- The story of the Trojan Horse begins with an ominous warning from an ancient priest: "Beware of Greeks bearing gifts." The city of Troy did not heed that advice (the old priest lost a lot of credibility when he was devoured by a sea monster) and paid for their mistakes.
Modern brides may not have to contend with sea monsters or the wily Odysseus, but they can learn a lot from the Trojans before their first trip to the next Bridal Expo to find a great Boston Wedding Photographer and avoid some of the common Bridal Fair Traps - seemingly innocuous interactions that can have you tangled up in marketing and sales pitches through your wedding planning and beyond.
3. Mailing Lists:
Behind the scenes of a bridal expo, one of the big incentives shows offer to vendors is their mailing list - generally the name and e-mail address of everyone that signed up for the show. For a lot of vendors it's one last opportunity to get their business (like your humble Boston Wedding Photographer) or show deals out in front of you or introduce themselves if you missed their booth. Unscrupulous vendors, on the other hand, take it as a chance to add you to their mailing lists and bombard you with all kinds of notices and offers to drown your inbox.
Fortunately the solution is simple - use a special e-mail address just for the wedding (Gmail is free and has excellent tools for sorting and filtering your e-mail). You can also use it throughout wedding planning to keep your correspondence organized and in one place - and then before once your honeymoon is over then you can forget all about it (or after you receive the link to your Boston wedding photography gallery).
Most bridal expos have the word "free" pinned up in so many places that it gradually begins to lose all meaning. It certainly doesn't help that some vendors have a fairly loose grasp of "Prize" and "free" themselves, often using the pretext that you've won something to get their foot in the door for a sales pitch. This can take on a lot of forms - from a loss leader to get you invested in a product, a makeover party that unexpectedly turns into a Mary Kay sales demonstration, or a free set of pans that you can only get if you can hang on through a three-hour time share pitch.
The line between trap and treat can be a little hazy at times, often coming down to personal preferences and the fine print. When you're looking at entering a giveaway or drawing, ask yourself the following questions...
- What do you get from the deal? This seems like an easy question to answer at first, but often you have to follow-up with the vendor for more information. For example, your Boston Wedding Photographer often offers engagement sessions to interested couples - the gift includes the session and five digital images from the session, prints and additional images must be purchased separately (but there's no obligation). If it's not clear what you're getting then it's more likely to be a trap than a treat. As a corollary always as yourself what you're not getting with a certain deal.
- What do you have to do to get it? Time and patience are often underestimated currencies and frequently a lot of high-ticket prizes (cruises and vacations) come with strings that will tax both since you often have to sit through a very intense pitch until they'll hand you your tickets (tips for getting the best of that scenario [Lifehacker]). Some giveaways may require you to purchase another item in order to get your freebie, or they leave out an important piece of the puzzle that you'll have to pay for separately. Other strings (like blackout dates) might also be attached to a prize.
- How much do you want it? After you get answers for the first two questions, you might decide that getting one copper pan isn't worth sitting through a four-hour sales presentation (especially when you can add a nicer one to your registry).
Good giveaways are transparent about what you're getting and clear about your obligations.
The most common swindles at a bridal show are when some unscrupulous vendor turns up the "giveaway" trick to 11. They're not just trying to get their foot in the door, they want to put their hand into your pocket...
- Bait and Switch: This is when they promise a high-value prize but when you show up it's not as advertised. This could be your four-star resort turning out to be a run down motel or even the salesman claiming they ran out of vouchers but they'll get you a rain check (which will either never happen or you'll have to come back for another sales pitch).
The bait and switch scam shares a lot of red flags with giveaways, so it can often be hard to tell when something is going to go beyond marketing tactics and pressure sales. The advice to steer clear of ambiguous offers will definitely help you, as will a willingness to walk away if things get fishy.
Less common are scams involving a fake vendor (or even a whole bridal show), who springs into existence for the show and offers an amazing deal if you just pay the deposit at the show and once they have your money they disappear. Fortunately the Internet has made it easier to do some on-the-spot investigations of vendors (vetting vendors is a topic for a later blog post), but there are a few red flags that should make you extra wary...
- Too Good To Be True: The old adage is as true at the bridal show as it is anywhere else - if a vendor is offering prices or deals significantly larger than their competition, then you have cause to be skeptical.
- Time Pressure: If a vendor is adamant that you have to book immediately, take a minute to check them out. Ideally your Boston Wedding Photographer would like to book every couple I speak with right at the show, but I understand that wedding photography is a big purchase - so we often extend deadlines for show deals until a few days after the event so brides have time to make a decision with full confidence (or in case their partner isn't present).
In spite of all this, a bridal show can be a valuable experience for anyone planning a wedding. It's one place to get some cake samples, meet some vendors and see what's out there in a way that Internet searching just can't match. There's also a lot of opportunity for getting great deals because bridal shows cost a lot and vendors are looking to book as many weddings as possible. Armed with this quick guide you can avoid some of the most common pitfalls and have a great show experience.
Ryan Richardson is a Boston Wedding Photographer who serves Boston, Cape Cod, Rhode Island and beyond. Surviving Wedding Planning is an occassional series geared toward helping New England Brides get through the process of wedding planning with their sanity intact.