Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Lesson Learned

A few weeks ago I placed an order for USB memory sticks which our company will be using for distributing electronic handouts to potential clients. This involved getting a number of quotes from memory stick providers. I did a quick Google search and clicked on the ads for the first 3 Canadian vendors which came up and filled in their online quote forms.

Since my portfolio of responsibilities at work is so diverse, my desk is always a beehive of activity. I rely on email to keep me on track, and have a compulsion about unread emails. If they're unread, I consider them unaddressed. Sometimes I read them and realize that the resulting task requires more work than I can do at that moment, so I'll mark those emails as unread again so they continue to tweak the ear of my subconscious self until addressed. It's a quirky system, I admit, but it works for me.

Phone calls, on the other hand, are a different ball of wax. When I get a call, I typically open up a Notepad window on my computer and type notes during the call. The unsaved & untitled Notepad file also irritates me on a subliminal level, so until I can either safely discard its contents or store them in a more suitable electronic file, I can't get it out of my thoughts.

But back to the USB memory sticks.

I received an phone call right away from one of the vendors I had selected. I gave a little more detail and was assured the written quote would come via email. I received it shortly thereafter. I continually marked the latest email in that thread unread, as per my habit. I received no other emails from vendors, so after comparing that one online quote with one from a local vendor, I opted for the online quote and placed the order. This all came to a happy conclusion about a week ago.

Today, I got a call from a vendor whose company name I didn't recognize, but I guessed that it was one of the ones I had found online from whom I had yet to receive a reply. I explained that this was the first I'd heard from them and that I'd already placed the order with the one vendor that had replied to me. "But we talked," he insisted. "I phoned you and you said that at first somebody else was going to place the order but that it had landed on your desk instead."

A tiny bell started ringing with that comment; I do recall having that discussion on the phone with somebody. "Did you send me a quote via email?"

"Yes," he replied. I asked him what date he sent it, and scanned my inbox (I don't delete emails, ever, except for the ones that tell me my inbox server file is too large) for that date, which was about a week ago - and found nothing from him.

"I didn't get anything from you on that date," I said.

"Hmm, maybe your junk mail filter screened us out." This is indeed possible. Many corporate email servers and email providers have hyper-vigilant junk mail screening installed, and often many perfectly good emails are flagged as spam incorrectly. There seems to be several layers of this protection, as I have separate folders for spam and junk mail (I've yet to figure out the difference). I'm also pretty sure that there's a hidden filter even earlier in the chain that blocks stuff without giving me the ability to see what's been blocked, unlike the other two folders.

I've personally observed how emails sent from my work can easily be interpreted as junk by common webmail providers like Hotmail and Gmail. The lesson I learned many years ago is that if I suspect my sent email might not be delivered to the recipient's inbox, I need to follow up my email with a phone call 1-2 days later. In this vendor's case, if he had learned and applied this lesson, he would have been in the running for the sale.

The new lesson I've learned is that not everybody has learned the first lesson I've learned, and so I need to try to be flexible in my methodology of tracking ongoing issues to ensure I don't miss elements like this.

Ah, the tyranny of self-improvement.


  1. I saw your comment about notepad...

    There's an ultra-simple app by Nullsoft (makers of Winamp) called Sex which allows you to jot down Rich-Text notes without worrying about saving them. It just saves everything in one file.

    Sex is great. Everyone should try it. There's a newer version that supports profiles & encryption, called Safe Sex:


    With the old version, you could rename the executable to something less risque... I renamed mine Sax.exe. I'm not sure if the new version still works the same.


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