Color Clash

A distributor asks:

A client wanted tote bags in their brand color for an event, so I placed an order with a reputable supplier that I’ve used many times, specifying a Pantone match to the brand’s color. The color on the resulting bags did not match the Pantone number specified and the client was—and still is—angry. When I contacted the supplier, they disagreed that the color was off and said that the best they could do was to run another order at half price, but I would still have to pay full price for the original order. I’m in a no-win situation. My client wants me to replace the bags with bags that are the correct color, but the supplier says they are already the correct color. What can I do to fix this problem without having to come out of pocket for goods my client and I believe were incorrectly produced?

I suggest remembering and respecting who we all work for—the customer. The customer isn’t always right, but they are always the customer. Make it right for your customer first, and then determine a fair resolution with your supplier. If that can’t be done, ask yourself if you want to risk a repeat performance. It might be time to select another supplier for your bag business.

David J. Hawes, MAS+, DTM

Brand Architect


UPIC: geiger

What material are the tote bags made of? Fabric and vinyl are hard to obtain an exact Pantone match for, and the supplier should have notified you that the color would not be exact. A product swatch should have been requested for approval before production to assure no misunderstanding. I would never rely on a computer virtual as that will not show you a true color. It is interesting that the supplier offered any discount if the color was as close to the Pantone color that could be achieved on the material selected. If the supplier did say it was as close as possible, the option would have been a neutral bag color and the imprint in the Pantone color. It is our responsibility as the distributor to protect the brand integrity for the client, and in some cases we may have to absorb a loss, satisfy the client and move on.

Eric E. Ekstrand, MAS+

Regional Vice President Mid-Atlantic

HALO Branded Solutions


First I would take close-up photos of the Pantone swatch and bags you received side by side and send those to the supplier. If they still don't budge, I would tell them that you will share your experience on [industry sites]. Then I would reach out to a reputable supplier, share your story and see if they can help you at least break even. At the end of the day it sounds like you want to make this customer happy for future sales and it would be worth biting the bullet on this order to do so.

Scott L. Harris


Austin Promotional Solutions

UPIC: A638696

Have you tried going social? Tagging the company in a post that shows a photo of the bag along with the Pantone color, questioning whether the two items match, might give the company reason to respond differently.

Renee Nordholm

Marketing Coordinator



Editor’s Note: PPAI offers a Dispute Advisory Service in which industry members volunteer their counsel and provide impartial input to a disagreement between two member firms, typically a distributor and a supplier. Find more information at

Do You Have The Answer?

A Distributor Asks:

My wife and I run a small distributor company from home and are having a hard time separating our work from our personal lives. We talk about the company all day long, even on the weekends. We also work into the evenings during the week and most of the time put in a few hours on the weekends too. All of this does not leave much time or energy for anything else in life. We feel burnout coming on. How are other small-business owners finding a work/life balance?

What's your answer? Email answers along with your name, title and company name to by December 18 for possible inclusion in an upcoming issue of PPB magazine.

Deadline: December 18

filed under december-2015 | ppb
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