex's Clenched A**hole." 

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