It wasn't the amount of the check that got the attention of Kevin Weber, Electrical Materials Inc. (EMI), a rep based in Sterling Heights, Mich., but the thought behind the gesture.

The unexpected check, less than $100, was accompanied by a note explaining that the distributor had achieved — with the assistance of EMI — sales goals set by the distributor's marketing group.

“The note explained that the distributor knew the buying group ‘nets down’ the invoice based upon their buying group rebate,” said Weber. “They were well aware that we received a lower commission than we would ordinarily earn. Their thinking was that this wasn't fair to us, especially since we had done so much to help them earn their rebate. The distributor closed by saying, ‘We appreciate everything you do for us. Here's a commission check from us covering the commission dollars you lost.’”

The distributor that sent the check has been doing this for reps for several years. “Everyone in our organization agrees that the reps work hard on our behalf, and it's not fair that they should lose anything,” he said. “The reps are encouraged to work with us to sell more product. They do that successfully, but then the manufacturer decreases their income as a result. We try to figure just what those lost dollars are. Once we do that, we cut a check to them and send a thank you note along with it.”