A Tale Of A Printer Who Lost His Second Largest Account

by Paul Castain on January 6, 2013

Like any true fairy tale (isn’t that like an oxymoron), this story begins a long, long time ago, back in a far away time called “1991”.

There was this young printing salesman who made a mistake that he didn’t realize for many years.

He needed a source for a product his client requested and ended up buying it from someone who was actually buying it from someone else and marking it up.

This obviously resulted in the print salesman’s client paying a heck of a lot more than they should of but nobody knew any better and no one was complaining.

One day, the young printing salesman realized this, found a new source and decided to never pass the savings along to the client.

The profit was insane and they bought lots and lots of the product.

Life was good and the young print salesman made mucho dinero.

This went on for over a year until the young print salesman received a call from the owner of the company demanding an explanation why they were paying 200% more.

The conversation didn’t go well and the young man lost his second largest account.

Unlike other fairy tales, this one doesn’t end with someone living happily ever after.

One more thing . . . this is totally true and a much younger, dumber Uncle Paul was the young print salesman.

While the moral of the story is to obviously take a chill on the greed thing, I’d like for you to weigh in with what you would have done differently.

What would you have done?

Let’s say, you had a situation like this where you were able to do something with the process, distribution etc to free up a substantial amount of money. . .

Would you pass that along to your client?

How would you explain the sudden drop in price in a way that didn’t make it seem like you were ripping them off all along?

Thanks in advance for your thoughts!

  • First of all, make sure you work w/trusted partners if you ever have to work w/anyone on a project you can wholly produce in house. Secondly, if there ends up being a savings, I always pass it along and just explain that we found a better or more efficient way to produce it, and apologize that we didn’t know about this sooner but wanted to start sharing the savings immediately. I think this more honest approach is always the best instead of greed. The money you give up on the bigger mark up will come back to you ten fold I believe.

  • Scottard2003@yahoo.com

    This actually has happened a few times in my line of sales. For me the answer was always simple, I may increase my profit margin a little, but I always pass the majority of the savings on to the client. Simply letting them know the we never stop working to find better sources to service their needs. If anything, it shows the customer that you always have their back and breeds loyalty. In fact, I stolen more than a few accounts when others fail to realize their greed.
    “Greed”, for a lack of a better term, isn’t always a good thing – sorry Mr. Gecko.
    Sorry couldn’t resist the “Wall Street” reference.

  • Stephen Seligson

    There is a line between greed and wanting to make a profit. The bottom line is you need to sleep at night knowing you gave good product at a fair price. There is also such a wide range of printers, quality and service. I have worked with 2 printers both have the same press and one of them the quality stinks while the other one the quality is amazing. Same goes for service, I have worked with printers that have great quality but can’t deliver on time or they mess up on delivery.If the sales person is providing unprecedented value quality and service he may be worth a premium.

  • Traci Walters

    Yes, I would pass along the savings and I would explain the new source for the sudden drop in price. But, that’s just how I roll. Not everyone is like that.

    Imagine if everyone in the world would ‘take a chill on the greed thing’….sigh

    Glad you learned a lesson on this one, Uncle Paul. Again, not everyone would.


    PS: Your pic for this article is as always, hilarious!

  • You don’t know how hard it was for me to get Dr Phil to pose like that Traci 🙂

    But seriously, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts!

  • Great point Stephen. I wonder if there is a tipping point where we over do it on the price (even with a true justification of superior quality, service etc)

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

  • And what an awesome movie that was Scott 🙂

    I agree with your approach and wish you would jump in the nearest time machine and talk some sense into the younger version of me.

    Thanks for taking the time to contribute!

  • I agree Elizabeth and your approach requires that we just tell the truth . . . never a bad thing to do!

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts . . . I really appreciate it!

  • Stephen Seligson

    Pretty simple… Pigs get slaughtered. We just cant be a greedy pig. I think it all has to do with integrity . Don’t take advantage. Just like what your article said.

  • Tony

    Of course pass on the savings. It is much easier to explain how you are saving them money vs. being embarrassed.

  • Darryl DiRuscio

    Paul, did your sales manager have any influence on the decision or was it all you? And was this the only poduct they bought from you? Just curious.

  • daveg144

    No matter what situation, the golden rule always seems to be the best policy. Trying to mark up something beyond the value of the service you’re providing will almost always end badly.

  • Now you tell me Dave 🙂

    I couldn’t agree more!

    Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts!

  • Joanne

    Paul, thanks for sharing. This sort of happened to me a few years back, but not to the extent of 200%. Customer was buying a type of motor and burning them up one a week. He was PO’ed at the vendor that had been selling them and since my nose had been pressed against the glass for so long he gave me an opportunity. I placed a couple orders for the same motor and the same thing continued to happen. He hung his head and said,” well I guess I’ll just have to keep a stock of motors on our shelf”. But I decided to go one step more and started going over his system. He was using Inverters, but the motor’s were not Inverter duty. Ah-Ha! Even though the motors were considerably more expensive, and I didn’t discount it at all, he was thrilled to pay, because he was able to run his machine 6 or more months before replacing a motor. Had I just taken his money and ordered motor’s every week, another vendor would have come along soon enough and secured my new customer.

  • Dave A

    The object of the salesman is to make the highest sales numbers, that’s it. But how you do that is the rub! I would simply tell them the truth! I found out the printer we THOUGHT was doing the work was farming it and marking it up, I found a better source, and here customer, is a better price for you (and I do not need to discount now cause they are getting a better deal).

    Now, what other business can I help you with?

    Greed is NOT a good thing. It leads to excesses and by not correcting the situation when you did, you were also lying (by omission) to the customer, two strikes. You burned a bridge, generally never a good thing with sales (unless you send your worst customer to your competition). Unfortunately, you saw only the short term gain, not the long term relationship!

    You were young and stupid. You are not stupid anymore!



  • Nor am I young anymore 🙂

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