Dear Vendors: When You Say “Request a Quote!” This is What SysAdmins Think

As a result of a tweet of mine, I had some rather funny responses that I agreed with.

It’s long been a frustration of mine, however my ire was most recently raised over this topic by a certain company who makes a remote control appliance. To be fair, the company makes a fine product and they totally blow away their competition. However, they leave no clue on their site how much their appliances cost nor a ballpark figure for their Standard or Enterprise licenses. I resorted to Googling to find what their customers are chattering about on the webs concerning their pricing and found that they are indeed one of the highest priced offerings in their market space. Fortunately, word on the street is that they work with you on the prices, but still… why should I have to resort to trolling for water-cooler banter to find out something simple like the price?

There are a number of things that go through my mind when I land on a vendor’s pricing page only to see the dreaded words “Request a Quote!” Here they are:

Our prices are so absurdly high that we know you’ll walk away from us in disgust and consider our competition if we publicly reveal them.

Isn’t this what we all think immediately? It makes the most sense. You only hide what you’re ashamed of or are afraid of being misunderstood over. So why not just fly your flag high and show how much you cost? At least show some guts and don’t apologize for yourself. I’d have more respect for a company to come out and show their prices as being very high than to keep it hidden to ellude me.

On the positive side, perhaps they’re hoping that the product will speak for itself and don’t want people to be distracted by the price. If that’s the most positive spin I can put on this topic, that’s pretty sad.

We don’t trust the merit of our product enough to sell you, so we force you to contact a sales “engineer” so that they can pressure you into buying.

This is actually my biggest fear. I’m already convinced that the product is insanely expensive. However, that doesn’t scare me nearly as much as the likelihood of an army of soul-less sales reps descending on me like Cessna-sized zombie mosquitoes intent on exsanguinating my budget as a light snack. And oh yes, it happens. If you will not be forthright with me about your prices, I am fearing for my privacy that an overzealous sales rep will be air-lifted to my house looking like Chuck Norris in Delta Force.

We’re living the high life sipping Dom Perignon from empty Almas caviar containers in the driver’s seat of our Pagani Zondas.

No, I don’t believe that your profit margins are being used to feed starving orphans in Namibia. I think you’re trying to live like Google by having free snack machines in your lunch room and masseuses roaming the halls looking for any kind of billable work. At least send a masseuse to me when I have to buy one of your “Platinum Service Contracts”. And some chocolate covered malt balls. I love those things.

Our business is in such financial peril that we have to charge heinous amounts of money for our product and we require yearly support contract updates to keep us afloat.

Honestly, rather than the vendor living the high life this is what seems more likely to me. Your business is failing, you can’t figure out what to make your margins on, no one will give you VC, buy equity or offer you a loan so now you have to jack up your prices. You’re really re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic and you’ll be out of business in 6 months leaving me with 18 months left on an overpriced support contract.

We want to research what organization you work for so we can tailor a special price gouge just for you!

My suspicions about this are confirmed when the “organization” field is made to be mandatory. Do you want to see if I’m an upstart so you can assign your least responsive reps to my lower-end account? Or maybe I’m a major corporation so you can upsell my boss’s boss on your latest cash blackhole? Better yet, perhaps I’m a government entity or government contractor! Damn the capex limits… FULL INVOICING AHEAD!

Thanks to @SrslyJosh for this one.

We believe that our product will eventually be commoditized and until that happens we will be as opaque as possible with our business.

Really? I mean… REALLY? A lack of transparency makes me fear that your business model has cracks in it and you’re fluctuating your price drastically and frequently to ride the waves out.

Thanks to @JohnLockie for this one.

In order to hide the real cost of our products they are arranged in such a byzantine structure with so many variant pricing schemes that you won’t know how to decipher them anyway, so please contact us to be put in touch with a pricing ninja (+5 Confusion Spells against C-level execs).

We’ve all seen tiered edition and pricing structures that made us have to brush off our UML skills to chart out the possibilities. Wouldn’t it be nice if the vendor just obscured all of our choices and chose what was best for us? ಠ_ಠ

Thanks to @j_angliss for this one.

Are there any vendors out there reading this? Can you please explain whythere’s secrecy over your product’s pricing? It only engenders suspicion and distrust on the part of potential customers. Then again, if you A/B tested your pricing page and found that it converted better, who am I to get in the way. You’d better have an awesome product though, because if you’re barely better than the competition I’ll choose the more transparent company’s products most of the time.

Finally, if you’re a purchaser, what else do you think of when your vendor doesn’t show their prices at all? Any suspicions that I didn’t hit? Let me know in the comments.




  1. voretaq7

    March 10, 2011 at 9:09 am

    The only times where I want to “request a quote” from a vendor is when purchasing colocation services, or when purchasing something expensive enough to require a CapEx authorization.

    The latter is a “big company” reason ingrained in me: You gave me a quote valid for X days – I will take this to my purchasing people, who will approve it within X-C days (and usually release it immediately as a PO).
    If I go to purchasing with a “soft” number and they approve it, then I find that the real cost is now higher because prices changed overnight I now have to beg for more money…

    The former is just good common sense (I need to sit down with the ISP/CoLo engineers and ensure that they can deliver a solution that suits my needs. Even if there are “standard” packages I expect I’ll be deviating from them.

    In any case, all vendors should offer one of two things: A price list (Especially you Software and Hardware vendors!) or a Quote Generator (even an informal one, so long as it always estimates high). Hiding your prices is shady business.


    • Wesley David

      March 10, 2011 at 9:29 am

      Exactly. At least give me some kind of ballpark idea of how many internal organs I’ll need to hawk on the black market.

      When software vendors do this, I’m am mightily offended. Hardware? Okay, perhaps some fluctuation is expected in some of their products, but not so much that they couldn’t give near-enough estimates and put little asterisks next to the number saying “This is only an estimate”.


      • Joe

        September 25, 2015 at 12:30 pm

        This happens to me all the time with hardware and I would love it. I work in a small academic research lab and there’s plenty of nice things that would make life easier. Sometimes we get a windfall of a few hundred to 2 or 3k of use it or lose it money.

        Would save time all around if I knew I was looking 1k, $10k, or $100k hardware equipment and there’s really no way of predicting how expensive it might be, particularly if there’s huge variance between entry level stuff and what pharma buys.


  2. Chopper3

    March 10, 2011 at 9:43 am

    I buy large volumes of expensive things all the time and there’s another scenario/excuse…

    “You’re a potentially huge client, why don’t we enjoy the honeymoon period of stroking our product and enjoying trips in exotic locations without even thinking about the money yet because we know there’s months of bitter negotiations ahead of us when we know you’ll drive us down to >80/90% discounts, at least we’ll always have Mortons to think back to”


    • Wesley David

      March 10, 2011 at 9:50 am

      Ah yes. A point that I am not personally familiar with since all of my work has been with rather small organizations. If only I could have the pleasure of watching people squirm and writhe before me, as I held the power of a seven figure PO.

      I dream about weird things.


    • jscott

      March 10, 2011 at 10:01 am

      We made a [for us] big purchase recently:

      “You’re a leader in your field, we’d love to do business with you. We’re here to offer you this AMAZING kit at a FULL 85% off the-already-incredible-edu-discount-list! Don’t mind the six-figure line item on a separate quote for services, software, support, per diems, lunch, baby sitters, etc..”


      • Wesley David

        March 10, 2011 at 10:31 am

        Good point about the true cost being shuffled to other “services”.

        This is why I want a flamethrower.


  3. Twirrim

    March 10, 2011 at 5:46 pm

    I despise this practice. I was in the market for a load balancer running up to the end of last year. Almost every single vendor worth considering was “request a quote”. With no real option I had to request it from each vendor and then spend the next month fielding phone calls from desperate salesmen trying to get their commission who seem surprised that I can’t just drop everything to chat with them for an hour.


    • Wesley David

      March 10, 2011 at 6:10 pm

      I’ve taken to turning to the Googles to hear what customers are talking about. This poses a problem for the vendors since their most current prices and packages aren’t being considered. It’s their own fault, as far as I’m concerned.


  4. Jim Ancona

    March 13, 2011 at 12:21 pm

    Philip Greenspun described this pricing model as:

    hang the user up by his heels, see how much money falls out, take it all and then ask for another $50,000 for “support”.

    He was talking about database vendors, but the principle is the same.


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