Worth the Price of Admission?

Lowe’s Contenders Asked to Pony Up Fee
ATLANTA–The consultant overseeing the review for the $100 million Lowe’s Home Centers business has raised eyebrows at agencies invited to pitch the account by asking them to pay what appears to be an entrance fee.
Chuck Meyst, chairman and chief executive of consultancy Business Partnering International, is heading the search. Richmond, Va.-based BPI runs Agencyfinder.com, which screens shops at no cost to clients.
Agencyfinder.com, like other consultants, makes its money from annual fees charged to shops. It levies a one-time, $2,500 “certification fee” and an “annual registry fee” of $3,000.
Clients can ask that shops not registered with the site be considered, Meyst said. A non-registered agency is informed it is on the client’s wish list and sent an invoice for $5,500. If an agency refuses to pay, Meyst said, he notifies the client. He conceded, however, that he has no recourse against shops that do not pay and that non-payers would not per se be excluded from the review.
The North Wilkesboro, N.C.-based client could not be reached.
Agency reaction was mixed. One executive solicited for the review but not participating said the fee request “is totally bogus.” Meyst “ought to be familiar enough with those agencies to know the right ones to put on the list” without limiting his choices to those which have paid, he said. Another source said $5,500 is “pocket change” in the pursuit of accounts. A third said consultants should collect fees from clients to avoid a conflict of interest.
Lowe cut its contenders list to five undisclosed shops last week. It was not known if incumbent Doner, Southfield, Mich., made the cut.