I received so many responses I decided to summarize for the list. I
should say again that I have very good relationships with the vendor
reps which I deal with - they are great.  We also have a vendor policy
which I did not think of using until recently and I will definitely
follow up on this. I will continue to not return calls if I am not
interested and hope that they understand...just don't have the money or
interest right now. 


Our hospital has recently instituted a process called Vendor Care -
which means that Vendors can't call and request a last minute visit -
they need to be vetted and put into the system before they can be
allowed to enter the hospital. Unfortunately, that won't stop the


I have no patience at all with reps.  If it's a product or a service I'm
interested in, I usually find out about it through colleagues and
initiate contact.

I have begun to use a standard, "Sorry, I'm not interested" and a quick
hang-up on the phone. This saves my valuable time and also theirs, if
you're concerned about their livelihood.

For face-to-face drop in calls, a firm, "This is not a convenient time
for me," if I happen to have any interest, or a straightforward "Sorry I
have no interest in your product/service" is usually enough.

From some of the literature I've researched particularly about
pharmaceutical detailers, you have to understand that they receive
extensive training about how to exploit what for most of us is simple
courtesy.  Knowing that makes it easier for me to cut to the chase and
lay on the bad news.  

My time is precious.  I like to hoard it for the institution I work for,
and dish it out sparingly to salespeople.



I am a solo librarian at a teaching hospital to put this in perspective.

I return calls to the reps I already have business/contracts with. I do
make it clear, however, that I am in no position to add anything new to
what I already have.

I return calls to new reps only if I have the time, and feel like doing
so. But I usually do not feel like it. I usually just delete the voice

You are under no obligation to return unsolicited phone calls to these
people, and under no circumstances do you need to speak to someone who
just shows up at your office. That is the height of rude behavior, and
outside of a polite "I'm sorry, I cannot meet with you right now" you do
not owe them the time of day.

They are counting on the fact that you will "cave."

Maybe if more of us stop being so nice to some of these vultures, they
will get the message.



I am in exactly the same situation.  I am very straightforward with
reps, but I am civil.  I don't return their calls unless I am interested
in something they have or really know the vendor.  As for drop-in
visits, our institution has a policy that requires that appointments be


I did make a rep angry once that I know of.  He called and said he
wanted to come by because he would be in the area.  I didn't return his
call, so apparently he assumed that it was OK to just drop in.  When he
showed up, I told him that I couldn't see him because he didn't have an


You have a job to do just like they do.  As you know, you probably get
more of these calls now because business is down, but with a small staff
and lots to do, you have to control what you can.  And if you don't have
"extra" money, what is the point?  I would just emphasize being civil.

1. Get a phone with caller ID & don't answer unless you recognize the
caller. If that is not an option, use voice mail and let all callers
leave a message.

2. Time management: set a time in your day when you return phone calls
(and stick to it!) - if you return a call and play telephone tag, leave
a message for the person telling them when you are available, i.e.:  "I
will be at my desk to receive your return call between 11 and 1 on
Tuesday."  Play the broken record routine - eventually they will "get
it" and play by your rules.

3. Do not return calls from reps of products you have no intention of
buying. If by chance you do pick up the phone and it is a sales pitch,
interrupt the caller and say "the library policy is not to accept sales
calls, but thank you for your time." If necessary, hang up politely if
they persist.

4. When sales reps show up at the door without an appointment, take
their card and say "Sorry, I am busy now, but I will call you for an
appointment when I am able to consider your products." 

The "reps" are as hasselled as you are.

They're trying to maintain contact, hoping for even a small order.

Realistically, assuming they're on the phone or texting customers a lot,
reps are quite apt to be unavailable at the moment you try to return a

Who gains from playing telephone tag ? Only the phone companies, which
get paind no matter what!


I wouldn't waste time (of both of us) by calling a rep unless I had a
question or wanted to place an order that way.

It could be useful, and friendly, to send a postcard in the mail,
thanking the rep for maintaining contact even in these "difficult

I admit to printing up this sort of thing with my computer (a word.doc
of a screen save from a photo or scan of the message).

That sort of thing can "count" in a rep's reporting to the district
manager or whoever, about customer activity.


First of all, I think most of us feel the same- the work demands never
let up but the resources for doing the work always lag behind.  And by
resources I mean both budget dollars AND time.


The last time I went to MLA I attended a panel discussion that addressed
vendor-librarian relations, and I took home from that a clearer sense of
something that I think I knew intuitively all along: in the ideal world,
vendors and librarians should be partners rather than adversaries.
After all, we need their products and they need our dollars.


I think you are absolutely right, too, when you say that most reps are
nice people just trying to make a living.  You say you've developed
resistance to large companies.  There you have hit on my current pet
peeve- I'm convinced that by the time I retire there will be three
medical publishing companies in the entire world: Elsevier,
Wolters-Kluer, and Thomson Reuters.  With size comes market control and
with that comes the arrogant assumption that they can charge whatever
they want and we'll have to pay it (Fortunately, like you, I have
developed some good relationships with some very nice folks at two of
these companies.)

Back to your immediate concern, I haven't really thought it through
systematically, but I can tell you what seems to work for me.

"First they want me to call them back..."  It depends- I may call back
if I want to know more about their product, even if I can't afford it
right now.  Usually, though, I let them call again if they want to.
They are making sales calls and I don't think that courtesy requires
returning these calls unless you really want to.  I never call them back
if they haven't left a toll-free number.  I think that more than half
the time reps offer to call me back, which is OK.


When I do take calls from reps I am completely up front with them about
our situation, which is about like yours.  We have an excellent
collection of resources, our budget is set until the end of this fiscal
year, and there is no money for new products.  If I have any interest at
all in the product I tell them when they may contact me again if they
wish (i.e., when budget planning time rolls around) or I ask them to
e-mail me information.  Yes, e-mail can be equally intrusive and
burdensome, but at least you can file the information quickly for
possible future reference, and you have their contact info too.

I would suggest that you cut the Reps off as soon as possible and tell
them that you cannot speak to them and that they should call you back at
a time YOU designate.  If you say in six months, they will usually
listed to you.  Or, you can tell them to email or snail mail their
literature, and you can make a determination then.  Let them know that
calling you is not welcome.

If they try to get to you by going through other departments, tell the
other department.  Let your inhouse people know that you are aware of
the product(s) and that this is not the time for a meeting.

You are MUCH nicer than I. I have a very rigid "don't call me I'll call
you" policy. I will not talk to you, I will not call you back, I will
not see you if you stop by. 

So I don't think you are anywhere near curmudgeonry.

That sounds like my life also! And I have a staff of one - ME! So when
reps call, unless I really want to hear from them (eg, I called them
first), I tell them to touch base with me in 6 to 8 months when I'll be
looking at the next year's fiscal budget. That has worked pretty well
with a number of reps.

I think you need to just say no and not feel bad about it. I do this a

lot-- just be sure to be polite about it.  Instead of returning the
phone calls from reps, send them a brief email instead, thus avoiding a

longer conversation.    If you truly are not in the market for their

product you are safeguarding their valuable time as well.      

Hope this helps.  I wish you luck.

When I was a hospital librarian (solo, no staff), I got unannounced reps
walking in and expecting me to drop everything, especially if I had not
returned their calls.

The very nice Purchasing Director suggested I have them contact his
office first, to set up an appointment to meet with me.  He had already
established a policy of no reps on the patient floors or bugging the
doctors on the hospital grounds, unless they had been previously
scheduled via the Purchasing Office (for a particular day/time).

As he had predicted, those annoying interruptions dropped dramatically.

If you don't have someone who can screen those calls for you, is it
possible to have an opening message on your phone that states that all
vendors must send print (or e-mail, your preference) materials, and that

their unsolicited calls will not be accepted?   Is it possible to add

your phone number to the national DO NOT CALL list?


I have the same issues.  I am a solo librarian essentially doing two
jobs (I was the librarian for our hospital, and when the librarian for
our affiliated nursing college left they did not replace her, instead
giving her duties to me). I have no assistance other than two student
workers, who are only here in the evening. When the students are in
session I don't have time for lunch, breaks, and I've actually had
students complain that I wasn't here when I stepped out of the library
for five minutes to go to the bathroom!


Reps are the very last item on my priority list.  Like you, I do not
return their voice mails as I feel it is a waste of my time and theirs.

When they get through to me, I tell them very firmly that I have no
budget money for new products, and probably won't next year. If they
persist, I repeat what I told them, and quickly say goodbye and hang up.

If they ask to visit, I tell them no.  If they persist, I again tell
them no.  I did have one just show up as he was "in the area" but after
five minutes of him trying to get my attention in the midst of about
forty students, he left and I haven't seen him again.


As to the reps setting up meetings through other offices, I would go to
or email those people, explain your situation, and tell them that you
are not free for meetings.  Explain why, emphasizing the fact that your
patrons are your first priority, and that you are stretched thin.  If
they have issues with that, I think you are within your rights to go to
their supervisor and stress the fact that you cannot waste company time
(i.e. money) on meetings with people you have no reason to meet with.

If that doesn't work, I would decline the meeting invitations and again
explain why you are doing so.  Eventually they will get the message. 


Maybe I'm old and crotchety too, but I often feel librarians are often
too nice for their own good, and reps use that to guilt trip people.

But if you are too busy, you are too busy and you should convey that to

-I am glad that I do not have this problem!!! Wow, this is very
upsetting and you are doing the right thing!--I am in a very small
hospital and rarely have any vendors.--However, ALL vendors must
register with our Purchasing Department. These sales persons can not
just go to the floors without checking in somewhere.--You could tell the
ones that call to contact Purchasing in order to go on.--I am not sure
if this will help, but this is what we do here.

I call back once. I say I cannot purchase and will not be purchasing in
the next year.  I tell them  -- do not call again because I will not
answer a second call. Most understand 

Repeat after me in a firm, courteous tone: "Sorry, I'm not interested at
this time.  If I need anything, I know how to get hold of you.  Thank
you."  And HANG UP. Repeat.  Repeat.  Repeat.  They are salespeople.
They can take rejection.  


Just say - I don't want to waste your time talking about a sale I can't
help you make.  Please call again when the recession is over.



Patricia Reynolds, MLIS

Director, Bishopric Medical Library
Sarasota Memorial Hospital

1700 S. Tamiami Trail

Sarasota, FL 34239


941-917-1646 - fax
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