Spotlight on Critical Business Decisions: Selecting a Vendor

April 1, 2011 No Comments

As an employee of the International Laser Tag Association, no matter how hard I try to avoid it, someone always pulls me aside at trade shows to ask the golden question: Which laser tag company is the best? Here’s the answer: There isn’t one because there is no best product for every facility. In fact, I don’t really care what our members buy as long as they know what they are buying.

So to help those looking at vendors for laser tag equipment let me offer some advice to help you avoid headaches and confusion.

Tip Number 1: Don’t Fall for the Hype

In talking to laser tag companies, here’s what you will find. The company you are talking to is the best in the industry and everyone else is the worst. No matter who you talk to, the answer is the same. As someone on the outside, I can tell you there are some outrageous claims being made today. How do you cut through all the mumbo-jumbo?

Laser tag, as a whole, is pretty standardized as an industry and comparing apples to apples is nearly impossible to do. While the basic experience of laser tag is the same, companies vary on pack design (some are vestless), hit sensors, vibrators, colored lasers, one or two handed, IR versus fiber optics, adjustable straps, cables, repair kits, member buttons, LCD screens, triggers, batteries, chargers, warranties and other items that make real comparisons impossible.

What works for you and your facility may be the worst idea for someone else’s project. For that reason alone, there is no one product that is the best for all markets. Stand-alone facilities need the additional bells and whistles to sell their experience. FEC operators need gear that can play simple format games but don’t need the extras as they have other attractions that get played.

When it comes to durability, while it certainly is an issue, in reality most companies wouldn’t be here if their packs couldn’t stand the normal wear and tear kids are going to subject them to. The main important difference is in the software and sadly that’s what usually gets ignored.

Tip Number 2: Talk to Existing Operators

Now that you have all the “incredible” information from your favorite laser tag company, it’s time to make some calls. One great thing about our industry is that the majority of operators are happy to share with you their experiences with their equipment as long as you aren’t opening across the street.
If you want to find out the dirt on any manufacturer, all you have to do is speak to their clients.

Tip Number 3: Play the Product

I know I may sound ridiculous, but hear me out. I speak with a good number of people each year who want to get into this industry who have never put on a pack or played a game. My first response to the person is always to visit their nearest location and get into the game. You can’t sell what you don’t know.

Tip Number 4: Leading Edge is Bleeding Edge

This is a technology driven industry and that’s what makes it so fascinating. What equipment can do today versus what we had in the 1990s is incredible, but innovation often has its price. It takes a special type of operator to be the first to run with brand new innovations from their supplier. If the situation should arise where you are the first to try out new gear in your facility, expect problems.

Tip Number 5: Don’t Leave Money on the Table

Another huge mistake people often make is that they don’t try to negotiate better deals for themselves. Many people think that just because one manufacturer undercut another to get a deal, they are getting the best deal possible, but that is not always the case. As in leasing, the trick is to ask for as much as possible and then negotiate down to what you want.

Tip Number 6: Let the ILTA Help

If you are a member of the International Laser Tag Association, we offer our Equipment Contract Review where we strive to make sure you get the best deal. Plus, it never hurts to have a second pair of eyes looking for things you may have missed in your negotiations.

So as you can see, it pays to do your homework and explore beyond the marketing ploys of the companies you are looking to buy from. There’s more than enough information out there to be reviewed and weighed in helping you make your important decision. You just have to go find it. Then, after doing all your research, I can finally ask you: Which was the best laser tag system out there? And then no matter who you pick, you’ll be absolutely right.

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