Amazon, billing, and shooting feet

(updated 2017.5.17, 2017.8.9)

For those who are boycotting Amazon for other reasons, you may skip this.

I feel I have to use a cost-effective vendor, despite other factors. Up until recently, Amazon has worked well for us. People could make up lists, share them with me, I could use those to create orders, I could use a credit card which saves me from doing as many Requisitions/Purchase Order approvals myself, and it used to be pretty straightforward. They had a huge number of items in stock and accounted for when orders would arrive, for the most part.

Then, they shot themselves in the foot. Maybe both feet.

It’s not just me. I’m hearing (from a competitor, granted) that a number of libraries are dropping Amazon, at least as a primary vendor. (The competitor normally handles academic libraries, but now has public libraries asking them for service. The traditional wholesalers have changed and reduced a lot in the last few years.)

It seems we are going to have to join the exodus, and it’s not political or other high-minded reasons; it’s pure bookkeeping practices.

Amazon has become non-cost-effective, due to their new credit card charging methodology. This has been going on for several months, but it’s become, frankly, untenable.

Lemme ‘splain this. (tl;dr*)

Amazon has taken to combining charges from their Printable Order Summary.

amazon For example, you see multiple charges on here. The total will be $276.17.

However, despite what it says on the page, that IS NOT WHAT AMAZON CHARGES to the credit card.

The Order Summary has three shipments listed, for $105.61, $37.16, and $133.40.

They add up to $276.17, true. But this IS NOT WHAT AMAZON CHARGES to the credit card.

Look at the summary of charges at the bottom of the Order Summary. Not the same as the shipments.

Now combine them to get the actual charges on the credit card statement.

$14.99 plus 79.84 = 94.83, and the rest add up to 181.34. We were actually charged $94.83 and $181.34. The total is still $276.17. We haven’t been treated dishonestly as far as the amount charged; only in how it was actually stated on their (digital) paperwork.

However, the only one of those charges on the order summary for a shipment matches $37.16 for the middle shipment of three on the Order Summary. And that one was combined with others to get a charge of $181.34 on the credit card. The amounts on here do not match the shipments or the credit card charges.

$105.61 and $37.16 and $133.40 (the amounts on the shipments in the Order Summary), cannot be combined to get the two charges on the card, and yet those book titles are on this order.


To sum up: The charges listed as charged to the card on the Printable Order Summary DO NOT MATCH WHAT IS ON THE CARD CHARGES: 14.99, 79.84, 90.62, 37.16, 53.56 are NOT charged; $94.83 and $181.34 are charged for these books. Where does it say that? On the spreadsheet.


Spreadsheet? Yes, I managed to get a customer service person for corporate accounts on the phone (their people are usually fine to deal with but are stuck with this). They now have a spreadsheet that you can download (not listed, at this time, among all the services they show for accounts). I was sent a special link to it. Then I have to download it. Then I have to go searching. The spreadsheet has columns out to AE (over 30). This, apparently, is a kludge made available for all the squalling customers demanding to know what charges equal what.

First, you find the total amount (in this example, 276.17). Then you slide over (about a page and a half of columns) to see how it’s broken down to — not the charges they claim on here — the actual charges on the card (94.83 and 181.34). This is the only place where they tell me what they are actually charging to the card, so I have no regular packing slip/invoice/order summary to show my receiving person or my business office or the state auditors. How are we expected to match the shipments and charges up to what is on the credit card statement, without a research project to decipher this spreadsheet?

Aside from this spreadsheet, I have nothing to show my people here or the state auditors, who want specific amounts that match. The only comfort I can take is that this is going on all over campus, and probably all over the state and nation. So at least the state auditors cannot blame just our library.

Now, I understand that Amazon is probably having to adjust their bookkeeping so they can pay the new taxes that states have been demanding they begin to charge (and starting March 1, here in Arkansas) but we already pay that on our own. I suspect this may have something to do with how they handle bookkeeping for that, or maybe an attempt to reduce credit card fees by reducing the number of transactions. I can allow for changes.

End Result

BUT: you cannot do business this way. It takes far too much time for the customers to account for this, and it does not correspond to any acceptable accounting procedure to claim you made these charges when you actually made those charges, even if they add up the same on the spreadsheet. Spreadsheets, especially ones like this, are not intended to substitute for proper customer notices — spreadsheets are primarily for internal use, and cannot substitute for showing correct amounts on the (digital or print) paperwork. The additional time it takes to track all this down is just dirty icing on a very unpleasant cake (pardon the unappetizing metaphor). The fact that it is not technically dishonest in the amount being paid does not excuse the appearance of something being off, somewhere.

We’ll still use Amazon for creating want lists, but I never used those just for ordering via Amazon in the first place, if I wanted prebinding, or a complete set of a multi-volume set. Rush items can still go through, or items from associates (which are somewhat more likely, but not always, to end up on separate shipments/charges), or anything only Amazon seems to have. I may try shifting back to a personal account to see if that works better, but the customer service person thought it was all going to be the same. The bulk of the business they once got from us is going to have to move to somebody else, at least until they straighten this out.

Amazon is welcome to contact me to explain, correct, show me an easier method, or whatever, assuming anyone there ever reads blogs like this. I’ll be happy to post corrections or recommended methods (working or otherwise, from my point of view).

Update as of May 17, 2017:

The higher ed rep for Amazon has been in contact several times now, and agrees with the need to fix this. He’s been working at his end.

He called today with the discovery that the information we need does exist and if you want to burrow down some, it can be found, with some limitations. Thanks go also to his colleague – she found a way to dig this out from the screen.

On the printable Order Summary, go down to the bottom:






Click on the link for “To view the status of your order, return to Order Summary.” That sounds like it would just loop you around to where you came from, which is why I never used it (and the rep didn’t expect it either), but instead you get this:









Okay, now click on the Transactions link under the address.






AHA! The long-missing actual charge amounts that were not visible (except in the cockamamie spreadsheet).

Click on the amount you want, and get:








There, finally, is the list of titles that went on the actual charge made on the card for $94.83. Ta and da!

Of course, as I pointed out, we really need a subtotal for each shipment as well, and ALL of this needs to be out front, easy to find, preferably on the Order Summary. Instead of the charges listed as being charged, which are not actually being charged.

The main point is, the information is there and already, for the most part, extracted – they just didn’t make it easy to find and the link terminology is vague. That means, IMHO, that it should be possible to pull that out, with some reprogramming, and put it on the Order Summary so we can provide that to our people for reconciliation with the credit card statement.

The wheel that squeaketh doth receive greasing.

Oh, and BTW: the more places that complain about this, instead of just quietly changing vendors, the more push we have to get this fixed at Amazon. SPEAK UP! The phone for the corporate accounts at Amazon is 866-216-1072 (if you are on a business account). Call and gripe!

I also lost them some more business today with a potential new account (juvenile correctional facility) that wanted a source for buying books. They have to account to the state auditors as well, so I had to warn them off dealing with Amazon right now. Which I, of course, reported to the rep as additional ammo for doing something about this. Squeak, squeak!

Update 2017.8.9

Amazon has updated their view to make this a bit easier.

Click on the Order link in the email and you now get:







Below the shipping address is the “Transactions” link which takes you to the actual credit card charges.








Compare the actual Transactions to the Order amount to see what Amazon is really charging on the card.

In this example, they match. For larger orders/shipments, that may or may not be true, but this makes it more convenient to tell, at least. I will give Amazon that.

I’ve had no other information from Amazon; I just noticed this when I tried an actual order. I don’t know if they are matching Transactions to shipments or whatever.


*tl;dr means Too Long, Don’t Read unless you want to.


An open message to Amazon, associates, and other online sellers

reader_18th_centuryI’m going to offer some advice to the many online sellers that will help you with your business, from a librarian’s point of view.  Yes, we order quite a bit from you, due to price/convenience/availability immediately stated.  While I specifically address books, these work for other items too.

This is for Amazon/Half Price/Ebay, etc. etc. etc. Anyone who sells through a service, or just through an individual web site.

First, please note: I love you people (most of you, anyway).  I can now get, pretty reliably, out-of-print and/or cheaper editions that I might not be able to acquire or afford otherwise.  That’s great!

I’m suggesting, however, that you consider following a few simple steps that will make doing business with libraries (and by the way, everyone else) more convenient and cordial.  Think “repeat business”.

paperwork***  I cannot emphasize this enough:

Include a copy of the packing list or some other printout with the following on it (Amazon should furnish something like this; I keep seeing it in some packages but not all).

It should show:

  • Your name (including the one you sold the item under on Amazon; “John Smith” on the address label when you sold on Amazon as “BooksFromSomebody” doesn’t let me track this properly) and if you sell through a service such as Half Price Books or Amazon, mention that and whatever your ‘business’ name is on that service
  • shipping address, etc.  I’m trying to match up books quickly without having to search each one out of a batch of shipments which can amount to hundreds of books a day
  • The name of the recipient (and this is where, on occasion, I find that somebody put the wrong label on the package because the paperwork says it’s supposed to go to someone else).  Yes, this happens.  On many occasions, we can just send it along to the intended recipient while whoever got our item sends it directly to us, if you gave us this information on the slip.  Saves you having to deal with it other than apologizing for the mixup.
  • The Amazon (or other service) order number, if you’re going through a company
  • The name of the actual book/item ordered (and you’d be surprised how often this gets left off!)
  • The total price charged for the book, plus shipping (and any tax).  I realize that this might need to be left off if you’re told it’s a gift, but it helps libraries a lot.

*** This next vital step ought to be obvious:


(Sorry about the caps, but this is being violated a lot and should get you kicked off Amazon or whatever service you use, in my opinion.)  It’s false advertising and a form of fraud.

DO YOU REALIZE OTHER VENDORS ARE LOSING YOU SALES due to this sloppiness????!!!  If I can’t guarantee that your cheaper copy is really the hardcover I want, instead of a paperback on the wrong record, then I’ll order from Amazon directly (even at a higher price) or somebody else who describes it in detail.  You just lost a sale because I can’t tell your offer from the other associates.

If you have the paperback, take the time to put it on the paperback record.  Do NOT put it on the hardcover record (even if you describe it as paperback in the notes).  You might think this will get you more business or maybe a higher price; it just wastes my time and yours.  Maybe you think putting it with the more expensive edition justifies a higher price than you would get when competing on the paperback record.  Either way, as we potential customers see it,  you’re trying to trick people.  We went to the hardcover record for a reason, and you cannot change that.  And, oh yes, offering a percent discount off the hardcover price as compensation for sending me a paperback instead is still costing more, in many cases, than buying the paperback, so you’re still trying to cheat your customer.

I’m going to send it back AT YOUR EXPENSE and demand a hardcover replacement or refund, so this saves you trouble and money.  Paperbacks don’t hold up well in library use, so I spend more to get the hardcover, and if that’s what I ordered, that’s what I should get, especially when you charge me the higher hardcover price (whether or not it’s lower than the other offers).  Sending the wrong edition will get you a bad rating from me.  Probably from most everyone else, too.

*** Descriptions are nice, for two reasons.  I like my books with dust jackets when available; we put the plastic library covers on them and include them in processing, so users have it handy to read.  The other reason is that a detailed description of the condition shows that the seller is being careful, presumably accurate, and the estimation of the condition is based on specific details rather than just a quick glance.  I have been known to pay more for a described item because I trust the description (at least until I receive it).  I don’t care about blurbs about your service — I’ll be the judge of that based on performance.  Anyone can write a boast, and many do.  Tell me exactly what I’m getting and be accurate — that’s impressive.

Remember, if you specifically say your copy is a hardcover with (or without) a dust jacket, then I know what YOU have.  The cheaper vendor next to you didn’t say, and maybe they actually have a paperback on the wrong record.  If I can’t tell from your description, I may just pay more to order from Amazon direct, or somebody else — and you just lost a sale.

*** If you make a mistake, then be quick to admit it and either replace or refund.

Don’t stall me.  I try to be OOPS-simple-mistakespolite (but not chatty) when I notify you; being polite and apologetic back is just good customer relations, right?  I don’t need a long letter back, just a quick “sorry” and what you’ll do to fix the problem.  Don’t put a lot of conditions on your customer like “I’ll wait until I get it back before I trust you enough to send a replacement” (unless this is some kind of very expensive/very rare book).   You made a mistake; the focus should be on keeping a customer, not showing how little you think you can trust anyone.  After all, I trusted you to conduct your business properly, didn’t I? (And look how well that turned out, we’re both thinking…. )

Sometimes you might have to eat some costs or even give up the sale.  That’s the price of doing business, especially if YOU are the one who made the mistake (and the “you” includes whoever did the shipping to the customer, by the way).

Here’s an example: somebody put the wrong book on a record — their fault entirely.  Same author, similar titlenot an unreasonable mistake to make.  So I emailed: “I ordered this [Naval battles of the first world war].  I received “Naval battles of world war II” by the same author. We need to arrange an exchange or replacement, please. Thanks.”  I consider that polite, even cordial, and businesslike.  No accusations, just information, and I used please and thanked the person for anticipated cooperation.

I got back (exact quote): “It seems I don’t have the book you ordered so return the one that was sent & your money will be refunded.”  And the mailing address.

No apology for the mistake, and very brusque.  Apparently this vendor resents being held responsible for not doing business properly.  A mistake I can understand, but this borders on rude.

And no mention of my cost and time to return the book, not to mention wasting my time with the wrong title in the first place.  So if I actually get the refund after returning the book, I won’t give this person a 1 rating if  I don’t get a hassle over the refund — but I won’t go higher than 2, and I will give a rating in this case, which the vendor won’t appreciate but deserves.  And I’ll never order through this person again, so that’s potential future business lost.

Will I deal with you again if you make a mistake?  Will I give you a bad rating on Amazon?  Depends entirely on how you handle the mistake.  I understand human errors; I make them myself once in a while.  Apologize, fix it and we’ll both move on — at least the first time.

I realize dealing with individuals can be tricky and some of them may try to cheat you, but you should never be too quick to assume that.  I certainly am not dishonest, and like most people, I resent being treated as if I were.  In any case, if you messed up, then you’re already losing on this transaction, so at least try to not lose a potential future customer.

Oh, and if Amazon is the problem, as in they didn’t update the record with your status fast enough?  Just say that’s why you’re out of stock when I ordered.  It happens.  No big deal.

5-star-rating-wordpress-big*** Amazon ratings and appeals for good ratings: Librarians handle several hundred to several thousand books a year, many through Amazon and other online sources.  Do I have time to do nice ratings for every seller?  No, I’m sorry.  Even if you ask nicely.  I just don’t have time for all of them.  It’s not that I’m unappreciative, but let’s face it — if you did what you’re supposed to be doing, it should be routine.  I would spend hours trying to match books with shippers in order to give ratings, given my volume of orders.

I do look at ratings, and take them seriously.

Frankly, a rating below 90 makes me avoid you, even if I have to pay more to somebody else.  And I look at how long you’ve been in business and how fast your rating has gone down (if it has) — a fast drop in a short period makes me nervous.  You started with 100, after all, didn’t you?  Yes, I realize that some people don’t give the top rating to anybody, but still, some vendors have survived several years and thousands of transactions without dropping below 90.

Do I have time to do BAD ratings for sellers who screw up or treat me badly?  Yes, I do manage to find time to do those.  And I put them down on a “Bad List” which I keep for myself, to never order from again.  I bear grudges, people, and I share them with ratings, because those vendors are not worth my time to deal with any more.  That’s how the system is supposed to work, and that’s why Amazon set it up that way.

*** Packaging is important.

That’s why Amazon has been asking for ratings on that lately.  If you’re using a mailing bag and it’s loose, put in some packing so the book doesn’t shift (old newspapers are a fine way to recycle).  By the time it goes through shipping to me, a lot of books may tear out of a bag.  Think of your package as having somebody press down on it around all the corners of the book, as if deliberately trying to get the bag to rip on the corners. Now imagine that all the wear and tear of shipping will do at least as much damage.  So, fill in that space.  An empty envelope with nothing left inside, or a damaged item, says you didn’t pack it well enough, not that the shipper is at fault, in many cases.  And I want my money back because it’s not my fault.

By the way, a plain manila envelope is for mailing limited amounts of paperwork, not objects such as books.  No matter who you send it through, they don’t hold up.  Buy the padded (preferably bubble-wrap) mailers or use boxes.  Ever get one of the old shredded-paper padded envelopes after it’s been through shipping?  That fluff leaking all over is a real mess.  Give me bubbles or other padding any day.

I’m sure people have rebuttals, about bad customers (maybe even librarians), but I think the above is just good business.

Happy sales to you!

Advice for Vendors

I see a lot of talk in various places about business not doing as well for this or that reason….  but sometimes, I wonder if American business is doing most of the damage to itself.  At least, some businesses seem determined to cripple themselves.

I’ve been on the selling end (years back) and so am somewhat acquainted (and my father worked for an encyclopedia publisher).

So I’m (not so humbly) going to provide some advice for anyone doing business, especially with public institutions that have to follow very strict accounting rules (and in some cases, like UA Fort Smith, which are audited annually by the state as a routine function).

Please understand that I work with a lot of vendors, and they usually try to handle business well… but some of them have just wandered off into odd methodologies that are going to lose them money.  And they don’t even seem to realize it.

Just trying to help the economy here, people.

* Pick ONE Name and Stick to It

I’m not talking brand recognition, here — I’m talking BILLING.

Here’s an example which is, unfortunately, all too typical (and I’m sorry, but to make this example work, I’m going to use real names since they make the point so very well in this case, and if I made them up, you might not believe me):

I needed to order a sign display stand.

The website said  Bear in mind, all this might have changed since then.

The name on the invoice printout that I sent to our business office said

The email that I got as a confirmation said the credit card will be billed by Access Display Group, Inc.

And that same email said for questions “please e-mail

I’m not picking on this one outfit; it’s just an obvious example of what I consider a confusing practice, which I see too often.

Do you have any idea how hard it is to track all these names in our Banner financial system (or any other system, for that matter)?  Our system is designed to order from ONE company and pay to the SAME company.  The most it allows is a separate billing address.

Try to feed our business office staff and the software multiple company names, and they all choke, and:

a) we take a lot more of our staff time straightening this out (between multiple buildings and multiple staff members and swapping emails and phone calls back and forth)

b) we TAKE LONGER TO PAY YOU (authorize the credit charge without challenging it)

c) we are very reluctant to order from you again because of all that.  Better to pay a few bucks more and save the staff time (which costs money too).

Please pay attention to b) and c).  Remember they are the result of a).

(Oh, and by the way — update your website when you discontinue a product, because this outfit had to email me that they didn’t carry the item I selected any longer.  They were very apologetic, but that’s not a very impressive thing to have to do when it’s your own website.)  Again — I’m not trying to badmouth this one outfit, but they just made it far too easy to make use of them as an example.  They are not, by any stretch of the imagination, alone in their situation.

I understand that you are trying different names as a marketing ploy, or inherited them when you bought them up, but at least make it clear who’s going to be billing us so we can enter the proper name, and then match up the invoice(s) for payment.  Just because it’s on a credit card does NOT mean we don’t have to do a lot of paperwork to keep the accounting straight.  Putting it on a email that comes later is just sloppy.

Plus, it looks like some kind of scam to the state’s auditors, and we then have to spend time justifying it to them. More of our staff time wasted.  More reason to go elsewhere in the future.

Solution?  Try stating at the top of everything, especially invoicing and printouts, that this is “ a division of” and state on everything what the billing name will be in a large really obvious font.

This should take less than a day in web changes and form changes.  It’s not a major adjustment for you.

This is NOT the only company we deal with that does this.  It is a pain and a detriment to doing business with all of you.

This same thing is often found among those companies that buy each other up. 

If you are Company A and buy Companies B, C, and D, and change everything so that you use Company C to bill everything for A, B, and D — again, you confuse our system and staff.

If you then change that within a year or so, and/or move offices around, or whatever… maybe that’s an attempt to be efficient on your part, but it confuses us to no end.

And again, payment is delayed, and we are more reluctant to deal with all the companies in your group.

Oh, and sending out a courtesy notice is not enough — we won’t have that in front of us when we finally get around to ordering again.  If we bother, of course.  I’d usually rather not.

* Consistency is Not a Hobgoblin

“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Please note that the quote states clearly: a foolish consistency.  Which means, some forms of consistency are not foolish.

So, what’s with the stock/order numbers changing?  Especially when you have no cross-reference from the old numbers to the new ones?  If you can’t be consistent with your numbering system, at least make it easy for us to reorder using the old numbers.

And why are numbers on the site different from numbers in the catalog?  Just ask which we’re using if you want to track that.  Add a code to the regular number if there’s a sale, if you need to.  But not being able to find a catalog number because you changed the prefix or even the entire system between web and catalog is, quite bluntly, obstructive to ordering.

Solution: If you must rework your system — and I acknowledge that is sometimes justified — then at least cross-reference so anyone ordering with the old numbers gets to the same product, with the new number.  We may not order again on some things for months, or years.

If you’ve changed numbers (maybe more than once), and you haven’t cross-referenced from the old ones to the new ones, you’ve just made it look like you no longer carry that item, and we should order elsewhere.  Think about it.

Oh, and while we’re at it — anyone who likes to advertise the same product under a different title, just to see if you can trick us into ordering the same thing again, because some faculty member thinks it’s new — Stop It.  Now. You know who you are.  Change the description if you need to fix your marketing, but not the title.  It looks — and IS — dishonest, from our point of view, whatever your intentions.  I’ve learned to double-check some vendors who do this, but I shouldn’t have to.

And keep the title on the case the same as on the disc, too.  That’s confusing.  People just want to find it from the catalog description, not browse (in fact, many video collections are not browsable except in the catalog, since — like us — libraries keep them in a closed area so the discs will actually stay in the security-tagged containers and not walk out slipped into books, etc.).

Those of you selling supplies, such as archival boxes, etc. — stamp a number on the product, would you?  At least on the stack, so when we get it we can tell it matches the invoice.  If you standardized your numbering, you could afford to buy rubber stamps to do that.

* Fiscal, Schmiscal

This is not a huge error, but…

Even vendors who know quite well that we are on fiscal years and budget that way may still come up with big sales of stuff they want to move… which we can’t buy, because it’s too late in the fiscal year.  So, after a while, this appeal to those (increasingly few) who somehow manage to have money at the end of the fiscal year — well, for the rest of us, it gets really old.  It gets irritating, in fact.

Gentle suggestion: Once in a while have a sale with lots of advance notice that the rest of us can actually participate in, and by that I mean, advertise it in November or December and have it actually in effect after the next fiscal year starts in the following July.  We get asked for next year’s budget months ahead of time.  No matter how big the bargain, if the money is gone, it’s gone.

These days, we are likely to have a lot of other constraints, such as cuts during the year.  Ask us about them.  Look for ways to give us discounts, or sales to allow for that.  You know we’re hurting.  We appreciate any effort to help us out a little.

Oh, and by the way — in my state, at least, we cannot — according to state rules — commit future money in another fiscal year.  Period.  So that sweet talk about “delayed billing” you offer means nothing to us because we cannot spend next years money.  Period.  Try to remember that for at least the length of the current phone conversation and leave off at the first refusal.


* “We don’t do tests!”

Ever seen the movie Dragonslayer?  The sorceror’s servant responds to a skeptic: “Ah, so it’s a test you’re looking for. We don’t do tests!”

I don’t do previews.  When I tell you that, accept it.  Don’t debate.  You might ask for my email or postal address so you can send printed material, if you have it.  Otherwise, say goodbye and hang up, politely, as I will.

I don’t do previews (“tests”) because:

1.  I’d have to either do a purchase order to start with, committing the funds just in case we bought the stuff (that’s the rule).  Otherwise, I legally have to send it all back as it is considered to be unordered, and then go through the proper procedure of ordering it.  I’d much rather make the call from the promotional literature and the journal reviews (you did arrange for journal reviews, right?).

2.  I’d have to get somebody to review it (have you seen our faculty’s schedules?  Not happening, especially at the times of the year that you want to do it, such as late summer and fall).

3.  I end up sending it back.  And canceling the purchase order that took so much time to set up.

Of course, you’re hoping that I’ll just go ahead and pay for it all, instead.  So some of you have no printed material, and no reviews, and no legitimate business model (as far as I’m concerned).  So, I don’t accept material for preview or whatever else you want to call it.  It’s not worth my time.  I’ve tried it, and it’s not worth the effort.

And in my experience, quite bluntly, people who sell that only in that manner usually tend to have stuff our faculty wouldn’t want to buy if they saw it.  Legitimate vendors have proper promotional material and try to get reviewed in recognized journals.

* Solution: take “no” for an answer.

Phone or (better yet) email me to point me to a link for information, or a review.  Good salespeople I deal with often do exactly that, and if we need that material, it works — we buy it.  Takes more work at the vendor end, but that’s marketing, folks.


In conclusion, I really am trying to help with all the emphasis and italics and such.  I know it’s tough out there.

I’d like to get good deals and good materials and help you make a few bucks for giving me good value.  Consider any of the above that might apply to you, and make the necessary adjustments.  I suspect your sales will improve, or at least not drop as fast in the present economy.

And good luck on your next sales call.