Regular readers of this blog might recall a post made yesterday that included images of a four page quotation by a Network Appliance reseller to a prospective customer that contained a 65.5% discount off manufacturer suggested retail pricing. The images are now gone and some of you might be wondering why.
The answer is simple: the fellow who sent them to me, preferring to remain anonymous, may have been bound by a confidentiality agreement not to disclose the quote details. While this language appeared no where on the documents sent to me, it is a common enough storage industry practice that I might be held liable for violating the non disclosure.
I could have wrapped myself in the flag of journalistic license, protected my sources, spent a lot of money on lawyers, and potentially spent time in jail for contempt of court, but I have chosen not to for three reasons.
For one thing, the First Amendment and Shield Laws for journalists have not been conclusively applied to bloggers, and since this was written in my blog, and not in one of the columns I write for the trade press, I might not have had a legal leg to stand on in order to protect my source.
For a second thing, certain companies in this industry (storage) have been pretty quick to go to the legal mats to suppress antagonistic writers like myself. Fighting lawsuits, whether frivolous or not, costs money that I would rather spend promoting the truth and consumer rights than buying my lawyers new cars (sorry, Sid).
I just spent close to $2000 to engage my legal team to answer a complaint from a fellow who said that he owns the rights to the term “Green IT” and that the use of the expression on the Green Data Project was infringement. Apparently, he has gotten the mark past the California trademark office and is seeking to trademark it in the Fed too! He is also trying to trademark the color green when used on the text green. Truth be told, he hadn’t an ice cube’s chance in Hades of making anything happen with his complaint, but legal fees mount up fast when responding to legal mail.
Thirdly, publication of the quote documents is not necessary to make the point that, if you preserve some leverage by not drinking the Kool Aid of a single vendor — as attractive as the “one stop shop” might seem at any given time, you can probably negotiate more effectively and get a better price.
No one likes feeling like they were screwed in a product purchase. Publishing this quote may have made a few people angry, both on the vendor and on the consumer side. The pages are gone, but the fact remains: vendor MSRPs are the starting point in a negotiated deal, not the actual price that anyone with common sense would pay for tech.
While I appreciated the kudos that I had “guts” for publishing the quote, the fact is that I was may have been helping someone to obviate an obligation that they had incurred when accepting the quotation. From where I’m standing, they had no reason to violate an agreement, unless it was to brag about getting a good price. Pity that this also applies when a consumer finds out later that the vendor ripped him off.
Which brings me to my final point. Why can’t the storage guys conduct business in the sunshine? Why are there gag orders on consumers, not only prohibiting them from disclosing price quotes, but also the performance of the gear that they have purchased and are using in their shops? How are we to get any closer to identifying the right storage at the right price to meet our application requirements when we are deceived by vendors and consumers can’t share their experiences without a veil of anonymity?
Some of you will shrug and say, “That’s just the way it is.” From where I’m sitting, this is the sort of slippery slope thinking that is at the root of subprime loans, back dated options, and all of the other economic shenanigans that have contributed to tanking the economy.
To those in the industry who seek to perpetuate the deal done behind closed doors, on behalf of America, I say, “Thanks a lot, guys.” Hope there is a special place in hell for you.