Active/Passive Vendor Reps

I started learning Japanese last year, and one thing I’ve absorbed is that there are different forms for transitive and intransitive verbs. For instance, the verb in the sentence “I opened the door” (開ける—transitive —takes a direct object) would be different than the verb in the sentence “The door opened” (開く—intransitive—does not take a direct object). In English, “opened” is the same in both cases, but in Japanese, these are considered different actions and they require different forms. Although it leaves me with more memorization work, I like this distinction—it’s more precise. It “describes” what is happening more accurately.  

In any case, I had verbs and action on my mind last week when I attended a Zoom session offered by Gale called “Humanizing Library and Vendor Relationships.” More than anything, I was hoping to hear from colleagues about their experiences with vendor reps. And while transitive and intransitive verbs don’t exactly equal active/passive, there were two comments posted in the Zoom chat that I felt correlated with an active/passive distinction.

In response to a question the presenters asked, one attendee posted to the chat that “a vendor tried to bribe me with a trip across the country to persuade me not to leave them.” Ha! That made everyone laugh. I didn’t hear anything more about this intriguing story, but it made me wonder what the background was. Whatever the case, I could make a few assumptions. First, the vendor rep really cared about the customer. It was important to the vendor rep to keep him/her on board. Second, the vendor rep was responsive and enthusiastic about retaining the customer’s account (bigtime!).

Some of the vendor reps I work with are just like that: with some, I get lightning-fast replies, helpful check-ins, and other communication that lets me know they’re not taking me (account/library/institution/sales commission) for granted. I even appreciate a sales pitch “Hey there, hope you’re doing well! We have a new product that might help your students/faculty . . . ” The point is, these vendors are active in their approach.

On the other hand, another attendee posted it was a challenge “getting ahold of vendors”—in my mind, this correlated to “passive” verb forms. Too many of the vendor reps I work with are passive; they never reach out to me unless I reach out first. Never. And when I do reach out, it’s too difficult to get a response. I’m not talking about special requests for discounts or requests for Zoom meetings to discuss this or that tricky issue; I’m talking about emailing vendors for bread and butter matters, such as renewal invoices or access issues.

Last year I emailed a vendor rep four times to try to get a renewal invoice for a $50,000 subscription—no response. That is disgraceful; that is taking me, my library, our account, the sales commission he/she earned from us for granted. I ended up having to reach out to the general customer service email address to get the invoice. It makes a Jerry Seinfeld voice pop up in my head: “What’s the deal with vendor reps?”

I could go on and on about not hearing back from vendors, but it makes me think: if one of my passive vendor reps ever reached out to me and said “Hi Jacob, I know you like to get renewal invoices early so here you go. Trying to be one step ahead of you! Also, I included your usage statistics for the last year just in case you need them. Please reach out to me if you have any questions or if I could do anything else for you!” I would jump out of my chair and do a backflip, I would be so overjoyed.

The chances of this occurring are, alas, zero. I know I will never get that kind of email from our difficult reps. Not a chance. The active reps who are helpful and responsive are wonderful and I’m super grateful for them; but I just wonder how to best handle the passive ones.



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