As the ape that is in charge of dealing with manufacturers and shipping, I find myself saying that a lot. Sometimes I'm not sure if I'm trying to convince the other guys or myself.
I've always known it, but now I really know it. B2B is a completely different world than B2C, and the sooner you realize and just accept that, the easier life will be. For instance, however long you think a vendor should take to get something simple done, triple it. Seriously. I'll give an example:
For Private Die, we originally planned to use tiddlywinks from Rolco Games for our clue tokens. They were cheap, made in America, and acceptable quality. Every time I have ever ordered something from Rolco as a consumer, it showed up on my doorstep two days later, like clockwork. I've never had a problem with them, and I was excited to give them more business.
After the Kickstarter funded, however, I needed to make a much larger (about 55,000 pieces) and more complex order, as we were also getting some poker chips for our higher backers (to fulfill a stretch goal obligation). Since our order was so large, I had to send an email to their sales team and get a quote.
You'd probably assume that sending a quote for stock components wouldn't take very long, and generally speaking, that's correct, but hold-ups occur in all the strangest places. I originally sent them an email on 10/22/2015, stating exactly what parts and quantities we needed. After a little bit of back and forth, we settled on an order and price. Hooray! It only took a day, and now we're done, right? All I need to do is throw money at them and wait for shipping.
So after asking for an invoice, I heard nothing back for a few days. Whatever, the email was probably missed. It happens. No big deal. I sent the following email:
Hey guys - I'm trying to give you money, and I haven't heard back from anyone for 4 days.
Can someone please review the quote below, confirm a final price, and then let me know how to pay?
Thanks in advance!
Short, concise, to the point. I assumed I'd get a generic apology and an invoice the next day. Instead, I received a message two days later from a different person, stating that she'd be the one I'm working with now, and she would get me an invoice soon. Cool, fine with me. Keep in mind though, it's been a full business week at this point.
After hearing nothing back, I sent another, stronger-worded email on 10/30 and... success! Well, kind of. I finally received an invoice on 11/02. And what's this? The upgraded poker chips are literally the same cost as the tiddlywinks at these quantities? Well sign me up.
The sun is shining, the birds are singing, the company is a few hundred dollars poorer, and everything is right in the world. Cue the scratched record sound. All of a sudden, after approving the quote and paying... they do not have enough poker chips in stock.
Okay, so that's not their fault. Really. They originally approved the quote for far fewer poker chips, and we made a change on them. That's fine. Still though... ugh.
The rest of this story is just a lot of waiting, cursing, and hand-wringing, and it's not terribly interesting. When we finally got our full shipment of clue tokens, it was December 3rd. That means it took, from beginning to end, 42 days to make an order for about 55,000 stock poker chips from a US-based plastics manufacturer that specializes in board game components.
About two weeks later, I placed a small order with Rolco Games from their consumer website for a prototype we're working on. It arrived in two days.
This post is absolutely not a slam piece on Rolco Games. Seriously, the B2B process is terrible like this with every single manufacturer we've had to deal with, with one exception (Chessex). Rolco makes, in my opinion, fantastic components at fantastic prices, and they're too good at what they do to even consider taking our business elsewhere. B2B transactions assume far-out deadlines and tons of time to burn, so make sure to pad your deadlines a lot.