The Devil is in the Details
September 06, 2016
We’ve spotted a troubling trend. While the two giants among tradeshow General Contractors (Freeman and GES) have made great improvements in recent years in terms of customer service and on-line access to forms and information, smaller contractors seem to be going the other direction. Here are just a few of the recent questionable practices that we’ve come across:
Early dates for advanced deadlines – experienced exhibitors know that missing the critical “early order deadline date” will trigger significantly higher costs for all show services. If you know the General Contractor for an event is not one of the two biggies, check all dates carefully. By having earlier than usual deadlines, the contractor is essentially generating higher rates for their services. Pay specific attention to the date for Exhibitor Appointed Contractors. Because the smaller GC’s aren’t as labor rich as the big guys and because their shows are often in smaller destinations, they have a need to schedule/platoon labor further in advance which can restrict your ability to choose who handles your exhibit.
Higher Drayage Rates - Maybe because they are often temporarily leasing warehouse space; maybe because exhibitors don’t have a choice when any contractor has a monopoly on a service? We’ve seen examples of event material handling fees way above national and market norms when smaller Contractors are handling shows.
Forced freight – Relationships between “the official freight company for Expo X” and that show’s general contractor are no secret and not problematic unto themselves. However, if there is a financial gain to the contractor to have freight forced and the contractor has a demonstrated pattern of turning away the exhibitors’ preferred carrier it enters the world of questionable practices.
Labor prohibitions – The tradeshow industry has a reputation problem when it comes to show labor. When a contractor that is not encumbered by a Union prohibition present in the venue declares themselves the sole labor provider it presents problems when it is not effectively communicated to exhibitors, when they don’t have adequate manpower to meet the needs in a timely or qualitative manner and if pricing is arbitrarily inflated and not properly documented.
Not ample manpower - the manpower challenge becomes a very real stress inducing element for exhibitors not only for their own booth builds but when rigging, transfers from the loading dock, laying aisle carpet, returning empties all take more time if the contractor hasn’t brought enough bodies to get the jobs done.
Inadequate floor plans or venue knowledge – we’ve seen issues with floor plans failing to account for structural concerns (columns, electrical floor boxes, ceiling heights). We’ve seen contractors showing up with equipment failing to know the narrow hotel halls wouldn’t allow for it to get into the building. As an exhibitor you should ask all possible questions to mitigate risk of the unknown and we’d expect that a shows General Contractor would have done the same.
There are many fine people who are professional, honest and caring that work at some of the small contractor companies and these companies provide a critical alternative and option for the thousands of events taking place outside of traditional venue cities. The same can be said about the people in the banking and airline industries, but both of these segments also continue to find ways to cost their customers more money in fees and lessen the service provided.