I’m headed to another conference soon, an experience I enjoy because we can share what we’ve learned from our clients, and the chance to speak to a like-minded audience gets our name out there.

These experiences go back 20-plus years, to the earliest days of the internet when email was at the forefront of the digital-marketing revolution.

It got me thinking about the small group of people I’ve known since those early days. Some work for allied companies, and others work for competitors. We compete like crazy, but outside of business hours, we’re friends.

I live in Southern California, but I can go to a conference in the Midwest and know I’ll end up at dinner with people who started out as colleagues and have evolved into friends.

A few years back, I was talking with Jon Whitfield of MediaPost, which sponsors the annual Email Insider Conferences among dozens of other marketing events. “What’s different about ours?” I asked him.

“Everybody in your industry likes each other, ” he said. “Everybody helps each other. Everyone in your industry has a good time when they’re together, and it’s a friendly conference, prefaced on making everybody smarter, not just looking at each other as competitors.”

One of the reasons people hire Red Pill Email is because we know what platforms to use and who to trust to help solve a problem. We can reach the right people, explain the situation quickly, and see the issue get pushed up to the head of the queue, thanks to our personal connections and, more importantly, our reputation.

That’s how we’ve done business for 20 years.

And then something happened recently that stunned me. It was a brutal reminder that not everyone shares this micro-world view, and it made me wonder if we are losing an essential trait that makes our email community unique.

We were working with a client—a smaller company with some big challenges—on some prospective new business. One part of the project was cleaning up an old email address list.

As we always do in these situations, we called some trusted vendors and compared quotes, including one from a company we had worked with for years. Call it: The Company Who Shall Not Be Named, unless you talk to me personally, that is.

We sent quotes to our client, along with a small service fee to cover the time we spent managing the process. So far, so good, and no different from work we’d done many times before.

Then, a 20-something, new-to-the-industry sales rep from The Company Who Shall Not Be Named called and said he needed our client’s name. From here on, we’ll refer to the sales rep as Twerp Who Was in Short Pants When I started in This Industry.

Going around us to reach out to one of our clients is a no-no. But we were busy, and since we were working with a company we had trusted for years—The Company Who Shall Not Be Named, unless you talk to me personally, that is—we shared the client’s name and contact information.

That was Friday. On Monday, our client said: “I reached out to [The Company Who Shall Not Be Named] and they quoted me a price that was less than half of what you gave me. What’s going on?”

I was shocked. Undercutting an industry partner is a stunning breach of trust. Nothing like that has ever happened to me in my decades of agency service.

Oh, but it gets better.

I promptly contacted Twerp Who Was in Short Pants When I started in This Industry. I was not abusive, but I made it clear we were displeased, and not just because the client paused for a moment or that we might have lost a couple bucks.

Naturally, I wanted to speak to a VP-level executive but was handed off to the sales director, not the VP-level executive I had requested. We’ll call this sales director: Twerp Who Was in Diapers When I Started in Email. I was told repeatedly the matter would end with him.

Twerp Who Was in Diapers When I Started in Email said they did not have a partner program and neither he nor senior management would not comment on their client’s business.

Got that? Their client’s business.

Talk about gall.

I was steamed, but at the end of the day – and I mean that literally – I was talking with my team and we were able to find some humor in the situation.

[The Company Who Shall Not Be Named, unless you talk to me personally, that is] gave up 50% of what they’d have gotten with us when they gave the business directly to the client – they outbid themselves by over 50%!  That will show us!

We might have lost a few dollars, but [The Company Who Shall Not Be Named, unless you talk to me personally, that is] lost a whole lot more. Not just money, but respect and a mutually beneficial partnership. We will neither work with them nor recommend them ever again.

Final thought: I’m disappointed in [The Company Who Shall Not Be Named, unless you talk to me personally, that is], but I’m certainly not going to agitate for the company’s demise. I think they’ll manage that all by themselves.