The New Extortion

If you hired a painter to call by your house, you'd get an aestimate, right? If you were diligent, you might do this a few times over to ensure a good price. If you were super careful, you might even consult with a lawyer, the Attorney General's office, or the Better Business Bureau to ensure that this particular painter were on the level.

Let's say for a moment that you didn't hear anything particularly bad about this painter. You weren't SUPER diligent, so perhaps you didn't turn over all the rocks you might have. On the day your contract specified the painter to arrive, he didn't show. Perhaps this happened the other way round, a family emergency occurred, and you kindly asked the painter to put things on hold for the foreseeable future.

No services were rendered. No money changed hands. No real harm was done.

Now let's shift this into the world of automation.

It is very rare to have a bad round of bidding in the Library world. There are poor negotiations, but most of us have get three bids beaten into us.

All RFPs are equal, but some are more equal than others. I hate to use the loaded word "actionable" but when I read how vague some of the proposals are, a tech company would need a ouija board to capture a Librarian's intent sometimes. This also tends to happen with enhancement requests. Still, a good vendor will handhold if need be in order to deliver quality service.

But what about a bad vendor? Is there such a thing? How do we steer clear of the big iceberg?

Yes Virginia, there are.

Unfortunately, PTFS and SirsiDynix have taken to extortion as a substitute to software as a service. There might even be a few more baddies out there, but hey, I have seen court papers for these with my own beady little eyes or heard tell directly from a party or two with my own little ears.


I suppose it's an easier alternative. The mentality is surely close to purse snatching from little old ladies. Let's not provide proper service, or worse, any service whatsoever, and if a Library cries foul, let's threaten to sue the bejeezus out of them. If they put their foot down, perhaps we'll need to spend the funds to take it to court. Or perhaps we'll just settle out of court, since we know any sane judge will not side with us.


We're not *not* bait and switching as a business practice!

Please do avoid both like the plague.

Did you know that some of the vendors are so awful that they now roll gag orders into their contracts? If you're on a negotiations team, I'd highly recommend their removal. If their service is crap, you should be able to tell the rest of the community that. Nor should you waive your rights to pursue a claim in court. These two things are giant red flags not to sign on that dotted line.

So what do you do, if you suspect that the bullies stack the deck? Head straight for a Law Librarian that you trust. They might not be willing or able to give you proper legal advice, but many will give you their informal opinion. At a very minimum, they'd be able to refer you to a Lawyer *they* trust. You can pay a little up front to avoid a big mistake, or you can pay a lot in court costs or extortion money later. (We _would_ let you out of your contract, but hey, it's so easy to just collect money for doing nothing!) Here's hoping that your Bar Association will be able to connect you with someone pro bono. Lawyers do love us even if they might not beat down our doors to prove it. (Oh fine, you got me, lawyers don't have feelings. ;) )

Know your rights, and be willing to stand up. We can't afford to hide under our desks any longer. Our taxpayers deserve better.