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The lowest price doesn’t always mean the lowest cost

April 4, 2019

I spent the first 25 years of my working life in the packaging industry, selling cardboard boxes for various manufacturers. I sold to small one-man-band firms to start off, and progressed over the years to providing cardboard packaging for many household branded products throughout Europe.

Now, at Printwaste, it seems ironic that we collect and recycle cardboard boxes – a key element of the sustainable recycling loop that we are all part of whenever we recycle.

However, I learnt a big lesson from my early days as a cardboard box salesman. That lesson was that customers want – let’s be bold with this, demand – other factors beyond low prices. Price is not everything that decides your fate as a prospective supplier.

The lesson unfolded like this. My friend worked for a large company that bought boxes from one of my main competitors. I had tried unsuccessfully to supply the company he worked for, but couldn’t even get an appointment. My friend was moved to a department where he could see some purchase prices for the boxes. He got them for me, and my company could beat them, so being young and very naïve, I decided to try and get some benefit from them. I phoned the buyer and said that we could now give very good prices, and could I quote for some boxes if he could give me some specifications, which he did – and I got an appointment.

The appointment came around and there I was sat in front of him while he reviewed my prices, which I knew were cheaper than he currently paid. I could hardly hide the big satisfied grin I was bursting to show as he said “I’ll order some of these from you”.

He had to repeat his comment as I mumbled “What!”. He said again, “While the prices are interesting, I will not be ordering.” I had nothing else to offer, as I was sure I would get an order. I slinked out of the meeting shocked and bewildered.

I rang him the next day having realised I had made a fool of myself by leaving the meeting so quickly, and asked him why, if the prices were good, he did not buy some. He told me that he needed other key elements to be met before he would even consider changing supplier from the reliable and first-class firm that he used currently. The final words he told me have stuck with me always, and I now relate them to whoever cares to listen. They were: “Remember, lowest price doesn’t always mean lowest cost.”

The present day shows customer service is paramount. At Printwaste, in providing our customers with a commercially acceptable set of pricing and knowing of the importance of that, we have to perform to the very highest of standards in the way in which we provide our services.

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