Sunday, February 28, 2010

Discounting the Customer

I always try to remember that, in this business, our customers are invaluable. The hand-made bears that we labor over are not exactly on the top of the list when most people are making decisions about how to spend their money. The bears and accompanying pieces we make are usually purchased with funds that are left over when everything else has been taken care of. Naturally, there will always be people that will be in a position to purchase at any time they choose. A large number of collectors will save for months, and sometimes all year long, waiting for a show so that they can add at least one more special piece to their collection. These are the collectors I really appreciate, because of all of the beautiful pieces available - they chose mine! Wow, that does make you feel good for a long time!

My adventures in the bear world have always been fun, for the most part, but I see a lot of people tagging on to the financial woes that scream across the daily evening news programs . Artists are discounting their work at a pace that this business has never seen before. Collectors are telling us of their woes. I am a sympathetic person, but trying to beat the artists down on the prices doesn't sit well. These are discretionary funds we are supposedly spending, right?
I've always tried to price my work fairly, and have been told over and again, that I don't charge enough. I'm happy with my pricing, and have sold enough that, apparently, so are my collectors. Lately, some of my long time collectors have started using a much different approach than ever before. They comment on a piece they see and are interested in. The conversation quickly turns to the price. "Is that the best you can do?" or "I don't know if you realize how many pieces I've bought from you." Uh, yes, actually, I do. Additionally, I appreciate your continued support, just as you obviously appreciate my work.

I will certainly work with anyone on the price of a piece that they are interested in, but I have limits to my pricing, just as the collector has limits to their spending. A recent encounter with a longtime collector left me in a position of wonder. The conversation started out as it always does - catching up on families, sharing a few jokes, etc. Then, she zoomed in on a bear, reminded me of how many pieces of mine she already has, despaired over the lack of room she has left, and then - "What's the best you can do?" I made her an offer of a lower price, and she wanted an even "better" price. And, she didn't want to have to pay the tax, but wanted a nice, handled bag and a receipt!

I wimped out, sold her the bear, sucked up having to pay the tax myself, and placed it in a nice bag for her. On her way out, she felt compelled to mention another bear that she had seen on my website. She told me she thought it was just the stupidest thing she had ever seen, and I should take it off my site, and never make another one, because no one would ever buy something like that. Standing there, in the middle of my booth, surrounded by others, I was at a loss for words. I wanted to say "Thanks for your opinion", along with a few other things, but I just stood there. I just stood there feeling stupid.

Yeah, I'll get right on taking that bear off of the site - right after I make five more that look just like it!

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