Estimated reading time: 4 minutes, 17 seconds

Cecil's (old) Ode

I was driving across the NorthEast this week, contending with the snow and other nasty weather impeding my progress. I pulled into a local truck stop along I-95 to calm my nerves and let the snow plows do their work. I grabbed my notebook (the paper one... not the computer) on the way in, because I had some diagrams I wanted to scribble down. It turned out to be one of my notepads from a few years ago. As I thumbed through the pages, I found this rhyme I wrote. My, how things have changed... or have they?

As I negotiated the snow drifts and ice patches last week I thought about the holiday season and how important it is to so many businesses. Some of my retail clients say holiday season sales account for as much as 50% of their yearly totals. Even my non-retail clients say they count on the end of year for as much as 25% of their business. e-Commerce continues to become more important to these businesses that rely on getting the right product to the right place at the right time. And while many of these companies are selling their products online, it's the backend services that they consistently point to as being responsible for getting their online sales as well as their regular sales completed and keeping their customers happy.

I couldn't resist putting this little Ode to e-Commerce down for you.

It was holiday season, the end of the year,
when all of the orders began to appear.
Our biggest new customer was sending in orders,
among them one letter, "Get onboard, that's an order!"

e-Commerce is easy... we've done it for years.
EDI, Internet, and VANs without tears.
But what they were asking had us quite shocked. 
This customer had all their transactions locked.

"If you want all our orders, you'll send them all through,
this single provider who will contact you."
We looked at the letter and then scratched our heads,
"OK, no big deal," together we said.

Then came the call from our new chosen one,
"Hello! Happy New Year!" his sales speech begun.
"Our systems are ready and waiting for you. 
Just send some transactions and hope they go through."

Our tech guy agreed then he nodded his head,
"Sure, send us your info. We'll connect," he said.
Then from our fax machine scrolled out a page. 
"First look at our contract and sign the last page."

We read with amazement what they wanted to do. 
It said "Send us a check before we do business with you."
I asked of this new sales rep, "You're making a joke!?" 
He replied, "Not at all, though I know that's your hope."

"But can't we just use our existing provider,
to send and receive orders? Don't be an outsider!"
"I'm sorry," he said (though I knew he was lying). 
"Your customer's mandated. It's us or they're not buying."

"OK," we gave in. "Let's get this thing rolling. 
Just send us the layouts and we'll begin coding."
But I knew right away he had one more demand,
when next he said, "Great! But first understand."

"You need to send test files to us for review,
and we'll then check them out to see how you do.
And to speed things along you can pay us right now. 
We take credit or debit, or check. Tell me how."

Our office was boiling. All our holiday cheer,
had been flushed down the drain just like yesterday's beer.
We hadn't been strong-armed before,
and we wondered, is this customer's business worth us being plundered?

We pulled out our spreadsheets... examined our sales. 
Our year has been great! We we don't have any ails.
Why should we give in like little old elves? 
It's our stuff they want to have stocked on their shelves.

So we tightened our belts, told the salesman, "No way! 
We don't like these hardheaded games that you play.
If the customer wants to do business with us,
do the right thing and tell them to get on the bus."

"There's more here at stake than just one vendor's mission,
we leave our standards and free competition.
Let e-Commerce flow between all trading partners,
who use their own judgment to trade and to barter."

As we hung up the phone I could still hear him saying,
"But you'll loose all that business," like a jackass' loud braying.
We looked at each other... smiles back on our faces,
happy to know we were still on our paces.

With warm hearts and clear minds we knew all would be well,
as we looked at the order mailbox start to swell.
All our customers knew they were equally treated,
with the trust and respect we so often repeated.

Here's a message to you from the lessons we've learned,
"Stay true to your standards and don't be concerned.
Keep your systems wide open, connected to all,
and have joyous and prosperous holidays all!"

Cheers! (and happy holidays)
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