I’m not trying to attack you, or get all preachy or “back in my day” though I’m afraid I’m about to do just that on the memory-lane thing. I’m trying to give you advice from past experience, current job experience, and based on the ease of dealing with vendors during my wedding. I apologize if my previous post was not as helpful as I had wished it.
From what you’ve said it doesn’t sound that the issue is so much your age, but how you are communicating to vendors. When I was 19 and 20 years old I was booking venues for 200+ people events and at 5′-2″ (which I guess is short) I was having vendors compete for the business when they typically looked at girls from my school and either saw a dirt-poor student organization or a blank check. It was hard work to get good service and make sure I wasn’t being taken to the cleaners, but it’s that way whenever you deal with vendors from any trade. It’s not about age, it’s about clear communication.
Unless the manager did specifically tell you the time you were looking at was free, then there’s nothing to say that the time wasn’t booked previously. The fact that she doesn’t answer the phone does not mean that she was not at work. Did she act unprofessionally? Yes! But eight phone calls and three emails over ten business days is overkill. Someone is going to hear that many attempts to contact them and assume that you’re one of “those” clients. And yes, some vendors will start avoiding if they think every time is going to be more questions or wanting to clarify again. It’s wrong, but it happens. To be perfectly honest, after call three and email one I would have sent an email saying you tried to contact them four times and that you were taking your business elsewhere.
There are ways to leave messages in business to get them returned. While I don’t know the specifics, a generic message like “please have X call me back” will not get results. It’s also likely “please have X call me back because I have some questions about booking the restaurant” will probably not result in a phone call because the manager is probably bracing herself for a 30-minute conference call. Short and to the point “X said to call her so I could book the party room.”
Also, never ever tell vendors (for any business be it wedding or home repair or anything) you have selected them without first meeting with them. Most will assume they have your business and will not have to work for it because you aren’t looking elsewhere or screening their competitors. If you’re a client in the bag then most don’t think they have to work for it. Are there wonderful vendors out there that go above and beyond no matter what? Yes, but human nature is what it is and the vast majority will act this way.
Don’t tell them about how you’re paying for anything or what your budget it– it’s none of their business. Call, tell them your wedding date to see if they are free, schedule a meeting if they are, and leave them alone until you see them face to face. Give them either in a follow-up email or in writing what you want pricing for and have them email you a proposal. That way they know how much they are risking if they treat you like crap. Any proposal clarifications or changes have in email and completely documented before anything is signed. I know this all sounds very common sense and I apologize if it seems like I am belittling you, because I’m not trying to. This is something personal to you, and unless you have done all this in an impersonal way before, it’s hard to keep the emotional distance that is sometimes needed to negotiate.
That’s not to say this is your fault. She should have acted more professionally. But, the manager is not going to feel the weight of losing a 50 people party, she’s just not, especially if she has something else booked. That’s a hit the owner would feel.
So what can you do? A lot of times in college I would wear a blazer or dress like I was going to a job interview– and I guess I was since I was interviewing the vendor. It’s an unspoken way to say that you’re the one making the decisions. Also, about this time was when I got an email that was very professionally sounding, basically initials/name email rather than my previous randomthing/numbers email. You cannot change vendors that aren’t business savvy, you can only try to manage them through very specific and clear expectations or tell them you’re taking your business to a competitor who will treat you better.
If you need new vendors, then start finding them. If there’s a “why are you waiting so late?” be honest but tactfully vague. Some vendors (like flowers for example) may be willing to help a sweet, unlucky bride who has said she’s parted ways with her previous florist. Because if all signs point to their competitor as the one that screwed up and not you, then by them swooping in to save the day, they’re getting industry gossip. Imagine if ‘Flowers by A’ could tell the next bride that they meet with “oh, you’re looking at ‘B’s Flowers?’ One of my brides was going to use them until two months before her wedding…” This happens.
I hope this helps, and again, I apologize if my previous post came off as unhelpful (or this one). I’m sorry if this comes off as harsh too, but I am trying to show both sides of it since I’m kind of on both sides of it daily, albeit in a different industry. Also, sorry I wrote a book… it wasn’t supposed to be this long.