I’m currently organizing Peanut’s baptism celebration. We’re flying home towards the end of the month especially for the event; we figured why not hold it in the Philippines, most of the ninangs and ninongs are based back home anyway.
After the church was settled (a story I’ll save for another time), I set about finalizing the reception venue. I eventually found a restaurant that accepted large group reservations at a reasonable distance from the church (surprisingly difficult in the Makati / BGC area). The restaurant was so large so I thought it’d be nice to decorate the space a bit for the reception. I would’ve been happy to do it myself, but since we were flying in a few days before the ceremony, timing was tight. I didn’t want to impose on friends or relatives either.
So I checked out the supplier directory at Baby and Breakfast for names of party decorators. While a lot of the kids’ party themes were a bit twee for my taste, they did look pretty in photos. Anyway, I already had a “theme” in mind: a cute peanut, since we’ve been calling him that from when he was actually the size of a small nut — six weeks old in my tummy.
A word on these party decorators a.k.a. event stylists: How do they get away with charging so much? I get it that the setup calls for materials and labor. But a lot of these kiddie parties have the same themes, so one can actually re-use the same decorations from one party to the next. (If you don’t believe me search “bear” or “British” or some other random word at the Baby and Breakfast blog. Count how many parties the search results turn up.)
Also why do some of these stylists have to be so downright rude?
At least other event stylists made up a plausible excuse, like a conflicting event that day. (Ha.)
Anyway, after more requests for quotes and research, I narrowed it down to two suppliers. I chose With A Flourish because they appeared responsive to e-mails (important for overseas clients like me), had decent event setups (based on the albums on their Facebook page), and seemed relatively new and lesser known (fewer Facebook “likes” vs. my other choice — I could be onto a hidden gem!). I thought if I liked them well enough I could hire them again for Peanut’s first birthday.
With my experience so far, my verdict is sadly no. I will not engage them again for my son’s first birthday. Really the main thing that’s kept me from running in the opposite direction now is the down-payment I’ve made, and the fact that money doesn’t grow on trees.
My With A Flourish Experience So Far
a.k.a. The Case Of The Mighty Morphin’ Invitation
(I’d actually find the whole thing hilarious if I weren’t so annoyed.)
Behold Exhibit 1. I am corresponding with Sarah Bautista-Abaño from event stylist With A Flourish.
Simple enough, yes? I chose the last template to the right, the one with the baby and the peanut. I wanted the color of the border changed to blue and yellow.
Apparently, it wasn’t that simple. Enter Exhibit 2 below.
Oh, okay, I thought. She completely changed the border of the template I chose, in effect making this an entirely new template. All I wanted was for her to change the colors. The new border was…well, gaudy. The font used was also something that one typically sees in wedding invitations, not cute baby invites. I felt a bit disappointed. If I knew this was what I would get for my Php xx,000, I could’ve done the same thing using PowerPoint and basic clipart.
(Case in point: I did the invitation below on the right for my baby shower here in Singapore and came up with something more modern. And it was FREE. Anyway.)
In my reply I requested for a revised invitation with less formal font. Enter Exhibit 3.
In my email, I said I wanted the fancy text box in the middle of the invitation enlarged so the text wouldn’t look crowded. Looking at the invite, the instruction seems straightforward, yes? No!
Exhibit 4, wherein she kept the text box unchanged at the same size in both options. In one option, she adds a small peanut. (What the–? Note I didn’t say anything about adding additional pictures in my earlier email. I started to sense something was off, like we were shouting at each other on opposite ends of a train platform and she had her iPod on at volume 110.)
Maybe she’s using pre-made, fixed templates and can’t change anything, I reasoned to myself. Look how much the invite’s morphed from Exhibit 1! Maybe I should stop being nitpicky and just ask her to use the original templates, unchanged, to keep things simple.
Instead of doing just that, Sarah decided to argue. While I appreciate the effort in sending me a side-by-side comparison JPEG, the effort would perhaps have been better channeled to re-reading my email and making sure you understood me correctly.
To top it off, she cites her “events for this weekend” as an excuse, as if I weren’t a client myself. Shoutout to suppliers here: it’s important for the client to feel important. I’m well aware that I’m not your only client, but to throw out your other clients to me as an excuse is poor form, and tells me that somehow I’m not as valued as the others.
At this point, I was feeling pretty frustrated. This was the fifth email exchange, With A Flourish didn’t appear to be making any effort at all to ensure I was understood correctly (remember I even offered to call from overseas), it was late in the evening, and to add insult to injury I’ve just been sent a “comparison” JPEG implying I wasn’t looking at her work closely enough.
So in clipped yet polite tones I type out Exhibit 6. I half-expected a short apology, the sort a client might expect from a supplier. A similarly clipped, polite apology would’ve sufficed. Instead, said supplier launches a full-on rebuttal, which does absolutely nothing to calm me down.
Imagine this is a Diner Dash game and I’m losing hearts fast. Is it really in your best interest to keep on arguing? Or should you just call me a bitch (in your head), keep a straight face, and beam a smile of apology? I work with clients myself in financial services. Even I know what to do. #ArguePaMore and you can kiss any future business with said client goodbye.
This was getting ridiculous. So I stopped replying.
Today I received the revised invitation. Huzzah! She finally understood me! The text is larger! Our lolas could now read the details without having to squint!
Inexplicably, she changes the colors, again without having been asked to do so.
*Throws hands up in the air in frustration*
And this is just the invitation.
Chill, Neri! It’s just an invite! Why are you so frustrated? Simple: these events are special to me. Planning from a distance isn’t easy. Suppliers like these make it unnecessarily harder.
I didn’t have this sort of confusion with my wedding suppliers. Almost all were easy to talk to. Where’s the gap with With A Flourish? As an overseas client, communication is key. E-mail is my primary form of dealing with you, and I form impressions on the basis of how you communicate with me, whether intentional or not.
I really, really hope With A Flourish gets their act together for D-Day end of this month.
I’ll post a final review.