What to do when a vendor calls

Increasingly aggressive sales tactics among vendors that cater to higher education sometimes directly target faculty members and department heads, by phone, by email, or by unsolicited visits.

If you, as a faculty member discover a potentially interesting product, don’t initiate a discussion with the vendor. It is likely that someone on staff either is familiar with that product or knows of a similar service already licensed by the University. We’d be happy to discuss inovative educational technologies with you.

Undertaking an agreement with a vendor, particularly one that stores personal data such as student papers, student names, netids,  test results, assignments, course rosters, and so on,  must undergo an internal technology review that addresses security. accessibility and ownership of information. Grades, personal data, and items with intellectual property rights (for example, a copyrighted image used in a course lecture) should always be stored on university systems.

As always, an unsolicited or unwanted communication needs no response. In fact, talking to the salesperson may encourage even more calls and emails.

There is a specific vendor rule that states:

Suppliers are prohibited from making sales calls and unsolicited visits to departmentsd

Cite it.

A sales pitch will often suggest that there is an existing relationship between their company and the University.

Typical ploys are:

  • Pretending they will fit you into their schedule as they visit other faculty clients on campus — they may mention specific faculty members or departments
  • Suggesting that their product is already widely used on campus, or that another person has referred the caller to you
  • Trying to get the name of a University employee with purchasing power
  • Mentioning other college and universities, who are clients, or suggesting that Princeton is running a pilot
  • Saying they are a student at Princeton (sometimes true), representing a company with education products

The Office of Finance and Treasury at Princeton maintains a list of approved University suppliers and contractors.

Students at Princeton are not allowed to use their relationship with the University to solicit sales on behalf of a vendor who may be paying them to promote the use of a product on campus, particularly when it uses protected data. A recent example allowed students to create sites on an external server for courses they were enrolled in, paying those students a small fee for each additional student email entered. This not only exposed course rosters, a FERPA violation, but also bombarded members of the sites with targeted marketing.

Do not hesitate to contact the McGraw Center or the OIT Help Desk if you feel uneasy about a sales pitch.

If you get an unwelcome call,  hang up. For unwanted emails, use the tools in your mail client to block the sender, or the sender’s domain name.

Posted by December 12, 2019