I spent the weekend in Seattle with Ms. Kayla from Essential Wholesale. We spent the weekend eating (too much), watching movies (Conviction and Life as We Know It – Conviction, in my opinion, is a must-see) and hitting the spa for some (eh hem) research. Oh and of course, cupcake tasting. We ate 4 cupcakes in the span of 3 days. Even we were impressed with that amazing intake.
We were in the ‘big’ city of Bellevue, WA and delighted to walk everywhere. That is, until it started to rain. Then, we were considerably less happy to walk everywhere. We tried to find a taxi.
The first guy we came to asked where we were going and then refused to take us because it was too small of a fare.
We called two taxi cab companies. They refused to come pick us up because the fare was too small.
We finally found a cab company willing to take us for our $6.50 fare. He explained to us that many cab drivers wait in the fare line for up to 2 hours and want their 2 hours of waiting time investment to pay off big and so they won’t take a small fare when it comes up.
What if the cab drivers instead took every fare, irregardless of the size of the fare rather than sitting in the cab line and waiting to hit the lottery of the large fare?
What if you did away with your order minimum and filled every order as if it were ‘the Big One.’? What if you treated every customer as though they were the only thing that mattered? What if you kept the ‘Nordstrom Customer Service’ principles throughout your entire customer line, every day, all the time? What are the ramifications for turning away a small sale; what small customers are you discouraging that could be a large customer tomorrow?
Agree – it really should be =)
Irregardless? Really? It’s not a word! For shame…
That is fantastic that you’ve been able to expand your business by treating every customer as though they are the only one AND that they are all equally valuable. Congratulations on your expanding business. That is absolutely fantastic news. Here’s to a prosperous holiday season. =)
I love this Anne Marie. You are so very right on this topic. I treat all my customer the same. And I only wish that everyone I dealt with did the same back to me.
I just met a new crafter/vendor yesterday that told me that he would not sell small amount of his fused glass jewlery pendants to local retailers. He would only sell a certain minimum amount. What a shame. He needs to try every avenue and work on trust and reputation with these retailers. They were willing to carry his jewlery, isn’t that a great enough feat to overcome? But he wanted the big fish, a big order with a big check. Too bad.
I have my soaps in 16 retail locations now. Some are very small, some are large. 2 of those stores have since expanded and included me as their ONLY soap maker in their new stores. What an honor! Because I am so easy to work with and sold just small amounts to them in the begiinning, I built a trust and relationship with them that paid off.
I have a friend that is a crafter and she says: All sales are good sales and they all add up. True, so very true.
Thank you Anne Marie for another thought inspiring post.
I love the business advice you offer us and the help you offer us to move ourselves and our businesses forward.
YOU are awesome.
Aw thanks! It’s the only way to get through some negative situations –
trying to find the silver lining (which often is a learning lesson!) =)
Nooooooo! 🙂 I think I knew that at one point. I need to go to remedial grammar school. 🙂
(looks both ways and whispers “irregardless isn’t a word”)
First of all, how great that you and Kayla got to hang out!!! Second, I love how you see business/life lessons all around you. It’s a very admirable trait in you.
Totally forgot about that one! And forgot about it when I got a ticket the other day going to prenatal yoga! I really need to get better about that =) Since I’m not showing much (still just look a little puffy), I don’t know if they’d believe me anyways =))
Sad about the liars. That is too bad. =( And a lot of places have minimum orders for wholesale customers to separate the wheat from the chaff and also, as another commenter pointed out, it’s important to make sure you’re servicing primarily *profitable* orders and having a minimum helps. It’s great that you’re able to bridge the gap between making exceptions AND making a profit =)
If the cab drivers weren’t independently owned cars, I would totally be on board. In this case, we questioned two of our cab drivers and found out they owned the cars themselves and were basically using the cab companies as an agency but they were essentially self-employed. I agree though; if you work for a big corporation and they are holding you back from best serving the customer, it’s definitely an opportunity wasted.
You are so right about the food industry giving instant feedback – both with tips AND with the propensity of the American public to send back food! =) Our Otion Store Manager worked in food for 5 years and man, he is fantastic with customer service (IMO), I think partially because he was trained (Pavolvian dog style) in the food industry.
The horse thing is interesting; I never thought of that but yes, horses are remarkably emotional creatures…
Isn’t it fun to have soaping friends that you can collaborate with and share orders with? That’s definitely a great way to go. And I love having the support of a good soaping friend when you need to vent about a failed batch or a business deal gone south =)
Donna Maria Coles Johnson says
This is interesting. In Washington, DC, taxis are heavily regulated. They cannot charge more than a specific ceiling rate for a ride of a certain duration or distance. They are also prohibited by law from refusing to taking anyone where they want to go. This has resulted in cabbies driving by people who don’t “look like” they can pay a good fare, or “look like” they may be going to a “bad” neighborhood. They pretend like they don’t see them trying to hail a cab. A totally different situation than industries that are not regulated in terms of price of course.
As a business owner, I agree that we must show equal respect to all customers and prospects. We also have to remember that not everyone is a potential customer or prospect and that, sometimes, the best way to serve a person is to refer them to someone else.
Glad you found a ride! Glad you enjoyed cupcakes too!
Good point, but I wouldn’t blame cab drivers for this situation. I think that owners of taxi cab companies should come up with some solution of this problem. What if they give minimum fares not to those drivers, who’s waiting for the next fair for 2 hours, but to those who are the last in line and have choice – to wait next 2 hours, or take small fair right now and then wait for their big fare? This could be advantageous for everybody.
I worked in fast food for 5 years. And the customers really are the important thing. That and a happy staff. Because happy staff means happy clients, and happy clients means good business. 🙂
I’d like to have my own business one day. And I know that each customer, or even potential customer will be treated as “The one”.
Right now I’m working in the horse industry. I tend to the very basic needs of horses, and if the horse is happy, the owner is happy. And I do everything to make sure the horses are pleased. And horses are very emotional creatures, which sometimes makes it a challenge because they can’t “Tell us” what is wrong. It’s just guess work.
“What has changed?” “Who’s bothering him?” “How often was he ridden this week?”
Ok, I’m done my rambling.
I like that way of thinking, often a minimum purchase makes me buy things I don’t need (to reach the minimum) and I resent that a bit, or I pass on buying stuff and the place loses a customer. Although, having soaping friends close by, we often combine orders to make the minimum when necessary, or to absorb postage costs between two or three of us. I like your way of thinking though… Interesting point.
Catherine Dreher says
You played the pregnancy card, right? 😉
This will be good to remember for me. My business is so small that I’m dancing for joy at every sale, but I want it to always be that way! Thanks!
You’re so smart to do that because you’re making face to face relationship connections with those customers and, people buy from people they like. And of course, we all know you’re likeable. =))
I have minimun orders for my wholesale customers, but routinely make exceptions if I talk to them and get a feel for them. In this business, there are so many people who just want a great deal on our B&B stuff that they blatantly lie about having a brick and morter store to get a deal.
Otherwise, all my customers, wholesale or not are fantastic and I am thankful for each and every sale!
Oh how sad about the taxi but glad you found someone. I sell at a local market and even offer to meet customers downtown which is a half hour from my house for a small order under $20.00 or we meet them where we work at a big university. Good idea Allison about the sample size too.
I also give customers at our market a sample of soap with every purchase.
Thank you =)
Agree – each and every customer is special and I wish you could have been my cab driver in the rain! =)) (he he)
It’s a really controversial idea. I know several fellow vendors that have minimum orders and these vendors are people I respect, like and admire. It’s just a different philosophy of doing business and as one commenter earlier pointed out, you can’t lose money routinely or else you’ll be out of business. We fill small orders but do lose money on them to do so. But, like you, we believe that good deeds never go unpunished and are always happy when someone, big or small, thinks of us for their supply needs.
Kayla and I were surprised and we even questioned one of the guys who was just sitting there, “Really? But we’ll make sure to tip you!” But the guy that did take us? We tipped him 50%! =) And called him again for our next ride.
That is so true Susie. I 100% agree that you cannot lose money on each and every order (or fare) and expect to stay in business. In this case, the cab company has a $2.50 minimum charge to go anywhere so I believe this is similar to a ‘small order’ charge. Bellevue is large but definitely no Seattle when it comes to buses but even with that, there were cabs that would sit and wait for 2 hours for their fare (with the car running) when they could be doing a lot of small fares and keeping the car running.
You bringing up the point about what the market will bear (price wise) is an important one for small business owners. For example, for some reason the market will pay a minor fortune for handmade bath salts but soap always seems to hit some sort of price ceiling (when soap costs more to make than bath salts)!
I almost titled this blog ‘Always Be Hustling’ because it seemed crazy to turn away a paying fare (one in the hand and all …) =)
Great post Anne-Marie! I can’t believe anyone would refuse an income. Thats the way I look at everything I sell. It is an income, no matter if I only sell one cupcake, or everything I baked that day! I want to make people happy with delicious treats.
If you don’t want a fare no matter how big or small, you shouldn’t be driving a cab!!
Considering everyone starts somewhere, you think this would be a no brainer.
Miss Susie says
Business succeeds where there is a niche, *most* of the time. But it all depends on whether small scale is sustainable. If the small fares are costing cab companies more than they make (and if most of the companies are not taking small fares, this is probably the case), it would NOT be smart to take the small fares, especially in a larger city where an abundance of public transportation is available. Fuel costs can be quite high for inefficiently running your vehicle.
If, on the other hand, you were willing to pay a $10 or $20 “small fare” surcharge to make the trip financially viable for the cab driver, I’m sure they’d be more than ready to drive you the shortest of distances. If I had a product that was so labor and/or material intensive that it cost more than my customers were willing to pay in order to sell it in small quantities, it would not be smart to make the small sale as a business owner; if my customers would pay enough for me to be able to sell this product in small quantities, I would. That’s what it boils down to. I can give my customers great service and maintain smart business practices; if I go out of business because I’m not making money, I can’t give them any kind of service at all.
Allison B. Kontur says
I’ve said this time and time again when I’ve been asked why we sell sample sized products because many feel they don’t yield a very profitable return. I’ve seen sample orders yield $10 future orders and I’ve seen them yield $1000 future orders. You never know what a buyer has in mind and our policy is to not judge a book by it’s proverbial cover. An sale is a sale is a sale. If you play your cards right, you’ll make a customer for life!
couldn’t agree more!
Celine Blacow says
I treat all customers like they’re “the one”.. why? Because they are! They are all important, they all add up to one whole … each and every single one of them.