Raymond Schein, an associate consultant with the firm of Parkington, Weldern & Co. Inc. (“P.W.C.”), a well-known specialist, behavioural sciences consultancy in Johannesburg, South Africa received a telephone enquiry from a prospective client. The call was in response to some marketing materials distributed by P.W.C. The client’s name was Thabo Sizwe, an Assistant General Manager of a large national transport enterprise, WheelCor. Thabo was specific in stating the desired service. In order to ensure that any resultant business was properly contracted for, Raymond requested a meeting with him. A meeting was arranged for the following week at WheelCor’s premises. Raymond met with the client and fully explored the client’s requirement; a stated need for one of P.W.C.’s specific products, a training programme. Raymond noted at the time that the client reported to a General Manager, but was reassured upon enquiry that the client had the authority to contract for the proposed consulting intervention. Dates for that consulting intervention were set for two months hence and costs were agreed upon and Raymond returned to P.W.C.’s offices feeling pleased at landing what could potentially prove to be a large client.
Six weeks later, Raymond received a call from Thabo, very apologetic that, due to unforeseen circumstances, the consulting intervention would have to be postponed to a later date. Raymond accepted the client’s reasons and, while perturbed at having booked up P.W.C.’s time and resources on an intervention which was no longer to be held on the agreed dates, contracted to reserve dates four weeks later than originally contracted for. It would mean some fairly tight manpower scheduling, but was still possible. Raymond confirmed the new dates by fax message to Thabo Sizwe directly.
James Arendse, P.W.C.’s senior consultant in charge of products such as seminars and training programmes called Raymond into his office to discuss the postponement. James was given the assurance that WheelCor had contracted for the new dates and were most apologetic about having to postpone. Raymond felt the intervention on the new dates would go ahead as rescheduled.
During the ensuing three weeks, business was brisk at P.W.C. A number of prospective clients requested consulting time during the dates scheduled for the WheelCor intervention. These had to be turned down or scheduled for later dates. Then Thabo phoned Raymond to postpone again; this time indefinitely. Raymond conferred with James and they decided that James should make an appointment and talk with Thabo. James visited the client’s offices the following week and had an extended meeting with Thabo.
However, despite Thabo’s telephonic confirmation that his General Manager would attend the meeting, James was introduced to a succession of Thabo’s subordinates, who were all most enthusiastic about doing the proposed training programme at some stage, yet James was unable to meet with the General Manager. He had been called away, out of town, on urgent business. James eventually concluded an agreement with Thabo for yet another set of dates seven weeks hence.
One week before the due commencement date for the training programme, Raymond received a telephone call from Thabo’s secretary, informing him that the consulting intervention had to be cancelled and that Mr Sizwe extends his sincere apologies for any inconvenience caused. When asked to be put through to Thabo, the secretary said he was “out of town for a week”. Raymond persevered and pressed the secretary enough to find out that the General Manager had spoken to Thabo about the proposed consulting intervention and had then summarily cancelled it, reasoning that there was no apparent cost-benefit from undertaking it. Raymond dejectedly went off to James’ office to report the latest developments.