I just finished renewing a vendor contract over the past couple of weeks and the experience left a bitter taste in my mouth. Sudden changes in how the product is structured caused our existing “all-in” contract to suddenly become an “almost all-in” contract. It wasn’t so much that I was surprised at how it went as it was disappointment that this game is still played by vendors. Before I go into what happened, let me pull out a pop-culture reference to set the stage.

In Season 5 of the television show, Modern Family, part of the family goes to Las Vegas, and the father (Jay) pulls some strings to get the “Excelsior” package from the hotel. This is supposed to be the ultimate level of luxury and very exclusive. However, Jay later learns that there is actually another level created by the hotel called the “Excelsior Plus” package, and although he’d been told he was getting the best package, the hotel actually created something even more exclusive, and Jay learns that there are benefits that he cannot use.

Well… that about sums up my renewal. Three years ago, we rolled the dice and bought the “Excelsior” version of a very expensive product. There were modules that would come later that would be included in our subscription. No longer would we get to an important piece of information only to find out that it was outside of our contract. It was like being on the top floor of a luxury hotel and knowing that we were probably spending more than we really needed to, but we had the comfort that at least if we needed something, it would be available. Oh, the confidence that comes with luxury.

Then came time to renew.

Yes, we knew that there would be a jump in price, but we could negotiate that and come to an agreement that both sides could at least stomach. At least we would still have the “Excelsior” package and the feeling of comfort that comes with knowing that you wouldn’t get a call from a Partner in the firm asking why she was not allowed to get into this exclusive part of the product. Granted, she may never even know that part is available… but who wants to take that gamble?

Then I read the offer.

My “Excelsior” package was  now a second-level subscription. No longer would “Excelsior” mean “all-in” it now meant “almost all-in.” New modules were being launched those would be outside the “Excelsior” package, and would now be a part of the new “Excelsior Plus” package. My gold user id and password card suddenly looked a little worn on the edges and I realized that it was just gold plated. We thought we were top clients, valued for taking the chance to go “all in” when the product was still an up and comer. Instead, we realized we were played by a group of executives who sat in a room and cleverly came up with an idea to screw over the top customers and create a new way of squeezing more out of us.

Then I realized that I am not a top-tier client. I am not an early adopter who will be rewarded for believing in a product when others wouldn’t. I am just a customer, and the vendor sees us as numbers in a renewal spreadsheet. Like I said earlier, I’m not surprised, I’m just disappointed.

We made the decision to stay at “Excelsior” and risk that call from a Partner one day asking why she couldn’t get into that exclusive part of the products. Time will tell if we long for the luxury of an all inclusive product and the comfort that comes with the “Excelsior Plus” package. For now, gold-plated will have to do.

One more thing.

Back to the Modern Family reference. It turned out that “Excelsior Plus” was actually not the top-tiered package. That was actually the “Excelsior Ultra” package. So, when I go to renew the next time around, I’m sure there will be an “Ultra” level renewal offer available, and that feeling of disappointment will return.