Dealing With Difficult Vendors

Get what you need for the price that you want

Florists, photographers, calligraphers, caterers…it takes a lot of people to pull together a wedding. And you'll probably meet some tough ones along the way. So before you start shopping around, here are a few tips on how to get what you want from difficult personalities.

Chatty Cathy

He's the florist with such a gift for the gab, you know the name of his son's first-grade teacher, but you have no idea how much he's going to charge you. Everyone likes to do business with friendly people, but sometimes a busy bride just wants to skip the small talk and move on to the important issues. "Excessive talking is a sign of insecurity," says Gerard Nierenberg, president of the Negotiation Institute in New York City and author of The Art of Negotiation (Random House, 1989) and How to Read a Person Like a Book (Pocket Books, 1982). He suggests telling him you've heard wonderful things about his work—a quick fix to boost his ego and put the focus back on the business at hand.

Storyteller

Buyer beware: This person will tell you anything to get a sale. You know this guy, the baker who claims to whip up award-winning cakes but doesn't offer you a taste. Self-assurance won't spoil the caterer's cooking, but brides and grooms need to know that vendors can back-up their boasts. "Trust your intuition," Nierenberg says. Ask for references, call the Better Business Bureau and, if you're still not satisfied, find someone else to do the job—preferably somebody recommended by a friend.

Amateur

Ever dealt with a salesperson who seemed to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown? You know, the ditzy young clerk who's completely overwhelmed when you ask her to bring you another size. Or maybe you've run into the lazy guy who rolls his eyes when you ask him to explain the difference between engraved and thermographed invitations. Hey, those invitations aren't cheap and neither is that dress, so make sure you're getting the attention you deserve. "Don't hesitate to ask someone more skilled to work with you," Nierenberg says. "If the person who's helping you isn't meeting your needs, ask to speak to her boss."

Brown-Noser

She's the oh-so-helpful one who follows you around the store calling you Honey and telling you how beautiful you look in the pink dress with the big bow on the bottom. She's really sweet—in fact, she kind of reminds you of your grandmother. But you need an honest opinion, and you blush every time she calls you Lamb Chop. Why is it so hard to set her straight? "As women, we sometimes have trouble telling someone that they're not being helpful. If they're being nice to us, we want to be nice to them," says Denver psychologist Dr. Shirley Asher. But there's usually a nice way of breaking the news. And in this case, it's pretty simple. "Tell her you'd really like some objective feedback," Dr. Asher says. "Reassure her that you don't expect to look good in every dress, and you won't be offended by her honest opinion."

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