Saturday, February 16, 2008

A word (or more) about discounts

I had an experience earlier this week that really upset me.  I went home fuming, planning to immediately blog about it.  Then I decided it's not very professional of me to air these things in public.

Then I decided that maybe it's something that does need to get discussed, just not out of anger.  It's about an question that has come up every so often since we opened: 

Can I have a discount?  (I'm a local...I'm a designer...I'm a guild member...I'm buying so much I should get get the idea.)

This week's scenario:  A customer comes in and buys up a lot of sale yarn...yarns that are already marked down close to cost.  (We are grateful.) She returns in the afternoon to buy a "knitter's loom" that we have also generously marked down to almost our cost.  She wants an additional discount on the loom because she has already spent so much money in the morning.  I pointed out that her purchases were almost all at cost, and apologize that I can not give her any further discounts.  Does not matter!  Not only do I owe her a larger discount on the loom, I owe her free shipping to somewhere.  I told her we are not an open market, open for negotiation.  I explained that our shop is a privately owned business, not a giant corporation.  I also told her it was OK if she didn't want to buy the loom if I didn't give her free shipping or steeper discount.  (Frankly, at this point, I'd rather haul the loom out to the dumpster than give her a break.)  Realizing I am about to lose my cool,  I left the room.  Then she told Connie that I really need to get a sense of humor about these things, that she bargains her way around Santa Fe all the time (and apparently scares people into dealing with her...or maybe this is why she's shopping in Taos?).

So this many days later, I think I've cooled off enough to talk about this from my point of view.

For starters:  I wish I could give ALL of you discounts.  I really do.  I love making people happy, and were it the situation where I was just here to give away yarns, I probably would.  BUT...that's not the case.  Here are some of the reasons why:

  1. I can't bargain with my landlord on my rent, or the utility companies on our utilities.

  2. I can't ask my insurance companies (liability and workmen's comp) for discounts because we're such a swell place.

  3. I can' ask my suppliers to give me any more discount than they already do.

  4. UPS won't give me any discount on my shipping charges just because I wish they would.

  5. My employees aren't in a position for me to ask them to give me a discount on their wages.

  6. We have always had a generous selection of top quality yarns marked at good sale prices; something that never happened in the yarn shop I worked in long ago...and this is a discount to our customers.

So having said all of that, I repeat:  I wish I could, but I can't.  If you're someone who is inclined to ask for a discount, I ask you to remember my list next time you're in your local store.  It's hard to pay today's operating costs and stay in if you value your LYS, and the opportunity to see and feel what you're purchasing, please do them the honor of understanding all that it takes to keep the boat afloat.

Thanks for listening.


Bennie said...

well dang, and i thought that all yarn shop owners were gazillionaires and could just give away their inventory!!...shucks...never mind a discount i thought it was all free ....tee, b have a fab shop and great prices!!!

Martie said...

You are sweet. What I forgot to mention is that we don't mark up our stuff like many shops do, to cover shipping, etc., so that is where they may have wiggle room to do some discounting. XOXO

Kristin Freeman said...

Your wonderful shop just took my order for some of your bags of yarn, discounted to an amazingly low price and to top it off you gave me free shipping. No need to say you are sorry you cannot give discounts....when you are able to do so you give beyond belief. Thank you for all you do fo me out in another state who looks forward to once again being in your space and enjoying all that you do to make fiber folks happpy.. my knitting needles are waiting for my package in about a week...

ann-marie said...

What a bummer! I'm happy to pay your prices as they are marked. I WANT you to make a profit so that you can continue to do business in our splendid little town. I want you to be able to pay your staff and keep them happy and employed. I want you to pay your utility bills because, frankly, it's much easier to look at the fibers in your store WITH THE LIGHTS ON, etc, etc, etc. As co-owner and manager of a small business, I turn down a few "don't I get a discount" requests. It is frustrating, especially when what you're offering up is a good deal to begin with. Don't let this get you down. With Sunflower, you've built an inviting, warm, creative, inspiring, friendly, good space that is worth every penny you charge. :)

RuthieJ said...

Gosh Martie, your story had me steamed too. When I worked at Wild Birds Unlimited there was always the occasional customer who would come in and ask for discounts too. Then they had the nerve to act offended when we told them "no." I never understood why some people think they're entitled to that, but obviously they have no concept of all the expenses associated with owning one's own business (OR, they're just naturally rude...)
I'm glad you were able to walk away from her (even though she ruined your day). Hopefully she WON'T be back!!

Sandy said...

Jumping in late here - but just wanted to say DANG! You exhibited much greater control over your temper than I think I could have! (of course, when I was a teenager, I was fired once and warned several times at jobs for telling off customers! they all deserved it) Where do people get off? I suppose this technique has worked for her enough in the past that it's worth throwing her dignity away to beg for discounts. Geesh! Hang in there! I visited the 'new' store for the first time the other weekend & loved the layout!

Jaya said...

Hi there- Gosh, that particular customer does sound OBNOXIOUS. However, I know there are some shops in town that DO give discounts to Taos locals. So it doesn't seem crazy to inquire about it. I would never EXPECT it though, or be upset in any way if it wasn't offered. It sounds like this customer was way out of line.