Dirty vendor tricks

By , InfoWorld |  Software, Microsoft, SAP

Petouhoff says she was told to make up the difference in change orders and blame the customer for changing the scope of the project as it went along.

"It's like selling someone a car, and they come back and say, 'This car you sold me has no wheels,' and you say, 'Oh, you wanted wheels? That will cost extra,'" she adds. "It was an embarrassment for the people inside that organization who had to go back up the chain and sell the changes to their bosses."

And when vendors are counting on implementation to boost their profits -- and the fees don't materialize -- they can get downright nasty, as Connie Elliott can attest. As owner of Data Net, a small maker of bar-code and RFID data collection systems, Elliott wanted to buy a CRM system to integrate with her firm's accounting system. So a few years ago she spent about $5,500 for a CRM system from a small company that shall remain nameless.

"One of our requirements was that the system reside on top of an SQL database that we could set up and modify ourselves," she says. "The vendor wasn't happy about not getting lots of implementation money."

First, they wanted her to buy service contracts, which Elliott was unwilling to do. Then they tried to force her into an upgrade to their new SaaS (software as a service) offering (see Dirty vendor trick No. 5: The forced upgrade march, below). When she said no again, things got ugly.

"Once we got the data importation problems worked out with the vendor, we found out that all the SQL tables were password-locked," she says. "They wouldn't give us the password unless we paid several thousand dollars for an upgraded version. We decided to not pay it. It wasn't worth the headaches."

Instead of an integrated CRM and accounting system, Data Net uses the software as a simple contact manager. Four years later Elliott says she still hasn't found the right solution for her data problems and suspects she never will. "But I still think uncharitable thoughts about those folks."

Dirty vendor trick No. 3: The customer headlock Once some vendors have you, they will do everything in their power to keep you -- even if that sometimes means crossing an ethical line.

"Vendor lock-in is a fundamental issue for companies that purchase enterprise software," says Michael Krigsman, CEO of Asuret, which studies and prevents IT failures. "That's because another term for 'lock-in' is 'Grab the customer by the b**** and squeeze.'"

[ For more tales of IT gone wrong, check out Off the Record, or submit your own to offtherecord@infoworld.com. If we publish it, we'll send you a $50 American Express gift cheque. ]

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