Excessive demands


One of my coworkers asked me to look over the contract from a coffee service that we’re considering. We’ve actually had this sort of thing for years, where they lease you the machine and you pay for the coffee that gets delivered every few weeks. But our old provider nearly tripled their delivery fees in January and refused to negotiate, so it was time for a new vendor.

Looking at the contract from the new service, I was pretty shocked. Among other things, they reserve the right to forcibly enter your office to reclaim the machine if you don’t pay your bill. All this for a piece of hardware that costs no more than $250. Needless to say, we told them their contract is absurd and way out of line for something as simple as coffee delivery. So who did we buy from? Amazon.com sells the same coffee for almost 1/3 less, enabling us to buy the machine (and even purchase spares) with the money we save. More importantly, there’s no onerous contract to deal with.

When I think about it, the coffee vendor violated a fundamental rule of sales: they’re not making it easy for customers to do business with their company. For what should be a very simple transaction using a brief order form with some basic terms and conditions, they dump a lengthy contract on the buyer. You might argue that they’ve gotten burned before, so they’re just trying to protect their interests. Ok, but at what cost? If your worst-case scenario is losing a few hundred dollars in hardware, and it only happens 1% of the time, do you really want to put up roadblocks that scare off say 20% of your potential buyers? For most companies, I’m pretty sure that’s a losing proposition.