My post about getting nickel-and-dimed by focus group facilities got quite a bit of response. Many of you agreed that getting charged $11 for copies is absurd.

But some of you also pointed out – quite rightly – that part of the challenge of running a facility is dealing with clients who try to take advantage of you. I would argue that this problem extends far beyond focus group facilities, to research vendors in general (and probably every other kind of vendor – printers, IT consultants, transcribers, etc.).

Just as vendors have a responsibility to clients, clients also have a responsibility to vendors. No, it is not fair to walk into a focus group facility and expect them to make 400 color copies for you at no charge. No, it probably is not reasonable to expect to pay the exact same price for a chicken Caesar salad at a facility that you just paid at Applebee’s. No, it is not fair to stay in the back room for three hours after the last group and expect the staff to hang around and wait for you to finish up (and expect not to be charged for it).

One of the ways we as research clients can help stop silly nickel-and-dime charges from our vendors is if we don’t keep trying to get more than we’re paying for by expecting them to do all kinds of things for free.

This happens all the time with quantitative research. That project which was supposed to field at 80% incidence with a 10-minute questionnaire? Yep – actual incidence is 20% and the questionnaire is a bloated 22 minutes. Is the field center expected to just suck it up and eat the difference? No, because the specs changed.

But at the same time, if I tell the field center the incidence is expected to be 80%, and in reality it’s 78%, I do not expect to get charged more for what is a meaningless difference.

It’s the same thing with focus group facilities. If I ask you to pull in a second easel and make me ten copies, please just smile and do it as part of your service. And don’t tick me off by adding it to my bill. If I need a sophisticated A/V set up and 400 copies, then yes, we need to talk about the expense. I promise to be reasonable about paying you for your time and trouble if you promise to be reasonable in charging me for it.

If more vendor/client relationships could work that way, we’d have more positive vendor/client relationships. And if we don’t like getting treated poorly as research vendors, how dare we turn around and treat our own vendors the same way?


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