Hello All -- Cecil here;
Last week I was scheduled to fly to Miami but Delta Airlines, being a good steward of its bankruptcy spending decided to cancel my flight at the last minute. Yes, they rescheduled me on a (much) later flight, so I spent the time catching up on my email. I found flattering comments from several of you about a column I filed several weeks ago.
It seems one of my earlier rants has struck a nerve with at least one group of EDI professionals. The EDI-L discussion group on Yahoo! (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/EDI-L) read my description of the tactics used by SPSCommerce to extract dollars from vendors for testing.
I also found some law that might pertain to this practice in the Robinson Patman Act. It talks about receiving commissions, kickbacks, and even discounted services; making them illegal. Of course, the political and regulatory climate being what it is today makes it unimaginable that anyone would even get close to the look of impropriety with regard to the Robinson-Patman Act (Title 15 of the US Code) where it says,
"(c) Payment or acceptance of commission, brokerage, or other compensation:
It shall be unlawful for any person engaged in commerce, in the course of such commerce, to pay or grant, or to receive or accept, anything of value as a commission, brokerage, or other compensation, or any allowance or discount in lieu thereof, except for services rendered in connection with the sale or purchase of goods, wares, or merchandise, either to the other party to such transaction or to an agent, representative, or other intermediary therein where such intermediary is acting in fact for or in behalf, or is subject to the direct or indirect control, of any party to such transaction other than the person by whom such compensation is so granted or paid."
I doubt this applies to the situation, but then, I'm no lawyer
I've said enough about the subject, so I'll just quote some of the respondents that had direct experience with this tactic from more than one service provider. Here are some of their comments.
Are you joking?
"Testing that normally takes less than a day to complete now typically takes weeks when these middle-men are involved."
Text editor EDI
"We've had more than one forced testing experience with SPSCommerce. Even though we tested with them once for one customer, we had to go through it again for the next. And the tests were the same. They didn't vary by customer.
The people who ran the test were not conversant in the actual implementation guidelines of the company they were representing and the data wasn't either. We could not possibly process the fake data they sent us through our applications. We sent back transaction that matched the order they sent us, but all that proved was that we can manually create EDI transactions with a text editor.
They did not use the sender IDs that would be used after go live so all of the set up we did was throw away. So the test accomplished nothing."
Forced Testing Experience
"We too have had recent dealings with SPSCommerce. Last month we became certified with a customer we had been trading EDI with for more than five years. Now because SPS is their "outsourced" EDI managers, we had to test in documents that the customer probably may never use. Previously with a different trading partner, we went through a whole set of common transactions (810, 850, 856, 860, 997) and, of course, had to pay their fees for doing so, became certified, then we had to go through another test with the same customer as "phase two" of the process. As was mentioned, the data we received was totally useless and became more of an exercise in futility.
This customer does not have the capability of processing the 810 or the 856 yet. So while SPS got our money for testing these documents, our customer is not even using them. The most recent test process finally included valid data, but we ended up paying twice as much for one type of transaction (in other words, instead of paying, lets say $150.00 for the complete test series of common documents.
We now had to pay $300.00 for "Ship-To DC" purchase order, Another $300.00 for a Ship-To DC / Mark-for P.O., and another $300.00 for a Drop Ship P.O.). Because we considered the relationship we have with our customer a valuable one, we had to suck-it up and deal with it. It turned out that we were able to process all but the Drop-Ship P.O. (because of some requirements to the packing slips that the customer wanted were not requirements we could satisfy). So we tested the remaining two P.O. types. In that series of documents was a 753 - routing request, in which we would get back a 754 - routing response, and we would have to return an additional 753 response to their response with information that is contained in the 856 that we would also transmit back AT THE SAME TIME. All this customer could do 3 months ago were 850's and 997's. They could not even send us our UPC's in the 850's. We set up a cross reference table with their SKU's. Three months later, apparently according to SPS, they can now handle an 810, 850, 856, 860, 864, 997, 753, 754, and a returning 753. Wow, isn't technology great. It'll be interesting to see how many of those documents we really have to trade...
I'm still waiting to go through the "phase two" of this certification process. "Forced testing experience" is an interesting, and accurate expression. Unfortunately, I doubt if this will be the last we hear from them."
Even the big guys do it?
"I experienced this similarity in a SEARS - QRS (old qrs) relationship and also the Kohl's - GXS (old GXS) relationship."
Go ahead... ask me!
(from Jeff Garwick, Sr. Software Analyst - EDI)
"I have had my run in with SPS Commerce for the first time last year. I hope it was the first and the last. I have never dealt with such an organization. Lucky we are in an industry where any fees other than VAN are very uncommon. A few months ago I actually received a phone call "Sir would like to participate in a survey on SPS Commerce"? Who me? I would love to!!"
SPSCommerce can't be the only company working this scheme. Those hubs signing on with similar companies must have good reason to contract with a company that alienates the hub's vendors. What makes this operation successful is that most vendors still work by the rule "The customer is always right," especially when competition is high and the supplier doesn't want to loose the customer.
I'll be up in the North Country for the next few weeks. I hear it's getting cold in some sections. Let me know where the heat is in your region.
Till next... Ceers!