Taming Those Excessive Charges

As the meeting and event industry continues to struggle under the current economy, it seems venues are taking two decidedly different approaches to managing their businesses. Some venues, recognizing the plight of planners and companies are attempting simulate sales by offering attractive pricing and packaging to enable companies to continue to hold meetings and events while keeping their costs down.

Other venues have chosen instead to strengthen their bottom line by using this as an excuse for the introductions or enforcement of a whole host of additional fees to extract additional revenue from the events they do have.
In the AV world we are seeing more and more venues attempting to impose;

  • a service fee on AV if the in-house AV is not used
  • a charge for a loadin/loadout supervisor. Though generally a no show, clients are billed for the time nevertheless.

Other creative billings that are suddenly appearing include ;

  • ballroom electrical service that is charged daily by the number of amps used,
  • charges for a lighting supervisor to turn the lights on and off in the ballroom,
  • a special fee for cleaning the ballroom after an event,
  • daily, per computer Internet connection fees even when clients provide their own routers,
  • daily rentals fee for ballroom hang points,
  • a fee for the candy on the table in meetings rooms (Even if client provided) and astonishingly, even
  • a fee for toilet paper in the general session restrooms.

No one questions the right of venues to set the terms of service and to bill for those services, but some of these charges do nothing but fatten the venue's bottom line at the expense of the clients meeting budget. Some of these charges are frustrating, some laughable. Some are of questionable legality as they seek to impose limits on the clients ability to exercise their right of free trade. But all add unexpected and unwelcome charges to already strained meeting budgets.

How do we protect ourselves and our clients from being hit with these surprises in the final bill? To quote the 19th century Prussian General Carl Von Clausewitz, “The best defense is a good offense.”

Meaning, the best time to deal with these issues, to make them go away, or to adjust them to more favorable terms is before the contract is signed. Before the contract is signed, the venue is still competing for the business and will generally be more flexible and willing to negotiate on the various charges than they would be once the contract is signed or worse once the event has concluded.

So before signing, go through all the fine print in the contract, strike out the clauses imposing excessive or unreasonable charges. Have your AV producer review the sections pertaining to AV and setup charges. They will know which ones are reasonable and customary and can advise which are charges are excessive and can advise the best way to deal with them.

Once signed, both parties are bound by the terms of the contract which by its very nature always favors the creating party and then there is little incentive to make concessions. But when faced with the potential loss of an entire events business, it it surprising how many of these charges can simply disappear.

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