Contributing Bloggers

Knowledge is Power

 We were in Chicago last week for a client program.  We were at a high-end luxury hotel.  The service was exceptional, the food was good, the bedrooms were comfortable and the meeting space was perfect for our group.  Good all-around with one huge exception – it was one of those hotels that charges you to use the electricity coming out of the wall.  Of course, this is not a new issue nor is it limited to Chicago.  On a recent program in San Francisco a unionized worker tried to explain to us that we were in fact taking away a job from an employee by plugging in our own registration equipment.
I completely understand the position of the venue to have policies in place in the interest of safety or law, or in order to avoid misuse.  This is fair and reasonable – but we are not talking about rigging thousands of pounds of amps ourselves or about us getting up on a scissor lift to hang Leko lights – we are talking about plugging a laptop computer and basic printer into a pre-existing wall socket.  What’s next – will there be a pad lock on the light switches in each meeting room – a pay as you go rate on power?
Unions are in the business of fighting for worker’s rights – that is not going to change anytime soon.  It is very rare to find a hotel or convention center without unionized staff – so how do we fight for the rights of our clients while respecting the union rules?
Here are some quick tips for you:
The detective work has to begin at the RFP (Request for Proposals).  Ask all your questions up front at this stage before even entering into contract negotiations.
–   Ask for a list of all preferred suppliers.
–   Ask about exclusive suppliers and the penalties incurred for bringing in your own supplier. Some exclusive in-house AV providers force you to pay for their head technician to just shadow your AV technician.
–   Ask whether the hotel uses union labor (and which departments). If so, make sure you know the hotel’s labor policies so you don’t run into extra fees.  For example if the housemen are unionized, this could result in extra labor charges for room flips overnight.
–   Ask about fees for security guards, extra electrical hookups, and cleaning especially if you have any type of exhibition in your program even a small table top display. (It could end up costing thousands more.)
–   Ask for rates for shipping and receiving and box delivery charges.  (Getting this waived may be a great concession to ask for if you know your group has lots of deliveries.)
–   Ask about Internet charges. (For me this is the greatest variable and we see the prices for this fluctuate greatly from city to city and even property to property within one city – there is no standard.)  You can try to at least get internet charges waived for your office, general session room or registration desk.
–   Ask about taxes, surcharges and gratuities.
If working with a convention center you should ask for the facility’s operating policies & procedures manual to review fees and policies that are not always apparent when booking the space. These come to light only after the contract is signed. If you wait for the contract stage to find out about preferred suppliers and unionized regulations, you might be too far down the road to turn back.
When all this information is collected during the RFP process, you then have the KNOWLEDGE you need to negotiate your own clauses into the contract.  It also ensures you are getting the best possible price and service by preserving your right to shop around.
George Tsimidis, Account Executive at AVW-TELAV Audio Visual Solutions also advocates doing plenty of research and keeping your options open.  He recommends reading this article from Convene before you write your next RFP:   http://www.pcma.org/Convene/Issue-Archives/October-2004/Avoiding-the-Preferred-Provider-Trap.htm
Don’t get left in the dark – know your stuff and make your venue choice based on all the right information!
If you like this blog posting – check out the March 4, 2011 (Loving Contracts) for more helpful tips.
Hope my “Free Idea” makes your Friday!
To learn more, please visit www.andlogistix.com

Dana Zita

Establishing aNd Logistix Inc in 1993, Dana is known for her energy & often outspoken zeal in attempt to improve the industry for future event planners. She combines a no-nonsense management style with a passion for creating the ultimate WOW for her clients.

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