Your League is a Business
A common mistake many youth leagues make, especially volunteer leagues, is forgetting that they are a business. Intelligent people that are successful in their own careers, can forget the basics when working with their league.
A volunteer youth league I work with fell victim to this trap. Sometimes the internal politics distract from the importance of remembering you are a business. In our case, it was that we get along so well, were relaxed, and fell into sloppy business habits.
We had been using the same soccer camp provider for over eight years. At the outset, the camp provider was named the preferred camp by our national affiliation. Over time, they switched preferred camp providers, but we saw no reason to switch. "If it isn't broke, don't fix it", was our approach.
In 2003, that camp provider began selling uniforms and equipment. In 2004, we decided to purchase uniforms from them. To us, the draw was that, with the uniform purchase, they would provide the annual soccer camp for free. We saw the ability to cut the camp's price in half, allowing more families to participate.
After getting the uniform business, they began selling us on a soccer ball, shingaurd, and carry bag package to sell as a fund raiser. Our standard policy is to not take the risk in a fund raiser, not invest in inventory that may be unsold. They replied that they would allow us to return any unopen cartons for a minor restocking fee.
The sale was not as successful as we had hoped; many, many, packages were left over. When I contacted the supplier, they replied that they would not accept the returned inventory. Both the local representative and a contact in their home office stated that their sales representatives lied and that we should not have trusted them.
I was personally amazed at their willingness to admit that we were deliberately duped, and their total unwillingness to offer any help. We had been a long term customer of theirs, but that counted for nothing. They took the stand that we never had that return guarantee in writing. It was in the minutes from a board meeing they had attended, it was given verbally to serveral board members, but never put down in an email or document. Our long-term relationship with them and comfort level from the past, allowed us to drop our guardand forget the basics.
Needless to say, we will not do business with them again, but the damage is still done. I am still amazed that two representatives would state that their sales reps can not be trusted. This was stated flatly, not as a problem they were working toward solving, but as a fact.
Stick to the basics, treat each transaction as you would in business, and beware of companies that begin to over-reach their capabilities.