Vendors: The Venus Fly Trap Effect

I want to discuss something Mr. Waterfall and I have encountered on a few occasions while planning. I like to call it The Venus Flytrap Effect.


Image via Wikipedia / Photo credit: Noah Elhardt

Scenario #1, wedding dress shopping: I am going through the racks with a consultant after having stated my budget and she pulls a Paloma Blanca gown for me to try on.

Me: How much is this dress? I’m fairly sure it’s way over budget…

Venus Flytrap Consultant: Oh, don’t worry about that right now! First, try it on; then we can talk about the price if you love it.

Ha! Yeah right! Any bride in her right mind who has ever seen an episode of Say Yes to the Dress knows that you never EVER try on a gown outside your budget. The most likely outcome is you will fall in love with a dress you clearly can’t afford and every subsequent dress you try on will look like poop in comparison.

It seems like some vendors want to trick you into falling in love with their product, even when it’s way outside your budget. You search their website and there is no mention of prices. You email them to ask for their prices, and they reply vaguely that they need to know more about your event first, that they tailor their services to each client, yadda-yadda. You answer all their questions but they play hide-the-quote until they have managed to convince you to arrange a meeting face-to-face. They dazzle you with all the different customization options and add-ons. Then, when they think you’re hooked, they go in for the kill; they smile their best used car salesman smile and slide a piece of paper across the table like a scene from The Godfather and stare at you while you take in the information and try not to cry. BAM. All of a sudden, you’re trapped. The whole thing is like a bad time-share presentation. See where I’m going with the whole Venus Flytrap thing? It’s kind of like The Parent Trap, but a lot less cute and a lot more awkward.


Image via IMDB

Anyway…I know I sound very angry, and that’s because I am. I’ve unfortunately gotten caught in this situation more than once in our planning. It’s actually become a bit of a running joke: If Miss Waterfall likes it, it must be the most expensive option around.

This happened to us while hunting for a photographer. I stumbled across P’s website and was instantly smitten with their photos; each one looked like a work of art. I forced myself to close my browser while I waited for their quote—no use falling in love if we can’t afford them. I was thrilled when a few minutes later I received an email stating at their prices started at x, the higher end of our budget, but still within it. I set up a meeting for the next night, and we drove to their studio. We sat there for an hour looking at glossy albums, watching amazing slideshow after amazing slideshow. It was all I could do not to drool all over my dress. I had entirely forgotten about the small matter of money until P casually got up and handed us a price sheet. I almost fainted. It would have cost around $10,000 for the entire package. Hive, I cried tears of rage the entire drive home. I mean, what a colossal waste of everybody’s time! I don’t even understand how that makes any sense from a business standpoint. I mean, they have to be aware that they’re definitely not “affordable,” right? Why not let potential clients know your prices right up front? Especially after they’ve specifically enquired? After I got home, I emailed my contact asking about the astronomical difference in price, and they answered that the starting price was for booking the junior assistant. I am not even joking.

The same thing happened again with a videographer. They used words like “up-and-coming” on their website, so I figured they would have up-and-coming prices to match. After several failed email attempts at asking them for a quote, we agreed to meet them on a Friday night. Hive, we got fooled twice. We sat through an hour and a half meeting with V, looking at their amazing wedding trailers, discussing our vision, and apparently wasting everybody’s time once again. We walked away with nothing but a quote for five grand and a whole lot of disappointment.

I don’t understand how this keeps happening to us. Mr. W says that I am no longer allowed to set up meetings with any vendors unless they have given us an estimate first.

Have you been in a similar situation? Please, tell me I’m not alone!


Mrs. Waterfall

Wedding Date:
June 2013
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  1. Member
    lovelove1028 1110 posts, Bumble bee @ 4:50 am

    I actually refused to meet with any vendors whatsoever until I knew their prices… specifically for the lowest option we were willing to go for. For example, for photography we’d have loved two photographers, but were willing to stick with just one (we’ll only have 80 or so guests so 2 was kind of overkill), but we DEFINITELY wanted the full day (NO compromising on time!) so we made sure we asked them for quotes for exactly that… THEN set up appointments. It’s the only way to avoid extreme disappointment. 🙁

  2. Member
    LadyJenks 53 posts, Worker bee @ 12:56 am

    Holy rage! Now I’m a bit worried about what I’m getting into. :-/ So glad for the warning, and all the other bees’ stories! @craft darling, you have totally changed my opinion of preferred vendor lists!

  3. Guest Icon Guest
    Joel Rabe, Guest @ 10:21 am

    WOW.. after reading these posts i def feel the need to respond. First, “The Venus Flytrap” very well written. I also am adding a few suggestions for Brides…

    I am an International DJ & the CEO of Lethal Rhythms (professional DJ Services). While I am based in Atlanta, I am fortunate enough to travel all over the United States, and Mexico. I only put that out there to establish some credibility. My “Style” was featured by Carley Roney, Knot Founder in her “trends for 2012”

    So first tip: create an email address separate from your regular work email. “putaringonit@gmail” etc. you won’t get overloaded.

    The underlying theme of discontent from the brides in this post is correct: If you can not get a PRICE RANGE and what that entails when speaking on the phone to a vendor, you are better off to move along. However, Most brides will call and say “how much are your services? as the first question”. If a DJ (or other vendor) answers immediately before asking anything about your needs, expect pricing to change at the meeting. When a vendor says “it varies” or “between” or otherwise indicates a range, it is always wise to be proactive and clarify why there is a range.

    Honestly, pricing cannot be determined until the DJ (or other vendor) knows a little bit about your needs (see below). I think this is the NUMBER ONE reason why there is pricing disconnect.

    Starting from the very first phone conversation or email request, we at Lethal Rhythms DO send out our pricing sheet. The sheet has more detail and allows you to make the right choice for your budget and still match your vision.

    Our price points are kept simple. They are based on whom you choose from our team. Determining which DJ is the best fit and will deliver the best value is our main priority.

    Each DJ package we offer is SIX hours. However, 4 hours is typical…Because the facility or venue where you are having your wedding charges in 4 hour blocks. (NOTE: if your facility is doing a longer then 4 hour block, try to negotiate that price with the DJ).

    We DO NOT list our pricing on our website for two reasons:

    1) Competition. (in a bad way). Our company handles approx. 350 events per year. We are well known in the market. What this means is a new guy (competitor DJ) will show up on the scene, copy our package descriptions (a simple email request for info) then simply list a lower price point. Brides usually book us a year out. We have had to go back and RESCUE brides who booked another imitation DJ, but then double booked, or just disappeared. It is VERY easy for wedding vendors to post fake reviews, fake accomplishments, fake photos.

    2) The second reason is YOUR STYLE. There are more wedding options and styles that a professional wedding vendor has to provide services for then ever before. Sometimes we do multiple set ups, are we providing a microphone for multiple readers? (the preacher is a given of course). Cocktail hour: Is this in a separate area then the reception? Do we need to do a second set up there?, Are you looking for Up Lighting? etc. MOST IMPORTANTLY: what is your style? are you looking for a straight up dance party, or is this more formal? Is this multi-cultural? etc.

    These questions help us to understand which DJs are going to deliver the best service.

    It is true, there are vendors who claim to be on many “preferred vendor lists” and some facilities simply charge a fee to be a member. We do not play that game. Although I do not do fraternity parties, anniversary parties, etc (we are 90% weddings) I can say that if a company charges one fee for a wedding and a (cheaper) fee for a fraternity party (as listed above) it totally makes sense. A wedding requires a lot more planning and effort, more time is invested in the success.

    So, my point is if you can’t get pricing BEFORE you meet, simply move on. If the DJ (or other vendor) can’t return calls or email that same day or within 24 hours, move on. If the DJ (or other vendor) is not full time, does not have insurance or can’t get you a list of references (esp after telling you he/she has DJ’d at your facility “many times”) move on. Most importantly, read the fine print. When you first start getting your auto reply, or your first call. What is the vendor doing? Telling you how great they are, or Asking you questions about you? That should tell you right away which direction the vendor’s mindset is headed.

    I hope that this makes your wedding experience better!

  4. Member
    hellosteinberg 69 posts, Worker bee @ 11:48 am

    Ah wedding price gouging…my tips. If you don’t have to let a vendor know that they’re actually doing a wedding, then don’t.

    Our cake vendor didn’t know. We went with a very simple cake and a sheet cake for serving. We told them it was a cake for a party and it needed to feed X amount of people.

    Our caterer knew, because she was a friend, but the strangers who quoted me prices before her certainly didn’t.

    The rental company didn’t know and they also were willing to match the price of another vendor who offered Chivari chairs at $3 less than what they charged.

    Call it a party, a family reunion, an anniversary, a birthday, whatever, you will get lower prices than if you call it a wedding. If they call you on it afterward, tell them you decided to combine your wedding with the party, since the party was already happening. 🙂

    Dresses – some places mark their gowns up 5X over the designers recommended price, some charge exactly what the designer recommends, and some mark them up only twice or so.

    You can always find someone selling at the recommended price, or even lower if they’re doing a promotion, it just takes some digging.

    If they won’t tell you the style name of the gown, at least try to get the designer name. If they won’t let you take pictures, try to surreptitiously get some pics of the dress. Go home and start googling. It’s not hard to figure out the designer and style of the dress.

    Once you have the designer and style, start calling the vendors listed on the designer website and asking the price. Choose stores in smaller towns and less well-to-do parts of the country, they’re more likely to give you honest answers and have lower prices. Once you find someone on the phone that you like and who gives you a good price, order the gown from them, just give them your measurements.

    Shipping costs are usually less than what you would pay in state sales tax, which is what you will save if you order from out-of-state. 🙂

    I found an amazing gown at a salon in LA for $1700, went home and googled it, got a salon in Texas to let me know it should actually cost $1125, started contacting salons in poorer parts of the country, and bought it, brand new, for $850 from a retailer in a very broke city who was just happy to get the business.

    FYI based on what I know about retail and pricing, the fact that the designer’s suggested retail is $1125 and the store I got it from let it go at $850, that gown probably wholesales for around $425, so the original store has marked it up 4X.

  5. Guest Icon Guest
    Babsbabs, Guest @ 5:30 pm

    I have to COMPLETELY DISAGREE with the previous poster – what sort of a person are you if you out-and-out LIE to others in order to get the ‘best price’? Do you really want to start one of the most important parts of your adult life on a solid foundation of deceiving others?

    For sure, if someone doesn’t ‘need to know’ that your big event is a wedding, that’s one (totally fine) thing. Your wedding is an ‘event’ and you can refer to it as such. ‘Hi, I’m looking to rent chairs for an event which will be held —.’ To the point, no lies. On the bright side, it cuts out all preconceived notions of what that person thinks ‘a wedding’ ought to be, and you can describe exactly what you want.

    On the other hand, if you say “oh, it’s a birthday party!” Or “a family reunion!” And it really is a wedding? First off, it is totally obvious if your vendor is on site ever at any point during the day. Second off, it is disrespectful of them, their intelligence, and their desire to be there; you’re basically saying ‘I didn’t trust you to not take advantage of me.’ So not cool. Worst case scenario for you, if the vendor has it written down in a contract that this is one type of an event and it’s something completely different – they can actually just take all their stuff and go home/kick you out of the venue.

  6. mswaterfall Bee
    Mrs. Waterfall 1403 posts, Bumble bee @ 12:07 am

    @Kit_Kath: Exactly!
    @lemiller: Glad I’m not alone 🙂
    @MrsFutureG: @kristen182: I should have had your attitude while planning! It would save me so much heartache!
    @Krispi: Most vendors I contacted didn’t post a price list for various reasons, but did get back to me with a price list or a quote after our initial contact.
    @Miss Jet Setter: That’s how I felt, why would you try to start off a business relationship by being deceitful? And these are top of the industry vendors, too! INSANE.

    @dcgirl655: @Meredith: @dancindavinci: So glad you guys are with me!
    @Almost Mrs.P: @Blonde17Jess: These sound like good strategies!
    @Chelle-Lee: That’s funny, Mr. W made the same analogy.
    @Jen041815: Yup. At least give a price range or something.
    @bluebelle23: A few factors could have made the difference, like the date (ex: they might charge more for June than January) also, depending on how old the Bee was, prices tend to go up each year, or perhaps they were just starting out back then? Either way, bummer 🙁
    @cosmo_gmr: It all worked out in the end 🙂
    @DomesticDiva: ugh, dress consultants were the worst for that. I don’t know if it’s the comission or what but man… if I say 1000$, that doesn’t mean 1500$ especially when you factor in taxes and alterations…
    @suburbian: I know, I often felt so inadequate despite spending thousands of dollars, it somehow never seemed like it was enough 🙁

  7. mswaterfall Bee
    Mrs. Waterfall 1403 posts, Bumble bee @ 12:25 am

    @jpalm13: That’s why contracts are so important!
    @craft darling: @craft darling: I asked for the preferred vendor list early on and it was very helpful, the only problem was our venue was extremely high end so all the vendors on the list were very pricey. Glad it saved you time though 🙂

    @Lynn: @lovelove1028: I should have done that…
    @CPearson1016: I know! I only had one consultant who included the alterations in her pricing.
    @Mrs. Pony: I agree, what kind of a relationship do you hope to have if you’re going into it playing games and such?
    @Ms_Purple: I went through the same thing, I felt even more pressured since I wasn’t spending my own money.
    @MrsCasanova: Good for you!
    @Got2bDrea: High five!
    @Joel Rabe: Thank you for your tips and for the compliment, this was what I thought also. If I give you all the information you need (date, size of event, etc etc) you should be able to give me at least an estimate or a ball park. Thankfully these vendors don’t seem to be the norm.
    @LadyJenks: I hope you can avoid these situations!
    @hellosteinberg: Thanks for the tip, I’m glad it worked out for you.
    I’ve been heard this before, but I personally couldn’t do it, I feel like if I expect honesty from my vendors then I need to treat them with respect and honesty in return. How would they feel to show up and see that it’s clearly a wedding?
    @Babsbabs: I would definitely feel bad tricking a vendor, especially when I expect respect and honesty in return. As a guideline, I try to treat others as I would like to be treated 🙂

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